Vissarion Belinsky

Vissarion Grigoryevich Belinsky (Russian: Виссарион Григорьевич Белинский[note 1], tr. Vissarión Grigórʹyevich Belínskiy, IPA: [vʲɪsərʲɪˈon grʲɪˈgorʲjɪvʲɪtɕ bʲɪˈlʲinskʲɪj]; June 11 [O.S. May 30] 1811 – June 7 [O.S. May 26] 1848) was a Russian literary critic of Westernizing tendency.[2] Belinsky played one of the key roles in the career of poet and publisher Nikolay Nekrasov and his popular magazine Sovremennik.

Vissarion Belinsky
V. Belinsky, lithograph by Kirill Gorbunov
V. Belinsky, lithograph by Kirill Gorbunov
BornVissarion Grigoryevich Belinsky
June 11, 1811
Sveaborg, Grand Duchy of Finland
DiedJune 7, 1848 (aged 36)
Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
OccupationEditor of Sovremennik, and Otechestvennye Zapiski
Literary movementWesternizers
Russian Schellingianism[1]
Vissarion Belinsky Bust
A bust of Belinsky
The Soviet Union 1957 CPA 1973 stamp (Vissarion Belinsky (after Kirill Gorbunov) and Titles of Literary Works)
A 1957 Vissarion Belinsky Soviet postage stamp


Born in Sveaborg (now part of Helsinki), Vissarion Belinsky lived in the town of Chembar (now Belinsky in Belinsky District of Penza Oblast) and in Penza, where he studied in gymnazia (1825–1829). In 1829–1832 he was a student of Moscow University. In Moscow he published his first famous articles.

In 1839 Belinsky went to St. Petersburg, Russia, where he became a respected critic and editor of two major literary magazines: Otechestvennye Zapiski ("Notes of the Fatherland"), and Sovremennik ("The Contemporary"). In both magazines Belinsky worked with younger Nikolay Nekrasov.

He was unlike most of the other Russian intellectuals of the 1830s and 1840s. The son of a rural medical doctor, he was not a wealthy aristocrat. The fact that Belinsky was relatively underprivileged meant, among other effects, that he was mainly self-educated, this was partly due to being expelled from Moscow University for political activity. But it was less for his philosophical skill that Belinsky was admired and more for emotional commitment and fervor. “For me, to think, to feel, to understand and to suffer are one and the same thing,” he liked to say. This was, of course, true to the Romantic ideal, to the beliefs that real understanding comes not only from mere thinking (reason), but also from intuitive insight. This combination of thinking and feeling pervaded Belinsky’s life.

Ideologically, Belinsky shared, but with exceptional intellectual and moral passion, the central value of most of Westernizer intelligentsia: the notion of the individual self, a person (lichnost’(личность)), that which makes people human, and gives them dignity and rights. With this idea in hand (which he arrived at through a complex intellectual struggle) faced the world around him armed to do battle. He took on much conventional philosophical thinking among educated Russians, including the dry and abstract philosophizing of the German idealists and their Russian followers. In his words, “What is it to me that the Universal exists when the individual personality [lichnost’] is suffering.” Or: “The fate of the individual, of the person, is more important than the fate of the whole world.” Also upon this principle, Belinsky constructed an extensive critique of the world around him (especially the Russian one). He bitterly criticized autocracy and serfdom (as “trampling upon everything that is even remotely human and noble”) but also poverty, prostitution, drunkenness, bureaucratic coldness, and cruelty toward the less powerful (including women).

