Gorky, Maxim (pseudonym of Aleksey Maksimovich Peshkov) (1868–1936), Soviet writer, journalist and dramatist from peasant stock. His early life was extremely impoverished, as reflected in his masterpiece, the autobiographical trilogy Detstvo, V lyudyakh and Moi universitety (My Childhood, 1915; In the World, 1916; My Universities, 1922) and his most successful play, Na dne (The Lower Depths, 1902). Originally highly critical of the Bolshevik stranglehold on political life after the Revolution, his controversial newspaper Novaya zhizn´ (New Life) was repressed by them in 1918. In 1924 he went to live in Italy, where he became much feted. With a combination of flattery and material inducements, Stalin lured him back to the Soviet Union in 1928 to take the ideological lead in establishing uniformity in Soviet writing under socialist realism. As chairman, from 1934, of the newly established Union of Soviet Writers, he was heaped with honours, but subservience to Stalin brought with it inevitable entrapment and ultimate isolation.
Griboedov, Aleksandr Sergeevich (1795–1829), lyric poet and playwright, whose only enduring play, Gore ot uma (Woe from Wit, 1822–4), remains a standard in the Russian repertoire. After studying law and science at Moscow University, Griboedov served in the army and became a civil servant at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Although he wrote and adapted other plays, his reputation largely rests on Gore ot uma (often titled Chatsky in translation, after its hero), which was rejected by the tsarist censor and not published in full till 1861. In 1825, during Russia’s war with Persia, Griboedov was sent to the Caucasus on official business. After negotiating the peace settlement, he was appointed ambassador to Tehran, where he was murdered by rioters soon after his arrival.
Herzen, Alexander (Aleksandr Ivanovich Gertsen) (1812–70), revolutionary thinker, journalist and writer, around whom gravitated many of the great minds of his generation. The illegitimate son of a wealthy nobleman, Herzen was educated at Moscow University. His involvement in radical circles led to arrest in 1834 and exile until 1840. Back in Moscow, he became a close associate of Belinsky (q.v.), but left Russia in 1847 for Paris, where he witnessed the 1848 Revolution. In 1852 he moved to London, his inherited wealth enabling him to set up a Russian press and publish the influential newspaper Kolokol (The Bell, 1857–67), through which he campaigned vigorously for political reform in Russia, especially the emancipation of the serfs (achieved in 1861). Herzen’s seminal political essays, collected as S togo berega (From the Other Shore, 1847–50; published in English in 1956 – ‘F’ in this volume – with an introduction by Berlin), are the best known portion of a considerable body of political and philosophical debate conducted by letter and in the radical press with his many émigré contemporaries. He remembered many of these friends, as well as his family, with great eloquence and affection in his masterpiece ‘Byloe i dumy’ (My Past and Thoughts, 1852–68), to the 1968 English edition of which Berlin also wrote an introduction. Berlin’s introductions to Herzen’s works are reprinted, respectively, in his collections The Power of Ideas and Against the Current (see above, 000 and 000).
Ivanov, Vyacheslav Ivanovich (1866–1945), émigré historian and symbolist poet. Ivanov studied ancient history and classical philosophy in Moscow, Berlin and Paris, after which he spent time in the Middle East. His first collections of poetry, Kormchie zvezdy (Lodestars, 1903) and Prozrachnost’ (Transparency, 1904), were published in Europe. Back in Russia in 1905 he published a series of mystical religious essays, as well as a notable discourse on Russian culture, Perepiska iz dvukh uglov (Correspondence between Two Corners, 1920). After teaching Greek in Baku (1920–4) he left Russia for Italy, where he converted to Roman Catholicism and taught at the University of Pavia (1926–34) and the Papal Institute for Eastern Studies (1934–43). Although he spent the remainder of his life in Italy, his work was published in Paris.
