Glossary of Names




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Glossary of Names
Jason Ferrell

This glossary is not intended to be exhaustive. Its main purpose is to identify and contextualise the more important Russian personalities referred to by Berlin in this volume, with the addition of Joseph de Maistre, a key figure in ‘The Hedgehog and the Fox’. A number of the entries are taken, with minor adjustments, from Helen Rappaport’s exemplary glossary in Berlin’s The Soviet Mind (see 000 above), which provided the model for this one. Thanks are due to her both for her own entries and for her helpful comments on the new ones.
Aksakovs, pre-eminent family of Slavophil writers, ideologists and literary critics. Sergey Timofeevich (1791–1859) was a bureaucrat, writer and theatre critic, famous for his fictionalised autobiographical work, Semeinaya khronika (Family Chronicle, 1856), about life on the family estate in the Russian borderlands. His eldest son Konstantin Sergeevich (1817–60), became radicalised at the University of Moscow, where he was a devotee of the philosophy of Hegel, and a friend of Bakunin, Herzen and Belinsky. He later abandoned Hegelianism to become an outspoken Slavophil. His younger brother, Ivan Sergeevich (1823–86) studied law in St Petersburg (1838–42) and edited a succession of radical journals. After the death of Konstantin, Sergey assumed his leadership of the Slavophils, publishing increasingly extremist, nationalistic essays in journals such as Den´ (Day) and Moskva (Moscow), and inciting Russia’s war against the Turks of 1877–8.
Alexander II (1818–81), son of Tsar Nicholas I, Tsar of Russia 1855–81. His reign comprised a reformist period (1856–66) and a reactionary period (1866–81). During the former, some of the restrictive measures of Nicholas I were relaxed, creating the hope that Alexander might make the absolute monarchy constitutional. Serfdom was officially abolished, trial by jury instituted, and limited forms of local government tried out. But the reforms encouraged progressives and populists to engage in activities considered threatening (such as the spontaneous ‘Movement to the People’ of 1874, when over 2,000 students went to the countryside to live among the serfs and try to educate them). Revolutionaries were also emboldened, and various groups, such as ‘The People’s Vengeance’, arose with the explicit aim of overthrowing the government by force. In the face of these pressures, as well as an assassination attempt in 1866, Alexander halted his programme of liberalisation. After other unsuccessful attempts, he was assassinated in 1881.
Annenkov, Pavel Vasilevich (c.1812–87), writer, critic and memoirist, best known for his vivid reminiscences of his contemporaries, Herzen and Belinsky (qq.v.), Turgenev and Bakunin. During the 1840s Annenkov travelled in Europe, where he developed close friendships with Gogol (then living in Italy) and Marx. Returning to Russia and literary scholarship, he edited the first, seven-volume, collection of Pushkin’s works, published in 1855; he also wrote several notable studies on Pushkin, including A. S. Pushkin v Aleksandrovskuyu epokhu, 1799–1826 (A. S. Pushkin in the Age of Alexander, 1874). He is now, however, mainly remembered for his vivid memoir, Zamechatel´noe desyatiletie (A Remarkable Decade, 1880) of Russian intellectual life in the 1830s and 1840s, of which IB was a great admirer, and from which he took the title of his 1954 Northcliffe Lectures, included in this volume.
Annensky, Innokenty Fedorovich (1856–1909), poet, literary critic and translator. A classical scholar, Annensky taught Greek and Latin. He translated Euripides (published 1907–21) as well as French and German poetry. His poetic oeuvre was inspired by the French rather than the Russian symbolist movement (he rejected the latter as too mystical), and inspired Acmeist poets such as Anna Akhmatova and Nikolay Gumilev. His major poetry collections were Tikhie pesni (Quiet Songs, 1904) and Kiparysovyi larets (The Cyprus Chest, 1910); he also produced two volumes of literary criticism, Knigi otrazhenii (Books of Reflections, 1906 and 1909).
