January 31, 2013
Nabokov Museum vandalized by group unable to separate fact from fiction
by Kevin Murphy
The Nabokov Museum in St. Petersburg has been vandalized in recent weeks by a group calling itself the “St. Petersburg Cossacks.” The group, according to Russian news outlet RIA Novosti, consists of “moralizing ultraconservatives” who condemn Vladimir Nabokov and his work for “promoting pedophilia.”
A report from January 10th stated that “A lone vandal broke a museum window with a bottle on Wednesday night, escaping unhindered. A note stashed in the bottle threatened the museum with ‘God’s wrath.’”
The contents of the note have not been fully disclosed, but according to the report, asked:
“How can you remain unafraid of God’s wrath promoting Nabokov’s pedophilia?”
And on Tuesday, according to the Hindustan Times, the group struck again: “… Vandals have spray-painted the word ‘pedophile’ on the wall of a museum dedicated to famous writer Vladimir Nabokov in St. Petersburg.”
That’s not all. According to museum director Tatiana Ponomaryova, over the past couple of months the museum has received numerous threatening letters and emails calling Nabokov “amoral” and suggesting that Lolita could only be the work of a sinner.
In the last six months we have received a number of strange messages coming to our email address, containing a great deal of orthographical mistakes. As far as we know, our colleagues from the Hermitage Museum receive similar letters from unknown angry residents,” director of Nabokov House told Novaya Gazeta.
Last October, a stage adaptation of Lolita scheduled to premier at the St. Petersburg Contemporary Art Museum was cancelled when the the theater director received a threatening letter from the group, reading in part:
“The cynicism of the book [Lolita] is that its author describes the process of his sin in every detail, he enjoys it and doesn’t want to be forgiven.”
Eventually, though, the performance did go forward, running in December and early January. But the organizer (reports are unclear if the play’s organizer is also its director) was beaten one night by three unidentified attackers. No arrests have been made.
The Nabokov Museum is housed on the first floor of a mansion built in the early 1800s and located on Bolshaya Morskaya Street, in one of St. Petersburg’s oldest districts. Nabokov was born in the house in 1899 and lived there until 1917; he said that for him the house remained “the only house in the world.” It is described lovingly in The Other Shores and Speak, Memory.
Kevin Murphy is the digital media marketing manager of Melville House.