Open Letters from the International, French, and Japanese Vladimir Nabokov Societies to Russia's Ministry of Culture

Submitted by dana_dragunoiu on Mon, 06/17/2019 - 08:43

Dear Readers of The Nabokovian:

The International Vladimir Nabokov Society, the Société française Vladimir Nabokov and the Nabokov Society of Japan make a joint appeal to Russia's Ministry of Culture in three open letters. 

These urgent letters, published at the bottom of this message, were published in an article by Maria Bashmakova in Kommersant. The Ministry's reply to the last letter sent to it by the Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation is embedded in this same article. 

Because of the events described here, this is the first time that the International Nabokov Readings/ Набоковские чтения are not taking place at the Nabokov Museum. Below is a link to a recent article about this:

I am attaching a list of links related to the recent publicity campaign related to the Nabokov Museum:

The first essay outlining the troubles of the Nabokov Museum appeared on Dec. 16, 2018, on the Radio Svoboda website. The author is poet and journalist Tatyana Vol’tskaya, who has been a long-term supporter of the museum.

April 10, 2019Marina Bashmakova writes in a popular daily Novaya Gazeta [The New Newspaper]: “‘All my Russian readers have died…: The Nabokov Museum has an owner, but it does not have a master."

April 17, 2019: “Nabokov under a strike” by Victor Erofeev: Erofeev is a well-known writer; his work was published in the US; he wrote for the New Yorker and the NYRB

April 19, 2019: Kseniya Morozova for (a glossy magazine with a significant online following): “Vladimir Nabokov is 120 years old, but his museum in Bolshaya Morskaya Street is closed for an unknown term. Why?”

April 21, 2019: Evgeniya Korobkova for Komsomol’skaya Pravda (a popular daily, The Komsomol Truth, in operation since 1925): “The St. Petersburg Nabokov Museum is closed; no one seems to need it.” [Context: the museum was shut down for a few weeks because the upstairs tenant, the Children’s School of Music named after Bortnyansky, was supposedly conducting renovations that prevented the visitors’ use of the lobby.]

April 22, 2019: Marina Smirnova, President of the “Zhivaya Klassika [The Living Classics]” Foundation, writing for Komsomol’skaya Pravda: “Nabokov is 120. The Nabokov Museum Is Closed.”

April 22, 2019: Tatyana Ponomareva on Nabokov Museum and her position as the museum director of 15 years, who is in conflict with the SPbSU, an interview to a Russian-language Swiss newspaper:

April 23, 2019: Marina Smirnova writing for Snob (a glossy magazine on par with the Russian Vogue):

April 23, 2019: Afisha Plus writes about the creation of the “Coordination Council for the Support of the Nabokov Museum”:

April 24, 2019: Russian TV channel “Kul’tura [Culture]” reports on the VNLF’s offer of the archive and cites director of the Hermitage Mikhail Piotrovsky who supports the creation of a state-funded literary museum:  

April 25, 2019: Tatyana Ponomareva on the plight of the Nabokov Museum, interview to the Ekho Moskvy [The Moscow Echo] radio station:

April 26, 2019 “Tatyana Ponomareva learned about the appointment of the new Nabokov Museum director from journalists”

May 14, 2019: Professor of U Wisconsin-Madison and a leading Nabokov scholar Aleksandr Dolinin on Nabokov, Nabokov scholarship, and the Nabokov Museum:



11 May, 2019

To: Vladimir Tolstoy, Advisor on Culture to the President of the Russian Federation; cc: Vladimir Medinsky, Minister of Culture, and Alla Manilova, Deputy Minister of Culture

Respected Vladimir Ilyich!

We, the Board of Directors of the International Vladimir Nabokov Society, write to express our strong support for the Nabokov Museum in St. Petersburg and for the proposal that it be placed under the aegis of the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Culture or the City of St. Petersburg.

