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Russian Language and Literature

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The subject will be treated under the following heads, viz.


Russian language

Russian is a Slav language belonging to the Indo-European family. The dispersion of the Slav tribes in prehistoric times resulted in the formation of various Slav dialects, of which Shafarik counted twelve, although other writers recognize only six or seven. The Slav dialects are divided into the South-Eastern dialects and the Western dialects. To the former, which culminate in the Bulgarian, belongs the Russian, or rather the three Russian dialects of Great Russia, Little Russia, and White Russia. Russian has many affinities with the Bulgarian and Servian languages, because Russia received her primitive literature from the Bulgarians and Servians. The absence of documents, however, makes it impossible to define with precision the character of the primitive language of Russia, or rather the relations between that language and the Russian of literature. According to Sreznevski and Lavroff, the similarity between the two languages was almost complete, and consisted in turns of expression rather than in grammatical forms. Before the thirteenth century, the literary, ecclesiastical, and administrative language was one. But in the fourteenth century the ecclesiastical language began to differ from the literary language and this difference grew considerably in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Palæoslavic or ecclesiastical language, however, varied little in either case from the language of the people. In time Russian underwent local changes of form that gave rise to the dialects of Kieff, Novgorod, Vladimir, and Moscow. The Vareghi, the Greeks, the Tatars, the Lithuanians, and the Poles left traces of their political domination on the language of Russia, and in the time of Peter the Great many words were added from German, French, and English. The question of the primitive language of Russia is connected with the ethnological question, and in the nineteenth century gave rise to lengthy and spirited polemics which, however, led to no definite results. A leading work for the study of this controversy is Buslaeff's "Historical Grammar of the Russian Language" (1858). Political and nationalist questions also enter into the philological researches concerning the primitive language of Russia. The Ruthenians, or Little Russians, claim that their language was the original Russian, and therefore that primitive Russian literature should rather be called Ruthenian. On the other hand Sobolevski and the nationalists of Great Russia declare that the present Ruthenian is not the primitive language of Kieff. This philological controversy between the nationalists of Little Russia and those of Great Russia has not yet terminated.

Ancient popular literature

From its earliest history Russia has possessed a literature that was handed down by tradition from generation to generation. It was not before the seventeenth century that this literature took a written form. The collection of Russian proverbs was begun: in the eighteenth century Daniloff published the first collection of Russian byline: at the end of the same century and at the beginning of the nineteenth, Tchulkoff, Popoff, and Macaroff published the first collections of popular songs. Upon this literature, which conveys so much information on the religious, civil, and social life of primitive Russia, great light was thrown by the studies of Kalaidovitch, Snegireff, Sakharoff, Kirieevski, Bielinski, Athanasieff, Kostomoroff, Maikoff, Buslaeff, Bezsonoff, and Vselovski. The popular Russian songs are divided into several classes. There are the mystic or ritual songs (obriadnyia piesni), which were sung in the sacred games, and on other solemn occasions; they contain many memories of the ancient pagan feasts, celebrating the glories of Dazh-Bog (the sun-god), of Koliada (traced by Russian writers to the Latin Calendœ), and of Ovsen. Others, illustrating the promiscuity of pagan tradition, celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ (sviatotchnyja piesni); others relate to the spring feasts (vesnianki), or accompany the dance (khorovodnyja). To this same class belong the nuptial songs (svadebnyja), the kupal'skija (literally, songs of the baths), the rusal'nyja, in honour of the Rusalke, a term that probably served to designate the souls of the departed.

The byline are the most beautiful treasures of this popular literature, of which they form the heroic cycle. The term byline is derived from the verb byl (it was), and etymologically signifies the recital of that which happened in times gone by. They tell of the deeds of the legendary heroes of primitive Russia. History, legend, and mythology together furnish the matter of these epic songs. In them the Russian heroes are called bogatyr, a name that some believe to be derived from Bog (God), as if they were demigods; others believe that the term is derived from Tatar or Mongolian; and yet others from the Sanskrit (bhaga, force, happiness). The heroes who are immortalized in the byline belong to the epoch of Vladimir the Great, or to more ancient times, and partake of a mythological character. These heroes, who act together with those of the time of Vladimir the Great, but nevertheless are endowed with a mythological character, are Sviatogor, Mikula Selianinovitch, Volga Sviatoslavitch, Sukhman Odikhmantévitch, and Don Ivanovitch; the historians of Russian literature designate them by the epithet of starshie ("ancient heroes"). The "young heroes" (mladshie) belong historically to the epoch of Vladimir; their names are Elia Muromec, Dobrynja Nikititch, Alesha Popovitch, Solovei Budimirovitch, etc. Kieff is so to speak, their geographical centre, and Vladimir their star. In the Russian chronicles they are mentioned between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. Elia of Murom lived at the end of the twelfth century, and his remains rest in the grotto of the sanctuary of Petcherskaia at Kieff. They combat the monsters that assail Russia from within or from without, that is, paganism and thieves among the first, and the Petchenegi, the Polovcy, and the Chozari among the second. The historical, philological, and poetical importance of these ancient monuments of literature is very great. Other byline of later date, more commonly called historical songs, refer to the Tatar invasions, to the period of Ivan the Terrible, and also to that of Peter the Great. The songs and legends of Little Russia are called dumy (elegies, ballads), and celebrate the struggles of the Cossacks and Little Russians against the Turks or Tatars and the Poles, and the union of Little Russia with Great Russia. The songs that refer to domestic life are called bytovyja piesni. They sing the popular feasts and games, and the sad as well as happy events of domestic life, while they preserve many traces of paganism. The best collections of them are those of Tchulkoff (St. Petersburg, 1770-74); Novikoff (Moscow, 1780-81); and Sakharoff (St. Petersburg, 1838-39).

To popular literature belong the fanciful novels called skazki, which resemble somewhat the stories of the Fates. Their protagonists are strange beings created by the ardent popular fancy, Baba-Iaga, serpents with six or twelve heads, stags, horses, etc. The forces of nature are personified. At times the mythological element predominates in them entirely; and again it is blended with Christianity. The oldest novels are characterized by their simplicity and by the repose of their recital. Some of them, like the one entitled "The Judgment of Shemjaka", are satirical compositions. Others are derived from Western novels, especially the Italian. The proverbs also belong to popular literature. They are called poslovicy, and are very abundant, the first complete collection of them having been made by D. Kniazhevitch in 1822. They are the spontaneous product of the wisdom, caustic spirit, and rudimentary culture of the Russian people, and reflect the various historical ages of Russia. Some of them date from pagan times, others emanate from the people's knowledge of Holy Scripture, and others originate in the events that produced the greatest impressions on the popular imagination. To popular literature belong also the enigmas or riddles (zagadki), collected by Khudiakoff (Moscow, 1861) and by Sadovinikoff (St. Petersburg, 1876); the incantations (zagovory), the conjurations (zakliatia), and the lullabies (platchi), which are most useful for the study of Russian folk-lore and primitive Russian life.

First monuments of Russian literature

The first written literature of Russia is coincident with the conversion of Russia to Christianity. Bulgaria was the first Slav educator of Russia, and the first translations of the Scriptures and the liturgies were Bulgarian. The most ancient monument of Russian literature, and at the same time of the ecclesiastical Palæoslavic language common to the primitive Slav Christians, is the Gospel called "Ostromirovo", written at Novgorod in 1056-57 by the Deacon Gregor, by order of Ostromir, first magistrate (posadnik) of the city. This valuable document was published by Vostokoff in 1843. Ancient Russian literature is of an eminently religious character. The greater portion of its monuments are sermons, homilies, letters, lives of saints, pilgrimages; even the profane works, as chronicles and voyages, have a religious tone. On the other hand, owing to the fact that the Russians received their Christianity from Byzantium, their literature was openly Byzantine in character, the early Russians either translating the Byzantine works, or being inspired by the spirit of those works, and writing as if they were Byzantines. Primitive Russian literature, however, was subject also to other influences. The Slav influence was due to the Bulgarians and Servians, who, until the fifteenth century, gave many cultured men to Russia, e.g., the Metropolitan Cyprian and Gregor Camblak. Greek influence lasted a longer time, and flourished in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Russian literature in the beginning consisted of translations from the Greek and of original works. Its development was very slow, because the prices of codices were very high. The copying of books was considered not only a useful contribution to culture, but a supernatural work. The Princess of Polotsk, St. Euphrosyne (twelfth century), copied books, a work to which monks, and even bishops, devoted themselves. Russian monks were wont to go to Constantinople, or to Mount Athos, and there to become amanuenses and enrich the first Russian libraries by their work. The first books that were translated were those of the Holy Scripture that were most used by the people (Psalms, the Gospels, Proverbs, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom of Jesus the son of Sirach). There were also collections of extracts from the Holy Scripture, called Paremii. The translation of all the books of the Holy Scripture in a single codex was made in 1499, by order of Gennadius Gonzoff, Archbishop of Novgorod (1484-1504).