Belinsky worked most of his short life as a literary critic. His writings on literature were inseparable from these moral judgments. Belinsky believed that the only realm of freedom in the repressive reign of Nicholas I was through the written word. What Belinsky required most of a work of literature was “truth.” This meant not only a probing portrayal of real life (he hated works of mere fantasy, or escape, or aestheticism), but also commitment to “true” ideas — the correct moral stance (above all this meant a concern for the dignity of individual people): As he told Nikolai Gogol (in a famous letter) the public “is always ready to forgive a writer for a bad book [i.e. aesthetically bad], but never for a pernicious one [ideologically and morally bad].” Belinsky viewed Gogol's recent book, Correspondence with Friends, as pernicious because it renounced the need to “awaken in the people a sense of their human dignity, trampled down in the mud and the filth for so many centuries.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky read aloud at several public events Belinsky's letter, which called for the end of serfdom. A secret press was assembled to print and distribute Belinsky's letter. For these offenses Dostoevsky was arrested, convicted and condemned to death in 1849, a sentence later commuted to 4 years incarceration in the prison camps of Siberia.[3]

In his role as perhaps the most influential liberal critic and ideologist of his day, Belinsky advocated literature that was socially conscious. He hailed Fyodor Dostoyevsky's first novel, Poor Folk (1845), however, Dostoevsky soon thereafter broke with Belinsky.[4]

Inspired by these ideas, which led to thinking about radical changes in society’s organization, Belinsky began to call himself a socialist starting in 1841. Among his last great efforts were his move to join Nikolay Nekrasov in the popular magazine The Contemporary (also known as "Sovremennik"), where the two critics established the new literary center of St. Petersburg and Russia. At that time Belinsky published his Literary Review for the Year 1847.

In 1848, shortly before his death, Belinsky granted full rights to Nikolay Nekrasov and his magazine, The Contemporary ("Sovremennik"), to publish various articles and other material originally planned for an almanac, to be called the Leviathan.

Belinsky died of consumption on the eve of his arrest by the Tsar's police on account of his political views. In 1910, Russia celebrated the centenary of his birth with enthusiasm and appreciation.

His surname has variously been spelled Belinsky or Byelinski. His works, in twelve volumes, were first published in 1859–1862. Following the expiration of the copyright in 1898, several new editions appeared. The best of these is by S. Vengerov; it is supplied with profuse notes.

Belinsky early supported the work of Ivan Turgenev. The two became close friends and Turgenev fondly recalls Belinsky in his book Literary Reminiscences and Autobiographical Fragments. The British writer Isaiah Berlin has a chapter on Belinsky on his 1978 book Russian Thinkers. Here he points out some deficiencies of Belinsky's critical insight:

He was wildly erratic, and all his enthusiasm and seriousness and integrity do not make up for lapses of insight or intellectual power. He declared that Dante was not a poet; that Fenimore Cooper was the equal of Shakespeare; that Othello was the product of a barbarous age...

But further on in the same essay, Berlin remarks:

Because he was naturally responsive to everything that was living and genuine, he transformed the concept of the critic's calling in his native country. The lasting effect of his work was in altering and altering crucially and irretrievably, the moral and social outlook of the leading younger writers and thinkers of his time. He altered the quality and the tone both of the experience and of the expression of so much Russian thought and feeling that his role as a dominant social influence overshadows his attainments as a literary critic.

Berlin's book introduced Belinsky to playwright Tom Stoppard, who included Belinsky as one of the principal characters in his trilogy of plays about Russian writers and activists: The Coast of Utopia (2002)

English translations

  • Selected Philosophical Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1956.
  • Belinsky, Chernyshevsky & Dobrolyubov: Selected Criticism, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1976.

Streets named after Belinsky

Belinsky Street and Belinsky Lane, close to Red Square in Moscow, were named after Belinsky from 1920–1994.


  1. ^ In Belinsky's day, his name was written Виссаріонъ Григорьевичъ Бѣлинскій.


  1. ^ Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (1998): "Schellingianism, Russian".
  2. ^ Leier, Mark (2006). Bakunin: The Creative Passion. Seven Stories Press. p. 68. ISBN 978-1-58322-894-4.
  3. ^ Frank, Joseph (1976). Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt, 1821-1849, Volume 1. Princeton University Press. pp. 157–73. ISBN 0691062609.
  4. ^ Fyodor Dostoevsky; translated and annotated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. (1975), written at Leningrad, Pevear, Richard; Volokhonsky, Larissa (eds.), "Commentaries on Demons by Fyodor Dostoevsky", Soviet Academy of Sciences, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. (published 1994), 12: 715, ISBN 0-679-42314-1

Further reading

  • Isaiah Berlin, Russian Thinkers, London, 1978
  • Alexander Herzen. My Past and Thoughts
  • A. Pypin, Belinsky: His Life and Correspondence, Saint Petersburg, 1876
  • Ivan Turgenev, Literary Reminiscences and Autobiographical Fragments, New York, 1958
  • Wahba, Magdi (1978), Vissarion Belinsky and the Dilemma of Nationality, Cairo, Egypt: Cairo Studies in English, vol. XXXII.

