Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Recent news - controversy on the 20th anniversary of Weinberg's death

Perhaps the biggest piece of Weinberg-related news came on the twentieth anniversary of his death, on 26 February, with the release of a new interview with his first daughter, Victoria. The interview with Elisaveta Blumina (and edited by Il'ya Ovchinnikov) contains many warm details of Weinberg as a loving and kind father, as well as Victoria's thoughts on his music. The article can be found here (in Russian).

Victoria Bishops (neé Weinberg) and Elizaveta Blumina (picture from
While the details about Weinberg as a Father and his years in Warsaw go some way to 'fill in the gaps' for information about these aspects of his biography, it is in her claims about the years up to his death that Victoria makes some rather shocking assertions.

Firstly, she alleges that the mother of Weinberg's second wife, Grinchar Nadezhda Aleksandrovna, worked as a psychiatric nurse in the Butyrka prison - where Weinberg had been imprisoned (details are somewhat hazy as to where exactly Weinberg had been held during his imprisonment in 1953 - several sources mention both the Lubyanka and the Butyrka, suggesting an initial interrogation in the Lubyanka and then a holding cell in the Butyrka). This is, however, the first time that Weinberg's mother-in-law has been linked to the Butyrka in this way (this is crucial, since Weinberg shares the same grave as his mother-in-law, in Domodedovo cemetary). Weinberg's flat in Moscow, where his family live to this day, overlooks the Butyrka prison.

Further to this, Victoria asserts that Weinberg was baptised against his will (which, in the orthodox faith, makes any baptism illegitimate). He was baptised into the Russian Orthodox Church in a quiet ceremony in his Moscow flat a few weeks before his death. According to Anna, his second daughter, it was entirely his own decision, with no prompting from anyone else.

Reactions to these claims have ranged from confusion to outrage - especially in defence of Weinberg's second wife, Olga, and their daughter, Anna. Olga Rakhalskaya herself has written a response - to be found here (again, in Russian), at the end of which she concludes: 'on the twentieth anniversary of his death, 26 February, was there no better way to honour him than by throwing mud at the people close to him?'. She proceeds to put the record straight about her mother (who was not a psychiatric nurse at the Butyrka) and also gives more detail about Weinberg's conversion - that he swore to reach a decision by his birthday, 8 December, but had in fact made up his mind before this point. Olga's response also features excerpts from Weinberg's letters, previously published in 2000. These alone make Olga's response worth reading.

Olga Rakhalskaya (picture from
The outcome of both of these articles remains to be seen - while both provide rich details for the scholar, it is on the personal level of Weinberg's life and family that makes them both vital but difficult reading.