Simultaneously with the Holy Scripture, the writings of the Fathers of the Church were greatly in vogue, especially those of St. John Chrysostom. Highly esteemed also were the doctrinal explanations of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, the canons of St. Basil, the homilies of St. Theodore the Studite, the discourses of St. Athanasius against Arianism, the discourses of St. Gregory of Nazianzus, the "Klimax" of St. John Climacus, and the works of St. Isaac the Syrian, St. Ephraem the Syrian, and St. John Damascene. Until the seventeenth century, the theological writings of St. John Damascene were the sources of Russian Orthodox theology. The great popularity of the works of the Fathers gave rise to the formation of collections of extracts from their discourses, and to annotated copies, with explanations, for the study of their writings, called sborniki, of which there are several: "Zlatoust", a collection of moral sermons and homilies (112), mostly from St. John Chrysostom; "Margarit", another collection from St. John Chrysostom, included in the monologue of the Metropolitan Macarius, and published for the first time at Ostrog in 1596; "Izmaragd", a collection of sermons and homilies from St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, St. Ephraem, St. Gregory the Great, and St. Cyril of Alexandria; "Andriatis", a collection of the homilies recited by St. John Chrysostom at Antioch; "Zlataia ciep" (golden chain), a collection of discourses on the moral virtues, taken from the Fathers of the Church and from Russian writers; the "Ptchely" (bees), a collection of the literary flowers of St. Maximus the Confessor. The famous "Sbornik" of Sviatoslaff Yaroslaffitch, Prince of Tchernigoff, which was translated in Bulgaria from the Greek, for the Tsar Simeon, in 1073, also has texts from the Fathers and from profane writers.

The Greek synaxaria, the Patereka of Sinai and Jerusalem, translated in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and the "Patericon" of the Petcherskaia Shrine of Kieff, which is very valuable for the study of primitive Russian hagiology, are of a sacro-historical character. The Greek synaxaria took in Russian the name of Prologos. Collections of discourses in honour of the feasts of Our Lord, of the Blessed Virgin, and of the saints received the name of "Torzhestvenniki". An historical compendium of the Old Testament, called "Palei", from palaia diatheke, dates from the earliest times of Russian Christianity. The oldest codices of the "Palei" are of the fourteenth century, but their origin is much older. To sacred and profane literature belong the so-called chronographoi, collections and transformations of writings of Byzantine chroniclers, especially of Malala, Amartolos, Manasses, and Zonaras, as also the Slav version of the "Christian Topography" of Cosmas Indicopleustes.

Partly to sacro-profane and partly to profane literature belong many novels and stories translated from Byzantine, Servian, and Bulgarian writings, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. One of the most famous novels, taken from the literature of Constantinople, is the history of Barlaam and Josaphat. At the end of the sixteenth century, the influence of Polish literature helped to spread in Russia two works that were much in vogue in the West, the "Gesta Romanorum", and the "Speculum Magnum." The apocryphal books of the Old Testament (story of Adam and Eve; story of the Tree of the Cross; story of the Just Enoch, etc.), and those of the New Testament (story of Aphroditian on the miracles in Persia; dispute of Christ with the Devil; conversation of Adam and Lazarus in Limbo, etc.) were also widely disseminated in the literature of that time. There were also translated into Palæorussian the "Elucidarium sive dialogus de summa totius religionis christianæ", attributed to Honorius of Autun by Migne; books of magic and books of astrology ("Gromnik", "Molnianik", "Koliadnik", etc). Under the influence of this literature, religious songs were created that became very popular with the people (Dukhovnye stikhi). These little poems or songs treat of the most varied subjects, and it is very difficult to divide them into different classes. They are of a moral and religious character, referring to the Creation, to St. Michael the Archangel, to the sufferings of the damned, to the birth or passion of Jesus Christ, to the Russian saints, etc. And beside these poetical productions sprang up the hagiological legends, of which the best known refer to St. Nicholas of Myra, St. Parasceve, and St. Cassian. The deep researches of Arkhangelski and Sobolevski throw a great deal of light on the Russian versions of the Fathers and of the Byzantine writings.

Literature from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries

Russian literature, properly so called, from the period of the advent of Christianity in Russia to the time of Peter the Great, comprises discourses, instructions, and letters that are intended to infuse Christian sentiments, and to draw the people from pagan practices; polemical works, directed at first against the Latins, and later against the first Russian heresies; lives of saints, chronicles, and historical Works, pilgrimages and voyages, and juridical monuments. There is almost a total absence of poetry. The first centres of culture were Kieff and Novgorod; in the sixteenth century, Moscow. Among the writers who left a name for sacred eloquence in the period from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries, mention is made of Luke Zhidiata, Archbishop of Novgorod (1035-59), whose discourse is a brief recapitulation of the truths of the Faith; St. Hilarion, Metropolitan of Kieff in 1051, whose discourses contain very valuable data for the early history of Russian Christianity; the Blessed Theodosius Petcherski, who wrote discourses for the people and the monks; Nicephorus, Metropolitan of Kieff (1104-20), whose discourses and letters, written in Greek were translated later into Russian; Cyril of Turoff (1171-82), a brilliant writer who, on account of his natural and vigorous eloquence, resembling that of St. John Chrysostom, is called the Chrysostom of Russia. His discourses, homilies, writings on monastic life, and prayers are among the most important monuments of the ancient ecclesiastical literature of Russia.

The polemics against the Latins found almost their only exponents among the Greeks who in the beginning governed the Russian dioceses. Leontius, metropolitan (992-1008), wrote against the Arians; George, metropolitan (1065-73), wrote a "Dispute with a Latin", in which the various pretended innovations of the Roman Church are attacked; Ivan II (1186-89) is the author of a letter to Clement III, in which the Latins are reproved only on account of the insertion of the Filioque in the Creed. The letter on the Faith of the Vareghi (or Variazhskoi vierie), which by some is attributed, although without strong arguments, to St. Theodosius Petcherski, is believed by some to be of Russian origin. Among the first Russian hagiologists mention should be made of Jacob, a monk of the Petcherskaia hermitage, who wrote an account of the martyrdom of Sts. Boris and Glieba, and the panegyric of St. Vladimir; of Nestor, the most famous of the ancient Russian writers, a monk of the hermitage of Kieff, who died in 1114. He is the author of the lives of Boris and Glieba of the Blessed Theodosius, and of a chronicle ("Lietopis") The original of the chronicle of Nestor has not come down to us; the most ancient copy of it is that of the monk Lawrence, made in 1377 for Demetrius Constantinovitch, Prince of Suzdal. Nestor was not the first Russian chronicler. Other chroniclers, whose names and works have not been handed down to our times, wrote before him at Novgorod. The national and literary importance of the chronicle of Nestor is very great. The Russians rightly consider it as an epic history, warm with the love of country. It finishes with the year 1110, but was continued by other writers, under various names, as "Chronicle of Kieff", "Chronicle of Volhynia", "Chronicle of Suzdal", etc. They are of an eminently religious character, and abound in texts from the Scriptures and in ascetic considerations.

Another important work in which the Russian national sentiment predominates is the journey of the higumeno Daniel (thirteenth century) to the Holy Places: before the Holy Sepulchre he prays "for all the land of Russia". Anthony, Archbishop of Novgorod, visited Constantinople four years after the taking of that city by the Latins (1204), and left a short but very important description of its churches and monasteries.

To profane literature belong the "Testament" Vladimir Monomachus, written in 1099, in which its author gives a recital of his enterprises; and the celebrated account of the battle of Igor ("Slovo" or "Polku Igorevie"), which was found in 1795 in the library of Count Musin Pushkin. It is the only poetical work of the Russia of the princes, and relates the military expedition of Igor Sviatoslavitch, Prince of Novgorod-Sieverski, against the Polovcy (1185). It is characterized by the grandeur of its poetical sentiment, the beauty of its descriptions, and love of country. In the twelfth century was written the discourse of Daniel Zatotchnik (Captivus), who, imprisoned in the Government of Olonetz, writes to a prince to ask for his liberty, making a great display of his learning. Among the juridical monuments of that age we may cite the "Russkaia Pravda" (Russian code) of Prince Yaroslaff I, and the Greek Nomocanon, translated in the earliest times of Russian Christianity, and qualified with the epithet of Kormtchaia kniga, corresponding to the Greek pedalion. To the nomocanon were added the "Ecclesiastical Regulations" ("Cerkovnye ustavy") of Vladimir and Yaroslaff, which however are not of those princes, at least in the form in which they have been transmitted to us in codices of the thirteenth century. The monasteries were centres of the literary culture of Russia in the eleventh and twelfth centuries; and the Greco-Russian clergy laboured for the diffusion of it. From the Greek clergy came the polemical works, and the hatred of the Latins that became fixed in the hearts of the Russian people. The first Greek polemics who lived in Russia spread the most absurd calumnies against the Latins, and anathematized as heretical the most simple liturgical customs: the Metropolitan George enumerated twenty-seven points of divergence between the Greeks and Latins. The thirteenth century is very poor from the standpoint of literature. The Tatar invasions stopped the progress of culture, and prevented intellectual work. Among the literary monuments of that century are cited a letter of Simon, Bishop of Vladimir (1215-26), to Polycarp, a monk of the Petcherskaia hermitage; the life of Abraham of Smolensk, a most important historical document; the sermons of Serapion, Bishop of Vladimir (1274-75), and a synodal and canonical decision of Cyril II, Metropolitan of Kieff (1243-80), which is inserted in the Kormtchaia kniga.

