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A time for everything: Svetlana Munzuk about her father - Maxim Munzuk

A time for everything:  Svetlana Munzuk about her father - Maxim Munzuk"Life can't be stopped, that means that time can't be stopped either. The saying - a time for everything - is not in vain. It really is like that: everybody is born in his own time and lives in his own times.

Do we have the right not to respect the past times? Do we have the right to pass judgment on the past?

Do we have the right not to forgive mistakes?

We have no such right. But we do have the right to analyze, to make choices and to prevent repeating mistakes. And mainly - to remember and to keep."

 This quotation comes from Maxim Munzuk's notes from 1994. He had such a habit to first concentrate the ideas on small fragments, then to develop his ideas based on these notes on  large pages.

To remember and to keep. Unfortunately, not all of his notes have been preserved. But those which remained became the foundation of this sketch about Maxim Monguzhukovich Munzuk - National artist of RSFSR and Tuvinian ASSR, laureate of State Prize of Tuvinian ASSR, Cavalier of the Order of Friendship of nations, and the actor of the title role in Oscar-winning film "Dersu Uzala".

And simply - about my father. Very much loving and very much loved.


Munzuk was born in a small place Uurgailyg of the future Tandy district of Tuva. His date of birth is 2 May 1910, but in his documents it is 15 September 1912.

He took off two years in his youth, before going to Moscow to school. He was concerned that he would not be sent to school because he was over the usual age. But he did not find out his exact date of birth until he was 70, from his age-mate Taskarakov, who came from republic Khakassia  to his countryman's anniversary.

The guest said that the Taskarakov family had lived not far from the aal where Munzuk was born. At the end of the '30's, Munzuk was already a well-known personality in Tuva, and even more so in his birthplace of Tandy. Whenever A time for everything:  Svetlana Munzuk about her father - Maxim Munzukthe artist came to his native place with an agitation team, the Taskarakovs would tell their son: "You were born on the same day - 2 May." They said that with pride, after all, artists at that time were the personification of everything new and interesting, and the arrival of the agitation team was a very significant event.

The two old men-countrymen talked for a long time, and during the conversation Maxim Monguzhukovich wrote down notes on a piece of paper. Later, when he could not find the notes, he was very upset, but then he calmed down. But since that time, all the way to his death, and he died at the age of 89 years - 28 July 1999 - we observed Papa's birthday twice every year, on 2 May and 15 September.


We did not know the origin of Papa's  name Munzuk, which later became his surname.

Possibly the secret is hidden in the seven-volume collection "Uriangkhai. Tyva Depter.", edited by Sergei Shoigu. While reading the Introduction in the first volume, I came across some interesting information on page 50:

" Attila, called "The Scourge of God" - the leader of Huns, i.e. western Xiongnu, who migrated from the steppes of Central Asia in the first centuries of common era, was the son of the leader of  Huns Mundtsuk (sounding astonishingly like Tuvan name Munzuk). From 445, at the head of  Hun confederation of tribes, he founded a huge empire which stretched from the Volga and Ural to South Germany, and from the Baltic to the Caucasus."

And really, the name Munzuk sounds very much like the name of the leader of the Huns - Mundtsuk. And what is curious is that sometimes Papa's name was spelled like that!  After the film "Dersu Uzala" was released onto the world screens  in 1975, many articles and reviews appeared. And the authors often made mistakes in writing the name of the actor who played Dersu: now Mundzuk, now Mundtsuk.

But in contrast to his possible ancient warrior relatives, Papa was not a warrior, even though in his youth he took part in the suppression of counter-revolutionary uprisings, and he even trained as a tank driver.


Munzuk almost did not remember his childhood. He often asked himself: why is this, could it be late development? Only  isolated moments without any chronology popped up in his mind, hazy images.

The image of his home - a place which was crowded, not by large numbers of people, but from large amount of some bundles. His relatives confirmed that the family did not have a yurt of their own, and lived mostly in places meant for storage of furnishings and  goods of the owners - tiny yurts or bark chooms.

He recalled that his parents never sat idle, and also that he was not allowed to enter a large white yurt which stood nearby. Sometimes in his memories there was an image of a lama whom his parents served. There were some joyful images, too: father returning from a successful hunt!

He did not recall the faces of his older sisters. He did not understand where they suddenly disappeared, only once, when he saw a lifeless body of one of them, he felt pain - somewhere in his chest.

A time for everything:  Svetlana Munzuk about her father - Maxim MunzukAnd his twin sister, because the last time that his mother gave birth, she had a boy and a girl, also left for another world. He was the only one left to his parents.

And then his mother left too. He remembered that: the shaman beating his drum strongly, loudly calling on the spirits, praying to cure the young woman from sickness. But the spirits were powerless, and his mother died.

Only two were left now: father and son.


Tuvans did not say names aloud. Men could not say the names of their wives, young men those of their girlfriends, children - names of their mothers. Because of that, may names of those close to him did not remain in the little orphan's memory.

Only as an adult did Munzuk manage to find out from his countrymen and relatives more detail about his roots.

His  maternal grandmother was from Mezhegei by origin, and her name was Chodak-Kara. Small, black-haired, her name fully corresponded to her appearance. She was very talented, and she mastered throat-singing to perfection. One day a noyon - a prince - who lived in Samagaltai, heard her and invited her. From that time on, she performed throat-singing at his court. This is where she married and gave birth to a daughter. She lived for a long time.

Her husband was a skillful smith. He was especially valued as  a master in crafting Chinese bells, the sound of which carried far beyond Tuva. So he was called Kongu - short for konguluur - a bell, and his real name was forgotten.

Their daughter Daryimaa took after her father, and was an unsurpassable working woman. She could perform any kind of work without fearing it. She was very strong. Everybody was surprised: she could easily pick up a large bag of grain. Daryimaa gave birth to her first child in Samagaltai. The baby boy was given to good people who lived on the banks of Erzin river and adopted him.

Munzuk found out that he had an older brother in Erzin only after he grew up. The older brother's name was Soruktu, and his surname, taken from his adoptive parents, was Kyrgys. He inherited his grandmother's talent: Soruktu Kyrgys became a prominent throat-singer and for some time he also worked in the theater.

After the birth of her first child, Daryimaa returned to Mezhegei, and married Monguzhuk from the Oyun family.

