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Konstantinopol’skiy Kommercheskiy Klub

  • Name:
    Konstantinopol’skiy Kommercheskiy Klub
  • Alternative names:

    Kommercheskiy Klub, ККК, Константинопольский Коммерческий Клуб, Constantinople Commercial Club. In January 1926 was renamed and began to be called KK or Konstantinopol’skiy Klub (Константинопольский Клуб).

  • Kind of Organisation:
    Club
  • Introduction:

    KKK was probably the most popular Russian club in Beyoğlu district between 1924 and 1926. Not only Russian émigrés but also local residents could enjoy its constantly updated entertainment programme.

    Word Count: 30

  • Content:

    Konstantinopol’skiy Kommercheskiy Klub (Constantinople Commercial Club) was probably the most popular Russian club in the Beyoğlu district between 1924 and 1926 (along with the Rose Noire where painter V.P.-Tch. created an oriental performance). Here, not only Russian émigrés but also local residents and foreign guests in the city could enjoy the club’s constantly updated and varied entertainment programme. The locale, situated first at Grand Rue de Péra (now İstiklal Avenue) 77, later – 322; in the summertime – Pangaltı neighborhood. It was at its peak of popularity in the spring of 1925. During that period, the club was managed by its chairman Nikolai Ilyin-Chesmensky (Николай Ильин-Чесменский), who made both Russian émigrés and non-Russian visitors feel at home there. Interestingly, one Russian journalist believed that the secret of the club's success was in its “spirit of indifference to politics and non-partisanship”. Most likely, he meant that people went there for recreation. It should be noted that in terms of entertainment, the club was indeed quite successful, firstly, because it invited the best (mostly Russian) artists in Istanbul at the time to fill its evening programmes, and secondly because the programmes were constantly updated. Events organised by the club in the spring of 1925 included: piano recitals under the direction of Korvatsky; an evening with Russian painters, including an artistic cabaret ball (the club's main decorator was Leonid Tomiloff); a sightseeing tour to the Yedikule district; ballet performances featuring the one and only Vorobyova; gypsy songs and dances; concerts performed by Zamoulenko’s orchestra; and “an evening of a Russian woman”. In the autumn of 1925, the following events were added to this repertoire: a foxtrot competition with prizes; a matinée performance of the Russian-Bulgarian sports club; a matinée performance of young artists under the patronage of Robert College professor, Charles Edward Estes; a comedy-operetta in Ukrainian, and more. In addition to the entertainment programme, the club was also famous for the daily dances with a jazz band which it hosted and for the first-class cuisine it offered, with a three-course table d'hote and wines from Russian and foreign cellars.

    The opening of the club season in the autumn of 1925 was described as follows: “Russians from all over Russia, no less foreigners, the Persian embassy with Mr. Ambassador, Bulgarians, Turkish families, festive mood in the club. In accordance with the good mood, the program is colorful and cheerful... The evening was a success: it was noisy, fun and even... crowded” (Anonymous, “Otkrytiye Klubnogo Sezona”, Vecherniaia Gazeta 16 October 1925). In November, dancing evenings were punctuated with concerts performed by the salon orchestra, and by performances by the Panteleev Circus, which featured jugglers, clowns and even trained animals, among which a horse and an elephant are mentioned. Nevertheless, on November 15, something raised a red flag within the club, as a result of which an emergency meeting of the Council of Captains was convened. Most likely, this was in reaction to the prosecution of a number of owners of entertainment locales, in which, contrary to the rules, music continued to be played after midnight (evening events at the club began at 10pm and continued until morning). The following announcement concerning the club in one of the Russian newspapers confirms this: “The newly renovated halls of the Kommercheskiy Klub are now very comfortable and the audience willingly attends club evenings. Some criticism is caused by the ease of entry to the club. Besides that, it would be better to start the events of the concert repertory a little earlier” (Anonymous, “V Kommercheskom Klube”, Vecherniaia Gazeta 30 November 1925). The starting time of evening events and ease of admission were not the only problems, however; the whole concept of the club came under review. As a result, in the winter season, more and more family events began to appear – most likely at the insistence of the city municipality. Over time, the number of events decreased markedly and poor attendance started to become a problem, although this did not prevent the club’s management from holding an evening in memory of Arkady Averchenko at the end of December, a free New Year’s party with gifts for Russian children, a New Year’s masquerade ball, at which the queen of the ball was chosen, and a New Year’s Eve dinner with tables booked in advance. Without a doubt, spending on events began to exceed revenues and the club ran up debts. After the re-election of the Captains, Shelovitsky became the new chairman and took up his duties in 1926. This appears to have been an unsuccessful rescue attempt but the biggest mistake of the club's leaders was turning their backs on the Russian-speaking refugees by prefering to them local Levantine clients. This caused the opening of another Russian club in Beyoğlu that was supported by many émigré journalists, writers, poets, artists and painters (including Nikolai Kalmykoff, Ibrahim Safi, Nikolai Saraphanoff, Dimitri Ismailovitch and Roman Bilinski). The exact date of the club's closure (and its opening) is unknown.