Vladimir Nabokov is regarded worldwide as one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. Over the past two decades, almost all that time under the leadership of Tatiana Olegovna Ponomareva, the Nabokov Museum has served the international community as a highly valued resource and center for scholarly activity.  Dozens of society members, including professors, graduate students, writers, and Nabokov enthusiasts from the general public, have traveled to St. Petersburg from countries all over the world to participate in its conferences. The museum’s collections, its meticulous and vibrant organization of many conferences and symposia, its “Nabokov 101” courses, which attract undergraduates, graduates and even professors as its students, its publications of scholarship--all this under the steadfast and extremely admirable leadership of Tatiana Ponomareva--have played a major role in the advancement of Nabokov scholarship during these many years.  The Museum, its leadership and staff, deserve the highest accolades, awards, and honors for their outstanding accomplishments.

Instead, we learn that during the last year, St. Petersburg University has decided to cut the Museum’s staff drastically, and slash the pay of the remaining workers, causing most to leave, and thus deeply endangering the Museum’s proper maintenance and its vital role in international Nabokov scholarship. The University appointed a new Director whose 27 April interview with Afisha Plus reveals a total lack of knowledge of the Museum’s accomplishments and its worldwide significance over the past 20 years. These decisions threaten the Museum’s central and respected place in the global scholarly community, not least because they undermine the trust and good will necessary to scholarly endeavors. We also note that in recent years the University administration has hampered the Museum’s significant international role, especially its organization of conferences and presentation of its achievements on the Nabokov Museum’s web site, which was long ago removed from the Museum’s control and has not been adequately managed or updated by the University. Before 2008, the Museum maintained a well-organized web site packed with dynamic and research-valuable contents; since then, the University has provided a minimal, brochure-style web site.

Nabokov’s only child, Dmitri, donated material belonging to his father to the Nabokov Museum while he was alive. Other Nabokov scholars have signalled that they would be ready to donate material to the Museum provided it is reliably funded, has enough physically secure storage and display space, and is sufficiently and competently staffed by those with genuine expertise in and commitment to Vladimir Nabokov and his legacy. 

The Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation, to which copyright and other property in the possession of the Nabokov Estate was assigned, has materials (manuscripts; books, many of them inscribed; memorabilia) which it is ready to donate to the Nabokov Museum, if and only if the Museum is in the responsible care of the Ministry of Culture or the City of St. Petersburg. The spurious claims of St. Petersburg University in appointing a new director to the Museum and misrepresenting the depth of the University’s Nabokov expertise at its suddenly invented, so-called “Center for the Study of Nabokov,”have made it more apparent than ever to the Foundation that the Nabokov Museum under St. Petersburg University’s control cannot be entrusted with this material.

The International Vladimir Nabokov Society Board of Directors supports Tatiana Olegovna Ponomareva as a highly effective and energetic leader, and the only one who has the knowledge and legitimacy needed to lead the Nabokov Museum today. Further, the Board enthusiastically supports the stance of the Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation and the efforts of the Coordinated Council to Save the Nabokov House and Museum, to have the Museum (and house) transferred from the University’s aegis to either the City of St. Petersburg or the Russian Ministry of Culture, with full status as a national cultural monument and museum. The legacy of Vladimir Nabokov, son of St. Petersburg, deserves nothing less. His stature and legacy warrant Federal investment on a level similar to that already accorded by such classic Russian writers as Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Akhmatova.

With deepest respect, 

Dr. Thomas Karshan, President, IVNS (UK), Senior Lecturer in Literature, University of East Anglia 

Dr. Lara Delage-Toriel, Vice-President IVNS (France), Maître de conferences, Département d'études anglaises et nord-américaines, Université de Strasbourg

Dr. Christopher Link, Treasurer IVNS (USA); Associate Professor of English, SUNY-New Paltz

Dr. Dana Dragunoiu, Secretary IVNS (Canada), Associate Professor of English, Carleton University

Dr. Brian Boyd, FRSNZ, Board Member (New Zealand), University Distinguished Professor, University of Auckland, Board Member and Director, Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation

Dr. Zoran Kuzmanovich, Board Member (USA), Professor of English, Davidson College; Editor, Nabokov Studies

Dr. Stephen Blackwell, Board Member (USA), Lindsay Young Professor of Humanities, University of Tennessee

Dr. Priscilla Meyer, Board Member (USA), Professor of Russian Emerita, Wesleyan University; Editor, The Nabokovian

Dr. Leland de la Durantaye, Board Member (USA); Professor, Claremont McKenna College

