Despite considering himself “the most Russian of Russians,” writes Mary Jane Ayers, Rachmaninoff watched his bourgeois way of life evaporate during the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. That year, he fled to Sweden and later the United States, where he worked as an acclaimed concert pianist. Though the composer mourned his country for the rest of his life, he never returned.
Russia’s culture minister, Vladimir Medinsky, recently called on the United States to repatriate the composer’s remains in what the BBC calls “a lavish mausoleum” on his old country estate. But the move appears to be less about a composer’s final resting place and more about tense Russian-American relations. The BBC quotes Medinsky as claiming that Americans have neglected the composer’s grave while attempting to “shamelessly privatize” his name, and the AFP notes that the minister accuses the United States of presenting Rachmaninoff as “an American composer of Russian origin.”