Marietta Sergeevna Shaginian was a Soviet writer and activist of Armenian descent. She was one of the “fellow travelers” of the 1920s led by the Serapion Brotherhood and became one of the most prolific communist writers experimenting in satirico-fantastic fiction.
In February 1912 Shaginian wrote to the composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, signing herself “Re”. This was the first of many letters written between them over the next 5 years, many quoted in Bertensson & Leyda. Later in 1912, Rachmaninoff asked her to suggest poems he could set as songs. Many of her suggestions appeared in his Op. 34 set of that year (list of titles in Bertensson & Leyda). The first group, from Pushkin’s poem “The Muse” of 1828, he dedicated to her. In 1913 she dedicated her first set of published poems, “Orientalia”, to him. Rachmaninoff left Russia in 1917, never to return, and their correspondence ceased at that point.
Shaginian authored the novels Mess-Mend (1923), Three Looms (1929), Hydrocentral (1930–31), for which she was criticized by Soviet literary critics who found her innovative fiction to be “decadent” and “bourgeois.” She was forced to stop writing in this genre and turned to essay writing. For her novels about Lenin’s life and activities she was awarded the Lenin Prize in 1972. Shaginian spent much of her time in Koktebel, Crimea, where she had bought a summer house for her family. The Russian bohemian elite gathered in Koktebel every summer and stayed there until September, spending time at the Voloshin house.
Marietta’s daughter Mirelle Shaginian was a painter, who was married to Victor Tsigal, a Russian painter and sculptor. Their son Serega Tsigal is an artist in Moscow. His wife Lubov Polishuk was one of Russia’s most famous actresses. Serega’s daughter Marietta Tsigal followed her mother’s steps into acting. She was named after her great grandmother. Marietta Shaginian has two great great grandchildren Anastasia Shaginian and her brother Andrei.
A minor planet 2144 Marietta discovered in 1975 by Soviet astronomer Lyudmila Chernykh is named in her honor.
• Mess-Mend: Yankees in Petrograd. Trans. Samuel Cioran. Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1991.
• Lori Len Metallist [Laurie Lane, Metalworker]. Moscow: Gos-Izd, 1924.
• Doroga v Bagdad [The Road to Baghdad]. St. Petersburg, 1925.
• Gidrotsentral [HydroCentral]. Leningrad, 1929.
• Armianskaya literatura i iskusstvo [Literature and Art of Armenia]. Yerevan, 1961.
• Taras Shevchenko. Moscow, 1964.