Павел Варунин (Pavel Varunin)

Pavel Varunin (Павел Варунин, b. 12. V 1961) is an Estonian-Russian author and artist from the Old Believers’ tradition, who has made a name for himself primarily as the illustrator of many books, as a master of the icon and the lubok, and as a representative of Estonian-Russian children’s literature.

Varunin was born in Tartu into a family of Old Believers from the shores of Lake Peipsi. At the age of 14 he started learning engraving in Tartu with the master Elmar Allekande. From 1982 to 1986 he studied at the Moscow national university of art by distance learning, graduating as an artist-engraver. In 1978 he began working as an engraver at the Tartu Instrument Factory; from 1991 to 1997 he was a cabinetmaker and wood carver at the company Tartu Jõesadam (Tartu River Harbour). Since 1998 he has been making wooden icons for Old Believers’ chapels. Varunin has been working as an illustrator of books and calendars since 2004, mainly practising the archaic lubok technique. Since 2012 he has been making wood-cut printing blocks, being the only traditional operator in that field in Estonia. Since 1998 he has been the chairman of the board of the Estonian Association of Old Believer Congregations and of the Estonian Association for Old Believers’ Culture and Development.

Varunin is a children’s author whose own books in Russian have been translated into Estonian. In his first book addressed to children, Родное слово детей староверов Эстонии (‘Home Instruction for the Children of Old Believers in Estonia’, 2010) he introduces the folk traditions of the Old Believers on the shores of Lake Peipsi and the history of their church. In the book Лесенка добродетели (‘The Set of Virtues’, 2015) he looks at the religious customs and habits of the Old Believers. In the book Славка и страна Древлесловия (‘Slavka and the Land of the Old Language’, 2018), which won the award for a Russian-language author from the Cultural Endowment of Estonia, explains the development of Old Church Slavonic writing in the form of an adventure story.

Varunin’s best-known work is the trilogy of Rääbu stories, which has also appeared in Estonian in a translation by Peeter Volkonski. In the first book in the series, Ряпуша. Причудская сказка с причудами (‘Rääbu. A Twist in the Tale from the Peipsi Shores’, 2012, in Estonian 2014), the Peipsi region in summer and the culture of the Old Believers are introduced; in the second, Ряпуша и белое Причудье (‘Rääbu and the White Land of Peipsi’, 2014, in Estonian 2015) the stories tell of the white, or wintry, Peipsi shores; in the third book, Ряпуша и Чугунная Голова (‘Rääbu and the Cast-iron Head’, 2020, in Estonian 2021), the series has reached the spring, when the Peipsi land bursts into greenery. All of these literary fairy-tales are unified by the anthropomorphic image of Rääbu the Wanderer, an enterprising, wily, cycle-pedalling fish, through whose adventures the whole cycle of life around Peipsi is shown in its entirety. For Russian-speaking children in the Peipsi area Rääbu is as well-known a hero as Andrus Kivirähk’s Lotte is to the rest of Estonia.

A. O. (Translated by C. M.)


Books in Russian

Родное слово детей староверов Эстонии. Тарту: Общество культуры и развития староверов Эстонии, 2010, 173 ст.
Ряпуша. Причудская сказка с причудами. Таллинн: Valgus 2012, 78 ст.
Ряпуша и Белое Причудье. Taрту: Таос, 2014, 75 ст.
Лесенка добродетели. Тарту: Таос, 2015, 95 ст.
Луководье: взабылишные байки. Тарту: Таос, 2016, 79 ст.
Славка и страна Древлесловия. Тарту : Общество культуры и развития староверов Эстонии, 2018, 191 ст.
Ремесла и промыслы староверов Эстонии. Тарту : Общество культуры и развития староверов Эстонии, 2019, 51 ст.
Ряпуша и Чугунная Голова. Тарту: Общество культуры и развития староверов Эстонии, 2020, 76 ст.

Children’s books translated into Estonian

Rääbu. Peipsiveere muinasjutuveeretus. MTÜ Piiri Peal, 2013, 100 lk. [‘Ряпуша. Причудская сказка с причудами’.]
Rääbu ja valge Peipsimaa. MTÜ Piiri Peal, 2015, 80 lk. [‘Ряпуша и Белое Причудье’.]
Rääbu ja Malmpea. MTÜ Eesti Vanausuliste Kultuuri- ja Arendusühing, 2021, 78 lk. [‘Ряпуша и Чугунная Голова’.]