Chekhov Cultural Center and ELE History

At the very central part of Moscow close by to the metro stations Chekhovskaya, Pushkinskaya and Tverskaya you can find a public city library - a very small and simple one, but not very usual. This library is called by local people as Chekhovka. In Russian this name means something like the place dedicated to Chekhov - one of the most popular Russian writers.

Chekhov and the mysteries of Russian soul

There are several key names that are symbols of the Russian literature - Pushkin as a poet, Tolstoy as a great novelist, Dostoevsky as one of the greatest psychologists. Chekhov is the most prominent Russian short-story writer.

Anton Chekhov, born in 1860, had a profession of a physician, and at first he had written stories only for financial gain, but even early writings made him very popular. Chekhov's originality consists in an early use of the stream-of-consciousness technique and ability to keep the reader's attention to details of the very simple activities through mastership of his language. Chekhov made no apologies for the difficulties this posed to readers, insisting that the role of an artist was to ask questions, not to answer them. So its not surprising that a lot of people consider Chekhov as an expert in understanding of the mysteries of Russian soul.

History of Chekhovka

The house no. 8 on Strastnoy Boulevard (now No. 6; location of a former monastary in the area), where Chekhov Cultural Center is located, was built in the end of 1880s. Its architect Roman Klein became famous as the author of such constructions as the Museum of Fine Arts and Borodinsky Bridge in Moscow. Back in 1914 the cinematograph "Furor" was opened in the building. From 1919 till 1938 the Latvian Club of political emigrants with its library and the theatre were based in this house. The Club's Library turned into the Public Library in 1939.

At first, the Library occupied just a small place, there was not enough space for books - and readers alike. The book collection consisted of 25,000 books, and three librarians worked with them.

During the Second World War the Library has never been closed. The readers could use the Library even in the severe frost, sometimes in fact without electricity light. There were no regular working days in the usual sense, the Library was always available for people. From the first days of war, the Library windows were covered with posters, banners, public appeal papers. The Reading Room was organized by the Library right at the Moscow Metro station "Revolution Square". It was opened on August the 1st, 1941.

After the War, the Library’s activities were directed to helping the former soldiers to improve their education, to master new professions, to become familiar with masterpieces of the World Literature and Arts – thus getting knowledge of everything needed to a person for spiritual and professional growth.

1954 is the most significant year in Chekhovka’s history. The Library was named after Anton Chekhov. 50 year of tribute to Chekhov has changed the Library’s role in the City’s Cultural life. Chekhovka established close relations with theatre, musical, museum organizations and its masters.

Chekhov Cultural Center

The Library became very popular among Moscovites because of interesting meetings of its visitors with the Russian writers. Among the Library’s guests were the most prominent Russian writers - Ilia Erenburg, Yaroslav Smelyakov, Konstantin Simonov, Yury Trifonov, Yury Nagibin, Naum Korzhavin, Daniil Granin, Bulat Okudzhava, Andrey Voznesensky, Alexander Rybakov, Arseniy Tarkovsky and many others. The Library keeps photographs of such meetings and autographs left by the writers on their own books.

At the time of PERESTROYKA the whole territory closeby to the library - alike the library itself - were the areas of active discussions on the future of Russia. These were dramatic years in the history of the country. Government support of libraries dramatically decreased, but Chekhovka surivived.

In 1992 the status of Chekhov Cultural Center was granted to the Library for its many educating activities. Apart from being a library Chekhovka became the research center for Chekhov’s heritage keeping great collection of Chekhov’s books, letters, memoirs, recordings and video-materials. Just the filmography of Chekhov’s works contains 238 feature films, 10 animations and 40 documentaries.

The status of Chekhov Cultural Center was granted to the Library in 1992 for its many educating activities. Back in 1994 the Concert-Hall for 70 visitors was opened by the Library. This area is used nowadays for literary meetings, book presentations, concerts, theatre performances, retro evenings. From 1995 to the present day the library is supporting meetings of the literary salon ‘XXI Century Classics’ and the weekend salon ‘Heritage’.

Host for the English Language Evenings

From 1998 Chekhovka became the host area for English Language Evenings (ELE) - an independent, open public English-language lecture forum in Moscow. The founder of ELE is Stephen Lapeyrouse - an American, who has lived in Russia since the early 1990's.

ELE meetings are held usually twice a month from mid-October all to late May. ELE speakers are usually prominent and/or interesting individuals from Moscow's greater English-language and/or foreign-resident community, giving lectures on topics of their own choosing.

Among the purposes of ELE is the providing of an intelligent-intellectual evening´┐Ż in Moscow in English, the presentation of a wide variety of topics and speakers, and the promotion of more personal contacts between the speakers and Russians in Moscow.

Since 1998 Chekhovka hosted more than 150 ELE meetings and some 130 different speakers: ambassadors and attaches of various embassies; Fulbight scholars; visiting and resident professors; well-known Moscow journalists (from the Moscow Times, Russia Journal) and international TV and radio correspondents (BBC, VOA, Sky News); social activists; heads of institutions (e.g. AmCham, Moscow Carnegie Center, Amnesty International), et al, on a wide variety of lecture topics.

Lectures are usually followed by Q&As, discussions and comments.

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