Dr. Julian Connolly, Board Member (USA); Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Virginia

Dr. Susan Elizabeth Sweeney, Board Member (USA); Monsignor Murray Professor of Arts and Humanities and Professor of English, College of the Holy Cross



Société française Vladimir Nabokov

Les Chercheurs Enchantés

11 May, 2019

We, the Board of the French Vladimir Nabokov Society, Les Chercheurs Enchantés, fully share the concerns of the Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation and the International Vladimir Nabokov Society and endorse their position and advice on the management of the​ Nabokov Museum. Many of us have participated in conferences at the Nabokov Museum, organized by Tatiana Ponomareva, and classes in the Nabokov 101 course at the Museum and we invited Tatiana Ponomareva to deliver a paper at the International conference « Vladimir Nabokov and France » in the Centre Georges Pompidou of Paris, in June 2013

Maurice Couturier, Honorary President of the French Nabokov Society, General Editor of the Nabokov Pléiade Edition, Professor Emeritus, University of Nice

Yannicke Chupin, President of the French Vladimir Nabokov Society, Associate Professor of English at Université de Cergy-Pontoise, France

Agnès Edel-Roy, Vice-President of the French Vladimir Nabokov Society, co-founder and former Président (2014-2017), University of Paris-Est Créteil, France

Julie Loison-Charles, Vice-President of the French Vladimir Nabokov Society, Associate Professor of English, Université de Lille

Anne-Marie Lafont, Vice President of the Vladimir Nabokov Society, High school teacher of French, Istres, France 

Marie Bouchet, Vice-Treasurer of the French Vladimir Nabokov Society, Associate Professor of English, Université de Toulouse, France

Monica Manolescu, founding member of the French Nabokov Society, Associate Professor of English, University of Strasbourg

Suzanne Fraysse, Board Member, Associate Professor of English, Aix-Marseille University, France

Sophie Bernard-Léger, French Vladimir Nabokov Society Secretary, Associate researcher at Eur’ORBEM, Sorbonne Université, Paris, France

Morgane Allain-Roussel, Webmaster of the French Vladimir Nabokov Society, English Teacher at College Jean Macé, Villeurbanne, France.

Sigolène Vivier, Board Member, Sorbonne University. 

Sabine Faye, Board Member of the French Vladimir Nabokov Society, Associate Professor of English, Université Paris III-Sorbonne Nouvelle

Louise Priselkow, Board Member of the French Vladimir Nabokov Society

Michael Federspiel, Board Member of the French Vladimir Nabokov Society, Lecturer at Université d’Angers, France



We, the Board of the Nabokov Society of Japan, fully share the concerns of the Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation and the International Vladimir Nabokov Society and endorse their position and advice on the management of the Nabokov Museum. 

Many of us have participated in conferences at the Nabokov Museum, organized by Tatiana Ponomareva, and classes in the Nabokov 101 course at the Museum.

With deepest respect,

Professor Emeritus Tadashi Wakashima, President NSJ, Professor of English Emeritus, Kyoto University

Professor Atsushi Goto, Secretary NSJ, Lecturer of English, Kyoto Prefectural University

Professor Izumi Matoba, Board Member NSJ and Editor KRUG, Associate Professor of English, Hiroshima University 

Professor Mitsunori Sagae, Board Member NSJ and Associate Editor KRUG, Professor of Russian, Soka University

Professor Kazunao Sugimoto, Board Member NSJ, Professor of Russian, Aichi Shukutoku University

Professor Hajime Kaizawa, Board Member NSJ, Professor of Russian, Waseda University

Professor Akitoshi Fukazawa, Board Member NSJ, Assistant Professor of English, Nagoya Bunri University

Professor Maya Medlock, Board Member NSJ, Associate Professor of English, Bukkyo University

Professor Emerita Shoko Miura, Third President NSJ, Professor of English Emerita, Tokyo University of Fishery

Professor Emeritus Mitsuya Kato, Fourth President NSJ, Professor of English Emeritus, Tokyo Metropolitan University

Professor Emeritus Yoshiyuki Fujikawa, Founding President NSJ, Professor of English Emeritus, University of Tokyo

Professor Akiko Nakata, Board Member NSJ, Professor of English, Nanzan University