Literature from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries

In the period from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries, literary culture, paralyzed by Tatar oppression in the region of Kieff, continued to flourish at Novgorod and Pskof, and from there was carried to other centres, viz., Vladimir, Rostoff, Murom, Yaroslaff, Tver, Ryazan, and finally Moscow, which received the name of the Third Rome. In the fourteenth century sacred sermons were written by various authors, among whom were Peter, Metropolitan of Moscow; Alexei, another metropolitan of Moscow (1293-1377) who, in a codex of the Gospel which he transcribed, corrected the ancient Slav version in many points, by the Greek original; Matvei, Bishop of Sarai; the Metropolitan Cyprian (1376-1406), a Servian by birth, who also left various letters and translated the Psalter, the Missal (Sluzhebnik), the Nomocanon, etc.; the Blessed Cyril, founder of the monastery of Bielozero, the author of several letters to the sons of Prince Demetrius Donskoi; Basil, Archbishop of Novgorod (1331-1352), who wrote a letter to Feodor, Bishop of Tver, to convince him of the existence of a terrestrial paradise. Brief descriptions of Constantinople and its churches in the fourteenth century were left by Stephen, a monk of Novgorod, by Ignatius, a deacon of Smolensk, and by Alexandr D'jak ("judge", "magistrate"). Among the novels special mention should be made of the "Zadonshina", written by Sofronio or Sofonio of Ryazan, an epic story that relates the military acts of Prince Demetrius Donskoi, who vanquished the Tatars at Kulikovo (1380).

In the fifteenth century the beginning of heresies in Russian Christianity, which originated in the decadence of monastic asceticism as well as in the gross ignorance of the clergy and laity, opened up new fields to Russian religious polemics. Photius, Metropolitan of Moscow (1410-31) and Gregor Camblak, Metropolitan of Kieff (1416) composed letters and moral sermons; Gennadius, Archbishop of Novgorod (1485-1504), wrote against the sect of the Judaizers, which originated in that city about 1471; the higumeno Josef Sanin of Polotsk assailed the same sect in his tedious work "Prosvietitel" ("the illuminator"). Nil Sorski (1433-1508), founder of a hermitage on the banks of the Sora River, is the author of writings that were directed towards the reformation of the ideals and the life of Russian monasticism. Among the travellers of this period Zosimus, hiero-deacon of the hermitage of St. Sergius, and a merchant, Basil, left accounts of their pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Simeon, hiero-monk of Suzdal, accompanied Isidore, Metropolitan of Moscow, to the Council of Florence, and left an interesting recital of his voyage to Italy, and a short but important account of the council, which is one of the monuments of the Russian polemics against the Latins. Anthony Nikitin, a merchant of Tver, went to India through Persia in 1466, returned to his country in 1472, and in the account of his travels gave important information on the religious beliefs of the people of India. In historical literature, besides the valuable sketch of the Council of Florence, there should be mentioned the account of the foundation and the taking of Constantinople, which was very popular among the Russians.

The sixteenth century, as Porfiréff rightly states, was one of criticism and restoration. Its literature, always eminently religious, proposed to revive the ancient customs, and the ancient traditions, and to restore religion and the family. The most famous and most learned champion of these reforms was Maximus the Greek, born at Arta, in Albania, and educated in Italy. He entered monastic life on Mount Athos, and in 1518 repaired to Russia, where he took an active part in the religious life of the country, and in the correction of the liturgical books; he suffered a painful imprisonment in various monasteries, from 1525 to 1553, and died at the hermitage of St. Sergius in 1556. A most learned theologian, he wrote polemical works against the Gentiles, the Jews, the Judaizers, the Mohammedans, and the Latins, especially in opposition to the supremacy of the pope and to the Filioque; he combatted astrology, and wrote short works and discourses on moral subjects. Among the Russian prelates of the sixteenth century, Daniel, elected Metropolitan of Moscow in 1522, acquired fame. He was the author of sixteen discourses that prove him to have read assiduously, and to have had a profound knowledge of patristic literature. The most important monument of the literature of the sixteenth century is the "Domostroi", attributed to Sylvester, a priest who was the contemporary of Ivan the Terrible; Sylvester was, however, the compiler rather than the author of the work. It is a book of a moral character, in which are propounded the rules for living according to the precepts of the Faith and Christian piety, the duties of man as a member of the family, and the way to govern the home well and to care for domestic economy. The "Domostroi", therefore, is a compendium of the duties of a Christian man, and at the same time a true picture of the social and domestic organization of Russia in the sixteenth century. Another great work, which had remained unpublished until now but which the Archæographical Commission of St. Petersburg is now bringing to light, is the "Tchet'y Minei" of the Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow (1542-64). From the beginnings of its literature, Russia possessed lives of saints, the number which increased from century to century. The Metropolitan Macarius collected into a vast work the lives of all the saints of the Greco-Russian Church, adding panegyrics and discourses in their honour, and also whole books of Scripture, with commentaries, writings of the Fathers, and synaxaria, so that his menologies are almost a complete répertoire of the ancient literature of Russia, rather than a simple hagiological collection. To the same century belong the hagiological legends, which are lives of the saints, or episodes in them, embellished by popular fancy, examples of which are the legends of the Tsarevitch Peter (thirteenth century), of St. Mercurius, of Martha and Mary, of Prince Peter of Murom, and of his consort, Febronia.

Prince Andrew Kurbski, a warm defender of the Orthodox Church, translated the dialectics and the Pege gnoseos of St. John Damascene, and wrote a brief history of the Council of Florence and a history of Ivan the Terrible, with whom he was in correspondence; these letters are preserved to our day. An important work of religious polemics was written by the monk Zinovii of Otna, who refuted the heretical and Judaistic doctrines of Kosoi. The title of the work is "Istiny pokazanie" (demonstration of the truth), and it consists of fifty-six chapters. Of the sixteenth century there are also two small works, written in refutation of Protestantism, which at that time was beginning to spread in Russia. Among the Russian pilgrims who visited the Holy Places and who wrote an account of their travels the most distinguished are Trifon Korobeinikoff and George Grekoff, who went to Jerusalem in 1583.

Literature of little Russia and great Russia in the seventeenth century

The seventeenth century witnessed the Renaissance of Little Russia, which became the instructor of Great Russia. Under Catholic and Polish influence Little Russia drew near to the West, assimilated Western science, and modelled its schools upon those of the Latins. The "Union" of Brest in 1596 gave an efficient impulse to Orthodox culture. Confraternities were established to open schools and printing-offices for the publication and dissemination of polemical works; among them those of Lemberg, Vilna, and Kieff were famous. Scholastic theology and philosophy entered into and dominated the Russian academies and seminaries. Latin became the official language in the teaching of theology. Peter Mogilas, Metropolitan of Kieff, transformed into a superior school of theology the school established by the Confraternity of the Church of the Apparition of the Lord. The works of St. Thomas Aquinas exercised a great influence on Orthodox theology, and in the academy of Kieff the Immaculate Conception was upheld. The literature of the religious polemics against the Latins, to which the Union of Brest gave rise, is very rich. In 1597 was published the "Ekthesis", or Orthodox history of the Union of Brest; Kristofor Bronski, under the pseudonym of Filalete, wrote the "Apokrisis" against Peter Skarga, and later the "Perestroga" (admonishment). Meletius Smotricki, Archbishop of Polotsk (died 1633), wrote the "Threnos" and other works of religious polemic, and finally embraced Catholicism; in 1622 Zacharias Kopystenski wrote the "Palinodia", the most important work in this polemical literature. The writings of Meletius Smotricki in defence of Catholicism, which he had on other occasions so strenuously opposed, were confuted by Andrew Muzkilovski, by Job Borecki, Metropolitan of Kieff, and by Gelasius Diplic. Joannikius Galiatovski, rector of the academy of Kieff (died 1688), wrote several works against the Catholics, one of them against the Filioque, confuted the Hebrews in his work "The True Messias", and also wrote several works in refutation of the Koran. Another polemic against the Latins was Lazarus Baranovitch, Archbishop of Tchernigoff (died 1694); in a work that was directed against the Jesuit Boyme, he opposed the supremacy of the pope and the Procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son.

The first Orthodox catechisms appeared in the seventeenth century, written by Laurence Zizanii and by Peter Mogilas; the latter, in the work Lithos (attributed to him), defends the Orthodox Church against the charge of Protestantism; he is considered to be the author of the famous Orthodox Confession of the Eastern Church, approved by the special Council of Jassy in 1643. Among the preachers whom the sacred orators of the East sought to imitate, mention may again be made of Joannikius Galiatovski, who wrote a treatise on the art of oratory, entitled "Kliutch razumienia"; Anthony Radivilovski, higumeno of the hermitage of Kieff; and Lazarus Baranovitch. In 1591 there was published at Lemberg the first Slavo-Greek grammar; Lawrence Zizanii wrote a Slav grammar in 1596, and the grammar of Meletius Smotricki was published in 1619. Zizanii added a small Slav dictionary to his grammar, but the first Slavo-Russian lexicon was published by Berynda, hiero-monk of Kieff, in 1627. Western influence is revealed also in the poetry of the academy of Kieff. Besides the sacred cantata, the "Mysteries" were introduced to the schools and colleges; these "Mysteries" were sacred plays, modelled upon those of the Jesuit colleges. Among the historical works of Little Russia, mention should be made of the "Synopsis" of the history of Russia by Innocent Gizel, Archimandrite of Kieff, the "Enegesis" or history of the school of Kieff, and the"Paterikon" of the Petcherskaia hermitage by Sylvester Kossoff, Metropolitan of Kieff (died 1657).

