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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Emigre 'Bridge' Finds Home in Moscow

Russkoye ZarubezhyeThe late dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn and his wife Natalya talking at the opening of the center in 1995.
It might seem logical to house artifacts and information about the lives of Russian emigres in foreign lands, but one of the best centers to celebrate Russians residing overseas exists right here in Moscow: the Russkoye Zarubezhye (Russia Abroad) library and foundation, an institution started more than a decade ago by one of the country's most beloved emigres, Nobel-Prize winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

The center began as little more than a modest library founded in 1995 on Solzhenitsyn's initiative with the help of Moscow authorities and France's Russian-language publishing house "YMCA-Press," the first to publish Solzhenitsyn's works in the West.

Now, its 7,000-square-meter territory contains a library of about 75,000 books, a restaurant, a bookshop, a small hotel, a conference hall and a wealth of literary archives that are expanded regularly with new items and manuscripts donated by the descendants of Russian emigrants from around the world.

"Russkoye Zarubezhye was created on the base of an ordinary, small district library," recalled Victor Moskvin, director of the foundation. "Now, it is one of the biggest cultural centers in Russia."

The foundation is dedicated to all the waves of Russian emigrants that have moved abroad throughout history, but their collection of materials from the last century, when countries across the globe took in those who fled Russia following the Bolshevik Revolution, is particularly rich.

"After the events of 1917, about 2 million Russians -- the most significant part of Russia's elite, its most intelligent part -- had to emigrate abroad," Moskvin said.

The scattered expatriates founded thousands of newspapers, libraries and theaters not only in Europe but also in such distant countries as Ethiopia and Congo.

Much later, in 1974, Solzhenitsyn was forced to leave the Soviet Union for Europe, where he met other Russian emigres. He collected their memoirs and works published abroad, and that collection became the beginnings of the library.

At the center's opening in 1995, Solzhenitsyn called the collection "a bridge that ties the memory of Russian emigration with their motherland."

The periodicals section is considered to be of particular value, as it provides rare Russian-language journals and newspapers based abroad, such as the New York-based "Russkoye Slovo" and "Russkaya Mysl," published in Paris.

To help make more room for its many departments and activities, the foundation will soon be constructing a new space nearby. In addition to housing the impressive library, the center hosts exhibitions, conferences, concerts and films and is frequented by students, professors and others interested in Russian emigration, a phenomenon that occupies a significant place in 20th-century Russian literature.

The center puts on a number of special events every month. Thursday night it will present a performance by actress Alla Demidova, a "People's Artist of Russia," and on Dec. 18 will be a celebration of the release of the 50th issue of the Russian-American cultural magazine "Bolshoi Vashington," or "Big Washington." In their exhibition space, they currently have a display of black-and-white photographs showing the Russian military through the years titled "The Imperial Army and the Navy of Russia," on show until Dec. 31.

The Russkoye Zarubezhye library and foundation is located at 2 Ulitsa Nizhnyaya Radischevskaya. M. Taganskaya. 915-1030.