Handwritten and typewritten magazines of Russian white emigration in Bulgaria

Written by Радостин Русев
Otrada newspaper Otrada newspaper

At different times during the period 1920–1943, Russian white emigrants published in Bulgaria over 80 informational, socio-political, literary, military and other periodicals (magazines, newspapers, and leaflets).


These include several manuscript and typewritten editions, which, although belonging to a different ‘genre’, quite naturally fit into the general landscape and enrich the picture of Russian emigrant periodicals. Only a few copies of only a few manuscript and typewritten magazines have survived, but it can be assumed that significantly more have been made. Only since 1922, for example, three such magazines have been known: Отрада, Глушитель, and Компас.

Отрада [Otrada – translating as joy, rejoycing] was a typewritten edition (21 pages, format 21x34 cm) of the literary circle of students from the Russian High School in the village of Dolna Oryahovitsa with editor O. I. Budanova. Its cover is formed only in handwritten letters, illustrated with drawings and sketches.

The opening text is a poem (Правда режет нам глаза…) by Fyodor Melnikov, one of the four poets and writers who will lay the foundations of the literary newspaper Молодое слово [Molodoe slovo] in 1931 in Sofia. The three stanzas of which it is composed present a casual adolescent interpretation of the truth–lie (flattery) opposition. The poem sounds somewhat childishly naive, but if someone expects something similar to be present later in the magazine, they will be wrong. And it will be confirmed by the next article, the essay Бред (pp. 2–4). It begins with a generous, picturesque description of a summer evening under the moonlight. But there follows a sudden change in tone caused by a return to reality and the resumption of incurable mental pain of the absence of the homeland that has been deadened for a moment (such a sharp transition is common in émigré literature, especially in poetry). Then reader will go deeper into confessions and reflections on the fate of the fatherland. Unlike many other similar attempts, in the general context this time they do not seem to sound unnecessarily elevated and artificial. The author of the revelations is 18-year-old Konstantin Ilyich Mogutin, later well-known musical figure, who during his school years had a fondness for literary work, and wrote poems and short stories.

The issue contains three short stories. F. Melnikov’s story (continued), Странный человек (pp. 5-10) begins unpretentiously with a cheerful and carefree student game and demonstration of courage in front of each other next to a railway line. The endeavour ended as a serious accident, but developed into a conversation about meaning of human life. Another accident, but unlike the serious one described by F. Melnikov, underlies the story В дезинфекцию (pp. 10–11) by P. Boyar. It is about the misfortune of a Russian youth looking for work in Constantinople, but fell victim of deception. The last story in the issue, Сорвалось (pp. 17–20) by K. Moguti, is about two fishermen – a high school female student and a seminarian, about the love sparks that flare up between them. It is characterized by a casual, light and witty dialogue.

Протесты в XVII веке (pp. 13–16) is a work on a historical theme by O. Budanova. It treats the foreign and domestic policy of the Tsardom of Muscovy, the riots against the reign of Alexey Mikhailovich, the revolt of Stepan Razin, in particular.

Several poems scattered throughout the issue complete the look of this magazine. The thirst for knowledge, for life, the youthful arrogance and audacity against the obstacles on the ‘thorny path of life’ have inspired the author of the poem Ни на что не хочу я роптать… (p. 16) F. Melnikov. За родину by K. Budanov (p. 12) is built on two opposite feelings – the courage of the recruit, going to war with a sense of duty to the homeland, and the fear of his relatives for his life. The other poem by the same author, Воспоминания матери донских казаков (p. 21), is a sad story of a mother who had sent her seven sons to war and welcomed alive only one of them, presented on her own behalf. The ten verses of the poem Годы милы (p. 5) by V. Kolesnikov are filled only with pessimism and despair: С каждым днем все тают силы, / Каждый час печаль… / Друг. О, детство. Годы милы, / Что летите прочь вы вдаль. / Что так быстры, словно мысли / не ждете вы меня… / Иль не будет больше счастья, / И судьба так зла. / Жизнь полна невзгод, ненастья / Даль темна, глуха. Терек (p. 20) by V. Kolesnikov sounds far more different – as a promise of a soon return to their native places and a revival for a new life of the homeland that has been mourning for their sons: Но близок час… И верь, вернемся / К родным станицам, хуторам… / Быстрее Терек понесется, / Зажжется жизнь по уголкам.

All the texts in this magazine correspond to each other with a special ease, they casually gather to form an internal unity, which reveals the complex range of thoughts, feelings and moods in the person in exile who had to experience the transition from childhood to adulthood in a special way and in more complex conditions.