Munzuk's paternal grandmother was a noyon's wife.  She was called Ulug-Attyg - a Woman with a Big Name. But her real name was Dolchanmaa, from the family of Kaa-Khem Salchaks.  She had only one child, Monguzhuk, Munzuk's father. She died young.

Monguzhuk became a shagaachy. During the New Year holiday Shagaa he traveled around the aals, offering his services of  butchering the bodies of any kind of domestic livestock. He was a great master in this: he could do everything in a fast, competent way, and he was often called at other times, not just for preparations for Shagaa.

This is how he made his living, but his wife Daryimaa was always complaining, displeased that a married man continued to work as a shagaachy and would not change his habit of  traveling from yurt to yurt.

People respected his goodness and modesty, and called him Mongu for short. He also was a khuresh wrestler, but one day he dislocated his opponent's arm and stopped wrestling.

And he was a knowledgeable hunter. After his wife's death, he always took his only son along hunting. Little Munzuk soaked in his father's lessons. Already back then he learned to read animal and bird tracks, and to respect the law of the taiga.

This became not just recreation throughout his whole life, but it helped very much half a century later, during filming in the taiga of the  Far East.  Papa, I think, was playing not only the Goldi hunter Dersu Uzala, the hero of Vladimir Arseniev's story, but to some extent also his father Monguzhuk.

However, his life with his father did not last long. Monguzhuk became sick - a tumor developed on his back. At first he continued to work, but soon he could not even move. So little Munzuk, instead of his father, became a horse-herder for one of the richest men of Tandy - Azhykai Oyun. His father, who was a strong, healthy man just a short time ago, remained lying down helplessly in the shadow of the yurt. And he died there.


In the  '20's of the last century it was still customary to bury the dead in open places, not giving them to the earth, buried in a grave.

The deceased would be carried to a mountain pass or to the steppe and left there under bushes, covered by cloth. The body was pulled apart and scattered by animals and birds.

In Mezhegei, there is a mountain pass over the steppe, and this is where seven men took his father's body. Seven, because the custom required that it should be done by an odd number of men, and women were not allowed to be present at the burial.

Then they all left, and they left little Munzuk there alone to pray. He kneeled , with his head bowed.  Wind took the cloth from his father's cold body. He caught it, and covered his father again, and cried for a long, long time.

When the boy secretly returned to the pass three days later, his father's body was already gone. There was only a grazing herd of horses. The sun shone brightly, cranes soared in the pure sky, and Munzuk stood there alone and wept for a long, long time.

Only a mare with a tiny colt came up to him. Nobody else heard the weeping of the orphan child.


In this way, Munzuk began a totally new life at the age of eleven years - a life of a complete orphan.

He served for the rich man Azhykai Oyun, whom he remembered even years later with good words. Azhykai was quite lenient with his little worker, who often ran away. The little boy was driven by childhood curiosity: and what is there - behind the aal, what places, what people?

He wandered all over the area. In the morning he worked for Russian Old Believers, and they gave him food, bread, after prayers, which was the sweetest delicacy for Munzuk. In the evening he would go to work for  a lama, and they gave him some food again. He even worked for Chinese merchants.

And everywhere he learned something:  from the Russians - their language, from the Chinese - counting. He had to learn everything by himself. These were times of changes, there was much  that was interesting and unusual going on. The boy did not understand yet what  the revolution was about, independence, about the Reds and the Whites,  the Party and those not of the Party, but he watched the adults with attention, listened to their conversations and soaked everything in like a sponge.

For example - shii - plays, were very interesting. Amateur drama clubs were quite widespread in Tuva towards 1925, and improvised skits on the spur of the moment were performed right under open sky at herding camps.

By that time Papa turned 15. He still did not take part in amateur theatricals, but he was an enthusiastic spectator. Of course, they showed even the boss - rich man Azhykai - it was so funny!

The actor of the main role - Begzi Kudukaiovich Oyun - recalled the birth of that play like this:

"It was in 1925, I had jus become a member of  Tuvan people's revolutionary party. At that time things were very difficult for party men, and the responsibility was huge.

A very strong, active and clever comic Sonam-Bair lived in our area. He gathered all of us together and said: "This time, kids, we won't be singing any short satirical songs - chastushkas, we will produce a play!" 

Our first one-act play was a criticism of a local rich man Azhykai. Agreeing with Sonam-Bair, we got to work right away. He suggested new words to us that he knew, who should say what. Of course, the play did not have a written text, none of us knew how to write, but we knew in our minds what we would say and play. I had the role of Azhykai, and Sonam-Bair was my servant-horse herder  named Dagba. 

We went to take our show to Kok-Bulun, Mezhegei, Bai-Bulun, where there were many aals, and rich man Azhykai lived there as well. 

His sons came to the show, too. They did not know what the play was to be about. The show started. The theme of the play was very simple, we ridiculed  greed.  And during the play, we see: Azhykai's sons were leaving. Laughing, we were already throwing replies at their backs.."

Of course, none of the texts of amateur plays like this one, played all over the republic, were preserved. The first one-act play in Tuvan language was printed only in 1931 in #32 of newspaper "Shyn" from 14 December. It had a terrible name: "We will destroy." The author was a teacher - Khakass -  L. Spirin. 


1927 was a year of a great change in Munzuk's fate: the seventeen-year-old young man comes to Kyzyl and becomes a fighter in Tuvinian people's revolutionary army, and in 1929 enters the revsomol - Tuvan revolutionary youth union. 

He met Kok-ool in the army; Tuvan Theatre of Music and Drama was later named after him. The future playwright and actor Viktor Kok-ool was by that time an experienced soldier. He served since 1925. They kept their friendship throughout their entire lives. 

Both soldiers  had a cheerful personality and inborn artistic talents. They were always the center of attention - they played songs with the accompaniment of folk instruments, told humorous stories. They played spontaneous  scenes, and successfully dealt with the absence of actresses among the soldiers: Munzuk played the female roles. 

In 1928 Viktor Kok-ool went away to Moscow, to study at the Communist university of the Workers of the East. And Munzuk became seriously involved in music in the summer of 1929: a decision was made to form a musical group of Tuvinian people's  revolutionary army and all the soldiers who had any musical tendencies were taught to read music and to play wind instruments. They were taught by the former partisan Semyon Korovin. 

In 1930, Tuva experienced a wave of uprisings against the government; Munzuk as a soldier took part in their suppression. 