    Word Count: 827

  • Known addresses in Metromod cities:

    Istiklal Caddesi 322 (now presumably Istiklal Caddesi 130 – Elhamra Han), Beyoğlu, Istanbul.

  • Signature Image:
    Some of the Russian artists who took an active part in the club’s events, clockwise from top left: violinist Pavel Alekseevich Zamoulenko, singer Maria de Monighetti, ballerina Yevgeniya Vorobyova, poet and musician Ivan Andreevich Korvatsky (Zarubezhnyi Klich almanacs of 1925).
  • Media:
    The name of the club as listed in the Zarubezhnyi Klich almanac, April 1925.
    The first chairman of the club, Nikolai Alekseevich Ilyin-Chesmensky (Zarubezhnyi Klich almanac, April 1925, n.p.).
    Some of the Russian artists who took an active part in the club’s events, clockwise from top left: violinist Pavel Alekseevich Zamoulenko, singer Maria de Monighetti, ballerina Yevgeniya Vorobyova, poet and musician Ivan Andreevich Korvatsky (Zarubezhnyi Klich almanacs of 1925).
    Istiklal Caddesi 130 (Elhamra Han), Beyoğlu, Istanbul (Photo: Ekaterina Aygün, 2019).
  • Bibliography (selected):

    Anonymous. “Nash Klub.” Zarubezhnyi Klich, April 1925, pp. 5–13.

    Vecherniaia Gazeta, almost all issues of 1924–1926.

    Word Count: 13

  • Archives and Sources:

    Slavonic Library (Slovanská knihovna) in Prague.

    Word Count: 6

  • Acknowledgements:

    I would like to thank the representatives of the Slavonic Library (Slovanská knihovna) in Prague for helping me tremendously during my work at the library.

    Word Count: 25

  • Author:
    Ekaterina Aygün
  • Metropolis:
    Istanbul
  • Entry in process:
    no
  • Ekaterina Aygün. "Konstantinopol’skiy Kommercheskiy Klub." METROMOD Archive, 2021, https://archive.metromod.net/viewer.p/69/2949/object/5145-10703476, last modified: 15-09-2021.
  • V.P.-Tch.
    PainterScene DesignerMuralist

    Painter V.P.-Tch. is perhaps the most mysterious figure of all Russian-speaking émigré painters who lived in Constantinople in the 1920s. Until now, almost all sources indicated only his initials.

    Word Count: 31

    V.P.-Tch. (Les Russes sur le Bosphore Almanac, 1928, n.p.).
    V.P.-Tch. (Les Russes sur le Bosphore Almanac, 1928, n.p.).Chagrin de printemps, by V.P.-Tch. (Les Russes sur le Bosphore Almanac, 1928, n.p.).Marchand de tapis, by V.P.-Tch. (Les Russes sur le Bosphore Almanac, 1928, n.p.).
    Istanbul
    Leonid Tomiloff
    Scene DesignerDecorator

    As a professional scene-designer, Leonid Tomiloff was in high demand in Istanbul. For many years, he worked at the Theatre des Petits Champs and was the chief decorator of the Constantinople Commercial Club.

    Word Count: 33

    Short note about Leonid Tomiloff (Radio, 30 January 1927, n.p.).
    Entertainment program of the Constantinople Commercial Club as listed in the Zarubezhnyi Klich almanac, April 1925.
    Istanbul
    Dimitri Ismailovitch
    PainterArt Historian

    In Istanbul, Ismailovitch became one of the leaders of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople, organised three solo exhibitions, and made contribution to the study of Byzantine art.

