February 13 in Russian history

1921: Duke Kropotkin, scientist and famous theorist of anarchy, buried in Moscow. All anarchists were released from the Moscow jails to participate in the funerals, after they promised to return to the jails after the ceremony. And they did.

1934: Soviet steamship Chelyuskin sunk in the Chukchi Sea. It was an epic story of the heroism of "real Soviet people", which became a significant part of the mythology of the Stalinist Soviet Union. Chelyuskin was built in 1933 in Denmark and named after Semion Chelyuskin, Russian polar explorer, a participant of the "Great Northern Expedition" of 1733-1743. On August 2, 1933, Chelyuskin left from Leningrad with 112 people. The expedition was led by the Soviet geographer Otto Schmidt and the captain was Vladimir Voronin. The task of the crew was to prove the possibility of navigating along the Northern Sea Route in one summer. It was done by Sibiryakov in 1932, but Sibiryakov was an icebreaker, not a cargo ship. They almost reached their goal, but in November, 1933, in the Chukchi Sea, near the Bering strait, they were stopped by heavy icepacks. After three months, the ship sunk, crashed by ice. The crew managed to save food, bricks and wood. One man died during the evacuation. Schmidt and Voronin were the last to leave the sinking ship. A government commission was formed to organize the rescue operation. Some Western newspapers wrote that it is impossible to save the people, because there were no icebreakers able to navigate the Arctic Ocean in winter and that it was cruel to incite hope in these doomed people. The rescue commission hoped to use aviation. The American government offered their assistance, but they could not help with the aviation, because flights in the Arctic were cancelled due to recent crashes. On March 5, the airplane piloted by Anatoly Lyapidevsky found the camp of the Chelyuskinites, landed on ice and rescued ten women and one baby, who was born in September on board of Chelyuskin. During the second attempt, Lyapidevsky's airplane was damaged. The government decided to send three groups of pilots. The first group departed to the USA, where two airplanes were bought from Pan Am. One of them was damaged soon and another, piloted by Mavrikiy Slepnyov, rescued 5 people and later evacuated O.Schmidt, who was seriously ill. Other people were saved by pilots Kamanin, Pivenshtein, Demirov, Bestanzhiev, Molokov, Vodopyanov and Doronin on Soviet R-5 planes. The engine of Galyshev's plane broke and he could not participate. On April 13, the last people were evacuated. The Chelyuskinites later spoke that the leadership of Otto Schmidt, who published a newspaper in the camp and read lectures on philosophy, was the key in their survival.

1940: Mikhail Afanasyevich Bulgakov finished his best known masterpiece "Master and Margarita". Less than one month later, he died. Bulgakov started his work on this novel in 1928 or in 1929. In 1930, he burnt the first draft, when he learnt that his piece "Cabal of Sanctimonious Hypocrites, or Molière" was banned . The second version was being written since 1931 till 1936. The last, final version was in active work since 1936 till 1938, but Bulgakov kept adding and modifying the text till 1940. "Master and Margarita" is called by many critics one of the greatest Russian novels of the XX century. I would say, though, that the book is so heavily influenced and so tightly woven with the references to the general European culture, from Bible to Goethe, to Hoffmann, that it should be perceived as one of the greatest works in the European, not Russian, literature. On the other hand, Bulgakov, in his turn, influenced Salman Rushdie's "Satanic verses" and even Rolling Stones. After all, it's a small world, isn't it?

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