External links

Aleksander Pisarev

Alexander Ivanovich Pisarev (Russian: Александр Иванович Писарев, 14 July 1803, village Znamenskoye, Oryol Governorate, Imperial Russia, - 15 March 1828, Moscow) was a Russian playwright, translator and theatre critic.In the course of just five years (1824–28) he authored 23 popular vaudevilles and comedies, most of which enjoyed great success on stage Moscow's Maly Theatre and St. Petersburg's Alexandrinka. His best known plays were Student and Teacher (Учитель и ученик, или В чужом пиру похмелье, 1824), The Magic Nose (Волшебный нос, или Талисман и финики, 1825), Caliph's Recreations (Забавы калифа, 1825, set to music by Alexander Alyabyev and Alexey Verstovsky), The Buzzing Man (Хлопотун, или Дело мастера боится, 1825, music by Alyabyev and Verstovsky), How To Marry Your Daughter (Средство выдавать дочерей замуж, 1828). In 1826 with Alexey Verstovsky he published the popular Drama Album for the Lovers of Music and Theatre (Драматический альбом для любителей театра и музыки). Pisarev was a controversial figure who, on the one hand used to pan 'serious' drama (stating that theatre's mission was to entertain, not moralize) and lambast Pyotr Vyazemsky and Alexander Griboyedov, on the other, was himself a shrewd satirist who ridiculed in his plays and epigrams the life and manners of Russian high society as well as some of his literary contemporaries, notably Nikolai Polevoy.Pisarev died of tuberculosis aged only 24, much to the distress of his friends, one of whom, Sergey Aksakov was convinced that in 1828 Russian literature lost one of its greatest talents who had every potential to become the 'Russian Aristophanes'. "All of our vaudevillians of today count less than this one man, Pisarev," wrote Vissarion Belinsky years later.

Alexander Izmaylov

Alexander Efimovich Izmaylov (Алекса′ндр Ефи′мович Изма′йлов, 25 April 1779, Vladimir Governorate, Russian Empire, — 28 January 1831, Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire) was a Russian fabulist, poet, novelist, publisher (Tsvetnik, Blagonamerenny magazines), pedagogue and one-time state official (a Tver and Arkhangelsk Governorates' vice-governor). Lauded for his satirical fables (by, among others, Vissarion Belinsky), Alexander Izmaylov is considered to be the last major literary figure of Russian Enlightenment.

Belinsky (film)

Belinsky (Russian: Белинский) is a 1953 Soviet biopic film directed by Grigori Kozintsev, based on the life of Russian literary critic Vissarion Belinsky (1811–1848). The production of the film was completed in 1951 but it was not released until 1953, following the reshooting of various scenes demanded by Stalin.

Billy Crudup

William Gaither "Billy" Crudup ( born July 8, 1968) is an American actor. He is a four-time Tony Award nominee, winning once for his performance in Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia in 2007. He has starred in numerous high-profile films, including Without Limits, Almost Famous, Big Fish, Mission: Impossible III, Watchmen, Public Enemies, Spotlight, Jackie, The Stanford Prison Experiment, Justice League, and Alien: Covenant, in both lead and supporting roles. He also starred in the Netflix original series Gypsy opposite Naomi Watts. He has been nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead and a Screen Actors Guild Award.

From 1998 to 2005, Crudup was the narrator for "Priceless", a U.S. television ad campaign for MasterCard.

