Monday, January 21, 2019

Real Life Pulp Characters: Nicholas Roerich

This man was a bearded Russian mystic involved with politics and various Russian intrigues. One might think I am talking about Rasputin.

Not so fast. He was also a painter, explorer and writer and was nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize in the 1930s.

Definitely not Rasputin, because he sounds like a good guy? Possibly, but he also once claimed to be a reincarnated Dalai Lama and supposedly tried to mount a hostile takeover of Tibet in 1923.

The early 20th century is filled with a number of individuals whose lives sound like something from pulps and adventure fiction. Nicholas Roerich is one such person. Born in 1874 in Russia, he grew up in an educated and artistic family. Like many people with an intellectual bent in those days, he absorbed the spiritualist movement and developed an interest in eastern philosophy.

One of the most intriguing elements of his biography was his ability to move through different countries and different regimes with surprising ease. He left Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. And while personally hostile to that regime's brutality, he seems to have maintained cordial and useful contacts in the Soviet Union. He also counted prominent British, Indian and Americans as his friends, namely Vice President Henry Wallace.

A further connection Roerich connection to the pulps is his name gets dropped in Lovecraft's At The Mountains of Madness. The doomed narrator compared the strange city in the Antarctic to one of

Here is my depiction of Roerich with some Tibetan bodyguards. Roerich is from Bob Murch's Pulp Figures and the Tibetans are from Copplestone's Back of Beyond range. On my Pulp Alley page, I have some stats for putting him into a game.

Further Reading:

Red Shambala by Andrei Znamenski - an excellent history of the Soviet Union's attempts to continue the Great Game in Central Asia against the British in the twenties and thirties.

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