Though Dmitry Sergeyevich Merezhkovsky (mehr-uhsh-KAHF-skee) wrote many poems and essays, he is known in the Western world chiefly for his historical romances. One of the last Russian novelists to write from the philosophical background of “Old Russia,” his philosophical difficulties represent the intellectual and moral struggles of the aristocracy as it lost political power to the lower classes. His trilogy of novels, known by the general title Christ and Antichrist, was intended to set forth a solution to the era’s religious doubts and to present an alternative to both ascetic Christianity and hedonism by fusing the flesh and the spirit into a new religious philosophy.
Merezhkovsky’s early years prepared him especially well for his career as a writer. He was brought up as a member of the aristocracy by his noble father. He had a good classical education and upon entering the University of St. Petersburg in 1884 studied the Greek and Roman civilizations intensively. A brilliant student, he completed in two years the studies that supplied him with the backgrounds for his best novels. He also read widely in scientific philosophy, but these studies left his religious nature unsatisfied. He began to try to synthesize materialism and spirituality into a new whole.
He traveled to the Caucasus because of a lung condition, and there met and married Zinaida Hippius, the leading woman poet of Russia. They traveled for many years in Greece, Italy, and Asia Minor,...
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