And for taking part in suppression of a counter-revolutionary revolt in the Tere-khol lake district, Munzuk was rewarded by a certificate by Presidium of the Small Khural of TNR. Certificat6e #43 was acted 19 December 1938 and signed by the chairman of the Presidium of Small Khural of the republic Anchima and secretary Talganchyk. 

The certificate is not a simple one: it states that the holder is to receive serious benefits in three points.

First: 50% discount in farming and other taxes. Second: 25% discount for his phone bill, radio and electricity.

But the greatest privilege was the third one: free entry to the park, to the stadium, skating rink and skiing station! 


Semyon Korovin, even at the beginning, when the musical group was only being formed, turned his attention to one of the soldiers - Munzuk, when he was improvising on a four-string folk instrument - byzaanchy.

And the pedagogue attentively watched his successes in the army orchestra. The student was learning musical notation with enthusiasm, quickly learned to play the trumpet, and his  eyes shone when playing marches.

It was precisely Semyon Grigorievich who advised to send the capable trainee to Moscow, to study music professionally. Korovin not just recommended him, but also gave him the name Maxim, in honor of the proletarian writer maxim Gorky.  So Papa became Maxim before his trip to USSR, and his name Munzuk became his surname; this was sealed in  document when after TNR became a part of USSR in 1944, passportization of the population was started.

Maxim Munzuk got to the capital of USSR only in November of 1932. He was late, the classes had already began in the music institute . But the student from afar was tested anyway and the teachers realized that this was a self-taught musician without any special training.

What to do, to go back with nothing - they did not take me?  Not for anything!

A trick saved him; he insinuated himself into a group of Mongols entering the Moscow vehicle and tank training school, and he was accepted. So what, if not a musician, why not a tank driver. The main thing was to stay in Moscow, to study!


Munzuk would have remained a professional soldier if they could have found even a single tank for him in Tuva at that time!

 But there was not a single tank in Tuvan army. And when in early 1935 the brave lieutenant returned to Kyzyl with his tank diploma and driver's license, he was assigned as a conductor to the army orchestra instead of  Semyon Korovin who retired. The first teacher's retirement did not mean that he broke off contact with the collective; Korovin was always there, and helped with advice and action.

The orchestra was getting more and more popular, no holiday in Kyzyl could do without it.

The driver's license from tank school was useful as well: in 1935 Munzuk was a driver for the chairman of the Soviet of Ministers, minister of foreign affairs, Sat Churmit-Dazhy for several months. And his association with this "leader of counter-revolutionary- espionage organization" had serious consequences for his temporary driver.

Munzuk was always being brought in for interrogations. The investigators were interested in everything: why he was invited to be the driver, the routes, Churmit-Dazhy's contacts, themes of his conversations with his driver. They were interested in Munzuk's past, even asking about the Chinese merchants where he worked as an adolescent.

After a fabricated case, Churmit-Dazhy was executed on 16 October 1938; he was rehabilitated in 1964.

Papa was very lucky: he was not executed and was not even imprisoned, he was only expelled from the party. Later on he was re-established, and in 1990 he was given a medal "50 Years in KPSS".

And this is an interesting aspect:  that summer of 1935, when Maxim Munzuk was a driver for Sat Churmit Dazhy,  became decisive in his personal life, and the beginning of his great love for our mother Kara-Kys Nomzatovna.

The love which lasted sixty years and then three years and seven months after mama's death on 18 December of 1995 that Papa lived on, missing her.

The great secret of the tractor-driving suitor

End of summer 1935. Maxim Munzuk brought Chairman of the Soviet of Ministers, Sat Churmit-Dazhy to Chadan. And while the minister was deciding important state matters, he decided to work on his own no less important personal matter: to offer his hand and heart to Kara-kys.

He knew that his beloved was very close by - in Bora-Khol. A mass campaign in liquidation of illiteracy was in progress in the republic, and then student from Kyzyl co-educational school was teaching the local people to read and write.

He decided to make an impressive entrance - not on foot, not on a horse, but behind the wheel. However, he did not risk taking his boss's car; he talked a local tractor driver to lend him the iron horse for one evening. The tank driver training he received in Moscow came in useful: he could easily handle any technology that was then available.

Only it  could not be done very fast. The engine was stalling all the time in the roadless area.  It was already dark when he got there. The effect was seen and heard all over the place: roaring of the engine, rattling of the wheels without tires.

But it did not help. Sixteen-year-old Kara-kys refused the tank-driver on a tractor, even though he showed up armed to the teeth: with their  marriage certificate in his pocket.  A completely real document with the date of 15 August 1935.

We never found out how Papa managed to get a document certifying that they were married, without the other half of the couple. He responded to my astonished questions on this subject, grinning cleverly: "That is my secret. At those times, many things were possible."

The official document about the registered marriage made no impression on Kara-kys's relatives: her father Nomzat and other family were categorically against the union of their young beauty with this person of unimpressive rank and appearance, who, on top of that, was eight years older than her.

So after the fictional marriage registration, it still took a long time for Maxim to fight for the hand and heart of Kara-kys. They became a real husband and wife only three years later, when they were already working together at the theatre. 

A Corner of Paradise 

Kara-kys's biography before she met her future husband was short and unremarkable for a girl of those times.

She was born on 15 September 1918 - also in the future Tandy district like Munzuk, but in Chal-Kezhik. Just like Munzuk, she was orphaned early. Her mother Natpit left this life when her daughter was only two years old, and her younger son Biche-ool was six months. The family also included older son Tungulak - future Tuvan volunteer, who died in 1944 in fighting in Ukraine.

Her father Nomzat was from the Oyun lineage; when he was left without female support, he gave the baby girl to be brought up by relatives. In this way he also wanted to protect his daughter, so that evil spirits that took her mother could not find her.

In this way, peregrinations of Kara-kys began around yurts and aals, until she came to a paradise on Earth: that is what the beginners' school in Bai-Khaak seemed to her. Mama used to tell us: "We not just studied there, but we also played and ate. To me, after all the moving around, the school seemed like a corner of paradise.

The girl was very industrious: she had all A's.  Her singing talent was also noticed at the school; together with her classmates Mongalbii and Laptan, they performed folk songs very well.

In 1934 Kara-kys went to Kyzyl - to continue school. She was accepted at Kyzyl co-educational school for a pedagogics program , and continued to sing in amateur art club.

Later she began to learn the basics of theatre art. There is a certificate  issued in 1937 to comrade Kara-kys, student of first year class of Kyzyl educational combinate, for good grades and active participation in community life. An analogous certificate was given in 1938, when she was already in second year. 