Глушитель [Glushitel – translating a muffler] is an eight-page, entirely entertaining and humorous manuscript made by emigrant, participants in driver’s training drills in the town of Yambol, in October 1922.

No real names are used anywhere in its three issues. Specific terms, associated with car structure and operation are used as alias: editor Konusov, publisher Diskov. The texts themselves abound in car terminology as well.

Obviously, the writings have been the result of a team effort, but it is difficult to identify the number of the team members (especially in No 2). The dominant handwriting of most pages in No 1 and 3 is in the form of rounded letters, almost imperceptibly converging into one another. Quite a different handwriting is predominant in No 2 - it is crooked and ugly, but rather more readable thanks to the bigger distance between the letters.
The magazine has its own ‘headings’ – funny as the whole content, and harmlessly perky: Телеграммы, Хроника, Из журналов и газет, Наука и искусство, Почтовый ящик, Глушителя, Розыск, Объявления (the announcements and the advertisements are diligently arranged into separate boxes), Театр и музыка.

The character and content of the texts grouped in the above headings are best illustrated by the following text: Москва 13 – Х (соб. кор.) Получено известие, что советское правительство заключило торговый договор с Болгарией. Главный продукт экспорта является коммунистическая литература, а импорта – белогвардейцы („telegram“ in No 1, p. 4).

Short feuilletons, Фельетон (из подслушанных разговоров в гараже (No1, p. 2), „В камере мирового судьи (No 3, p. 2), and several amusing texts in the verse add colour and complement to the content of the magazine.

The reader’s attention is caught by some auto advertisements: Читайте только Глушител (No 1, p. 4); „Если вы газет ценитель, то читайте лишь Глушитель (No 1, p. 5); Читайте Глушитель (No 2, p. 3). Text in the heading Объявления (No 2, p. 8) reads: Принимается подписка на первый № Глушителя. Могу быть уверенным, что „Глушитель“ всем понравился. Culminations on the author’s self-reliance and self-confidence, i.e. the sense for humour and self-irony, are felt in No 2.

The publication tries to imitate the real print media, and its title tempts to check if it does not hide and play with the name of a Russian emigrant publication. In fact, at the same time, newspapers with names like Golos, Shopot, and Vopl were still out of print. However, there was a magazine, Zarubezhniy klich (клич/kich – a powerful, deafening exclamation, call, call). The main theme therein (apart from the life in the military camps in Gallipoli) is the fate of Russian refugees in Constantinople. A text in the amusing column of Глушитель (No 2, p. 2) proves that such a game had probably taken place after all: Константинополь. 20. Х. 3 000 беженцев из Советской России приняты на полное иждивание газеты Глушитель.

Компас [Compass] was a monthly magazine of the Sofia Boy-Girl Scout Squad in Sofia. On its cover there is a drawing with a plot from a scout camp and with the typical scout attributes – a tent, a fire, a mast with a flag. The motto Remember Russia is written in capital letters below the drawing on the cover.

The first text in the surviving 30-page issue (1922, No 9, edited by A. Janiszewski) of this scouts’ typewritten magazine is Новая задача русского скаутизма заграницей (pp. 1–4). It formulates the difficult task of ‘the young generation of the mighty Russian people growing in foreign countries’ and in particular of the Russian scouts: fostering of children’s creativity, and hence – ‘preservation and further development of Russian culture.’ Despite the difficult conditions, a strong drive for creativity has recently been noted – in less than a year, two scout magazines, composed mainly of scouts’ works, have been born among the relatively few Russian scouts abroad. The author – the name is difficult to read (perhaps M. Gardcore, probably alias), opposes the handwritten magazines of the small scout units – the circle of their readers is too limited, interest in them is rapidly declining, and the authors do not receive encouragement. Therefore, he finds it more appropriate to attract scouts to cooperate in existing magazines, which have a wider readership – this effort would not help the magazine with an influx of articles and diversification of its content, but also, which is more importantly, the scout builds a sense of responsibility for his literary work.

The articles published in the issue are of all kinds.

Several stories describe stories or moments from the camp scout life or are in the spirit of scouting: Скаутский лагерь у с. Курило (pp. 15–16); Ленностная жизнь (pp. 5–8); Пусть торжествуют враги… Душа Египта жива (pp. 10–12), continuation of the previous issue; under the general title Рассказы у костра – Как люди нашли Великото духа (pp. 18–19), translated from English, continued. The titles of the several poems remind us that they do not go beyond the same framework: Лес (pp. 8–9) and У моря (pp. 9–10); Скауты (p. 12), У костра (p. 16–17).

One methodological article is also included, with a continuation, О подготовке начальников звеньев (патрульных). Практические советы скаутмастора (p. 4-5) about the importance of the head of unit in the organization, and in the training and education of scouts.