Bakunin, Mikhail Aleksandrovich (1814–76), anarchist born into a noble family. Passing up a potentially prestigious military career, Bakunin became interested in German philosophy after encountering the works of Fichte and Hegel. Continuing his studies in Germany and then France, he investigated the work of more revolutionary thinkers, eventually meeting Marx. The two strong personalities became rivals, developing competing ideologies. Eventually, Bakunin’s differences with Marx led to his expulsion from the International Workingmen’s Association. Unlike Marx, however, Bakunin was an activist, participating in many of the revolutionary upheavals that convulsed Europe in the mid-nineteenth century. Among his more significant works are Dieu et l’État (God and the State, 1882), a posthumous extract from a work which condemns religion and government authority, and Gosudarstvennost´ i anarkhiya (Statism and Anarchy, 1873), a longer work that seeks to interpret the outcome of the Franco-Prussian War. Bakunin is best known for his insistence that revolution cannot occur without a passionate commitment to destruction, which led others to characterise him as a nihilist. His ideas influenced Russian radicals of the later nineteenth century, and inspired revolutionaries such as Nechaev (q.v.) to adopt terrorist tactics. After participating in minor rebellions in Lyons (1870) and Bologna (1874), he died in Switzerland.
Baratynsky, Evgeny Abramovich (1800–44), poet. A product of tsarist military school, Baratynsky served in the imperial army, while also pursuing his literary interests as a member of the Free Society of Amateurs of Russian Literature. A contemporary and admirer of Pushkin, he was one of the so-called Pushkin Pleiad of poets, producing narrative works such as Eda (1824), based on the six years he spent in Finland (1820–6), and Bal (The Ball, 1825–8), in which he satirised Moscow high society. His later poetry, notably Poslednaya smert´ (The Last Death, 1827) and Osen´ (Autumn, 1836–7), became increasingly pessimistic and reflective. After falling into obscurity for fifty years, Baratynsky’s work was enthusiastically rediscovered by Anna Akhmatova and her generation in the 1900s.
Belinsky, Vissarion Grigorevich (1811–48), literary critic, philosopher and political thinker. Belinsky was a central figure in radical debating circles at Moscow University from 1829, where he was a friend of Herzen (q.v.), but was expelled for his radicalism. He joined the journal Teleskop (The Telescope) as a literary critic in 1833. After this was closed down in 1836 he eked out a living from tutoring and journalism and worked as literary critic of the journal Otechestvennye zapiski (Notes of the Fatherland) 1839–46. He finally made his mark at Nekrasov’s (q.v.) journal Sovremennik (The Contemporary), but by now was severely weakened by years of living in abject poverty and the onset of consumption, which killed him two years later. Despite his early death, Belinsky’s legacy in Russia was, and remains, considerable, and marked the rise of a new breed of lower-class, non-aristocratic intellectual, the raznochinets.
Benediktov, Vladimir Grigor´evich (1807–73), poet, official in the Ministry of Finance. Benediktov’s writing was popular in the 1830s, subsequently falling out of favour. His poetry was known for its ornamentation and rhetorical excess, which eventually drew censure from Belinsky (q.v.) and other critics, for whom literature and poetry should not simply be aesthetically pleasing, but should serve a social purpose.
Blok, Aleksandr Aleksandrovich (1880–1921), revered symbolist poet of the Revolutionary era, best known for his narrative poem Dvenadtsat´ (The Twelve, 1918), a vivid depiction of the turmoil of the October Revolution. Blok studied philology at the University of St Petersburg and published his first collection of poetry, Stikhi o prekrasnoi dame (Verses on a Beautiful Lady), in 1904. His dreams of a new moral and political world order inspired by the Revolution soon faded away, although he remained an officially sanctioned poet on the strength of Dvenadtsat´ throughout the Soviet era. In the last years of his life, he sank into a deep melancholia, writing little and dying in poverty. Berlin translated his ‘The Collapse of Humanism’: Oxford Outlook 11 (1931), 89–112, and discusses him in ‘A Sense of Impending Doom’ (1935; original title ‘Literature and the Crisis’), The Times Literary Supplement, 27 July 2001, 11–12.