From Kieff Western culture was carried to Moscow, to which city masters and learned men of Little Russia were called to organize schools, compose works, and print books; but they did not receive a friendly welcome. Their orthodoxy was suspected; the more so since several of the most illustrious theologians of Kieff admitted with the Latins the dogmatic truth of the Immaculate Conception, and the efficacy of the words of consecration alone to effect Transubstantiation. The suspicion against the purity of their theological teachings became so strong that the Russians turned to the Greeks for masters. In 1685 the Greek school was established at Moscow, and in time took the name of Greco-Slav-Latin Academy. Its first masters were the Greek hieromonks Joannikius and Sophronius Likhudes, who had studied in Italy, and who taught Greek literature at Moscow from 1685 to 1694. They wrote many polemical works against the Latins, against Protestants, and against the theologians of Little Russia who leaned towards the Latins, especially against Sylvester Medviedeff. In ecclesiastical literature the most distinguished authors were Epiphanius Slavinecki, the first of Russian bibliographers; Arsenius Sukhanoff, author of "A Voyage to the Holy Land" ("Proskynitarion"); Simon Polocki (of Polotsk), author of one of the first systematic treatises on Orthodox theology ("Vienec viery"), and also of sermons that are highly prized, of sacred poems, and of sacred plays; St. Demetrius of Rostoff (1651-1709), one of the most illustrious bishops of the Russian Church, a theologian, historian, poet, polemic, and hagiologist. He was the author of two Orthodox catechisms, of a very strong work against the Raskolniki ("Rozysk"), of a diary of his life, the "Tcheti minei" (menologies), a work upon which he spent twenty years; many sacred discourses that are appreciated for the simplicity of their style and for their depth of religious sentiment, and, finally, of several sacred plays, one of the most interesting of which is the "Birthday".

Epiphanius Slavinecki and an unnamed priest of Orel were also distinguished as sacred orators. The former rendered a great service to Patristic literature by translating into Russian a great many of the writings of the Fathers (St. Justin, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, St. Basil, and St. John Damascene). One of his scholars, Eutimius, wrote a polemical work, called "Osten", against the theories of Sylvester Medviedeff, who sided with the Latins in the question of the Epiklesis. Against the Raskolniki, besides St. Demetrius of Rostoff, there wrote Simeon of Polotsk in 1666 ("Zhely pravlenija"); in 1682 the Patriarch of Moscow, Jacob ("Uviet dukhovnii"); likewise, the Metropolitan of Siberia, Ignatius, and George Krizhanitch. The latter, who was a student of the Greek College of St. Athanasius at Rome (1640), became famous on account of his theories of the cause of the schism between East and West, which he attributed to politics and the antagonism between Greeks and Latins, due to Panslavist ideas and political doctrines. The Learned Sergius Bielokuroff devoted four volumes to the life and works of Krizhanitch. In the seventeenth century there began to be published the first Greco-Latin lexicons, and also the first scientific books, arithmetics and geographies. Historical literature is represented by the chronicle of the Patriarch Nicomachus, which is brought down to 1631; by the chronicle called "Voskresenski", after the monastery where it was written, of which the relation finishes with the year 1560; and by several special chronicles, as the account of the siege of the Shrine of St. Sergius by the Poles in 1610, by Abraham Polycin, and by others of the diak Feodor Griboiedoff, of the deacon Timothy Kamevevitch Rvovski, of Andrew Lyzloff, a priest of Smolensk, and of Sergius Kubasoff.

Russian literature of the time of Peter the Great

Under Peter the Great there began a new period in Russian literature. The foundation of St. Petersburg put Russia in more direct contact with the West. Peter the Great, by violence and absolutism, dragged Russia out of her isolation, and directed her upon a new way. A new and more simple alphabet took the place of the old Slav alphabet, the new characters being adapted from the Latin. The first book that was printed with the new characters is a treatise on geometry (1708). In arithmetical books, Arabic figures were substituted for the Slav letters that represented numerals (1703). Schools of navigation, of military science, and of medicine were established. Peter the Great determined to establish an academy of sciences at St. Petersburg, and Catherine I carried out his project in 1726. Many foreign books were translated into Russian, and the most intelligent students were sent to foreign countries to complete their studies. Russian literature lost its ecclesiastical character and assumed a lay form; and in ecclesiastical literature itself there was effected a transformation towards the modern, due to the reforms of Peter the Great.

The first period of this new literature begins with Peter the Great, and closes with Lomonosoff and Sumarokoff. In the realm of sacred literature there became famous Stephen Javorski (1658-1723), patriarchal vicar and Metropolitan of Ryazan, and Theophanus Procopovitch, Archbishop of Novgorod. (1681-1736). The former, in his "Kamen viery" (Rock of Faith), wrote a most learned refutation of Protestantism, taking much from Bellarmine; the second, who was the author of the "Ecclesiastical Regulations" of Peter the Great, wrote a voluminous course of Orthodox theology in Latin, and acquired fame as a man of letters and orator. In profane literature the influence of the French entirely predominated. There began the period of the new Russian poetry, the rules of which were propounded by Tredianovski (1703-69), who translated into Russian the "Ars Poetica" of Horace, and the work bearing the same title by Boileau. Prince Antiochus Dmitrievitch (1708-44), a Rumanian in the service of Russia, inaugurated the era of classicism in Russian poetry with his satires, which are often servile imitations of Horace, Juvenal, and Boileau. Michael Vasilevitch Lomonosoff (1711-65) deserves to be called the Peter the Great of Russian literature on account of his versatility, of the multiplicity of his works, and of his great literary influence: he wrote a treatise on Russian poetry (1739), on rhetoric (1748), on grammar (1755); he composed an epic poem on Peter the Great, two tragedies (Tamira and Salim, and Damofonte); he translated the Psalms into verse and wrote lyric poems, among which the ode to the Empress Elizabeth has remained famous. Alexander Petrovitch Sumarokoff composed many tragedies, some of them with Russian subjects (Yaropolk and Dimisa, Vysheslaff, Demetrius, Mstislav); he founded the national Russian drama, wrote the comedies "Opekun" (The Tutor), and "Likhoimec" (The Concussionist), composed satires, and in 1759 established the first Russian literary periodical, the "Trudoliubivaia Ptchela" (The Working Bee).

Among the prose writers, Ivan Pososhkoff (1670-1725), in his "Zavieshanie otetcheskoe" (testament of the Fatherland), shows the necessity of well-ordered reforms in Russia, and in his book on poverty and wealth ("Kniga o skudosti i bogatstvie") he develops in an original way his theories on political and social economy. Basil Nikititch Tatishsheff (1685-1750) gathered the chronicles, the synaxaria, and the historical documents, and subjecting them to critical analysis, wrote the "History of Russia". The academician Schlötzer spent forty years elucidating the origin and the historical problems of the primitive national chronicles of Russia. In 1728 the Academy of Sciences began the publication of the "S. Petersburgskija Viedomosti", under the direction of the academician Müller, who in 1755 also founded the first scientific-literary periodical, called the "Ezhemiesatchnyja sotchinenia".

Literature of Russia in the eighteenth century

During the reign of Catherine II French influence upon Russian literature became greater instead of decreasing. The writings of the French Encyclopedists and materialist philosophy became popular; Voltaire and Rousseau were much esteemed, and Catherine II became entirely imbued with a Voltairean spirit. She did not limit herself to favouring scientific institutions, and to creating new ones, but aspired to literary laurels. She wrote spelling-books, stories for children, letters on education, comedies, newspaper articles, and several volumes of memoirs in French, in which, with a cynical simplicity of style, she relates some of the ugliest episodes of her unchaste life. During her reign many literary publications were established. The empress herself did not disdain to contribute to the "Vsiakaja vsiatchina" (General Miscellany). Dionysius Ivanovitch Fonvizin (1744-92) wrote comedies which, like the "Brigadier", and the "Nedorosl" (Pupil), became popular in Russia. Gabriel Romanovitch Derzhavin (1743-1816), of Tatar origin, assimilated the classical and modern Literatures, and as a lyric poet sought to rise to the height of Horace and Pindar. His encomiastic odes are an apotheosis of the reign of Catherine II. In his religious songs, with his "Ode to God" (1784), which the Russians regard as the most beautiful monument of their national poetry, he perhaps attains sublimity of inspiration. His moral and philosophical odes and his Anacreontic verses reveal in him a great poetical genius. His tragedies "Pozharski", "Tiemnji" and "Euprassia" do not join dramatic quality to their elegance of form. Mikhail Matveievitch Kheraskoff, of Wallachian origin, by his poems "Rossiada" and "Vladimir", which have been forgotten, deserves the title of the Virgil or the Homer of Russia. Ippolit Feodorovitch Bogdanovitch (1743-1803), in his poem "Dushenka", imitated La Fontaine's "Amours de Psyché et de Cupidon". Basil Ivanovitch Maikoff (1728-78) distinguished himself as a writer of comic poetry; Kniazhnin (1742-91) wrote tragedies and comedies; "Iabeda" (The Calumny), a comedy by Kapnist (1757-1828), was also among the plays that became popular.