Khemnitser, Ivan Ivanovich (1745–84), satirist and fabulist. A popular writer of modest reputation, Khemnitser is known for his fables. His writings exhibited a concern for social problems, but he counselled reconciliation with circumstances rather than social transformation. Unlike some of his contemporaries, he avoided satirising individuals; instead he used allegories and fanciful imagery to ridicule institutions and social structures. His works include ‘Na khudykh sudei’ (On Bad Judges) and ‘Oda na pod´iachikh’ (‘Ode to Clerks’), both published posthumously in Baiki i skazki I. I. Khemnitsera. v trekh chastiakh (Fables and Tales of I. I. Khemnitser in Three Parts, 1799). Koltsov, Aleksey Vasil´´evich (1809–42), poet. A member of the Stankevich (q.v.) circle and close friend of Belinsky (q.v.), Koltsov was known for his poetry and folk songs. Forced by his father to discontinue his studies at the age of twelve, Koltsov was not highly educated. But his work was well regarded, as it was taken to represent the authentic experiences of the peasantry. His expressive verse idealised agrarian existence as well as displaying its difficulties, and served as a counterpoint to the presumed artificiality of urban life. His work helped usher in a concern for pastoral themes, and contributed to the idealisation of rural living.
Koshelev, Aleksandr Ivanovich (1806–1883), writer and statesman. An original member of ‘The Society of Wisdom Lovers’, Koshelev was a conservative liberal who helped found the short-lived journal Mnemosyne (in classical mythology Mnemosyne is the goddess of memory, mother of the Muses). Both the Society and the journal were heavily influenced by German romanticism, according to which art is the organic union of the world and the individual. From this perspective, the artist forges new creations rather than merely depicting reality. Such ideas distinguished the Society from the Decembrists, many of whom were influenced by the French philosophes, and paved the way for Russian Hegelianism. The Society was also a predecessor of the Slavophil movement, since some of its members (including Koshelev) believed that the moral regeneration of Russia required the preservation of the village commune and a strong landed aristocracy.
Kravchinsky, Sergey Mikhailovich (1851–95), author, activist and terrorist. Known by his pseudonym, Stepnyak (‘son of the Steppe’), Kravchinsky was a radical who murdered the head of the secret police with a dagger in the streets of St Petersburg. Well educated, he spent time as a young man travelling in Europe, where he worked with various revolutionary groups. Returning home, he joined ‘Land and Liberty’, a populist organisation which sought to rouse the people through direct action and propaganda. When its efforts met with only limited success, some of its members (including Kravchinsky) resorted to violence, and assassination attempts were made on the lives of prominent public figures. Kravchinsky fled to England, where he spent the remainder of his life writing books and essays about his revolutionary experiences, including the widely popular La Russia sotterranea(Underground Russia, 1881, originally published in Italian).
Kropotkin, Petr Alekseevich (1842–1921), geographer and anarchist communist. Born into an aristocratic family, Kropotkin had the opportunity to pursue a prestigious military career, but his exposure to progressive ideas led him to opt for service in Siberia, where his geographical work gained him a scholarly reputation, and membership of the Russian Geographical Society. After a trip to Europe he abandoned his scholarly pursuits in favour of a more politically active life. He joined an underground revolutionary group, the Chaikovsky Circle, and was imprisoned in 1874. He escaped two years later, was forced to live in exile, and fled to Europe. He wrote prolifically during this time and, despite clashing with local authorities, was a popular lecturer (he twice toured North America, and was even offered a chair in geography at Cambridge). His main ideas concern the innate sociability of man, which expresses itself in a capacity for compassionate activity that he termed ‘mutual aid’. He strongly criticised State institutions (which he thought corrupted this natural tendency by their reliance upon coercion) as well as capitalism, which for him provided the economic foundations of State domination. More controversially, he advocated ‘propaganda by the deed’, which was interpreted as a thinly veiled reference to revolutionary terrorism. After the Revolution he returned to Russia, where he died shortly afterwards, strongly critical of the Bolsheviks and Lenin.
Krylov, Ivan Andreevich (1769–1844), fabulist, playwright and author. Like Khemnitser (q.v.), Krylov is known for his fables. Although he initially wrote satirical short stories and composed a handful of plays, he eventually turned to fables as a more effective means of expression. Inspired by La Fontaine, his fables delineate the shortcomings both of society and of individuals. Conservative in tone, they tend gently to chide those who are impatient with the status quo, but also show the need for social reform. His work was widely appreciated not only for the directness of the fables, but also for its timeliness and the simplicity of his often colloquial writing style.