Mama really always was a conscientious student. We have her exercise book in music education: 1941 - 1942 school year, theater study at Tuvan theater. Neat signature, elegant musical symbols and detailed notations. 

Transformation into a Nightingale 

Munzuk heard Kara-kys for the first time in 1935, at a rehearsal of a joint concert of the military orchestra and citizens' talented youth.

Precisely like that: first he heard her, and only then he saw her; because of her voice the rest of the world was covered in darkness for him. 

This is how Papa told me about it in August of 1992: 

"Modest and shy, like a little sparrow, on the stage she turned into a nightingale. The whole hall fell silent with awe, listening to folk songs in her rendition.

I was the musical accompaniment to her bewitching voice, and followed step by step. That voice kept me captive. I was an older brother for the singer, I simply listened to her, accompanied her and thought about her.

But my wife was jealous. You know that at that time I was married to a good Russian woman Nina; we had a daughter who died in 1939 of dysentery. That year many children in Tuva died of this disease, also out first daughter with Kara-kys - Urana, who was born that year.

Nina's jealousy burned worse and worse. The matter even got to the Central Committee of Revsomol, and other community organizations became involved, as was usual at that time. They kept calling me up, re-educating me. It was impossible to live like that. 

I was young and ardent. I broke up the marriage. And right away I registered the second one, even though Kara-kys did not know about it.

We, children, knew Papa's first wife Nina. Judging by everything, the divorce was calm, and she married again as well. 

Transparent Hint 

Now, when nobody of this love history is alive anymore, as I analyze Papa's notes and our talks with him and Mama, I begin to understand that the work-up by revsomol and along community lines for his interest in a young singer was not characteristic only for those times. Times, when personal life was the subject of  thorough scrutiny at the highest levels. 

There was also the fact that the beginning singer was very successful and was considered one of the first brides of the republic. Her voice and charm did not bewitch only out father, but many dargalar as well - the chiefs. Including - Salchak Toka. When Kara-kys chose Munzuk after all, Toka told her: "You made a big mistake." An extremely transparent hint.

And this "mistake" echoed around Munzuk for a long time. When he became the first person of the republic, Salchak Toka continued to treat him coldly. In 1955, when Kara-kys and  Maxim Munzuk were to be awarded the title of Merited artists of  RSFSR - together - it was a joint act - Toka, by then the First Secretary of Tuvinian section of  KPSS, crossed Maxim out of the list. He left only Kara-kys.

That way, Kara-kys Munzuk received the title "Merited Artist RSFSR" in 1955, and Maxim Munzuk only in 1961.

But they became National Artists of RSFSR together, in 1975.

Jealousy in Old Age 

However, Papa was not especially interested in titles. It was good, of course, to get them, but he considered his love for Kara-kys to be the main success of his life.

"I often think: why did she fall in love with me, such a bow-legged monster? Why was I so lucky?" - this is from his thinking aloud in August 1992.

That day I ran to visit my parents, at that time they were not living  in the No.59/2 house on Kochetov's Street, which was called "the crooked house" by people of Kyzyl, because of a curve in the long, five-story building. I dropped by, as usual, after work at the TV, even with a tape-recorder in my hands.

I walked up to the door - it was open. I walked in without ringing the bell. Parents were in the kitchen. Mama was washing dishes, and Papa was embracing her, trying to kiss her. She pushed him away with her shoulder. It seemed obvious that Mama was angry, and Papa desperately wished to smooth over his guilt.

I got confused: what to do, it was awkward to be a witness to such an intimate moment. In the end I decided: "Ku-ku! What are you doing here?"

Papa laughed: "You should warn us!" and he left the kitchen, while Mama angrily called after him? "So old and jealous!"

Then she turned to me: "Good that you showed up, daughter. Scold your father - in his old age he got jealous. I will go to live with Galya and never come back."

And she left - forever, that means, till the next day. And Papa sits in his room on the sofa and is silent for a long time, looking at a photo of Mama when she was young, that is standing on an armoire.

Then he sighs: "Our Mama is beautiful, isn't it true? Just tell me how one could be not jealous of a woman like her!"

You understand, daughter,  everybody has a good side and a bad one, so you have to take them as they are. Yes, I am jealous, and I also understand quite well that this failing has brought some unpleasant minutes into your mother's life. And I understand than many love her as an excellent actress, love her for her talent, for her voice. I understand everything, yet… I reminded her of an incident  long ago, and she became offended. Don't worry, she will forgive me and come back tomorrow." 

A Real Family: Breakfast in Bed 

Today, now that I have been a grandmother for a long time, I can say with confidence: we had a real family; Papa, Mama and five children - three brothers and two sisters.

Our parents had totally different personalities. Mama was calm, balanced, patient, but papa was brusque, explosive and stubborn. But both of them were kind and wise.

We had a friendly and cozy home with a large oak table in the middle of a large room. This table was the center of our lives. It would turn from a work-table into a hockey field, into an ammunition depot, or a rocket-making workshop.

Papa had golden hands, he could make everything and he never expected gratitude either from us or mama. He used to get up very early, and before going to work, which  would start at 11 AM and continue until late, he would manage to do many things around the house and even to go fishing, to please us by bringing fresh fish.

I especially liked his behavior towards mama and us girls.

He spoiled us, he often brought us breakfast in bed. He tried not to wake mama in the morning, let her relax and rest in comfort. Papa used to feed us and get us ready for school himself.

He always brought presents from tours and would put them under our pillows. He watched over our health, and always said to me and Galya: "Do not carry heavy things, watch over yourselves, you are future mothers."

And how he spoiled his sons - Mergen, Orlan and Eres! When he was not working, he was always making something with them. When our brothers got involved in airplane model making and technical clubs, he would disappear there with them. And if they happened to stay late, he would bring them food.

How happy the whole family was when the brothers brought a model of "Chaika" car made with their own hands for the New Year! A real "Chaika" in miniature: headlights which lit up, blinking direction lights. When guests came, Papa and Mama turned the lights off and showed off the model.

Enthusiasm for photography and film also started with papa, who was always trying to document theatre life for history. With time, a whole laboratory grew in the house. Papa made all the necessary equipment for developing films, and even made a cutter to turn a 16 mm film into 8 mm. 