Botkin, Vasil´y Petrovich (1811–69), literary and art critic. A man of means, Botkin was acquainted with many leading figures of the nineteenth century. As a young man he espoused liberal ideals influenced by philosophers such as Fichte, Hegel and Schelling. Among his best-known works are Pis´ma ob Ispanii (Letters on Spain, 1847–51, his impressions of a visit there) and Stikhotvoreniya A. A. Fet (The Poetry of A. A. Fet, 1857; Fet was his brother-in-law). After the 1848 revolutions, Botkin gradually became more conservative, and, in opposition to literary critics such as Belinsky (q.v., with whom he had a well-known exchange of letters), he became a proponent of the ideal of ‘art for art’s sake’.
Bulgarin, Faddey Venediktovich (1789–1859), novelist and journalist. Known for an adventurous life (including stints as a mercenary and police informer), Bulgarin was one of the most highly regarded writers of the 1830s. His Ivan Vyzhigin (1829) brought him both commercial and critical success, and was followed by two novels dealing with significant historical events, Dmitri samozvanets (Dmitry the Pretender, 1830) and Mazepa (1833–4). Unfortunately Bulgarin’s acid journalism eventually antagonised his contemporaries, and Pushkin (q.v.) wrote a series of savage satires that effectively destroyed his literary reputation.
Catherine II (1729–96), Empress of Russia 1762–96, known as ‘Catherine the Great’. The early period of her rule is associated with the Enlightenment: Catherine pursued a vigorous programme aimed at cultivating the arts and sciences. Her initial efforts met with success: European scholars of rank came to visit her court, and Russian intellectuals were allowed to travel abroad. A climate of intellectual openness pervaded the country, and political reform was expected to follow. Catherine partially encouraged such expectations, seeking to cultivate an image of herself as the embodiment of Enlightenment ideals. She convened a ‘Grand Commission’ drawn from every level of society, ostensibly intended as a consultative council. But her willingness to institute major reforms was limited: her participation in the partitioning of Poland, her aggressive campaigns to extend Russia’s borders, and her strong response to Pugachev’s (q.v.) rebellion were acts more befitting a despot than an enlightened ruler. When the French Revolution began in 1789, Catherine’s infatuation with the Enlightenment ended, as the tension between the democratic ideals of that movement and the autocratic basis of her regime became clear.
Chaadaev, Petr Yakovlevich (1794–1856), philosopher. Chaadaev prompted the Slavophil–Westerner debate among Russian intellectuals with his series of Lettres philosophiques, written between 1827 and 1831. He was born into the landowning gentry and served in the Imperial Army during the Napoleonic Wars, afterwards travelling in Europe. When one of his letters, containing an outspoken critique of Russia’s cultural and intellectual backwardness, was published in the journal Teleskop (Telescope) in 1836, the journal was closed down, and Chaadaev, declared mad, was placed under house arrest. Although public discussion of his ideas was strictly forbidden, Chaadaev remained an inspirational figure to many of his generation.
Chekhov, Anton Pavlovich (1860–1904), short story writer, playwright and physician. Regarded as one of the greatest short story writers, Chekhov is known for his delicate style and humane tone. Overcoming a bleak childhood and an abusive father, he studied medicine at Moscow University. He began writing to pay for his studies, and as his stories gained in popularity he began to concentrate more and more upon his literary work. His early stories are characterised by their humour and mild satire, while his later works are known for their introspection and psychological depth. He eventually began to experiment with longer stories, and some of his finer tales followed, e.g. ‘Duel’ (The Duel, 1891), ‘Palata No 6’ (Ward No 6, 1892), ‘Zhena’ (The Wife, 1892) and ‘Rasskaz neizvestnogo cheloveka’ (An Anonymous Story, 1893). Among his best-known plays are Tri sestry (Three Sisters, 1901) and Vishnevyi sad (The Cherry Orchard, 1903).