Kozma Soldatyonkov

Kozma Terentyevich Soldatyonkov (Russian: Козьма Терентьевич Солдатёнков; 22 October 1818 in Moscow, Russian Empire – 1 June 1901 in Kuntsevo, Moscow, Russian Empire) was a Russian industrialist, mecenate, philanthropist, art collector and a renowned publisher.In 1865 the Soldatyonkov Publishing house was launched. Among its seminal publications were the Complete Works by Vissarion Belinsky and Konstantin Kavelin, Russian Fairytales by Alexander Afanasyev, the translations of Allgemeine Weltgeschichte by Georg Weber, The American Commonwealth by James Bryce, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon, The History of Scandinavian Literature by Frederik Horn (translated by Konstantin Balmont), A Short History of the English People by John Richard Green and History of Rome by Theodor Mommsen, as well as 11 issues of the Economist's Library (edited by Mitrofan Shchepkin) featuring books by Adam Smith, David Ricardo, James Mill and others.A staunch Old Believer, he supported the Moscow Belokrinitskaya Hierarchy and financed its leader Bishop Pafnuty (Ovchinnikov)'s visit to London where he had talks with Alexander Hertsen, Nikolai Ogaryov and Vasily Kelsiyev.Soldatyonkov bequeathed his library (8 thousand books and 15 thousand journals) and art collection (258 paintings, including the best known works by Karl Bryullov, Alexander Ivanov, Vasily Perov and Pavel Fedotov, as well as 17 sculptures) to the Rumyantsev Museum. After 1924 they were shared between the Tretyakov Gallery and the Russian Museum. Part of Soldatyonkov's capital (2 million rubles) went, according to his will, to the construction of the hospital for the poor, later to be known as the Botkin Clinic.

Ksenofont Polevoy

Ksenofont Alexeyevich Polevoy (Russian: Ксенофонт Алексеевич Полевой, 1 August 1801, Irkutsk, Imperial Russia, – 21 April 1867, Tyukhmenevo, Smolensk Governorate, Imperial Russia) was a Russian writer, literary critic, journalist, publisher and translator. He was the younger brother of the writers Yekaterina Avdeyeva and Nikolai Polevoy.

Among the biographies Ksenofont Polevoy authored were those of Mikhail Lomonosov (1836, praised by Vissarion Belinsky) and Ivan Khemnitser (1838), as well as his brother, whom he idolized (The Notes on the Life and Works by Nikolai Polevoy, 1888). In 1835–1839 he translated from French 16 volumes of Memoires ou souvenirs historiques (1831) by Laure Junot. In 1825–1834 he co-edited (with Nikolai Polevoy) Moskovsky Telegraf, in 1835–1838 Zhivopisnoye Obozrenye, then a yearly almanac.

Mr. Prokharchin

"Mr. Prokharchin" (Russian: Господин Прохарчин, Gospodin Prokharchin), also translated as "Mr. Prohartchin", is a short story written in 1846 by Fyodor Dostoyevsky and first published in the Annals of the Fatherland. Inspired by a true story, the story depicts the miserly life of the protagonist, Mr. Prokharchin, a patronym derived from the Russian word for 'grub' or 'vittles', kharchi. He lives an extremely poor life, eating frugal meals and sleeping on a mattress directly on the floor. His landlady and the other tenants feel sorry for him. On his death, they eventually discover that the man was in fact wealthy and was living in that way voluntarily. He was hiding his fortune inside his mattress.

In his review of the short story, Lantz comments that "'Mr. Prokharchin,' dreams dreams, in which the accumulation of money figures prominently, express his anxiety about his sense of self and his guilt over the selfishness that has isolated him from other human beings." Vissarion Belinsky felt it is "affected, maniéré, and incomprehensible".

Northern Bee

Northern Bee (Russian: Северная пчела) was a semi-official Russian political and literary newspaper published in St. Petersburg from 1825 to 1864. It was an unofficial organ of Section Three (the Third Section of His Imperial Majesty's Own Chancellery) - the secret police.

Northern Bee was founded by the reactionary writer (and police informer) Thaddeus Bulgarin in 1825. In 1831 through 1849 he published it in conjunction with Nikolai Grech. From 1825 to 1831 it came out three times a week, then daily after that. The paper was pitched toward readers who belonged to the middle classes (the serving gentry, provincial landlords, officials, merchants, burghers). In addition to domestic and foreign news, literature, and criticism, the paper printed a mix of inspirational stories and philosophical essays, bibliographies, and fashion pieces.