Enthusiasm about hunting and fishing - that is also something we inherited from our father. During tours in the districts, we did not stay behind and would go fishing with him early. Papa was not especially interested in fish as such, he taught us to get pleasure not just from a successful bite,  but from the beauty of the morning, splashing of water, rays of the sun, birdsong. I still love fishing, especially at lake Chagatai. And the holidays that we had at home! I especially remember those where our improvised family orchestra was he center of attention. Older brother Mergen sat at the piano, we would sing along with him, and play on spoons, and the youngest, our little Galchonok, rattled with her iron baby bed. 

Rockets with Cockroaches and a  Non-criminal "Moskvich" 

Papa's astonishing ability to infect everybody with joy and absorbing activity was able to spread not only through the family, but throughout the entire yard of our building No.24 in Lenin Street.

We moved into this new three-story building with an arch - a three-room apartment on second floor - in 1957. Today, the house carries a memorial tablet: portraits of Mama and Papa, with inscription that here lived National artists of RSFSR and Tuvinian ASSR Kara-kys Munzuk and Maxim Munzuk, founders of Tuvan theatre art, and collectors of Tuvan folk songs.

The memorial tablet was established on 15 September 2008, on the 90th anniversary of Mama's - Kara-kys Munzuk - birth. There was also a storage shed assigned to each apartment, and we had one as well. The other sheds were ordinary: people kept various domestic stuff in them, and potatoes in cellars. But the neighbors christened our storage Drama-shed.  Children used to gather there.

They were always making something there, using Papa's large collection of various tools. It was the era of conquering the universe, and the children, of course, never had enough of it. Cockroaches were used as astronauts. Ceremonial rocket flights with cockroaches on board became bright events for the whole yard.

There was even a tape-recorder in the Drama-shed  and at that time, that was rare, and the music attracted many of our friends.

We produced amateur theatricals in the next yard. Earlier, it used to be possible to walk through there - it was possible to walk from Lenin Street into the yard, and there was a lot of room. Then the passage was closed up, but the stairs remained. This is where the spectators sat, and the yard actors played below.

Papa's green "Moskvich-401" parked in the yard; he used to give rides to all the neighborhood children in it; and the kids, lovingly, called him Grandpa Munzuk. Papa bought it in 1957 because of us, children, so that there would not be problems to bring us along on summer theatre tours throughout the republic, without burdening the official theatre transport. after all, that would mean right away five extra passengers.

At that time it was the only car in our yard, and even for Kyzyl as such, a private car was a rarity, and right away, people wondered: how did simple actors get money for such a thing? They right away informed the appropriate office. OBKhSS - department for fighting misappropriation of socialist property, a totally terrible organization of those times, which scrupulously investigated and verified the whole matter: when and from whom it was bought, for how much, and sources of the income.

They did not find any misappropriation of socialist property, everything was legal: the husband and wife's pay for three months, plus vacation pay. And at that time they were living on day to day pay on the tours. 

Wandering Life 

Mama and Papa on tour - that was an ordinary concept for us, actors' children.  During winter tours, we stayed alone, under the supervision of the oldest - Mergen. We took care of everything by ourselves, prepared ourselves for school, did homework. Our parents would prepare, with our help, a whole bag of pelmeni, it was fun for everybody to make them. And before they left, they would tell us: "If you can't stand pelmeni anymore, or if you run out of them, you can cook something else." And right away they showed us, what and how we could cook.

Naturally, pelmeni for breakfast, lunch and dinner was too much, and we began to cook ourselves.  At times we got burned, and then Mama had to take care of healing the wounds of unsuccessful chefs. But we learned!

And in this way, they would always arrange situations  where we would learn to figure things out for ourselves, but they always subtly directed us in the right direction.

But in the summer, we went touring together with our parents! Oh, those tours - they are the most vivid memories of childhood and youth! A traveling life: journeys, adventures, the stage, applause. It was not just a holiday, but also school of life; when the transportation broke down, we were cold, hungry, thirsty.

I don't remember that in those difficult situations any one of the children ever whined.

Life on wheels began with packing, and Papa was the master of compact packing of everything necessary. And there was a lot of necessary stuff. Then, Mama, laughing, would say: and now everybody should also carry something in their teeth.

Papa had a lot of foresight, and it seemed that he was always packing unnecessary stuff for the tours, but in the end - there was nothing extra, everything came in useful. The summer tours were quite long they began in the second half of May and ended at the end of August.

In the Fifties and Sixties of last century, when I traveled throughout the districts with my parents,, the audiences had a very respectful attitude towards artists. The arrival of Tuvan music and drama theater was an important event for everybody in the village. People prepared for the artists' arrival, and welcomed them like the most honored guests: milk tea, fresh mutton, etc.

Actors' children were also in the center of attention - by the children of the area. We had our own people in every village - little friends, and we used to make sure that they would be allowed in for free, or we allowed them to open up the curtains - that was the greatest privilege, and those who received it were very proud.

The local club would turn into a center of socialization and information exchange. At times there were two shows in a row, then a concert of songs on request by local spectators. They especially often requested Mama and Papa to sing, and other favorite artists: Nikolai Olzei-ool, Dmitri Damba-Darzha, Yekaterina Kendenbil, Khurgulek Kongar, Alexander Laptan, Vladimir Mongalbii, Alexander Tavakai.  The activities would go on long past midnight.

The actors' children did not sleep either, together with the audiences, they watched , bewitched, the performances again and again. And every time was like the first time.

One of the most favorite shows was "Khaiyraan bot" - a classic of Tuvan play writing.  The tragic history of the love of Kara and Sedip always touched the hearts of the spectators.

During the times of these tour trips with my parents, I learned "Khaiyraan bot" by heart, but despite that, every time at the end, when Kara threw herself from the cliffs and died, I had red eyes. I felt very sorry for Kara, very sorry for Mama. How good it was, that every time she came alive again and went up to bow in front of the curtain to the stormy applause!!

Everything was so real on the stage, that the boundaries between play and life became blurred for me. As a little girl, I used to be angry with actors who played the bad guys and hurt Mama, and I treated her stage heroes-lovers with jealousy.

Play to the Utmost 

My childhood impression: Mama and Papa were real wizards - they could turn into anybody they wanted! 

We children were the witnesses of the birth of these transformations. They were complicated births: sometimes there were arguments during the rehearsal process, which sometimes, even though rarely, turned into quarrels.