There are several headings in the magazine. The Критический обзор (pp. 20–21) contains scouts’ publications – Скауты, Белый медведь („журнал-газета русских скаутов Приморья“. In Вести отовсюду (p. 21–22) и Местная жизнь (scout news is published in 1–2 sentences. Some of them contain valuable information about the life of the scout organizations, others are of little significance. The Официальный отдел (pp. 22–25) contains scout orders. The article Полезные советы (pp. 25–26) has a practical purpose – it advises on, for example, how scouts should go to bed in the tent. The article Скаутские специальности (pp. 26–27) details the criteria that the scout is obliged to meet in order to receive an honorary sign for signalling, for fire work, etc. The Спорт и игри (pp. 27–29) reports on football tournaments, descriptions of games, and even results from international football matches. The Справочный отдел (pp. 29–30) contains addresses of scout organizations and their representatives in several countries.
The issue ends with Почтовый ящик „Компаса“ and Анкета (the title is handwritten), where a competition is announced for writing a play about scouts’ life and all scouts and those involved in the scout movement are asked to send materials for the magazine – articles, poems, stories, information, drawings, cartoons, etc.

In addition to setting more than an ambitious goal – to build in adolescents a sense of responsibility, for themselves, for their actions and thoughts, for the homeland – the magazine, as can be seen, was very useful for Russian scouts for whom fate has ruled out to grow up far from their homeland.

A random issue (No 7) dated July 12, 1925 of the typewritten edition Огонечек Малешенек (50 pages), published by graduates of the Sergiev Artillery School in Sofia, is preserved.

Another random issue (No 3) of November 28, 1936 has survived of the four-page typewritten newspaper Голос Борьбы [Golos borby, translating as Voice of Struggle] – ‘a monthly independent body of free national thought on socio-political and cultural-educational issues of the immigrants in Sofia.’

The Еос literary magazine (1924–1926), published in Samokov, provides limited information on the existence of the illustrated typewritten magazine Вестник шуменского землячества [Vestnik shumenskogo zemlyachestva, translating as Newspaper of Shumen local community], prepared by graduates of the Russian Shumen High School. According to the scarce information about the appearance and purposes of this edition contained therein (Еос, 1924, No 2–3, pp. 68–69), it was a modest magazine printed on a hectograph, which contained ‘brightly sketched pictures of high-school life’ and had the ambition to unite the graduates of the Russian Shumen High School, to assist in their material mutual assistance, to serve as a link between former classmates scattered around the world – in Paris, Prague, Serbia, America.

This category of publications also includes Потешный [Poteshniy, translating a Amusing], organ of the Bulgarian branch of the Russian Organization of Young Petrovtsi, in its original version. This magazine was first published in 1937, but by February 1942 it was printed on a rotator machine and distributed in a very limited number of copies. Some of the publications defining the character of the edition during this period of its existence were reprinted with some changes in the first (No 25–26) double issue for 1942. The draft of the magazine for its renewed fifth anniversary included the same five headings that have already been designed so far: Фронт националиста, Литературный отдел, Жизнь разведческая, Страничка Потешного и „Для памяти. Потешный had literary and artistic works as its priority; it gave platform for literary expression of young talents. Unfortunately, the articles for it were selected mostly depending on whether and to what extent they corresponded to the political views shared by the publishers.

The periodicals of the Russian white emigration to Bulgaria have been a colourful mosaic in ideological, thematic, genre and stylistic terms. It provided us with a documentary evidence of the most dramatic episodes in Russian history and culture. It reflected the wide range of socio-political and social ideas of Russian emigration. It most intensely empathized on the fate of Russia – it was a kind of bridge between emigrants and their homeland, a lifeline for the torturous thoughts of emigrants. For Russian emigration, the periodicals were also one of the main (if not the most important) means by which it fulfilled or at least tried to fulfil the special missionary role it has assigned to itself – to counteract nihilism for spiritual values in post-revolutionary Russia, to preserve and develop Russian literature. All this also applies to the unpretentious amateur manuscripts and typewritten editions which we can in no way treat condescendingly and with contempt. They were also a consequence of one of many confirmations of the exceptional, extremely active literary effort of the first Russian emigration, more than rightly considered a spiritual phenomenon.


SESDiva ERA.Net RUS Plus Call 2017 – S&T

SESDiva. Project № 156

SESDiva aims at creating a virtual museum of written culture in relation to the social, religious, cultural, and ideological environment and relations between the South and East Slavs throughout the centuries from the 11th to the beginning of the 20th century.

Duration: 2018-2020
Program: ERA.Net RUS Plus Call 2017 ‐ S&T Projects