Lavrov, Petr Lavrovich (1823–1900), editor, historian, political theorist and sociologist. Born into the nobility, Lavrov rose to the rank of colonel in the army and taught mathematics at different institutes. He was court-martialled in 1866 for his association with radicals, whose assassination attempt upon Alexander II led to a sweeping crackdown. Exiled to the province of Vologda, he wrote his most influential work, Istoricheskie pis´ma (Historical Letters, 1870), which argued that history is rooted in the development of critical reason. In 1870 he fled to Europe, where he participated in the Paris Commune, joined the International Workingmen’s Association, and eventually became friends with Marx and Engels. He published the revolutionary journal Vpered (Forward) from 1873 to 1876, and publicly contested Nechaev’s claim that all means were permitted to overthrow the government. His time abroad somewhat distanced him from actual conditions in Russia, and he persisted in arguing that the peasantry could serve as the source of radical change, even after the failures of the ‘Movement to the People’ of 1874. An intellectual luminary for populist revolutionaries, he was a member of ‘The People’s Will’, whose journal he edited. He eventually turned his attention to sociology, and composed several studies of intellectual history, including a well-known work on the Paris Commune.
Leont´ev, Konstantin Nikolaevich (1831–1891), author, diplomat, literary critic, philosopher and playwright. One of the most original thinkers of the nineteenth century, Leont´ev was a staunch conservative who extolled autocracy and sharply criticised both the Westerners and the Slavophils for their reliance on European ideas. He regarded Europe as a decadent civilisation, and argued that Russia should cleave to her Byzantine heritage. He articulated a theory of cultural development and decay that was influenced by Danilevsky (q.v.), and provided an ‘aesthetic’ defence of aristocracy that anticipated Nietzsche’s views. He argued that liberalism encouraged crass materialism, while democracy ignored the natural inequality of humanity. His political ideals blended monarchy and orthodoxy, and demanded absolute subjugation of the individual to authority. Strongly nationalistic, he urged an aggressive foreign policy in the hope of restoring the Byzantine Empire. After a brief stint in the consular service, he underwent a religious awakening that eventually led him to cloister himself in a monastery, where he remained until he died. His best-known work is Vizantism i slavianstvo (Byzantinism and Slavdom, 1875).
Lermontov, Mikhail Yur´evich (1814–41), novelist, poet, playwright and soldier; a leading Russian romantic whose writings are characterised by their lyricism and introspection. Among his best-known works are ‘Smert´ poëta’ (The Death of a Poet, 1837), commemorating Pushkin (considered Russia’s greatest poet), and Geroi nashego vremeni (A Hero of Our Time, 1840), a novel recounting the exploits of a brooding military officer serving in the Caucasus. Although circulated only in handwritten copies, ‘The Death of a Poet’ outraged the Russian authorities because of its suggestion that Pushkin’s death in a duel was the responsibility of a jealous aristocrat. Lermontov was arrested and sent as a soldier to the Caucasus, where his experiences provided the material for Geroi nashego vremeni, which expresses the frustration and anguish of the Russian élites who could find no outlet for their talents after the Decembrist Revolt – a theme later taken up by Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Turgenev (qq.v.) and others. Lermontov was known for his daring on the battlefield as well as for his arrogance and difficult temperament. Like Pushkin, he died young in a duel, the victim of a childhood acquaintance who had finally had enough of his ridicule.
Leskov, Nikolay Semenovich (1831–95), short story writer, famous for his use of traditional fables and folklore. Leskov grew up on a country estate and lacked any formal education, taking up journalism in the 1860s. As a traditionalist, wary of political reform, he attacked radicalism in novels such as Na nozhakh (At Daggers Drawn, 1870–1). But such works remained little read, his fame resting on his gifts as a storyteller of great popular appeal, in tales such as Ledi Makbet mtsesnkogo uezda (Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, 1865) – the basis for Shostakovich’s 1934 opera – and Ocharovannyi strannik (The Enchanted Wanderer, 1873). In later life Leskov became an adherent of the religious and ethical ideas of Tolstoy, and his work took on an increasingly moralistic tone.