    Word Count: 29

    Dimitri Ismailovitch with his bust created by Polish sculptor Roman Bilinski, Istanbul, Summer 1922. Source: Scrapbook “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from Russian Painters”, p. 8 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).
    Dimitri Ismailovitch, 1907, Sumy Cadet Corps (with permission from https://www.ria1914.info/).Dimitri Ismailovitch with his bust created by Polish sculptor Roman Bilinski, Istanbul, Summer 1922. Source: Scrapbook “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from Russian Painters”, p. 8 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).Reproduction of the Kariye Mosque’s mosaic. In the foreground is its author, Dimitri Ismailovitch (Russkiye na Bosfore. Les Russes sur le Bosphore Almanac, 1928, n.p.).Photographs of the artworks by Dimitri Ismailovitch, 1923. Source: Album “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from D. Ismailovitch”, XII–XI, p. 11 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).Photographs of the artworks by Dimitri Ismailovitch, 1924. Source: Album “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from D. Ismailovitch”, 9–10, p. 24 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).Photographs of the artworks by Dimitri Ismailovitch. Source: Album “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from D. Ismailovitch”, p. 36 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).Front cover of the 1948 Dimitri İsmailovitch exhibition catalogue (© Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux).Ekaterina Aygün chanced upon Dimitri Ismailovitch's visiting card at the Avni Lifij exhibition in Istanbul. This is further evidence of contact between Ismailovitch and Turkish painters (Photo: Ekaterina Aygün, 2019).The Piyale Pasha Mosque (was designed by Mimar Sinan and rebuilt in the mid. of the 19th century) was depicted by Dimitri İsmailovitch and Alexis Gritchenko in 1920 (Photo: Ekaterina Aygün, 2021).
    Istanbul
    Nikolai Kalmykoff
    PainterScene DesignerMuralist

    Kalmykoff played an active part in the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople and at the same time worked as a stage designer. Later he acquired the Turkish citizenship.

    Word Count: 29

    Nikolai Kalmykoff (http://www.antikalar.com/naci-kalmukoglu).
    Nikolai Kalmykoff (http://www.antikalar.com/naci-kalmukoglu).Naci Kalmukoğlu, Liman (© Ankara Devlet Resim ve Heykel Müzesi).Naci Kalmukoğlu, Köyde tütün işleyenler (© Ankara Devlet Resim ve Heykel Müzesi).Works by Nikolai Kalmykoff (Ulus, 12 February 1941, p. 2).Works by Nikolai Kalmykoff (Ulus, 13 February 1941, p. 1).Nikolai Kalmykoff by Turkish caricaturist Ratip Tahir Burak (Ulus, 27 March 1943, p. 2).Exhibition in Ankara (Ulus, 28 March 1943, p. 2).Fortuneteller, by Nikolai Kalmykoff (Ulus, 15 November 1947, p. 3).
    Istanbul
    Nikolai Saraphanoff
    PainterIllustrator

    The artist is known for his numerous works with views of Istanbul, the design of the famous almanac’s cover, and the creation of decorative panels. Alas, his artistic activities were interrupted by his imprisonment.

    Word Count: 35

    Self-portrait by Nikolai Saraphanoff who created an elegant cover for the almanac Les Russes sur le Bosphore, 1927 (Russkiye na Bosfore. Les Russes sur le Bosphore Almanac, 1928, n.p.).
    Cover of Les Russes sur le Bosphore Almanac by Nikolai Saraphanoff, 1927.
    Istanbul
    Roman Bilinski
    PainterSculptorCollectorArt restorer

    At the beginning of the 1920s, a member of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople, Roman Bilinski was known as a sculptor. At the end of the 1920s–beginning of the 1930s – as a sculptor, painter and connoisseur of local antiques.

    Word Count: 42

    Self-portrait by Roman Bilinski. Turkey, 1936 (Private Archive of Diana Bilinski).
    Painter Dimitri Ismailovitch with his bust created by Polish sculptor Roman Bilinski, Istanbul, Summer 1922. Source: Scrapbook “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from Russian Painters”, p. 8 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).Formal letter of thanks to Martha Stearns from the members of the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople, 1922. One of the signatures is Roman Bilinski’s. Source: Scrapbook “To Mr. and Mrs. Stearns from Russian Painters”, p. 9 (Stearns Family Papers. Archives & Special Collections. The College of the Holy Cross).Bilinski's monument to the Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz in Polonezköy was demolished but its plaque has been preserved (Postcard from Polonezköy, 2021).Adampol (Polonezköy) by Roman Bilinski (Private Archive of Diana Bilinski).Adampol (Polonezköy) by Roman Bilinski. Turkey, 1935 (Private Archive of Diana Bilinski).Adampol (Polonezköy) by Roman Bilinski. Turkey, 1936 (Private Archive of Diana Bilinski).Adampol (Polonezköy) by Roman Bilinski. Turkey, 1936 (Private Archive of Diana Bilinski).Adampol (Polonezköy) by Roman Bilinski. Turkey, 1936 (Private Archive of Diana Bilinski).Adampol (Polonezköy) by Roman Bilinski. Turkey, 1936 (Private Archive of Diana Bilinski).Work by Roman Bilinski. Turkey, 1936 (Private Archive of Diana Bilinski).Work by Roman Bilinski. Yugoslavia, 1936 (Private Archive of Diana Bilinski).The cover of the book by Marco Farotto, Roman Bilinski - Un artista cosmopolita nel Ponente ligure. According to the author, Bilinski used to walk around dressed in this way.
    Istanbul