“This cannot be forgiven...”:
The Death of Alexander Blok
Blok died on a hot August Sunday. Despite his ambivalence towards traditional religion, his wife, Lyubov Dmitrievna, insisted on a Russian Orthodox service: the body was laid out on a table in the home of the deceased for three days, and visitors attended the nightly services. The funeral took place on the fourth day, August 10, 1921—Blok’s coffin was carried six kilometers in a procession from the poet’s home to the Smolensk cemetery and buried after a final service for the dead. Samuil Aliansky, Blok’s close friend and founder of the Symbolist publishing house “Alkonost” made most of the arrangements for the funeral. The young poet Evgeniya Knipovich, who had become a close friend of the family in the last years of Blok’s life, helped him.
Yury Annenkov recalls that the Soviet press was conspicuously silent: “How did the official press respond to the death of Alexander Blok? The following notice appeared in Pravda on August 9, 1921: ‘Yesterday morning the poet Alexander Blok passed away.’ That’s all. And not a word more.” Small posters pasted on the walls of the House of Arts, House of Scholars, House of Writers, the Bolshoy Drama Theater, and the publishing houses “World Literature” and “Alkonost,” announced Blok’s death. By the time permission was received for Blok’s funeral on August ninth, it was too late to place an announcement in the newspapers; Aliansky recruited university students to post one thousand fliers that informed the public that Blok’s body would be buried at the Smolensk cemetery on Wednesday, August tenth, at ten o’clock in the morning.
Yet even before the posters appeared on the streets of Petrograd, news of the death had reached many close friends, spread through the city by those few who—often by chance—happened upon the news. Andrey Bely received notice of Blok’s death from the writer Ivanov-Razumnik, with whom he was staying at the time in Tsarskoe Selo. Ivanov-Razumnik had come from a presentation on Goethe at Volfila, where Forsh, who had come to visit after hearing of the return of Blok’s mother from the countryside, delivered the news. The conference was suspended in deference to the poet’s memory.