At first the paper showed a liberal bent, printing the works of Pushkin, Kondraty Ryleyev, and Fyodor Glinka. But after the Decembrist revolt of December 1825 it became a conservative pro-government publication.

By his own admission, Bulgarin worked with the chief of the Third Section, Count Alexander von Benckendorff, and used the knowledge gained by his position in writing reports for the police.

Northern Bee enjoyed a monopoly on political news and Bulgarin used its platform to express in various ways his disgust for constitutionalism and the parliamentary speakers in France and England, representing them as screamers and freethinkers in need of looking after by the police.

Having begun by publishing Pushkin and Ryleyev, including an enthusiastic review of the latter's poem "Voynarovsky", the paper turned to harassing Pushkin, mocking his antics and reproaching him for freethinking. In the

French Romantics the Northern Bee saw "the legacy of the French Revolution, the destroyer of morality and the foundations of libertinism". The work of Gogol was characterized by the paper as portraits without any moral purpose, the "barnyard of human life".

In the pages of Northern Bee, Bulgarin argued fiercely with the Literary Gazette, Pushkin, Anton Delvig, the Moscow Observer, The Telescope, Notes of the Fatherland, and Vissarion Belinsky. One of the leading critics for Northern Bee, Leopold Brant, was a harsh detractor of the realist school which flourished beginning in the 1840s.

After the defeat in the Crimean War, readership began to decline due to the radicalization of public opinion. After 1860, under Pavel Usov, the paper changed its course and printed work by democratic writers such as Vasily Sleptsov, Fyodor Reshetnikov, and Marco Vovchok, and reviews of Nikolay Nekrasov and Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin. The paper also published lesser-known writers such as Ilya Arseniev, Nikolai Gersevanov, Clement Kanevsky, and "Blind Domna" (Domna Anisimova).

An attempt by Usov to convert the paper to be more like foreign papers in format and arrangement of sections was not successful. In 1864, the paper folded.

Otechestvennye Zapiski

Otechestvennye Zapiski (Отечественные записки, variously translated as "Annals of the Fatherland", "Patriotic Notes", "Notes of the Fatherland", etc) was a Russian literary magazine published in Saint Petersburg on a monthly basis between 1818 and 1884. The journal served liberal-minded readers, known as the intelligentsia. Such major novels as Ivan Goncharov's Oblomov (1859) and Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Adolescent (1875) made their first appearance in Otechestvennye Zapiski.Founded by Pavel Svinyin in 1818, the journal was published irregularly until 1820. It was closed down in 1830 but resurfaced several years later, with Andrey Krayevsky as its publisher. The renovated magazine regularly published articles by Vissarion Belinsky and Alexander Herzen, catering to well-educated liberals. Other notable contributors included:

Mikhail Bakunin

Timofey Granovsky

Nikolay Nekrasov

Ivan Turgenev

Vladimir Dahl

Vladimir Odoyevsky

Aleksey Pisemsky

Afanasy FetIn 1846 Nekrasov persuaded Belinsky and other contributors to leave Otechestvennye Zapiski for his own Sovremennik. As a result, the former declined in circulation and influence. It was overshadowed by the more radical Sovremennik for 20 years, until the latter was banned in 1866.

In 1868 Nekrasov acquired Otechestvennye Zapiski from Krayevsky and started editing it jointly with Saltykov-Shchedrin. After Nekrasov's death Saltykov-Schedrin was its sole editor-in-chief, radicalizing the journal even further. In the 1870s it was transformed into a mouthpiece of the Narodnik movement.Despite Saltykov's mastery of "Aesopian" language, the tsarist authorities closed Otechestvennye zapiski in 1884 as "an organ of the press which not only opens its pages to the spread of dangerous ideas, but even has as its closest collaborators people who belong to secret societies".