Lomonosov, Mikhail Vasil´evich (1711–65), literary critic, philosopher, playwright, poet, scientist and translator. Born into the peasantry, Lomonosov became the leading figure of the Russian Enlightenment. Given the opportunity to study at the Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg, he quickly distinguished himself as a specially gifted student, and was sent to Germany to further his education. At the University of Marburg he studied not only science but also classical philosophy and German literature. On his return to Petersburg he worked as a university teacher of chemistry before helping to found Moscow University. His interests were wide-ranging: his work on glass manufacture changed the way mosaics were made; he proposed an international academy to develop scientific means of navigation; he championed surveys of Siberia to determine its natural resources; he propounded a theory concerning the density of the atmosphere of the planet Venus; and he experimented with electricity. His greatest literary achievement was his work on Russian grammar, which clarified the use of vernacular Russian and provided the foundation for the advent of popular literature.
Lunacharsky, Anatoly Vasilevich (1875–1933), Soviet dramatist and literary critic, a visionary figure in early Soviet culture. As a young political activist in the 1890s Lunacharsky suffered arrest and exile, becoming the leader of the Russian revolutionaries living in Paris. Returning to St Petersburg in 1905 to edit the Social-Democrat newspaper Novaya zhizn´ (New Life), he worked as a literary critic. Having been a Bolshevik organiser in Petrograd during the 1917 Revolution, he was given a key appointment in the new government as People’s Commissar for Culture and Education (1917–29). During this period he initiated educational reforms and programmes in adult literacy under Lenin’s New Economic Policy. Lunacharsky’s encouragement of diversity in the Soviet arts soon came under suspicion; although he kept away from party politics, in 1933 Stalin removed him from office and sent him away to an ambassadorship in Spain. Lunacharsky died in Paris en route to his new post.
Maistre, Joseph Marie, comte de (1753–1821), diplomat, lawyer and philosopher. A key figure in the transmission of anti-revolutionary ideas to Russia, Maistre was a Savoyard lawyer who served as the King of Sardinia’s envoy to Alexander I. Adamantly opposed to the French Revolution, Maistre wrote several works which attempted to undermine its philosophical foundations. In opposition to the Enlightenment’s assumption of the necessity of progress, and to its faith in reason, Maistre asserted the constancy of sin and the frailty of human rationality. He argued that man’s fallen state necessitated the imposition of order, which could be achieved only through the institutions of Church and State. Without religion and autocracy, men would be consumed by violence. His ideas not only challenged the political ideals of the Enlightenment, but also denied their scientific basis. He was briefly influential among the Russian nobility, until Napoleon’s campaigns led to a reaction against the French. Among his best-known works are Considerations sur la France(Considerations on France, 1796),Soirées de St Pétersbourg (The St Petersburg Dialogues, 1821) and Examen de la philosophie de Bacon (An Examination of the Philosophy of Bacon, 1836). Mikhailovsky, Nikolay Konstantinovich (1842–1904), editor, journalist, literary critic and sociologist. A leading theorist of populism, Mikhailovsky established his reputation with the article ‘Chto takoe progress?’ (What is Progress?, 1869–70), in which he argued that, as society becomes more complex, individual development regresses. It followed that earlier societies allowed for the greatest cultivation of individual personality, since individuals were not required to specialise in one activity, as industrial labour required. His arguments were used by populists to justify their vision of an agrarian socialism centred upon the peasant commune, viewed as a better alternative to capitalist production. Because Mikhailovsky argued against the conventional Marxist interpretation of economic development, which regarded capitalism as a necessary stage in the advent of Communism, socialists such as Lenin and Plekhanov rejected his position. Nevertheless, he exerted a profound influence on radical democrats, many of whom were first introduced by his essays to the ideas of Comte, Spencer, Mill and Proudhon.
Nadezhdin, Nikolay Ivanovich (1804–56), editor, ethnographer, literary critic and university teacher. Expelled from his seminary, Nadezhdin became one of the more significant literary critics before Belinsky (q.v.). After a degree at Moscow University (where he wrote a dissertation on German philosophy in Latin), he worked briefly as a university teacher of fine arts and archaeology. His literary reputation is based on his claim that art expresses divine truths, which led to his belief that poetry has a normative dimension. He was especially critical of Russian romantic poets, whose work, for him, lacked a proper moral depth. He is best known for publishing Chaadaev’s (q.v.) ‘Filosoficheskie pis´ma’ (Philosophical Letters, 1836) in the journal Telescope, an act which led to his brief exile to Siberia. There he became interested in ethnography, and after his return eventually became the chairman of the ethnographic division of the Russian Geographic Society.