The scientific movement was greatly promoted by the Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburg, by the University of Moscow, and by the Russian Academy, which was opened in 1783. Among those who distinguished themselves in historical work or in the study of the social and political conditions of Russia were Shsherbatoff (1733-90), who wrote six volumes of a "History of Russia"; Boltin (1735-92), whose learned volumes of "Observations on the History of Russia", edited by Leclerc, were much praised by Soloveff; Radishsheff (1749-1802), whose "Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow", describing the miseries of the peasants and the abuses of the Russian bureaucracy cost its author an exile of ten years in Siberia. The archpriest of Moscow, Alekseieff, wrote the first ecclesiastical encyclopedia, while the Bishop Damascenus Rudneeff, who died in 1795, published his "Russian Library", which contains an account of Russian literature, from its origin to the eighteenth century. Tchulkoff and Mikhail Popoff collected the monuments of the popular literature of their country.

Literature of Russia in the nineteenth century

In the nineteenth century, Russian literature freed itself little by little from the yoke of foreign imitation, perfected the language, making it a most adequate means for the expression of the highest conceptions of the mind and the most delicate affections of the heart, and through a number of men of genius, won a place of honour in the history of universal literature. The merit of this transformation, of this new direction of Russian thought, is in great measure due to Nikolai Mikhailovitch Karamzin (1766-1826), who acquired a great fame in his country through his letters on travels that he made in Europe, his novels, and the part that he took in the establishment of the periodicals "Moskovski Zhurnal" and the "Viestnik Europy" (Courier of Europe). But his greatest claim to glory is the "Istorija gosudarstva rossiiskago" (History of the Russian Empire), a masterpiece of style, exposition, and eloquence, which contributed more than anything else to the formation of Russian prose. Historical criticism may find more to say of this work, but the literary merit of it will never be eclipsed. The work formed a literary school, to which belong Ivan Ivanovitch Dmitrieff (1760-1837), an exponent of elegance in poetry, author of poetical stories, satires, and fables; and Izmailoff, who became famous through his "Journey in Southern Russia" etc. In the realm of dramatic poetry, there became famous Ozeroff, by his tragedy "Œdipus in Athens" (1804); "Fingal" (1805); "Dmitri Donskoi" (1807), and "Polissena" (1809); the most noted satirists were Gortchakoff and Nakhimoff. But the greatest poetical glory of this period was Vassili Andreievitch Zhukovski (1783-1852), the master of romanticism in Russia, author of the Russian national hymn "Bozhe, carja Khrani", and an indefatigable translator of Homer, Schiller, Goethe, Bürger, Uhland, Rükkert, Byron, and Scott. His elegies are full of passion and sentiment; his ballads, imitations of the German, became popular; they reveal in him a vivid poetical imagination.

Ivan Andreievitch Kryloff (1768-1844) owes his celebrity rather to his comedies than to his fables, which, it is true, are imitations of La Fontaine, but are written with so much simplicity, elegance, and richness of style, with such variety of rhythm and expression, that they form a veritable literary jewel, the value of which can be appreciated only by those who have a thorough knowledge of Russian. His comedies, "Modnaja lavka" (The Custom Shop) and "Urok dotchkam" (A Lesson to Girls), are of less literary merit. As a writer of comedy, Alexander Sergeievitch Griboiedoff (1790-1829) rose to the pinnacle of the art in a play that is the masterpiece of Russian theatrical composition, "Gore ot uma" (The Misfortune of Having Talent), a work which is full of pessimism on the social conditions of Russia and civilization generally; many of its verses have become proverbs.

The epoch of Nicholas I, which was one of fierce absolutism, was nevertheless one of glory in the development of Russian literature. Russian genius being oppressed, withdrew within itself, and revealed to the world the treasures of the æsthetic sentiments of the Russian soul. Among the greatest poets of this period there stands pre-eminent Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837), whose career was brought to an end in a duel, when his genius was at its height. Melchior Vogüé rightly considers him one of the greatest poets that ever lived. He began his literary career at the age of fifteen, when he was a student in the lyceum of Tsarskoye Selo. His first lyric poems bear the date of 1814, and are a revelation of his genius. He adopted Byron and Zhukovski for his models. Among those lyric poems his invective against the calumniators of Russia ("K klevetnikam Rossii"), written in 1831, is famous. Of his epic works we may cite the famous "Rusalka, the Prisoner of the Caucasus" ("Kavkazski pliennik") in 1821; the "Fountain of Bakhtchiserai" (1822-23); the "Tzigani" (1824); "Poltava" (1828), one of Pushkin's most perfect poems, written in glorification of Peter the Great; "Eugene Oniegin" (1823-31), an original imitation of Byron's "Childe Harold", admirable on account of the freshness of its inspiration and of its exquisite versification; and finally "The Hussar" (1833). Among his romances, three became popular at once, the "Dubrovski (1832-33), "The Daughter of the Captain" (1833-36), and "Pikovaja dama" (The Queen of Spades), a work that is admirable on account of the subtility of its psychological analysis. In the realm of dramatic poetry Pushkin gave to his country a great masterpiece, the tragedy "Boris Godunoff" (1825-31), and in that of drama, "Skupoi rycar" (The Avaricious Knight), "Mozart and Saléry", and "Rusalka". Among his works in prose, mention should be made of the "Outlines of the History of Peter the Great", and of the "History of the Sedition of Pugatcheff". Pushkin was the first great original poet of Russia, and the one who excelled in classic style. At the same time he was the author of a school that has among its members Ivan Ivanovitch Kozloff, author of two most touching poems, "Tchernec" (The Monk) and "Natalia Dolgorukaja"; Delvin (1798-1831); Jazykoff (1803-46), and Eugene Baratynski (1800-44).

Nikolai Vassilievitch Gogol (1808-52), a native of Little Russia, was another genius of the Russian literature of the nineteenth century. His comedy, "The Reviser", published in 1836, is one of the masterpieces of the Russian theatre, a true portrait of the malversations of the bureaucracy. Among his romances and novels, he acquired merited fame through "Taras Bul'ba", an historical romance of Southern Russia, "The Dispute between Ivan Ivanovitch and Ivan Nikiforovitch", "The Portrait", "The Arabesques", "Koliaska" (The Calash), "Zapiski sumasshedshago" (Memoirs of a Madman), and lastly "Mertvyja dushi" (The Dead Souls), in two parts, a masterpiece in the romantic literature of Russia, which makes its author the rival of Cervantes and Lesage. It is a suggestive and faithful picture of Russian society: a vast theatre in which the most varied types of the Russian people are in action. Mikhail Yurievitch Lermontoff (1814-41) is also of the school of Pushkin and Byron. He was one of the most delicate lyric poets of modern Russia, whose lyric poetry, tinged with sadness, touches the deepest chords of the heart, and exhibits the soft melody of the literary language of Russia in its fullness. The most famous of his epic poems are "The Demon", which is based upon a Georgian legend, and in which the beauties of the Caucasus are described in admirable verses "Ismail Bey"; "Khadzhi-Abrek, the Boyard Orsha", an episode of the times of Ivan the Terrible; "Mcyr", a legend of the Caucasus. Lermontoff is the author of the very popular romance "Geroi nashego vremeni" (A Hero of our Times), which reveals him as one of the masters of Russian prose, and as having a profound knowledge of the human heart. He died at the age of twenty-seven years, and like Pushkin, in the plenitude of his intellectual activity. Alexei Vasilievitch Kolcoff (1809-42) also distinguished himself as a lyric poet of the school of Pushkin and Lermontoff. He was the poet of the peasants and of nature, and the inventor of a special kind of poems (Dumy), in which a question to be resolved is proposed and is answered. Other poets who also were ornaments of Russian literature, although they did not attain the height of those already mentioned, were Odoevski, Count Sollogub, Marlinski, Weltmann, Polevoi, and Kukolnik, a prolific writer of historic dramas.

History, philology, and critical studies had a period of growing prosperity during the reign of Nicholas I. Pogodin, Butkoff, Ivanoff, Venelin, Grigor'eff, and Muravieff worked to defend the Russian chronicles against the charge of lack of authenticity, to throw light on the origin of the Russian nation, and to investigate the historical past of Russia and the various European nations. In the study of the ancient Slav language, and of the primitive literature of Russia, and in the collection of ancient texts, fundamental works that are yet esteemed were written by Kalaidovitch, Vostokoff, Undolski, Kliutchareff, Maximovitch, Certeleff, Snegireff, Sakharoff, and Bodianski. This class of studies were greatly promoted by the Society of Russian History and Antiquities, established at Moscow in 1814 and still flourishing. Eugene Bolkhovitinoff, Metropolitan of Kieff, prepared two historical lexicons of the clerical and lay writers of Russia; Polevoi, Shevyreff, and Nikitenko wrote histories of Russian literature; while Prince A. Viazemski, Nadezhdin, and especially Bessarion Grigorievitch Bielinski (1810-48) were the chief literary critics. Literary and scientific progress was assisted by the periodicals "Viestnik Evropy", "Russki Viestnik", "Syn Otetchestva" (The Son of the Fatherland), "Sievernaja Ptchela" (The Bee of the North), "Russki Invalid", and "Otetchestvennyja zapiski" (Memoirs of the Fatherland).

