Biographies Russian Writers Kenneth MacInnes

Kenneth MacInnes

Kenneth MacInnes
Born: 1970, Paisley (Scotland)

Kenneth was born in the town of Paisley in Scotland in 1970 and started learning Russian at his local secondary school in 1987. He read Economics and Russian at Strathclyde University in Glasgow between 1988 and 1993, which included an obligatory year out at the Herzen University in St Petersburg from 1991 to 1992.

During his year in St Petersburg, Kenneth studied the Russian language, literature, history and culture against a constant backdrop of military and political coups, the collapse of the Soviet Union, radical capitalist reforms and 2,600% hyperinflation. He studied the history of art in Russian at the Academy of Arts.

After graduating with a BA (Joint Honours) degree, Kenneth lived and worked in Russia for two decades – the 1990s under Boris Yeltsin and the 2000s under Vladimir Putin. He lived at Kolomjagi (Kolomäki) in St Petersburg in a wooden house belonging to the legendary anti-Soviet rock group Nautilus Pompilius.

Kenneth’s first work came when he was approached by the former friends and colleagues of Rudolf Nureyev, who had written a book of reminiscences and memoirs about the great Russian ballet dancer, who had died in 1993. This was translated into English as Rudolf Nureyev: Three Years in the Kirov Theatre.

In 1994, Kenneth launched a project to translate the short stories of Jerome K. Jerome and the lesser known novels of George Orwell into Russian, starting with A Clergyman’s Daughter in 1995 and Down and Out in Paris and London in 1997. The translations have never been out of print in Russia in over twenty years.

Kenneth’s knowledge of Russian art comes from the period from 1994 to 2007, when he worked at the State Russian Museum. Over thirteen years, he mastered every genre, period and movement in the thousand-year history of Russian art, from pre-Mongol jewellery and icons to Realist paintings and the avant-garde.

Between 1994 and 2016, Kenneth worked on a freelance basis for all other top Russian museums and galleries. These include the Hermitage Museum, Tretyakov Gallery, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow Kremlin Museums, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Architecture and the Guelman Gallery.

Kenneth also worked for the musical theatre in St Petersburg. He was employed by the Mariinsky Theatre between 1997 and 2000 and regularly performed work for the Philharmonic Society and Fyodor Chaliapin Museum. Between 1994 and 1996, he wrote the English lyrics for a planned side-project of Nautilus Pompilius.

Between 1995 and 2002, Kenneth read papers at the annual foreign-language conferences of the Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg. His talks covered such topics as George Orwell in RussiaTsar Nicholas II’s visit to Scotland in 1896 and the dynastic links between Anglo-Saxon England and Kievan Rus.

Over the past quarter of a century, Kenneth has translated 400 publications (1½ books a month). He translated Russia’s entry for the Cannes Film Festival in 2001 (Alexander Sokurov’s film Taurus), performed private work for the Danish Royal Family and was employed by Zenit FC when the team won the UEFA Super Cup.

In 2001, Kenneth became the first foreigner to be subject to a Russian military trial, when he took on the Russian navy as the plaintiff in a criminal case linked to a string of murders – and won. He also privately investigated the criminal case of a forged painting and academic plagiarism among Hermitage employees in 2014.

In 2011, Kenneth launched the world’s largest English-language resource on Russian culture, a free online encyclopaedia of 10,000 entries on Russian art, architecture, history, sport and politics (www.rusartnet.com). The website is widely used by auction houses, universities and other educational establishments.

Kenneth lived and worked in Italy, Germany and Hungary from 2011 to 2016. He taught tennis to children in Italy and developed one-day tours of Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples. In 2013, Kenneth started learning Persian, which he used when helping Afghan refugees living at Budapest Railway Station in the summer of 2015.

In 2016, Kenneth wrote a series of articles for national newspapers, recalling the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 and examining the possible parallels, precedents and pitfalls for the United Kingdom in the similar event of Scottish independence. He has been interviewed by Russian radio on the same subject.

Kenneth achieved a Grade A pass at selection for the British Army and joined the Royal Military Police (Reserves) in 2017. From 2017 to 2019, he worked at the Houses of Parliament in London. Kenneth is currently planning to try to emulate one of his ancestors, Thomas Carlyle, and write a series of books on history.

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