Chernyshevsky, Nikolay Gavrilovich (1828–89), journalist, literary critic, novelist and radical activist. Educated for the priesthood, Chernyshevsky lost his early religious faith while studying history and philology at St Petersburg University. After joining the staff of Sovremennik (The Contemporary), the leading literary journal, he inherited Belinsky’s (q.v.) mantle, and established himself as the foremost critic of the day. He was influenced by the Enlightenment, accepting its basic arguments for the application of science to society. The Antropologicheskii printsip v filosofii (The Anthropological Principle in Philosophy, 1860) contains the fullest statement of his philosophical beliefs, rooted in the concept of ‘rational egoism’. According to this idea, individual behaviour is primarily self-regarding, and society’s institutions should be constructed accordingly. His influential novel Chto delat´? (What Is To Be Done?, 1863), written in prison, is an attempt to portray rational egoism through the story of young revolutionaries. It established Chernyshevsky’s reputation as a radical democrat, and proved to be his last major work, for he was subsequently sent to Siberia, where illness and the strains of exile effectively ended his writing.
Chicherin, Boris Nikolaevich (1828–1903), historian, philosopher and jurist. A university teacher who served briefly as the mayor of Moscow, Chicherin was a liberal with conservative tendencies. Author of the voluminous Istoriia politicheskikh uchenii (A History of Political Doctrines, 1869–1902), Chicherin was a respected academic who made significant contributions to the fields of metaphysics, logic and the philosophy of law. A proponent of social reform, he envisaged a State that combined liberal rights, a vigorous judiciary and free-market economics with a strong monarchy. Unusually, his convictions were matched by his actions: he resigned his university chair in protest against government policy, and was forced to step down as mayor because of a political dispute with the Tsar. The highly abstract nature of his writings, couched in the arcane language of Hegel’s ‘Absolute’, has adversely affected his reputation.
Danilevsky, Nikolay Yakovlevich (1822–85), historian, scientist, philosopher. An ichthyologist by training, Danilevsky was a leading reactionary theorist of the late nineteenth century. Best known for his work Rossia i Evropa (Russia and Europe, 1869), he argued that cultures were incommensurable and that progress was to be measured in terms relative to a given society. Distinguishing ten types of civilisation, he believed that each had a centre of gravity uniquely its own, and that attempts to measure one civilisation against the accomplishments of another were misguided. He proposed an eleventh type of civilisation – a ‘Slavic historico-cultural’ type – whose political form was monarchical, and whose economy was based on the village commune, which was to serve as a bulwark against the advent of a revolutionary proletariat. Danilevsky’s ideas were blatantly nationalistic: his main intention was to show that Russia was not inferior to Europe. Consequently, his work was used by conservatives against both liberals and radicals, who were criticised for judging Russian culture by European standards.
Derzhavin, Gavriil Romanovich (1743–1816), outstanding eighteenth-century lyric poet, an important precursor of Pushkin. Born to impoverished nobility, Derzhavin served in the army and in 1777 entered the civil service. The publication of his Oda k Felitse (Ode to Felitsa, 1793), a thinly disguised paean to Catherine the Great, followed by several others in the same mode, won him official approval, and appointment as her secretary in 1791. He also served Alexander I as Minister of Justice, retiring in 1803. He was a master of the classical ode, and his most famous works, such as ‘Na smert´ knyaza Meshcherskogo’ (On the Death of Prince Meshchersky, 1779) and ‘Vodopad’ (The Waterfall, 1791–4), despite their moralising and didactic tone, also celebrate the power of nature in vivid imagery.