During the reign of Alexander II the literary genius of Russia continued to shine brightly, and to assume always a more national character, although the influence of foreign writers, especially of Dickens, George Sand, and Balzac, was felt. There appeared the school of Slavophils, the most illustrious representatives of which are the two Kireievski (Ivan and Peter), Khomiakoff, Valueff, Konstantin and Ivan Aksakoff, Kosheleff, Elagin, Tiuttcheff, Grigorieff, Strakhoff, and Danilevski. This school was dominated by a spirit of stingy patriotism; it invaded the domain of theology, preached the superiority of Orthodoxy over Catholicism, and in the person of their theological legislator, Alexei Khomiakoff, a genial poet, historian, and philosopher, it proclaimed that Orthodoxy is the expression of the religious ideal of Christianity. The religious and political paradoxes of the Slavophils found their opponents in the school of the Occidentalists (Zapadniki). The philosopher Tchaadaeff, in his philosophical letters published in 1836, wrote of Russian barbarity, and proclaimed Catholicism to be the only means of bringing Russia into the civilization of the nations of the West.

The most illustrious representatives of this school, which had not many followers, were Hercen (1812-70), who became one of the leaders of Nihilism; the poet Ogareff, Granovski, Soloveff, Kavelin, Kalatchoff, and Pavloff, illustrious names in the realms of Russian history and Russian philosophy.

The most famous writer of the time of Alexander II was Ivan Sergeievitch Turgenieff (1818-83), the magician of Russian prose. As a poet his title to fame rests on the poems "Parasha", "Yakoff Pasynkoff", "Rudin", "Faust", "Asja", "A Nest of Nobles". In 1862 he published one of the most famous of Russian novels, "Otcy i dieti" (Fathers and Sons). Among the other novels of Turgenieff, the most successful were "Zapiski Okhotnika" (Memoirs of a Huntsman), rich in admirable descriptions of nature; "Dym" (Smoke); "Nov" (Virgin Soil); and among his stories: "Lear of the Steppe", "Waters of Spring", "The Brigadier", "The Dream", "The Story of Father Alexis", "The Song of Triumphant Love", "The Desperado" etc. He enriched Russian literature with several plays, among which the most beautiful is called "Zavtraku predvoditelja" (The Collation with the Marshal of the Nobility). Ivan Alexandrovitch Gontcharoff (1812-91) acquired no less fame as a novelist through his novels "Obyknovennaja istorija" (A Simple Story), "Oblomoff", which personifies the want of initiative and semi-fatalism of the Russian character, and "Obryff" (The Precipice), which was considered a decadent production. Greater fame was acquired by Feodor Mikhailovitch Dostoievski (1822-81), whose first novel, "Biednye liudi" (Poor People), published in 1846, made its author famous, at once, by the depth of its psychological analysis. After four years of a most painful imprisonment and exile to Siberia, he wrote the "Zapiski iz Mertvago Doma" (Memoirs of the House of the Dead), in which he describes the tortures of the exiles with a most effective vigour of style; the famous novel "Prestuplenie Nakazanie" (Crime and Punishment), a psychological masterpiece, "The Idiot", "Biezy" (The Possessed), and "The Brothers Karamazoff".

To romantic literature also belong Dimitri Vassilievitch Grigorovitch, an imitator of George Sand, and a faithful portrayer of the sufferings of the lower classes, in his romances and novels, among which we will mention "Derevnia" (The Village), "Anthony Goremyka", "The Valley of Smiedoff", "The Fishermen", and "The Colonists". In other novels he described the life and condition of the middle and higher classes, as in "Neudavshaajasja zhizn" (An Uneventful Life), "Suslikoff the Kapelmeister", "The School of Hospitality", etc. The naturalist school was represented by Alexei Teofilaktovitch Pisemski (1820-81). In the novel "Bojarshshina" (The Time of the Boyars), he preached free love: the censorship prohibited the circulation of the book. In another novel, "Tiufiak" (The Plaster), his realism goes beyond that of Zola. His best novel is "Tysjatcha dush" (A Thousand Souls), a gloomy but faithful picture of the corruption of Russian society, which is portrayed also in his novel "Vzgalamutchennoe More" (Tempestuous Sea); his novel "Liudi sokorovykh godoff" (Men of Forty Years) deals with the agrarian question. His play "Gorkaja sudhina" (Bitter Destiny) places him in a high position among Russian dramatists. Other writers proposed to scourge the corrupters of society, to pierce them with the arrows of their satire. They form a literary school known in Russia as oblitchitel naja (accusing, refuting). The master of this school was Mikhail Evgrafovitch Saltykoff (1826-88), better known by the pseudonym of Shshedrin. The characters in his novels recall those of Gogol, but his pessimism is much more bitter and exaggerated. Among the best-known of his novels and other writings are "Protivorietckia" (Contradictions), "Gubernskie otcherki" (Sketches of Government Personages), "Tashkency" (The Lords of Tashkend), and "The Brothers Golovieff", a novel that is considered the best work of Saltykoff, but is displeasing on account of the cynicism of its characters. Other writers worked with the same end of laying bare the moral and social defects of the Russian people; the most famous among them are Pomialovski (1835-63), whose novel "Otcherki bursy" is famous; it describes in dark colours the methods of education that obtain in the ecclesiastical seminaries of Russia; A. Sliepcoff, author of the novel "Trudnoe Vremja" (Difficult Times); A. Mikhailoff, the pseudonym of Scheller, who wrote the novels "Gnilyja bolota" (Putrid Swamps), and "The Life of Shupoff"; Zasodimski; Bazhin; Thedoroff; Staniukovitch; and Girs. More moderate in their criticism of Russian society were the novelists Boborykin, Markoff, Nemirovitch-Dantchenko, and Terpigoreff (better known by his pseudonym of Atava), Saloff, Akhsharumoff, Leikin, Kliushnikoff, Lieskoff, Krestovski, Prince Meshsherki, Markevitch, Avsieensko, Golovin, and Avenarius.

The most noted authors of lyric and satirical poetry were: Nikolai Alexeievitch Nekrasoff (1821-76), whose muse, as he himself wrote, was one of sobs and pains, the muse of the hungry and the mendicant; of his songs, there became famous "Moroz Krasnyi Noz" (Red-nosed Frost), a personification of the Russian winter, "Troika", and "The Sons of the Peasants"; in his poems he has a predilection for popular types; A. Pleshsheeff, who to his lyric poems added beautiful translations of the principal German and English lyric poets; Kurotchkin, who translated Béranger, and Minaeff. The most noted of the dramatists was Alexander Nicolaevitch Ostrovski (1823-86), whose theatrical compositions, admirable for the richness of their language, are partly original, and partly imitations of Shakespeare and Goldoni. The best known one is "Groza" (The Tempest), which describes the dissolution of the Russian family; it was written in 1860. Two of his comedies that obtained great success are "We will agree among ourselves", and "Each one in his place". The number of his theatrical works is very great. Another among the best of Russian dramatists was A. Palm (1822-85), author of the drama "Alexis Slobodin", and of the comedies "Staryi barin" (The Old Lord), and "Our Friend Nekliuzheff". Mention should be made also of A. Potiekhin, N. Tchernysheff, N. Soloveff, Sukhovo-Kobylin, Sollogub, Diakonoff, Ustrialoff, Mann, Diatchenko, Shpazhinski, and Kryloff. Women also distinguished themselves in the literary life of the nineteenth century. The best known among those who wrote poetry and novels were Elizabeth Kulmann, Countess Rostoptchina, N. Khboshshinska (1825-89), who under the pseudonym of Krestovski wrote many novels to describe provincial life; Sokhanska (1825-84), who under the pseudonym of Kokhanovska acquired celebrity through her novels "After Dinner Among the Guests" and "Provincial Portrait Gallery".

Among the writers who became distinguished in the realm of historical fiction were N. Kostomaroff, whose story "The Son" (1865) presents a vigorous picture of the agrarian revolt of Stenko Razin; Count Alexi Tolstoi (1817-75) achieved fame with his novel "Prince Serebrany", and his trilogy "Ivan the Terrible" (1858), "Tsar Feodor Ivanovitch" (1868), and "Tsar Boris" (1869); G. Danilevski, author of the novels "Mirovitch" (1879), "The Fire of Moscow" (1885-86), and "Tchernyi god" (The Black Year); Mordovceff, whose novels "Demetrius the Tsarevitch" and "Fall of Poland" deal with the history of Little Russia; Karnovitch, Salias-de-Tournemir, Mei (1822-62), author of several historical dramas based upon the primitive history of Russia; and finally Averkieff. Among the lyric poets who did not treat of the social conditions of their country, who loved their art for its own sake, the most famous are A. Tolstoi, an imitator of Dante, Heine, and Goethe; Maikoff, a passionate admirer of ancient Rome, the struggle of which with Christianity he essayed to depict in his tragedy "Dva mira" (Two Worlds); A. Feth, author of light poems and madrigals; Polonski, whose poem "Kuznievitch-Muzykant" (The Musical Cricket) became popular, and whose poetry is distinguished by the beauty of its style and the harmony of its verse; Zhadovski, Shsherbin, Herbel, Weinberg, and Nadsohn.

