Nikolai Nekrasov (nyih-KRA-suhf) was born in 1821 and grew up on the country estate of his father, a notoriously tyrannical landowner in the government of Yaroslav. When Nikolai was seventeen his father sent him to a St. Petersburg military academy, but once in the city the youth enrolled in the university instead. When his father learned of this move, he refused to support him in any way; consequently, Nekrasov was for a time on the verge of starvation. Before long he was forced to give up university work and sustain himself through odd jobs and hack writing. His first collection of poems was published in 1840; a complete failure, it was severely criticized by well-established critics. Apparently Nekrasov was not discouraged, for he entered the publishing field and by hard work and determination acquired his own publishing house in 1845. In 1846 he bought The Contemporary, which, under his editorship, became the leading literary journal in Russia. Nekrasov began again to publish his own poetry, now enthusiastically praised.
In 1854 Nekrasov wrote “Vlas,” a poem narrating the life of a repentant sinner who begins collecting money for churches. In 1863 he published Red-Nosed Frost, a long poem on the beauty of winter that presented an idealized picture of Russian peasant women and the harsh life they were forced to lead. In his work Nekrasov repeatedly showed a passionate sympathy for peasants and their suffering, which he...
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