"Why are they so tormented about it? Why?" - I found the answer to my childish question already as a grown-up, in Papa's notes:

"There is this rule - any role, even without words, should be wrung out , to the maximum of all the possibilities; any role should be played to the utmost." 

And that is how they played.

The scope of my parents' roles in Tuvan theater was huge; the roles were from world, Soviet, Russian, and national drama. And each of those roles was a tribute to its time.

Salchak Toka's play "Tongur-ool: Maxim - Tongur-ool, Kara-kys - Serzhinmaa.

"The Young Guard": - a play after Alexander Fadeyev's novel: Kara-kys - Ulyana Gromova, Maxim - Andrei Valko.

Nikolai Gogol's "Inspector": Kara-kys - Mayor's wife Maria Antonovna, Maxim - Khlestakov's servant Osip.

Friedrich Schiller's "Intrigue and Love": Maxim - Wurm, Kara-kys - Luisa. I remember very well how in 1968 the audience enthusiastically applauded Mama in the role of young Luisa in the show directed by Siin-ool Oyun, and that was the year when the actress turned 50!

Maxim Munzuk also played in "Vassa Zheleznova", a play by his "Godfather" - Maxim Gorky, whose name he received at the age of 22. And again paired with his wife:  Maxim - Prokhor, and Kara-kys - Natalia.

In a play for children "Pavlik Morozov" by Vitaly Gubarev, Kara-kys incarnated into the young pioneer Pavlik, and Maxim played one of  those who destroyed him,  kulak Ivanov. And Papa played a positive revolutionary personage - the sailor Zhukhrai - in "How the steel was tempered", from Nikolai Ostrovsky's novel. 

Maxim Munzuk even transformed himself into Vladimir Lenin. The selection of actors to play the leader of the world's proletariat was very strict, not only artistic council, but communist party organs were involved as well.

For Lenin's role in Nikolai Pogodin's "A Man with a Gun", two actors were confirmed: Oleg Namdar and Maxim Munzuk. The candidates for this very responsible role were sent off to Moscow, and the make-up expert Khandyzhaa Kanchyyr-ool was sent off along with them. She was specially trained at "Mosfilm", and our Khandyzhaa Konstantinovna did dot disappoint us; in the following years, she always beautifully executed the complicated make-up of the image of the Leader. 

Oleg Dondukovich became the chief Tuvan Lenin, because he corresponded to the image with his whole being, and Papa was his double. He did not go on stage as the leader in front of the audiences very often, but he recalled it with warmth and pride. And mama played the wife of  soldier Ivan Shadrin, who went to the revolutionary Petrograd with a letter to Lenin from the front. 

In the rendition of Kara-kys, Katerina in Alexander Ostrovsky's "Storm" spoke in Tuvan, as well as the nurse in Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet", Olga in Leonid Leonov's "Invasion", Valya in Konstantin Simonov's "Russian people". 

Her heroines not just spoke, they sand as well, after all, in those years theater fully corresponded to its name - Theater of music and drama: musical productions had a great scope. Productions of all the musical shows, operettas - "Khanum's escapades" "The Sea Knot" "Your Friends are Waiting" - were extremely popular. Among the singing heroines of Kara-kys were Sofia in musical comedy "Wedding in Malinovka", and Odarka in operetta "Zaporozhets across the Danube". 

This song is only yours 

Kara-kys Munzuk's remarkable voice was highly prized by Irma Jaunzem, the world-famous collector of folk songs of  various nations, who sang them in the original languages. 

After becoming interested in Tuvan folk songs, Irma Petrovna came to Kyzyl in 1948. She met the performers, including Kara-kys. When she heard the folk song "Bai-la Khemchiim" "Rich Khemchik", she wanted to include it in her repertoire, but later she wrote to the singer: "This beautiful song is only yours, Kara-kys." 

Kara-kys Nomzatovna wrote verse, many of which later turned into songs: there are about fifty of them. Her first collection "Meen yrlarym" - "My songs" was published in Kyzyl in 1968, to Mama's fiftieth anniversary, and the second one - "Yrym kuttulup kel" - "Pour out, my song" - was released in 1989. 

The many years of work of the Munzuks resulted in several collections of Tuvan folk songs: the first one - "Yrlar" was published in 1956, the second one "Tyva ulustun yrlary" in 1973.  Much effort was put into this work; they  transcribed the folk songs in musical notations, and worked up the texts as well. 

They got involved in collecting folk songs from the very outset of their artistic life. At first this was motivated by search for new repertoire, then the activity turned into an enthusiasm, and with time, into serious work. 

Beside that, they were editors of Viktor Kok-ool's song collection "Bailak churtum" - "My rich country", and a collection about the first Tuvan composer, musician Alexander Laptan. 

And Mama and Papa used to compose totally new texts to folk, mostly chastushka-type melodies. New duets were born this way, and "A-shu, dekei-oo!" and "Saanchy-bile kombainer" (Milkmaid and combine-driver", "Azhyl-bile emnedip al"  - "Heal yourself with work" were among the most popular. 

There were songs enough for several full-length programs. The repertoire was chosen conscientiously and frequently refreshed, the songs were performed in Tuvan, Russian, Khakass, Kazakh, Kirghiz and Tatar languages. 

They were involved in concert activities until the end of their life, and at each of their performances, the audiences requested  their most-beloved songs: Kara-kys Nomzatovna - "Bai=la Khemchiim", and Maxim Monguzhukovich - "Even though grey, I am still young", which he sang in Tuvan and Russian, and dedicated to his wife. 

At the Post of Tongur-ool and Kara 

Each of them had their main roles throughout their acting lives. Mama's was Kara from "Khaiyraan bot", and Papa's - Tongur-ool from the play of the same name. 

"Khaiyraan bot" is a drama of the love of Kara and Sedip, written by Viktor Kok-ool back in 1936. At that time it was a short one-act play, and as Mama recalled, she did not play the main heroine but her sister Uran. 

Later, at assignment of the artistic head, director and pedagogue Ivan Yakovlevich Ispolnev, who came from Moscow to teach Tuvan artists, the author finished the work, and the director presented a new, full-length production. Kara-kys Munzuk was cast in the main role. Since that time, she is considered the first actress of the role of Kara, and she presented this role on stage at least a thousand times. The same thing happened with Salchak Toka's "Tongur-ool". In its original variant, the play was called "Three years in the party post", and from 1938-1930 it was included in the program of propaganda teams that were traveling to the districts of the republic to educate the arats. Back then, Tongur-ool was played by Viktor Kok-ool. When Ivan Ispolnev started producing the finished play with a new name, he assigned Maxim Munzuk to the role of Tongur-ool, the village party secretary - incompetent and useless person, who, finally, became re-educated , as the spirit of the times demanded. 