Pyotr Kudryavtsev

Pyotr Nikolayevich Kudryavtsev (Russian: Пётр Николаевич Кудрявцев, 16 August 1816, Moscow, Russian Empire, — 29 January 1858, Moscow, Russian Empire) was a Russian writer, historian, pedagogue (professor of world history at Moscow University in 1851-1858), literary critic, philologist and journalist who in 1856-1858 was the head of Russky Vestnik's political review section.Kudryvtsev started out in the late 1830s as fiction writer, whose short novels Katenka Pylayeva, Antonina, Dve strasti (Two Passions), Fleita (Flute), won him praises from Vissarion Belinsky. In 1841 he started to write literary and art reviews for Otechestvennye Zapiski and Sovremennik. More novellas followed, including the melancholy-driven Tsvetok (Flower), Nedoumenye (Bewilderment), Zhivaya kartina (Live Picture), Posledniy vizit (Final Visit), Oshibka (Mistake), Sboyev, Bez rassveta (Without Sunrise), again lauded for their insight and psychological depth.In 1850 his magnum opus History of Italy from the Fall of the Roman Empire to Charlemagne Revival (Судьбы Италии от падения Западной Римской империи до восстановления её Карлом Великим) was published, and from then on, until his sudden death of galloping consumption in 1858, Kudtrayvtsev focused mainly on historical essays, treatises and critical reviews. He was considered heir to Timofey Granovsky's legacy and the major authority on the history of Ancient Rome and modern Italy in Russia of his time.

Pyotr Stepanov (actor)

Pyotr Gavrilovich Stepanov (Russian: Пётр Гаврилович Степанов; 1800 – 15 May 1869) was a Russian stage actor, associated with the Moscow Maly Theatre, one of the first stage professionals in Russia.

Born in 1800 (or 1806, according to other sources) into a family close to the Michael Maddox troupe, Stepanov received private lessons from actress Maria Sinyavskaya before enrolling into the Moscow Theatre College which he graduated in 1825 to join the Maly Theatre troupe which he stayed with for the whole of his life.Stepanov became popular mostly for his comic and eccentric parts, but was also known as an opera baritone and even, occasionally, a ballet dancer (such occurrences weren't unusual at the time, formally the dance and the drama troupes had been separated in 1824, but in reality co-existed for quite some time). In all, Stepanov had more than 500 parts in Maly, some of them very tiny, by most of them memorable and expressive. Writers like Vissarion Belinsky and Sergey Aksakov were among his fans.On the Moscow stage Stepanov was the first performer of such parts as Prince Tugoukhovsky (Woe from Wit, 1831, a particular favourite of Tsar Nicholas I), Tyapkin-Lyapkin (Revizor, 1836), Yaichnitsa (Marriage, 1843) and Shvokhnev (The Gamblers, 1839), by Gogol. Among his best remembered roles were those in the plays by Alexander Ostrovsky (Stay in Your Own Sled, Malomalsky, 1853) and Live Not as You Would Like To (Yeryomka, 1854).

Rafail Zotov

Rafail Mikhaylovich Zotov (Russian: Рафаил Михайлович Зотов, 1795, — September 29, 1871) was a Russian playwright, novelist, journalist, translator and theatre critic. The playwright Vladimir Zotov was his son.

Born in Pskov, Zotov started his literary career in 1814. He has written more than one hundred plays some of which (Jealous Wife, 1816; Bohemian Forests' Outlaw, 1830) enjoyed long runs at the Imperial Theatres and popular success, even if evoking scathing criticism from Vissarion Belinsky. Zotov translated ten Russian plays into German and compiled the official biography of Tsar Alexander I, in French. Highly popular were his historical novels (Leonid or the Selected Scenes from the Life of Napoleon I, Леонид или Некоторые черты из жизни Наполеона I, 1832; Mysterious Monk, Таинственный монах, 1843, among them). The final one, posthumously published The Last Descendant of Genghis Khan (Последний потомок Чингисхана, 1881) dealt with the life and possible circumstances of death of his father, Mikhail Zotov, a direct descendant from Şahin Giray who, then a colonel in Prince Prozorovsky's Moldavian Army, mysteriously disappeared in 1809. Rafail Zotov also authored the acclaimed Theatre Memoirs (Театральные воспоминания, 1859). The Notes by R. M. Zotov were published by Illyustrirovanny Vestnik, 1874, Nos. 3-8.Zotov died on 29 September in Pavlovsk, Saint Petersburg.

