Thursday, January 3, 2008

Clematis Sociology 2. Uno Kivistik, Estonia; Mihail Ivanovich Orlov, Ukraine

I continue.

Raymond J. Evison, one of the most renowned clematis breeders. This picture was shot on the 2005 Chelsea Flower Show. (Accidentally, I was also there.) The background is therefore just as kitschy as it can be expected. You should disregard it. (By the way Evison has beautiful plants. By that time he had already created his series ‘The Prairie,’ composed of four ethereal Clematis integrifolia.) This is how one imagines a world famous flower breeder.

And by no means like this. This picture below represents Uno and Aili Kivistik in 1992, when the International Clematis Society visited their farm.

Uno Kivistik was born in 1932 in Estonia, in a medium landowner family who run their farm renownedly well. After the Soviet occupation, in 1949 they, just like everyone else, were deprived of their estates which were turned into Soviet-type kolkhozes. Due to ignorance, inresponsability and conscious destruction, the kolkhozes in a few years destroyed the values accumulated in the course of several generations. The former peasants in a large number undertook even the most inhuman works in the cities – as a result of forced Socialist industrialization, there was plenty of such work – just in order to escape from the village. Uno Kivistik stayed at home, and after work – I cannot say that in his free time, for such a thing was only known to the neo-proletariat collected in the concrete housing projects of the cities and deprived of all their roots and traditions, while everyone else just started a “second shift” after work – he experimented with flower breeding in their garden. In such circumstances he achieved such results that even several complete institutions in more fortunate places cannot boast with. His name is connected with more than twenty new apple breeds and fifty rose hybrids. In 1974 he started clematis breeding together with his wife Aili. They wanted to produce plants that give a safe and rich crop even in the cold Estonian climate. As a result, they have created more than 140 such clematis hybrids. In 1990, when the country achieved its independence from the Soviet Union, they regained their estates. There they established the Roogoja Farm which is active even today. Uno Kivistik died in 1998, at the age of sixty-six.

I know well the faces like his one, too. These faces completely miss those signs of well-being, safety and consciousness that make immediately recognizable the face of a Western intellectual. On the contrary, they are marked by those signs of poverty, lack of safety and oppression that in the West can be only discovered on the faces of the poorest classes.

In the Soviet Union a considerable part of intellectuals had such a face. I will never forget the commotion and bewilderment that I felt when I saw this at the first time. At the end of the seventies I met a group of highly qualified intellectuals who were guided in Budapest by a friend of mine. The face of these people missed all those traces of education that were customary at us, while they were strongly marked by intimidation, poverty and humiliation.

This face of the Soviet intellectuals, thanks to God, did not exist to the west of the Soviet border. However, they had another face as well which was also typical at us.

Mihail Ivanovich Orlov. This face was my childhood. This picture could have been equally that of a village butcher (albeit with an obligatory small moustache – however, I guess that the twenties in the Soviet Union were not survivable with such a moustache) or of a little town shoemaker, of the president of the local industrial co-operative or of the chief accountant of the Red Star Kolkhoz, of the director of the town’s secondary school, of the leader of the district library, or of Dr. X., candidate in historical studies.

Mihail Ivanovich was born in 1918. He graduated at the Academy of Forestry in Leningrad, and obtained his doctoral degree in 1963. He worked in the Central Botanic Garden of Kiev on the breeding of clematis cultivars resistant to wilt. His name is connected with more than forty scientific publications and the same number of clematis hybrids. He died in 2000.

Shortly before going to pension he was visited in the Botanic Garden of Kiev by an Estonian colleague to whom he gave the clematis on this picture which was bred by him. The colleague successfully propagated the plant at home, and when Orlov returned his visit they agreed that it would bear the name of Kiev. And so it happened. Since then Kiev has become the star plant of the most exclusive Western nurseries.

The face and the clematis do not match. It is possible that the face was only a mask. And it is also possible that the faces of all the other people were masks as well. That in spite of every appearance, all the others too kept such a flower hidden in their garden or in their heart. And that they wore that mask in order the barbarians and scoundrels in power for the moment would not trample their flower underfoot.

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