Grigory Dolinin (Григорий Долинин)(1893-1943) was a Russian poet.
*1917, Yasnaya Polyana, Lenin
*Death & Reception
Dolinin was born in Pochinok, a small Jewish community 50 kilometers (31 mi) southeast of Smolensk. As a child he lived in the same street as El Lissitzky, who would later prove to be a key figure in his artistic development. His father was the official heraldic painter of the town. He was paid to record all official events and to draw up new insignia for the locality. Dolinin said in his 1937 collection of essays 'Collage-Collaboration' that "He (Dolinin Snr.) did not create each work anew or original, but relied on copying models and standards that he had developed over time and then catalogued. Each commission would be an assemblage of previous types, and his skill was in composition - ensuring that nobody noticed. As far as i can tell, this was common practice amongst painters back then, only no-one attached fancy words to the strategy as they would now." 1
Dolinin was one of a limited number of Jews selected to study at St. Petersburg University and after moving to the city became part of the radical literary group OPOYAZ (Society for the Study of Poetic Language).
Dolinin's major literary innovation was the verse-montage, the reuse of old lines in a new context. He wrote "There is much shit out there and I don't want to add any more. It makes sense to be economical - to recycle, to translate bad works into good. Russia must use its natural resources smartly. Similarly, there is a mountain of heroic poetry that i can only hope to emulate. As the Englishman Eliot said, "All artists borrow, great artists steal". By placing an old word or an old phrase in a new context, we give it new life in the Bolshevik era. We make it relevant, estranged from its original role, with an amalgam of inter-textual connectivity. Only a poetry that connects the very oldest with the very newest can express the timelessness of the Communist narrative."2
The innovation mirrored advances made in the field of photo-montage by constructivists such as Lissitzky, Klucis and Stepanova, who themselves drew inspiration from the montage sequences and quick editing evident in Eisenstein's films. "...sometimes the cut should be bold and noticeable, disruptions in rhythm and rhyme jolting the reader from their automatised consciousness. Other times two pieces should merge seamlessly so that we search for the join, that invisible ideological glue connecting divergent histories and literatures."3
1917, Yasnaya Polyana, Lenin
His 1932 opus '1917' is noted as the masterpiece of his 'Verse-Montage' technique of writing. Dolinin constructed the majority of the poem using quotes assembled from elsewhere, either from works of literature or from other media. The poem deals with Dolinin's lack of faith in the aftermath of the Revolution, the death of his close friend Mayakovsky, and the question of what constituted authentic communist art (often opposed to the reactionary proletarianism of Demyan Bedny).
Excerpt from 1917
For i do not wish to turn again,
from the left, left, left
Yezhov looks at Lili's note
of Volodya she's bereft.
An enemy of the five-year plan
dreaming on a softened brain,
I never promoted friends
to spies, by this you know my pain.4
Yasnaya Polyana was a populist piece comprised entirely of lines from the works of Lev Tolstoy, brooding on issues of home and nationhood. Many Russians at the time would've been familiar with Tolstoy's work, and there was a challenge issued in the newspaper Pravda for readers to source each and every line down to the page number. The competition was won by a housewife from Kazan.5 His poem entitled 'Lenin' was commissioned by Stalin in 1939 and was accompanied with original art work by El Lissitzky. Due to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939 and the racial antagonism that ensued, the poem did not achieve a wide release on account of Dolinin and Lissitzky's Jewish heritage. Dolinin lost Stalin's patronage after taking affront to what he saw as cynical realpolitik.6
Death & Reception
Dolinin died of malnutrition in the Siege of Leningrad in November 1943, just two months before the blockade was effectively lifted. In the city of Naukograd there is a square named in his honour. In 1997 a TV Movie produced by the VGTRK-controlled Kultura channel was made about the childhood and subsequent reunion of Dolinin and Lissitzky.7
1. Collage + Collaboration - Grigory Dolinin, 1937, Kaupthing & Jones, London
3. The Voice of the Sky, Essays - Dolinin, Shklovsky, Rodchenko, Tatlin
5. When Russia Learned to Read - Stephen Lovell
7. Если вы можете прочитать эту вы слишком близко