Rootless cosmopolitan

Rootless cosmopolitan (Russian: безродный космополит, translit. bezrodnyi kosmopolit) was a pejorative Soviet euphemism widely used during Soviet anti-Semitic campaign of 1948–1953, which culminated in the "exposure" of the non-existent Doctors' plot. The term "rootless cosmopolitan" referred mostly to Jewish intellectuals, as an accusation of their lack of patriotism, i.e., lack of full allegiance to the Soviet Union. The campaign against "rootless cosmopolitans" began in 1946, when Joseph Stalin in his speech in Moscow attacked writers who were ethnic Jews. The expression was coined in the 19th century by Russian literary critic Vissarion Belinsky to describe writers who lacked Russian national character.


Sovremennik (Russian: «Современник», IPA: [səvrʲɪˈmʲenʲːɪk] (listen), "The Contemporary") was a Russian literary, social and political magazine, published in Saint Petersburg in 1836-1866. It came out four times a year in 1836-1843 and once a month after that. The magazine published poetry, prose, critical, historical, ethnographic and other material.

Sovremennik originated as a private enterprise of Alexander Pushkin who was running out of money to support his growing family. To assist him with the magazine, the poet asked Nikolai Gogol, Pyotr Vyazemsky and Vladimir Odoyevsky to contribute their works to the journal. It was there that the first substantial assortment of Fyodor Tyutchev's poems was published. Soon it became clear that Pushkin's establishment could not compete with Faddey Bulgarin's journal, which published more popular and less demanding literature. Sovremennik was out of date and could not command a paying audience.

When Pushkin died, his friend Pyotr Pletnyov took over the editorship in 1838. A few years later the magazine fell into decline, and Pletnyov handed it over to Nikolay Nekrasov and Ivan Panaev in 1847. It was Nekrasov who really made the magazine profitable. He enlisted the services of Ivan Turgenev, Ivan Goncharov, Alexander Herzen and Nikolai Ogaryov. Sovremennik was the first to publish translated works by Charles Dickens, George Sand and other best-selling foreign writers.

Although the magazine was owned and run by Nekrasov, its official editor-in-chief was Alexander Nikitenko. The virulent realist critic Vissarion Belinsky was responsible for its ideology. His criticism of present-day reality and propaganda of democratic ideas made the journal very popular among the Russian intelligentsia. Sovremennik's circulation was 3,100 copies in 1848.

During the reactionary reign of Nicholas I, the journal had to struggle against censorship and complaints of disgruntled aristocracy. Its position grew more complicated after Herzen's emigration (1847) and Belinsky's death (1848). Despite these hardships, Sovremennik published works by best Russian authors of the day: Leo Tolstoy, Turgenev and Nekrasov. Timofey Granovsky, Sergey Solovyov and other leading historians were published as well.

The period between 1852 and 1862 is considered to be the most brilliant in the history of the journal. Nekrasov managed to strike a deal with its leading contributors, whereby their new works were to be published exclusively by him. As regards ideology, Sovremennik grew more radical together with its audience. Belinsky was succeeded by Nikolai Chernyshevsky in 1853 and by Nikolai Dobrolyubov. All their principal articles were published in Sovremennik.

In late 1858, the magazine entered into polemics with the liberal and conservative press and became a platform for and ideological center of the revolutionary democracy, turning into a political magazine. In 1861, it published materials, dedicated to the emancipation of the serfs and advocated the interests of serfs in the strongest terms possible. In 1859-1861, Sovremennik argued with Herzen's Kolokol about the aims of the Russian democracy.

Such a radical stance alienated those writers who were indifferent to politics or personally disliked revolutionary intelligentsia. Although Tolstoy, Turgenev, and Dmitry Grigorovich eventually left the magazine, Sovremennik's circulation reached 7,126 copies in 1861. The death of Dobrolyubov in 1861, an 8-month suspension of publishing activities (in June 1862), and Chernyshevsky's arrest caused irreparable damage to the magazine. Its ideological stance became less clear and consistent.