After Papa, the party secretary was played in turn by  Lyundup Solun-ool and Alexander Salchak. And after Mama, Mariya Solun-ool incarnated the immortal Kara, then Barynmaa Dadar, Tamara Ondar, Galina Munzuk, Elvira Dokulak, Luiza Mortai-ool, and Nadezhda Oorzhak. 

Your Time is Over 

The period of my parents' active work on the stage was from the birth of Tu7van theater - 1936 - until 1970.

Problems began in 1970:  young graduates of the best theatre colleges of the country began to push out the first generation of theater actors. They started to tell my parents openly: "Your time is over." They understood everything: it was time to vacate the road for the young ones, but I could feel their emotions.

This period in their lives was bitterly remembered by Merited actress of Tuvan ASSR, Mariam Ramazanova, for whom theater was also the chief meaning of her life. When the actress could not work on the stage anymore after a serious illness, she devoted herself to theater history: her many articles about actors, directors, and productions were published in newspapers "Tuvan Youth" and "Tuvinskaya pravda" on a regular basis. This is what Mariam Alexeyevna wrote in 1992, two years before she left this life:

"When I first came to the theater studio in 1942, Munzuk was older that all the others - both in age and in creative experience. On all the tours to the remote districts with concerts and shows, Munzuk was always the caring and demanding team leader. And we usually performed on open squares, next to yurts, on forest clearings, and right on the board of our only, theater truck, which survived many accidents and fires. And in any circumstances, he always kept up his good humor. His charisma back then and in all the following years was always unsurpassable; there was no way to mistake Munzuk on the stage with anybody else.

In our theater we had many actor individual personalities, but Munzuk was, if maybe not the brightest star, then definitely extremely bright. He knew a lot and could do a lot. He right away became the first helper to our beloved pedagogue-director Ivan Yakovlevich Ispolnev, and produced the shows together with him.

We, the older generation of actors of  Tuvan theater remember the triumphant shows, packed auditoria, endless applause. There was always a lot of applause falling to the share of both Munzuks - Maxim Monguzhukovich and Kara-kys Nomzatovna.

But I also recall other things. When Maxim celebrated his sixtieth birthday, some "well-wishers" began straight away to try to push out of the theater the actor who was the pride and glory of Tuvan scene art.

Just like when they tried to send the ageless Kara-kys into retirement when she turned 50, and then at 55.

I can't recall these attempts without tears: such talented people can productively work on the stage until the end of their days; there are many such examples in Russian and world art. My heart was hurting for them, when two such truly great actors who knew life and have felt both happiness and grief, were considered superfluous!

But it was impossible to break Munzuk. Precisely in those days which were so hard for him and their whole family, he obtained world fame as a film actor. I can't hold back from presenting some lines from a letter of one of the viewers: "Munzuk and Dersu Uzala, - this is what bed-ridden Sergei Konovalov from Voronezh, who only saw Maxim Monguzhukovich on the screen, wrote, - for us, the audience, are now one and the same person. The face of  wisdom and kindness of ages, that does not come easily in old age."

When I first became seriously ill in the Sixties, he was the first one at the theater to react, and together with Kara-kys came to visit me.

Munzuk always remained Munzuk: in his endless trips around the republic with performances or concerts, he always donated the profits to the Peace Foundation. And in the way he always stubbornly maintained the unity of the collective during  stormy meetings at the theater, its international character and brotherhood, which originated during the years when the theater was born and founded..

Another thing that impresses me about Maxim Monguzhukovich are his firm personal convictions. He is not one of those whose ideals change, like a weather-vane."

And this is from Munzuk's thoughts about the future of his theater: "The future of theater depends on intelligence, sensibilities and taste, but chiefly on selflessness."

And more - about time and politics:

"I am an old hunter. And I would compare politics to binoculars. Binoculars enlarge everything and determine the direction of  next transition. It is the same with politics: it determines the future. And I comprehend this: none of our current politicians have good binoculars. 

Originating from Blue Rivers 

Those who told the Munzuks "your time is over" were very mistaken. At the age of 65, when in 1975 the film "Dersu Uzala " by the emperor of Japanese and world cinema Akira Kurosawa was released, Maxim Munzuk acquired cinematographic fame.

Before that, Papa had some small film experience. The first film that he took part in was "Lyudi golubykh rek" (People of the Blue Rivers), a production of "Leninfilm" studio, directed by Andrei Alsolon. It was filmed in 1959. The premiere was in Kyzyl in 1960.

The theme is simple, in the spirit of those times - the genre of production melodrama. Mergen returns to his native Tuva. He has become an engineer and dreams of working for the good of his native country. And Tuva is turning more beautiful with every new day: new houses are being built, electricity comes to even the most remote districts. But only the chairman of the kolkhoz Elbek can't understand that a real big bridge has to be built over a turbulent mountain river.

But old Kavai-ool's son Adar has forgotten his countrymen and remained in the big city. The old man tried to bring his son back home but it did not work out. Adar is being eagerly awaited by his bride Oyumaa; she does not like bootlicker Dazhi, who is persistently courting her. But, as they say, there would be no good fortune without a little help from misfortune. Big waters swept away the old bridge. That forced the chairman to agree to the construction of a new bridge. Adar came to his senses as well - he returned home. His friends and bride welcomed him back with joy.

One of the main roles - old man Kavai-ool, was splayed by Nikolai Olzei-ool. Adar - Siin-ool Oyun, young specialist Mergen - Chylbak-ool Mortai-ool. Maxim Munzuk got the secondary role of old man Delger.

This poster movie did not leave any bright footprints in the history of cinematography, but it became significant for Tuvan actors, even though they did not get all the main roles, some of which were given to visiting actors.

However, almost all the actors and their children as well were filmed in crowd scenes and episodes. It was the first absorbing experience of film-making for them.

The movie was filmed in Tuva: in Dzun-Khemchik district - in Bazhyn-Alaak village then the center of sovkhoz "Iskra", and in Tandy district - on Elegest river.

