Katya Knyazeva (avezink) wrote,
Katya Knyazeva

Lev Valentinovich Arnoldov (1894–1957), a Russian journalist

A sojourn in Berlin on the invitation of the Staatsbibliothek has opened some wonderful sources and led to exciting discoveries. One of them was the information about the final years of the Russian journalist Lev Arnoldov, whose obituary appeared in the South China Morning Post in November 1957. In spite of some persistent claims that Arnoldov left China and went to Brasil, as it turned out, he never left Shanghai...

Lev Valentinovich Arnoldov (Лев Валентинович Арнольдов)

Born on 23 June 1894 in Vologda, Arnoldov lived with his parents in Tomsk, Berlin (in 1912–1913) and later in Paris and Toulouse. Having returned to Russia, in 1916 he enrolled in a medical college in Tomsk and then switched to law. When the 1917 Revolution occurred, Arnoldov's open anti-Bolshevik stance forced him to move to Russia's east, where he worked in various Siberian newspapers (Omsk, Khabarovsk and Vladivostok) and collaborated with the White forces. Although he planned to emigrate to the USA together with his mother, he crossed the Chinese border and continued his career in Harbin.

In 1925, Arnoldov moved to Shanghai, where together with M. S. Lembich, the publisher of Harbin's Zaria, he founded the newspaper Shanghai Zaria. The office was on Broadway, and the first issue came out on 25 October, 1925. Shanghai Zaria was the largest Russian-language daily, and Arnoldov thrived as its editor. He became a member of Shanghai Rotary Club and a Trustee of the Foreign YMCA. His snappy and humorous essays on the pages of his newspaper were signed 'Victor Serbsky' and 'P. Solsky'. One of these stories, published in 1930, was entitled Five Years.

Staff of Shanghai Zaria in 1930, on the fifth anniversary of the newspaper; Arnoldov is seated in the center:

Office of Shanghai Zaria, on Avenue Joffre, where it was located since 1933:

This 1930s photo shows the Shanghai Zaria publisher Olga Lembich (who took the leadership after her husband's death in 1932) with three chief employees Petroff (alias Polichinelle), Kaufman and Arnoldov:

The environment at the Shanghai Zaria headquarters is described in the memoir of Natalia Ilyina, who joined the staff in 1936:

...His office is perpetually dark, and the only window faces the wall of the neighboring house. He sits at his desk, lit with a green lamp, balancing his cigar on the ashtray; papers, clippings and proofs are strewn on the desk...

Arnoldov leads me to the reporters' room, where five typewriters create an incessant cannonade. When he introduces me, the rattling stops for a few beats and five pairs of eyes shoot at me with venom – or so it appears. As we turn to leave, the "artillery fire" resumes, aiming at our backs. As a mere employee, Arnoldov is dependent on the publisher, but the staff makes no distinction and hates him as much as they hate Kaufman and the "Madam" (Olga Lembich). Perhaps, they don't like his high wages or his stories and editorials permanently on the front pages. Or maybe they don't like his aristocratic manners, his didactic soliloquies, his admiration for foreigners and his membersip in the French Club, where few Russian émigrés are admitted.

Arnoldov lives near the office, and he drops by several times a day, often at midnight. With his characteristic goose step he walks down the long corridor and checks the reporters' room. He is rather short, balding, blue-eyed, with a cute pouch, always waving a cigar in his delicate plump hand. Smooth and well-groomed, he dresses like a Westerner, in rust-colored tweed jackets, grey flannel pants and jersey vests. At night, he shows up in patent leather shoes and coat tails – straight from some banquet – looking like a creature from another world, full of expensive automobiles, hotels and cocktails, out of place in our smoke-filled room with stained walls. He glances at the reporters, crouching over their desks in their short jackets, mumbles something like "Well, keep working," and disappears, leaving traces of cigar smoke, perfume and good alcohol.

The staff immediately explodes with indignant gossip, and even the highborn lady-theatre critic fully agrees with the half-literate crime reporter, while normally they don't get along. Harted unites. I never pitch in, knowing that the moment I leave the room their attention turns to me: "Why did Lev have to hire this lame girl?" They would love a simple explanation that I paid with my body, but alas, everybody knows: Arnoldov is indifferent to women and lives with his mother. All the more, his patronizing attitude toward me mystifies everyone. Once, he invited me to a breakfast at his house, and I met his mother. She is a small, corpulent old lady with bushy eyebrows and animated eyes. She adores her "Levushka", and he reciprocates. They praised my writing. Mother: "Very, very sweet!" Lev: "I think she'll make a good comic writer." Mother: "Lev is never wrong!" He promised me to persuade the publisher to print my stories reguarly, but advised me to look for additional income anyway: you cannot live on newspaper wages.

Arnoldov's interest in history and ethnography resulted in the publication of three books: The Country of the White Sun: Sketches of China (1933), China As It Is: Kuomintang, Communism, War (1934), and Life and Revolution (1935).

[See the book covers]
Cover of Arnoldov's book China As It Is: Kuomintang, Communism, War (1933):

Title page from the The Country of the White Sun (1934), a popular history of China from the ancient times to modernity, spanning more than 460 pages:

Cover of Life and Revolution: The Thunderous 1905 & White Omsk (1935), the book on the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917:

After the end of the Pacific War in 1945, the Chinese authorities forced the Shanghai Zaria to close, suspecting the newspaper of collaboration with the enemy (because it stayed open under the occupation). Having lost his job, Arnoldov switched to teaching Russian. He never married; it was understood he was gay. Out of concern for his mother's failing health, he did not attempt to escape from China and ended up trapped in Communist Shanghai together with the remaining stateless Russians. Reduced to extreme poverty and unable to hire help, he cared for his disabled mother until her death at the age of 92. Several months later, Arnoldov had a heart attack. He died on 20 October 1957, aged 63. At the funeral service in the Orthodox Cathedral on Route Paul Henry, almost all the remaining Shanghai Russians – several hundred of them – were present.

Tags: 1925, 1930s, 1950s, 1957, communism, journalism, russians, shanghai, shanghai zaria, shanghaiskaya zarya

Posts from This Journal “shanghai zaria” Tag

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