Contemporary Russian literature

The literature from the death of Alexander II to the present day is essentially one of novels. The novel, in view of the severity of Russian censorship, seems to be the most adequate literary channel for the diffusion of political, social, and moral theories. The most salient character of all the writers of the reign of Alexander II, and of more recent times by the force of his genius and the sharpness of his psychological analysis, was Count Lyeff (Leo) Tolstoi, born at Yasnaja Poliana, 28 Aug., 1828; died at Astapovo, 20 Nov., 1910. He inaugurated his literary career by the publication of his autobiographical memoirs, which appeared in the "Sovremennik" of St. Petersburg in 1852; they are a masterpiece of psychological analysis of the mind of a child. This work was followed by "Adolescence", "Youth"," The Cossacks", and "Recollections of Sebastopol", all of which are filled with horror of the sights he beheld at Sebastopol. But the masterpieces among his novels are "War and Peace", a powerful romance that for all its apparent confusion and disorder is an epic and imposing picture of the Napoleonic war in Russia; "Anna Karenina", a profound analysis of the feminine soul that, led astray by passion, forgets dignity and family for adultery, and finds its punishment in its sin; "Resurrection", a novel that is a study of the rehabilitation of the culprit. There is also the play "The Power of Darkness", strong in its vigour and dramatization. And yet this genius, who made Russian literature popular all over the world, attained religious, ethical, and political nihilism: in the "Kreutzer Sonata" he preaches the abjection of woman; "The Gospels" is a criticism of dogmatic theology, while "My Religion", "The Church and the State", and "The Theories of the Apostles" strip Christian revelation from its base, and forswear the Divinity of Jesus Christ, His Church, and His sacraments; in the book "What is Art?", he disparages the most illustrious intellects of the human race; his work "The Kingdom of God is Within You" preaches non-resistance to evil. Political and religious conceptions took Tolstoi out of his orbit, and transformed him into a visionary, an incendiary, so to speak, of all institutions, Divine and human.

Among the other modern novelists, mention should be made of: A. Novodvorski, author of "Ni pavy, Ni Vorony" (Neither Peacock nor Crow), and of other stories; B. Garshin, who in his principal novels is sometimes a follower of Tolstoi and sometimes of Turgenieff. Those works are "Tchetyre dnja" (The Four Days), "Trus" (The Coward), "Krasnyj cvietok" (The Red Flower), "Attalea princeps", "Vstrietcha" (The Encounter), and "Nadezhda Nikolaevna"; I. Yasinski was famous under the pseudonym of Maxim Bielinski; his most important works are "The City of the Dead", and "The Guiding Star"; M. Alboff; K. Barantchevitch; A. Ertel; Matchtet; Korolenko, a beautiful story-teller, who reminds his readers of Dostoievski and Tolstoi in his novels "The Dream of Macarius" (a fantastic story), "The Sketches of a Tourist in Siberia", "Easter Night," "The Old Music Player", and "S dvukh storon" (Two Points of View); Ignatius Potapenko, who views life in the light of optimism, and not with the pessimism so much in vogue among Russian writers; one of his novels, "Sviatoe iskusstvo", describes the Bohemia of the students of St. Petersburg; Demetrius Mamin, under the pseudonym of Siberian, describes the customs of Western Siberia; and finally Prince Galitzin. Among novelists of the new school are Anton Pavlovitch Tchehoff (1860-1904), whose novel "Skutchnaja istorija" had a great success. He is without a superior in the narrative of his novels; the heroes of his stories are always morally corrupt, and of distracted minds. Alexei Maksimovitch Pieshkoff, better known by the pseudonym of Maxim Gorky (born 1869); he is the novelist of the beggars and the populace, whose works contain pages of nauseating naturalism, and shameful immorality. Vincent Smidlvski, born at Tula, 1867; under the pseudonym of Veresaeff he came to celebrity through his work "Zapiski vratcha" (Memoirs of a Doctor), which elicited violent recriminations in the medical profession. One of the most famous of the Russian writers of the present day is Leonid Andreeff, born at Orel in 1881. He is the novelist of the degenerate. His novels "The Red Laughter", "The Thought", "The Cloud", "Silence", etc. are to be condemned from every point of view, religious and moral, and the Russian religious press has blamed him for them in vehement language.

Among writers of the present day mention should be made of Sofija Ivanovna Smirnova, who wrote the novels "Salt of the Earth" and "Force of Character"; Valentine Dmitrieva, writer of stories; Olga Andreevna Shapir, who wrote "Without Love", and "Tinsel"; Lydja Veselitskaja, Alexandra Shabelskaja, Anastasia Verbickaja, who wrote "The History of a Life". Among those who achieved fame as lyric poets are Simon Frug (of Jewish origin), Nikolai Maksimovitch Vilenkin, famous under the pseudonym of Minski, Dimitri Merezhkovski, whose poems have the defect of too much rhetorical effort; Alexei Apukhtin, Konstantin Rozanoff, Arsenius Golenishsheff-Kutuzoff, Sergei Andreevski, etc. These poets, however, are not original; their works recall too much the great poets who preceded them. The fiction of Russia generally uses, as a channel of publication, the literary periodicals, among which some that were famous in the nineteenth century have now disappeared, as the "Sovremennik" (The Contemporary), the "Otetchestvennyja Zapiski", and the "Moskvitjanin". The best-known of those that are yet published are the "Viestnik Evropy", and the "Pycck mysl".

The historical literature of Russia in the second half of the nineteenth century furnishes illustrious names. Sergei Soloveff is the author of a "History of Russia", in thirty volumes, which begins with the most ancient times, and terminates with the reign of Alexander I; it is a work of greater historical than literary merit; Zabielin devoted his studies by preference to the Russia of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; A. Nikitski wrote on the historical past of Novgorod and Pskof; Kostomaroff wrote on Little Russia; the historical monographs of this author are held in high esteem, as also his "History of Russia", composed of biographical narratives. Pypin devoted his researches to the reign of Alexander I; Shsapoff studied the social and educational development of Russia; Brückner dealt with the life of Peter the Great; Bestuzheff-Riumin wrote a classic history of Russia, and Biblasoff a life of Catharine II. We cannot name the great number of historians who, like Ilovaiski, Lambin, Kliutchevski, Golubinski, etc. have thrown light on the history of Russia, but we cannot omit to mention the Imperial Historical Society of St. Petersburg, the Archeographic Commission, and the Society of Russian History and Antiquity of Moscow, which, with hundreds of learned publications, and especially of the Russian chronicles, have greatly facilitated the task of the student. Yushkevitch, Yakushkin, Metlinski, Ribnikoff, Khudiakoff, and Barsoff distinguished themselves in the collection of ancient Russian literary documents, upon which light was thrown by Buslaeff, Miller, Stasoff, Maikoff, Kolosoff, Rozoff, Dashkevitch, Vselovski, and above all Sreznevski, who for several years edited the "Izviestija", and the "Utchenyja Zapiski" of St. Petersburg (Academy of Sciences). Buslaeff, with his "Historical Chrestomathy", wove together the literary annals of Russia. Pekarski related the scientific and literary transactions of Peter the Great, Pypin and Porfireff wrote full and classic histories of the literature of Russia. Special works on the greatest Russian writers are so numerous that the "Bibliography of the Russian Literature of the Nineteenth Century", ed. Mezier, St. Petersburg, 1902, devotes 650 octavo pages to the titles of those works alone.

In philosophy Russian works until now have not been original. They have been produced under the supreme influence of German philosophy, inspired by Kant, Hegel, and Schelling. Positivism, Materialism, and Spiritualism have succeeded each other without developing originality. Galitch, professor of philosophy at St. Petersburg (died 1848), was an atheist; Davidoff (died 1862) reduced philosophy to psychology alone. The philosophy of Schelling influenced even ecclesiastical writers, as Skvorcoff and the archimandrite Theophanus Avseneff. Orest. Novicki is a convinced partisan of the system of Fichte; he was a professor of the University of Kieff. Hegelianism, however, was the most popular of all, and was at once accepted by the Occidentalists Stankevitch, Granovski, Bielinski, and Ogareff, and by the Slavophiles Kirieevski, Khomjakoff, Samarin, and Aksakoff. Between 1859 and 1873 Professor Gogocki of the ecclesiastical academy of Kieff published his philosophical dictionary. The materialist theories of Moleschott and Büchner were defended by M. Antonovitch and D. Pisareff, and refuted by Yurkevitch, Strakhoff, Kudriavceff, Samarin, and Viadislaveff. Darwinism found defenders in Timiriazeff and Famincyn, and opponents in Troicki, Dokutchaeff, Guseff, Popoff, and Strakhoff. The Positivism of Comte was upheld by de Roberti and Mikhailovski. The most original philosophers of Russia were: Kavelin (1818-85), who dealt more especially with psychological problems, an historian and profound psychologist, to whom Russia owes the establishment of the "Voprosy filosofii i psikhologii", a periodical devoted to philosophy, which is held in very high esteem; Kudriavceff-Platonoff, who excels in religious philosophy, and whose studies in apologetics are admirable for their vigour and power of argument; Vladimir Soloveff, an ardent defender of Catholic principles in Russia, and a spiritual philosopher, the most eminent that Russia has produced. His extensive treatise on ethics, "Opravdanie dobra" (Justification of the Good), is a masterpiece of speculation; Prince Troubetzkoi, a follower of Soloveff; and finally, Nesmieloff, professor of the ecclesiastical academy of Kazan, whose work "The Science of Man" gives to him the first place among the Christian philosophers of Russia at the present time.