The children, including me, got roles in mass scenes: we were the spectators during national wrestling khuresh. Only no matter how many times I saw the film later, I did not see myself. That hurt, of course. But my little sister Galya, and Galya Laptan and Oleg Kysygbai came out very well in the scene: the three of them were sitting very high - on a camel. 

Migration with Valeriy Zolotukhin 

Papa's second role was in an already much more profitable film - detective movie "Disappearance of a witness", in 1971.

Here he worked with Valeriy Zolotukhin, who returned to Soviet screen on demand by the viewers in the role of Lieutenant Vasiliy Seryozhkin with his song "Oy, moroz, moroz". "Disappearance of a witness" is a sequel of "Master of the Taiga", filmed on many requests by viewers.

Officer Vasiliy Seryozhkin is sent to serve in another district.  Within the first few days of his duty,  the body of zoologist Kalganov is discovered on the shore of Lysaya Kosa; he died of gunshot wound from a hunting rifle. There is no evidence at the crime scene except for a footprint of a size 37 sneaker.

Munzuk played a hunter-guide named Tekhe in this film.

Right behind Valeriy Zolotukhin, in 1978 Maxim Munzuk migrated into the third detective story about a nation-loving militia-man - into a film "Preliminary investigation", a continuation of the series about the taiga detective.

Zolotukhin - Seryozhkin, now already in the rank of a captain leads an investigation in the Far East, he sings his song "Oy, moroz, moroz" already with his son, who is played by his real son Denis. And Maxim Munzuk plays the Udegei Archyo.

Bashky Kurosawa is displeased with me 

The film "Disappearance of a witness"  turned into a trampoline for Papa that gave him the final boost into cinematographic Olympus. Akira Kurosawa, the director of world-renown, when he saw the movie, cast the Tuvan actor Maxim Munzuk for the title role of his film "Dersu Uzala".

Papa used to tell us that Kurosawa, after reading Vladimir Arseniev's books "Po Ussuriyskomu krayu" (In the Ussuri land) and "Dersu Uzala"  was so absorbed with the image of Dersu, that he simply dreamed about bringing the books to the screen, and he was happy when such an opportunity presented itself.

The filming of the Soviet-Japanese co-production film took place in 1974 in the Ussuri taiga, in the district of  the town of Arsenievo; Maxim Munzuk received the honorary citizenship of this town on 23 October 1975, after the filming was finished.

The first day of the filming was 28 May, and the last scene was filmed already in 1975, on 14 January.

Our parents were rarely separated from one another. If there were any separations, they were short. This working trip to the Far East associated with the filming of "Dersu Uzala" was the first separation of such length, and they wrote to one another almost every day. In every letter, and they were all kept in the family, Papa described everything in great detail.

"Today we were shooting a very difficult episode, - he wrote - and I felt that Bashky was displeased with me. He patiently explained the scene to me, and got the desired result without special tension. I was the one who was more anxious. I am astonished by his inner strength, endurance and patience with actors, anybody else would have yelled at me long before that time."

Kurosawa and Munzuk were age-mates - they ere both born in 1910, the first on 23 March, the other on 2 May. But despite that, Papa always referred to the director with the respectful Tuvan word Bashky. And he always respectfully wrote this word - meaning "Teacher" in translation - with the capital letter.

From Papa's letters, we had a mental image of Kurosawa. First of all - very tall. Papa wrote:  if the director did not slouch, he would be even taller. Munzuk was not tall - only  1 meter 59 centimeters, and in his eyes Kurosawa with his 1.81 meters was almost a giant.

From Papa's descriptions of the director: very calm person always in dark glasses, with a slightly hoarse voice, sparse with praise and laughter, reticent, very modest and a tireless worker. At first things were very difficult for Papa: there was the lack of cinematographic experience and the daily tension of fast pace of the shooting process. Reading the letters, we felt his anxiety and were upset: will he be able to tolerate the pace  to the end? But his letters became more and more confident as time went on, more optimistic.

Thanks to the help of Yuri Solomin, an experienced actor, and his own capacity for hard work, Papa quickly dealt with his problems  and inconspicuously adjusted to the filming pace. 

He is pure like a child 

Papa especially valued the director's reticent praise to his address.

There is this episode in the film: Dersu Uzala leaps into the river from the raft and hangs onto a root sticking out of the water. The river is very turbulent, and the director prepared a stunt actor for the scene. The stunt man made the leap successfully several times during rehearsals. But father insisted: no stunt man is necessary, I will do the leap myself!

Kurosawa thought for a long time, could not decide. In the end he permitted it . Camera, everybody froze, silence, only the sounds of running water. Munzuk leaps, and a loud "Uraaa!" sounded through the taiga. All the members of the team congratulated him, and Akira Kurosawa, after shooting the scene, silently looks in his eyes and hugs him. Later Papa often remembered this moment and  said: "That was Bashky's highest praise."

"We all got used to the fact that Bashky was always in dark glasses, but suddenly I wanted to take them off and look deeper," - Papa wrote.

And this chance - to look into the great director's eyes - showed up during a shaving session. The film team became quite hairy and bearded with time, and brought in a barber to put them in order. Akira Kurosawa also decided to get a shave and a haircut. During that procedure, of course he had to take off his dark glasses, and Papa's dream came true: he managed to look in the eyes of this astonishing man. He wrote: "Kurosawa is kindness itself, he is pure like a child, and his oblique eyes give him a special charm!" and then he sent us a photograph where he documented this moment.

He wrote a lot about other episodes from the film, about the tiger: it turned out that this was an old friend from the "Disappearance of a witness".

He wrote about an unpleasant surprise, which was brought about by weather: in 1974 it became cold much earlier than usual in the Ussuri taiga, and all the leaves fell from the trees because of it. And the fall scenes still weren't finished.

What was there to do? The team was confused, but Kurosawa, outwardly quite calm, after some silent thinking ordered artificial laves to be brought from Japan. The leaves were delivered, and everybody worked on rebuilding the taiga, fastening the leaves to the trees. 

The way right to the heart - without blood 

In the few free moments, which were mostly occasioned by meteorological conditions, Kurosawa went into seclusion. He would go to higher places, where he had a better view of the area, with a beautiful view of the taiga. He just sat and looked.

Father said: "At those times we tried not to disturb him, to stay out of sight."

I think that at those times Kurosawa felt especially acutely his relationship with this beautiful nature; the theme of entire film "Dersu Uzala" is saturated with this subtle thread: man and nature.

After the, translated by Heda Jindrak
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