Dobrolyubov, Nikolay Aleksandrovich (1836–61), journalist and literary critic. A lapsed seminarian, Dobrolyubov was one of the younger literary critics associated with Chernyshevsky (q.v.), and was known for his acerbic temperament and pointed critiques. Less concerned with the aesthetic merits of a text, Dobrolyubov demanded that fiction reflect reality. His ‘real criticism’ was meant to be an antidote to the impotence of preceding generations, whose writers were thought incapable of instigating social change. By insisting that writers portray social oppression realistically, Dobrolyubov hoped to prompt the younger generation to act. His best-known essay, ‘Chto takoe oblomovshchina?’ (What is Oblomovism?, 1859), is one of the pivotal works of nineteenth-century Russian literature. In it he suggests that the generation of ‘the ’40s’ was composed of ‘superfluous men’, which ignited a fierce debate. His career was cut short when he succumbed to tuberculosis.
Dostoevsky, Fedor Mikhailovich (1821–81), novelist, short story writer and journalist; often considered, with his contemporary Tolstoy, one of the greatest Russian writers. Born to a father who claimed nobility through legal, as opposed to hereditary, title, and a devoutly religious mother, Dostoevsky established his reputation with Bednye lyudi (Poor Folk, 1846), a novel known for its social commentary. His strongly progressive opinions drew him to the Petrashevsky Circle (q.v.); when he read in public a letter by Belinsky banned by the authorities he was exiled to Siberia for eight years. During his imprisonment – the basis for the novel Zapiski iz mertvogo doma (Notes from the House of the Dead, 1860–2) – he had a religious awakening which shaped his later literary output. His best-known later works, e.g. Brat´ya Karamazovy (The Brothers Karamazov, 1880), were heavily influenced by his idiosyncratic vision of Orthodoxy, incorporating themes of human frailty and suffering, redemption and transfiguration. Some, such as Prestuplenie i nakazanie (Crime and Punishment, 1866) and Besy (The Possessed, 1872), also contain strongly critical portraits of political radicals.
Eikhenbaum, Boris Mikhailovich (1886–1959), Soviet academician, literary historian and formalist critic. He lectured in philology at Leningrad University from 1918 until his retirement in 1949, publishing studies such as Melodiki russkogo liricheskogo stikha (The Melodics of Russian Lyric Verse, 1923), and writing extensively on Tolstoy, of whose collected works (1928–64; ‘T’ in this volume) he was one of the editors. He is famous for having condemned the poetry of Anna Akhmatova in a review article of 1923, labelling her ‘half nun, half harlot’, and so fuelling what would be the long-standing Soviet antipathy to her work.
Fet, Afanasy Afanasievich (1820–92), poet and translator, friend of Tolstoy and Turgenev. Fet studied at Moscow University and began publishing his verse in the 1840s, while serving in the Imperial Army. He was a conservative and an aesthete, and his work was attacked by radical intellectuals in the 1860s. He published nothing between 1863 and 1883, when he finally brought out several volumes of verse, collectively entitled Vechernie ogni (Evening Lights). His later poetry, which was metaphysical in tone, was a precursor of the symbolist movement in Russian poetry at the end of the century. An admirer of Schopenhauer, Fet translated his Die Welt aus Wille und Vorstellung (The World as Will and Representation, 1819, 1844) into Russian in 1881; he also translated Latin poets such as Ovid, Catullus and Virgil.
Figner, Vera Nikolaevna (1852–1942), radical and revolutionary terrorist. Known for her Zapechatlennyi Trud (Memoirs of a Revolutionist, 1921–2), Figner was a member of various radical groups that actively sought to overthrow the government in the latter half of the nineteenth century. At first a member of ‘Land and Liberty’, she went on to help found the more revolutionary group ‘The People’s Will’, serving on its Executive Committee and helping to coordinate the distribution of revolutionary propaganda in an attempt to ignite a general uprising. When this proved futile, the Committee turned to more violent means. After several abortive attempts, Figner helped plan the assassination of Alexander II (q.v.) in 1881. The authorities responded with a sweeping crackdown, and were able to capture the majority of the Committee’s members. Figner escaped the initial wave of arrests and attempted to reorganise the group. Eventually she was caught, imprisoned for twenty years, and then expelled from the country. She returned to Russia during the Revolution and settled in Moscow, where she wrote her memoirs.
