Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature
The nineteenth century produced some of Russia’s greatest literature and is often referred to as the Golden Age of literary accomplishment. Some of the more prominent Russian writers of this century include Alexander Pushkin (1799–1837), Mikhail Lermontov, Nikolai Gogol (1809–1852), Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910), and, of course, Dostoevsky.
Pushkin, known best as a great poet, was considered a radical liberal writer, who, like Dostoevsky, spent many years in forced exile for his themes of social reform. Pushkin died in a duel with a man he accused of having an affair with his wife. One of his best-known works is Eugene Onegin (1833), a novel written entirely in verse.
Lermontov, the son of a nobleman, was also a poet, who died in a duel. Like Pushkin, Lermontov was also exiled. A Hero of Our Time (1840), Lermontov’s collection of stories, is considered a Russian classic and one of the first Russian novels to delve into human psychology.
Gogol, a playwright and novelist, was known for his satire and his realistic and sympathetic fictional characters. Gogol is credited for having stimulated the Russian literary movement away from poetry toward prose. He became the standard for Russian novelists to follow, including Dostoevsky. Gogol’s most famous story, written in 1842, was called "Overcoat". At one point, Dostoevsky honored Gogol and Gogol’s story by making the statement that he and other Russian novelists all came out from under Gogol’s overcoat. Gogol’s most famous novel is Dead Souls, also published in 1842. The idea for this story was given to Gogol by Pushkin.
The most well-known of this group of Russian writers, especially to Western readers, is probably Tolstoy, whose masterpieces include War and Peace (1865–1869) and Anna Karenina (1875–1877). Tolstoy was also a philosopher, whose works on nonresistance inspired a following of believers of what would be coined Tolstoyism. Both Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King were said to have been influenced by Tolstoy’s...
(The entire section is 1055 words.)