From Kitchen to the Roof – From Mundane to Sublime

Housekeeping in the Ivanov family was not an easy task. For dinner there were seldom less than 8-9 people, and the Wednesdays were attended sometimes by almost seventy. The samovar had to remain heated till early morning. Ivanov was master of the house and was served breakfast in his own room. Gorodetsky depicted the everyday life of the Tower in the weekly home journal Les puces de gamins. In a picture entitled "Le lever du Roi," where the clock shows two, Ivanov has awakened and is ringing a bell, Zamyatnina is wheeling him on a trolley, at full speed, along with his breakfast, mail and clothes.

Zinovieva-Annibal was much more actively involved in household tasks than women belonging to her class usually were. Natalia Manaseina recollects how:

"[ш]ипела плита, Лидия Дмитриевна в белом хитоне, откинув широкие рукава, мешала и переворачивала что-то в кастрюльке и на сковородке. Прислуги она не признавала, считала, что каждый обязан все делать для себя и для своих сам. Воспитанная в барской, богатой семье, она, когда я ее знала, готовила, топила печи и писала без конца. Захваченная в кухне каким-нибудь волнующим вопросом, она никогда не забывала вовремя повернуть кусок мяса, стремительно, как все, что она делала, брошенный ею на сковородку."
(Click here for an English translation of the text.)

Both her socialist sympathies and her reluctance to have "someone who would not share their world view" living with them in the same household prevented Zinovieva-Annibal from having servants.

After Zinovieva-Annibal's death a servant named Matryosha was hired, although there would have been enough work for another one: the apartment was heated with wood-burning tile stoves and light came from 26 kerosene lamps. But like Zinovieva-Annibal before, Ivanov and Vera rejected the idea of having more servants. However, Matryosha's presence certainly meant that someone who did not share their worldview was living in the house. "Weird! Are they supposed to be talking Russian? And I can't understand anything!" she said of the debates at the Tower.

It was through the kitchen that the participants of the Wednesday gatherings – already early on Thursday morning – climbed to the roof of the Tower to recite poetry and to admire the panoramic view of the city. Alexander Blok read his famous poem “Neznakomka” on the roof.

"Из башни был выход на пологую крышу, и в белую петербургскую ночь мы, художники, поэты, артисты, опьяненные стихами и вином – а стихами опьянялись тогда, как вином, – вышли под белесоватое небо, и Блок, медлительный, внешне спокойный, молодой, загорелый (он всегда загорал уже ранней весной), взобрался на большую железную раму, соединявший провода телефонов, и по нашей неотступной мольбе уже в третий, в четвертый раз прочитал эту бессмертную балладу своим сдержанным, глухим, монотонным, безвольным, трагическим голосом. [—] и вдруг, едва только произнес он последнее слово, из Таврического сада, который был тут же, внизу, какой-то воздушной волной донеслось до нас многоголосое соловьиное пение." (Korney Chukovsky)
(Click here for an English translation of the text.)


Living room ca. 1909

Mikhail Kuzmin on the roof of Tavricheskaya 25.