Nechaev, Sergey Gennadievich (1847–82), founder of the revolutionary organisation ‘The People’s Vengeance’. Highly charismatic but fanatical in his radicalism, Nechaev associated with revolutionary figures such as Bakunin, who thought highly of the younger man. Nechaev’s historical significance is twofold: he is credited with composing ‘Katekhizis revolyutsionera’ (The Revolutionary Catechism, 1869); and he was involved in the murder of Ivan Ivanov, who attempted to leave the group in 1869, whereupon he was beaten up, shot and strangled. The ‘Catechism’ was a manifesto for revolutionary violence that justified the use of any means to overthrow the government, while Ivanov’s murder produced a popular backlash against radicalism that briefly slowed revolutionary pressures upon the State, and gave the government the pretext for a vigorous crackdown on all dissidents. Dostoevsky (q.v.) used this as the inspiration for his novel The Possessed (1872). Eventually captured in Switzerland, Nechaev was turned over to the Russian authorities, and died in prison.
Nekrasov, Nikolay Alekseevich (1821–78), poet and publisher, a patron of writers and critics, notably Turgenev, Tolstoy and Belinsky (q.v.). Though a member of the gentry, Nekrasov had to write hack poetry and vaudevilles to pay for his university studies in St Petersburg, as his father refused to support him. He purchased the journal Sovremennik (The Contemporary) in 1846, and fought the tsarist censorship to keep it running until it was finally closed in 1866. He then acquired Otechestvennye zapiski (Notes of the Fatherland) in 1868, which he co-edited with Saltykov (q.v.). Nekrasov’s most popular verse, such as ‘Vlas’ (1854) and the narrative poem Moroz krasny-nos (Frost the Red-Nosed, 1863), is drawn from Russian folklore. His long satirical poem Komu na Rusi zhit´ khorosho? (Who Can Be Happy in Russia?, 1873–6) celebrates the virtues of the Russian peasantry.
Nicholas I (1796–1855), third son of Tsar Paul I, Tsar of Russia 1825–55. Nicholas assumed the crown after Alexander I died unexpectedly and Constantine I refused the throne. During the initial confusion as to who would become tsar, Nicholas was forced to suppress the Decembrist Revolt mounted by members of the aristocracy and military who wanted to overthrow the monarchy. This determined the tone of Nicholas’s reign, and he suspended the period of political experimentation begun by Peter the Great and continued by Catherine the Great (qq.v.). Fearful of further unrest, Nicholas instituted a series of measures aimed at curbing dissent and controlling political debate. These curbs applied even to informal discussion-groups such as the Petrashevsky (q.v.) Circle, whose existence was considered threatening as it involved a ‘conspiracy of ideas’. Although he successfully limited criticisms of his rule and halted further social reforms, his actions unintentionally pushed many moderates towards radicalism, and thereby indirectly contributed to the revolutionary fervour of the late nineteenth century.
Odoevsky, Prince Vladimir Fedorovich (c.1803–69), poet, philosopher, educator and critic. An admirer of Schelling, Odoevsky led the Moscow-based philosophical group The Wisdom Lovers (1823–4). From 1826 he lived in St Petersburg, where he became a civil servant involved in public education and culture, as director of the Rumyantsev Museum and assistant director of the city’s public library. An ardent Slavophil, Odoevsky criticised Western influence on Russian culture in his philosophical conversations Russkie nochi (Russian Nights, 1844). His short stories and fantastical tales, such as ‘God 4338’ (The Year 4338, not published in full until 1926) frequently reflected his interest in mysticism and scientific progress.
Ogarev, Nikolay Platonovich (1813–77), editor, journalist and poet. A close friend of Herzen (q.v.), Ogarev was the co-editor of Polyarnaya zvezda (The Polar Star) and Kolokol (The Bell). As youths, the two took an oath to complete the work begun by the Decembrists, and as university students they attempted to do this by establishing a discussion group that debated philosophical and aesthetic matters. However, because such discussions often involved political issues, the group was broken up by the authorities, who sent both men into exile. Eventually granted his freedom, Ogarev emigrated to England, where he continued his collaboration with Herzen. Although he was a notable poet, his biggest influence was exercised through his work as an editor, and he encouraged Russia’s nascent socialist movement by publishing the writings of men such as Bakunin and Nechaev (qq.v.).