The Living Room – The Wednesday Gatherings

The Wednesdays at the Ivanovs were the most significant literary gatherings of Petersburg of the time. Other "salons" of the Symbolist circle included those of poets Dmitry Merezhkovsky and Zinaida Gippius, Fyodor Sologub, and the journalist and writer Vasily Rozanov. But as one memoirist put it: the unquestionable hegemony belonged to Ivanov's Tower.

The first meeting on September 1905 was attended only by few people, but soon the amount of visitors rose; at its highest it was around seventy. The heyday of the Tower was its first season in 1905-1906. However, the Ivanov apartment retained its importance as a meeting place for the Petersburg intelligentsia all the way until 1912, when the Ivanovs left Petersburg.

A caricature of the Tower by poet Sergey Gorodetsky

A caricature of the Tower by poet Sergey Gorodetsky painted for Vera Sudeikin-Stravisnky's salon album in 1920. From left to right: Valery Bryusov, Fyodor Sologub, Alexey Remizov, Vyacheslav Ivanov, Alexander Blok, Mikhail Kuzmin, Andrey Bely, Konstantin Balmont, and, in front, Gorodetsky himself.

In the beginning the Wednesday gathering started and ended at more conventional times, but soon it became a habit to arrive at the Ivanovs around 11 or 12 pm. After midnight the topic of the evening was announced. Themes discussed included, among others: religion and mysticism, mystic anarchism, socialism and art, individualism and the new arts, future art, and sex (since the Russian word pol means both sex and floor, philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev chaired the session lying on the floor).

While Ivanov was the generator of theoretical discussions, Zinovieva-Annibal, along with the poets, would sit on the table moved next to the wall of the big semicircular room. This "gallery" formed a "jury" which, if the debate was too boring, rebelled by throwing apples or oranges at the speaker and by moving to Zinovieva-Annibal's room to recite poems.

In the dining room people settled around a big circular table. Candles in candelabra created a special atmosphere; during the blackouts caused by strikes, candles and kerosene were the only sources of light. Red and white wine was served from bottles bought from Ivanov’s acquaintance Beketov for the price of 35 kopeks a bottle. A samovar with tea was always on the table. In the morning it was re-filled and people served fried eggs.

Living room ca. 1909

Another picture from the living room ca. 1909. Sitting on a couch Anna Mintslova (pupil of Rudolf Steiner who after Lydia Zinovieva-Annibal's death had a great influence on Ivanov), Ivanov and Kuzmin, standing E. Gertsyk, Kostya Shvarsalon (Zinovieva-Annibal's son), Zamyatnina and Vera Shvarsalon.

Read more about Wednesdays and the first Russian revolution.