Fonvizin, Denis Ivanovich (1744–92), playwright, journalist and writer. Fonvizin is best known for two plays, Brigadir (The Brigadier, 1768–9) and Nedorosl (The Minor, 1782), in which he gently mocks Russian infatuation with French culture, as well as highlighting those aspects of Russian culture that he thought equally valuable. He was one of the earliest Russian writers to point to the potentially subversive force of literature: both plays criticise contemporary practices before reaffirming traditional beliefs. His works frequently emphasise the importance of virtue, and are regarded as characteristic of the ‘Russian Enlightenment’. Fonvizin made several trips to Europe, starting in 1777, before suffering a stroke on his way home in 1785. He suffered paralysis and, though he continued to write short pieces, he was unable to complete his confessions.
Gogol, Nikolay Vasil´evich (1809–52), writer, novelist and playwright. One of the most influential figures in Russian literature, the Ukrainian Gogol was best known for his comic stories, which portray the mundane and the absurd. Moving to St Petersburg at the age of nineteen, he hoped to pursue a literary career. His initial efforts were unsuccessful: though his early work was critically acclaimed, it did not resonate with the general public. Stories such as ‘Nevsky Prospekt’ (Nevsky Prospect, 1835), ‘Zapiski sumasshedshego’ (Diary of a Madman, 1835) and Nos (‘The Nose’, 1836) were clearly innovative, but their black humour, hyper-realism and dark irony made them unlike anything else written at the time. Things changed in 1836 with the production of Gogol’s play Revizor (The Government Inspector), a comedy of errors revolving around a set of corrupt provincial officials who mistake a petty bureaucrat for a government inspector. From now on Gogol’s reputation was established, and he was considered a writer comparable to Pushkin (q.v.). Of Gogol’s later works, the two most significant are his novel Mertvye dushi (Dead Souls) and the short story ‘Shinel’ (The Overcoat), both published in 1842. The latter was particularly influential, as it was taken to be a commentary on the wretched conditions of urban life. Although Gogol himself expressed conservative views, his writings were greatly admired by liberals and socialists, who took his work as an indictment of Russian autocracy. This admiration gave way to dismay with the appearance of Vybrannye mesta iz perepiski s druzyami (Selected Passages from Correspondence with Friends, 1847), in which Gogol unambiguously asserted his support for the Tsar and the Orthodox Church. Belinsky (q.v.) responded with his ‘Letter to Gogol’ of 1847, an impassioned defence of progressive values which was circulated privately, and is regarded as a watershed moment in Russian intellectual history. Gogol died a few years afterwards, following weeks of fasting brought on by an episode of religious inspiration.

Goncharov, Ivan Aleksandrovich (1812–91), novelist. Born into the gentry and employed in government service, Goncharov is one of the earliest writers in the realist tradition. By contrast with writers such as Pushkin and Lermontov (qq.v.), he intentionally avoided an ornate literary style, in order to avoid the sentimentalism often associated with romanticism. His novels confront idealistic dreamers with a reality indifferent to their aspirations. His best-known work, Oblomov (1859), inspired Dobrolyubov (q.v.) to coin the term ‘Oblomovism’. The novel’s eponymous protagonist is a member of the gentry whose most characteristic trait is his lethargy. Unable to overcome his inertia, Oblomov wastes away. Taken as the paradigmatic instance of the ‘superfluous man’, Oblomov represents the politically and socially impotent aristocrats of the early nineteenth century. Similarly, ‘Oblomovism’ refers to the moral and spiritual paralysis that undercuts the desire to act, and was taken to characterise the generation of the 1840s. Goncharov’s other novels treat similar themes, but none had as profound an effect upon social discourse.

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