Grigory Ryzhakov – Russian Writer

Notorious Russians: Alexander Borodin

Struggling to take your hobby to a professional level? Work takes all your time and leaves nothing for your hobby of passion? Whining that life is too hard on you? Pizza is too fattening? And the boss is too intimidating?  Well, we all have little obstacles trying to stop us from reaching our dreams. Many people want to shine at work and to be successful in their outside work activities. It is hard and we get easily discouraged.

We need to be inspired by someone who did it. And I have just the right man for you.

Someone who was born as an illegitimate son of a Russian aristocrat and a common girl, someone who grew up as his father’s property, a serf. Someone who managed to become a Professor of Chemistry at the age of 31 and to compose a few gems of the classical music.

His name is Alexander Borodin and he is well-known for his opera Prince Igor. And though he composed  it over a hundred years ago, it still influences modern culture. Americans may know a Tony-award winning musical Kismet, in which Borodin’s music was used.Younger audiences may have heard of Rapsody’s rap hit Prince Igor.

Now compare this to the original

Borodin started composing music in his early teens, thanks to his excellent home education. But soon another passion, chemistry, completely took over his life. He became a pupil of a famous Russian chemist Nikolai Zinin and received a doctorate at the age of 26. Meanwhile, Borodin kept educating himself in music in secret, for his tutor Zinin didn’t like the student’s hobby thinking it’s interfering with science.

Despite his tutor’s disapproval, Borodin kept educating himself in music and was noticed by an established Mily Balakirev who recognised Borodin’s musical talent and invited the young professor to his music group famously known as The Mighty Handful.

Apart from making great discoveries in organic chemistry, Borodin also graduated from the Medical Surgical Academy, received an MD and became a renowned physician. He also published a significant book on spa research (balneology).

Borodin was an active member of society: he was first to organise medical courses for women in Russia, fought for liberal values and against the Tzarist censorship.

Sadly, he had a heart disease and died at the age of 53, leaving behind an astonishing amount of scientific and music work and having brought up an inspired generations of students.

What do we know of Borodin as a person? How could he achieve so much?

He was in a childless marriage; his wife, a brilliant pianist who introduced him to Schuman and Chopin, suffered from asthma attacks. His work was always leaving little time for his music. He died without completing his masterpiece Prince Igor.

Borodin was a pro-active person. He was  a composer of enormous energy, romantic and exuberant, he was passionate about Russian folk music and was inspired by heroes of Russian folklore. In his character there was this interesting combination of patriotism and liberal values, he believed in the bright future of Russian people. The epic breadth and rich melodies of his music that’s what made Borodin world famous and remembered.

I am not the only one who admires this great man. The writer Charles Bukowski dedicated a poem to Borodin, Debussy and Ravel were influenced by Borodin’s music. He was even made a fictional character in books by an MDMA drug pioneer scientist A. Shulgin.

So what do we learn from Borodin’s life and legacy?

If you are kind and loving towards people, if you work hard and smart, if you believe in yourself and stay optimistic come what may, if you ignore self-pity, envy and greed, if you follow your passion – you can reach incredible heights and make people happy. And become someone your family and friends and even strangers can be proud of.

Borodin’s example inspired me and I wonder who is your role model …

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Your brilliant thoughts


  • Edit-My-Book

    I knew he was a composer, and I like his music very much, but hadn’t realized he was a famous chemist too. He’s certainly an inspiration, as you say.

    • GrigoryRyzhakov

      in Russia there’s a saying: “Talented people are often talented in many things”. Maybe it’s because genuinely passionate people are able to achieve good results in many fields by being pro-active and putting their hearts into it. Look at you, for instance, – a great author, editor, mom, blogger and farmer 🙂

  • Larisa Biyuts

    “…musical Kismet, in which Borodin’s music was used.
    Younger audiences may have heard of Rapsody’s rap hit Prince Igor.” Recently,
    from an American source, I heard the mentioned song was called an “Arabian song
    written by Chaykovsky.” I got speechless.

    • GrigoryRyzhakov

      Sometimes, I find such ignorance amusing 🙂