Exactly 100 years ago, in October 1922, the Civil War came to an end in Russia. That war was the result of the October Revolution of 1917, which forever changed the course of not only Russian, but also the world’s history.
The ships that left the ports of Crimea after the fiercest civil confrontation were taking away from Russia the remnants of the defeated Volunteer Army, representatives of the nobility, clergy, scientific and creative intelligentsia. The cream of the nation was leaving the country, fleeing the Red Terror…
According to various estimates, the number of Russian emigrees of the first wave was between 1.5 to 2.5 million. They were scattered around the globe, but did not forget their homeland. “We took Russia, our Russian nature, with us. And wherever we are, we cannot but feel it,” Ivan Bunin said.
Dmitry Belyukin’s painting, ‘White Russia. Exodus’ (1992), subtly conveys the immense tragedy of people leaving their homeland. “These are officers and privates of the army and the new guard – the Kornilov and Drozdov Regiments, merchants, the artistic circle, high school and lycée students, State Duma deputies and dignitaries of the court, professors, poets and nurses. I.A. Bunin in a hat stands in the distance, to the left by the ship vent, and the others are collective types of people, personifying the image of the Russian, forever receding into the past,” the artist comments on his work.
It was the first wave of emigration that left the most striking mark in world history: brilliant minds, outstanding philosophers, great scientists and scholars, writers and artists of world renown. Among the ‘unwanted’ people were I.A. Bunin, I.S. Shmelev, K.D. Balmont, D.S. Merezhkovsky, N.A. Berdyaev, S.N. Bulgakov, I.I. Sikorsky, K.A. Korovin, M.Z. Chagall, F.I. Chaliapin and many others. All of them were true patriots and in exile became the embodiment of the Russian people’s high culture and spirituality.