OTTO, Lehrbuch der russischen, Litteratur (Leipzig, 1837); POLEVOI, Otcherki russkoi literatury (Essays on Russian Literature) (2 vols., St. Petersburg, 1839); NEVEROFF, Blick auf die Geschichte der russischen Literatur (Riga, 1840); JORDAN, Geschichte der russischen Literatur (Leipzig, 1846); SHEVIREFF, Istorija russkoi literatury (4 vols., Moscow, 1858-60); MINZLOFF, Beiträge zur Kenntniss der poetischen und wissenschaftlichen Literatur Russlands (Berlin, 1854); PÉTROFF, Tableau de la littéature russe depuis ses origines jusqu'à nos jours (Paris, 1872); HONEGGER, Russische Literatur und Kultur (Leipzig, 1880); WISKOWATOFF, Geschichte der russischen Literatur (Dorpat, 1881); HALLER, Geschichte der russischen Literatur (Riga, 1882); SMITH, Russisk Literaturhistorie (Copenhagen, 1882); VON REINHOLDT, Geschichte der russischen Literatur (Leipzig, 1885); MAIKOFF, Otcherki iz istorii russkoi literatury XVII i XVIII stoliettii (Essay on the History of the Russian Literature of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) (St. Petersburg, 1889); WALISZEWSKI, Littérature russe (Paris, 1900); tr. (London, 1900); WOLYNSKIJ, Die russische Literatur der Gegenwart (Berlin, 1902); PETROFF, Russlands Dichter und Schriftsteller (Halle, 1905); BRÜCKNER, Geschichte der russischen Literatur (Leipzig, 1005); tr. (London, 1908). The best histories of Russian literature in Russian are those of PYPIN Istorija russkoi literatury (4 vols., St. Petersburg, 1908-1910) PORFIREFF, Istorija russkoi slovesnosti (4 vols., Kazan, 1898, 1904, 1907); POLEVOI (12 vols., St. Petersburg, 1903).

Monographs: — WOELFFING, Stricturæ de statu scientiarum et artium in imperio russico (Tübingen, 1766); KÖNIG, Literarische Bilder aus Russland (Berlin, 1840); VAKCEL, Quadros da litteratura, das sciencias e artes na Russia (Funchal, 1868); COURRIÈRE, Histoire de la littéature contemporaine en Russie (Paris, 1875); EVSTRAFIEFF, Novaja russkaja literatura (St. Petersburg, 1877); PALANDER, Uebersicht der neueren russischen Literatur (Tavastehus, 1880); ZABEL, Literarische Streifzüge durch Russland (Berlin, 1885); STRAKHOFF, Iz istorii literaturnago nihilisma (St. Petersburg, 1890); BAUER, Naturalismus, Nihilismus, Idealismus in der russischen Dichtung (Berlin, 1890); SKABITCHEVSKIJ, Istorija noviejshej russkoi literatury (History of Contemporary Russian Literature) (St. Petersburg, 1891); SOLOVEFF, Otcherki po istorii russkoi literatury XIX vieka (St. Petersburg, 1902); VENGEROFF, Kritiko-biografitcheskij slovar russkih pisatelej (Critico-Biographical Dictionary of Russian Writers) (7 vols, St. Petersburg, 1889-1903); DOBRYV, Biografii russkih pisatelej (Biographies of the Russian Writers) (St. Petersburg, 1900); OSSIP-LOURIÉ, La psychologie des romanciers russes du XIX siècle (Paris, 1905); SIPOVSKIJ, Istorija novoi russkoi literatury (History of the New Russian Literature) (St. Petersburg, 1907); SAVODNIK, Otcherki po istorii russkoi literatury XIX vieka (Essays on the History of the Russian Literature of the nineteenth century) (Moscow, 1908).

POKROVSKIJ, Nikolaj Vasilevitch Gogol (Moscow, 1908); FLACH, Un grand poète russe: Alexandre Pouchkine (Paris, 1894); DUCHESNE, Michel Jouriévitch Lermontov; sa vie et ses œuvres (Paris, 1910); POKROVSKIJ, Ivan Alexandrovitch Gontcharoff (Moscow, 1907); BRANDES, Dostojewski: ein Essay (Berlin, 1889); SAITSCHIK, Die Weltanschauung Dostojewski's und Tolstoi's (Leipzig, 1893); HOFFMANN, Eine biographische Studie (Berlin, 1899); MÜLLER, Dostojewski, Ein Charakterbild (Munich, 1903); LOYGREE, Un homme de génie; Th.-M. Dostojewski (Lyons, 1904); POKROVSKIJ, Theodor Mikhailovitch Dostoevskij (Moscow, 1908); ZAVITNEVITCH, Aleksiej Stepanovitch Khomjakoff (2 vols., Kieff, 1902); LÖWENTHAL, Anton Schehoff (Moscow, 1906); POKROVSKIJ, Anton Pavlovitch Tchehoff (Moscow, 1907); ERNST, Leo Tolstoi und der slavische Roman (Berlin, 1889); MEREZHKOVSKIJ, Tolstoi i Dostojevskij (St. Petersburg, 1901-02); Ger. tr. (Leipzig, 1903); BERNEKER, Graf Leo Tolstoj (Leipzig, 1901); ZABEL, L. N. Tolstoi (Leipzig, 1901); BITOVT, Graf. L. Totstoj v literaturie i iskusstve (Count L. Tolstoi in literature and in art) (Moscow, 1903); CROSBY, Tolstoi and His Message (New York, 1903); BIRJUKOFF, Leo N. Tolstoi: Biographie und Mémoiren (Vienna, 1906); LÜBBEN, Leo Tolstoi: der Führer von Jung-Russland (Berlin, 1907); STAUB, Graf L. N. Tolstois Leben und Werke (Kempten, 1908); MAUDE, The Life of Tolstoi (2 vols., London, 1908-10); PERSKY, Tolstoi intime (Paris, 1909); ISAEFF, Graf N. Tolstoi kak myslitel (Count N. Tolstoi as a thinker) (St. Petersburg, 1911); GLAGAU, Die russische Literatur und Ivan Turgueniev (Berlin, 1872); JOUSSOUPOFF, Ivan Tourguéniev et l'esprit de son temps (Paris, 1883); ZABEL, Ivan Tourguéniev (Leipzig, 1884); KÜHNEMANN, Tourguenev und Tolstoi (Berlin, 1893); BORKOVSKIJ, Tourgeniev (Berlin, 1903); GUTJAHR, Ivan S. Turgenev (Jurev, 1907); SPLETTSTÖSSER, Maxim Gorki: eine Studie über die Ursachen seiner Popularität (Charlottenburg, 1904); OSTWALD, Maxim Gorki (Berlin, 1904); USTHAL, Maxim Gorki (Berlin, 1904); MEINCKE, Maxim Gorki, Seine Persönlichkeit und seine Schriften (Hamburg, 1908); BARANOFF, Leonid Andreev, kak khudozhnik i myslitel (Leonidas Andreeff, as an artist and as a thinker) (Kieff, 1907); REJSNER, L. Andreev i ego socialnaja ide ologija (Leonidas Andreeff and his social ideology) (St. Petersburg, 1909); MARTYNOFF AND SNEGIREFF, Russkaja starina v pamjatnikakh cerkovnago igrazhdanskago zodtchestva (Russian antiquity in the monuments of civil and religious architecture) (Moscow, 1851-57); ROVINSKIJ, Istorija russkikh shkolikonopisanija do konca XVII C (History of the Russian schools of iconography to the end of the seventeenth century) (St. Petersburg, 1856); PETROFF, Sbornik materialov dija istorii imp. akademii khudozhestv (Collection of materials for the history of the Imperial Academy of Arts) (St. Petersburg, 1864-66); VIOLLET LE DUC, L'art russe, ses origines, ses éléments constitutifs, son apogée, son avenir (Paris, 1877); HASSELBLATT, Historischer Ueberblick der Entwickelung des kaiserlich-russischen Akademie der Künste (St. Petersburg, 1886); PRAKHOFF, Kiev, skie pamjatniki vizantiisko-russkago isskistva (The Russo-Byzantine monuments of arts at Kieff) (Moscow, 1887); BULGAKOFF, Nashi khudozhniki (Our Artists) (St. Petersburg, 1890); PAVLINOFF, Drevnosti jaroslavskija i rostovskija (The Antiquities of Yaroslaff and Rostoff) (Moscow, 1892); IDEM, Istorija russkoj arkhitektury (Moscow, 1894).

EVDOKIMOFF, Russkaja zhivopis v XVIII viekie (Russian Painting in the eighteenth century) (St. Petersburg, 1902); WRANGEL, Podrobnyi illjustrirovannyi Katalog vystavski russkoi portretnoj zivopisi za 150 liet (Complete and illustrated catalogue of the Expositions of Russian portraits from 1700 to 1850) (St. Petersburg, 1902); ROVINSKIJ, Obozrienie ikonopisanija v Rossii do konca XVII vieka (Sketch of the painting of icons in Russia to the end of the seventeenth century) (St. Petersburg, 1903); USPENSKIJ, Carskie ikonopiscy v XVII v. (The Imperial painters of icons in the seventeenth century) (St. Petersburg, 1906).

About this page

APA citation. Palmieri, A. (1912). Russian Language and Literature. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Palmieri, Aurelio. "Russian Language and Literature." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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