In 1863, Nekrasov managed to resume publishing Sovremennik. He invited Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin (stayed until 1864), Maxim Antonovich, Grigory Yeliseyev and Alexander Pypin to join its editorial staff. Controversy among the members of the editorial staff soon resulted in adoption of a more temperate policy.

In 1863-1866, Sovremennik published Chernyshevsky's What Is to Be Done? (written in the Peter and Paul Fortress), satires by Saltykov-Shchedrin, and works by the so-called plebeian authors (Vasily Sleptsov, Fyodor Reshetnikov, Gleb Uspensky). The magazine was closed down in June 1866, owing to the official panic that followed the first attempt on Alexander II's life. After that, Nekrasov and Saltykov-Schedrin acquired the rights to publish the Otechestvennye Zapiski, a literary journal widely viewed as Sovremennik's successor.

Superfluous man

The superfluous man (Russian: лишний человек, líshniy chelovék) is an 1840s and 1850s Russian literary concept derived from the Byronic hero. It refers to an individual, perhaps talented and capable, who does not fit into social norms. In most cases, this person is born into wealth and privilege. Typical characteristics are disregard for social values, cynicism, and existential boredom; typical behaviors are gambling, drinking, romantic intrigues, and duels. He is often unmindful, indifferent or unempathetic with society's issues and can carelessly distress others with his actions, despite his position of power. He will often use his power for his own comfort and security and will have very little interest in being charitable or using it for the greater good.

The superfluous man will often attempt to manipulate, control or enslave other individuals. Because he has no integrity or ambitions, he is often self-serving and sees little point to being a benefactor or helping others. He will often carelessly try to manipulate, degrade or pacify individuals within the society; in order to gain more comfort and security.

The character type originates in Alexander Pushkin's verse-novel Eugene Onegin (1825–32). This term was popularized by Ivan Turgenev's novella The Diary of a Superfluous Man (1850) and was thereafter applied to characters from earlier novels. Mikhail Lermontov's A Hero of Our Time (1840) depicts another Superfluous Man – Pechorin – as its protagonist. He can be seen as a nihilist and fatalist. Later examples include Alexander Herzen's Beltov in Who is to Blame? (1845–46), Ivan Turgenev's Rudin (1856), and the title character of Ivan Goncharov's Oblomov (1859).Russian critics such as Vissarion Belinsky viewed the superfluous man as a byproduct of Nicholas I's reign, when the best educated men would not enter the discredited government service and, lacking other options for self-realization, doomed themselves to live out their life in passivity. Scholar David Patterson describes the superfluous man as "not just...another literary type but...a paradigm of a person who has lost a point, a place, a presence in life" before concluding that "the superfluous man is a homeless man".The superfluous man is often in contrast politically with the great man.


Teleskop (Russian: Телескоп) was a Russian literary, philosophical and political magazine published in Moscow in 1831-1836 by Nikolai Nadezhdin, who was also its editor-in-chief. Originally a fortnightly publication, it became a weekly in 1834. Another Nadezhin's project, Molva (Молва, Rumour, 1831-1986), originally a 'news and fashion' magazine, in 1932 became a newspaper and literary supplement to Teleskop.

Among the authors whose works appeared in Teleskop regularly, were Mikhail Pogodin, Stepan Shevyryov, Alexander Pushkin, Fyodor Tyutchev, Alexander Polezhayev, Nikolai Stankevich and Alexey Koltsov. Vissarion Belinsky joined in 1833 to become a year later Nadezhdin's co-editor.In 1836 the magazine published Pyotr Chaadaev's "Philosophical Letter" and was promptly closed, as was Molva.

The Physiology of Saint Petersburg

The Physiology of Saint Petersburg (Russian: Физиология Петербурга) is the first of three major literary almanacs compiled and edited in the 1840s by Nikolai Nekrasov. It came out in two volumes in Saint Petersburg in 1845, to be followed by The Petersburg Collection (Петербургский сборник) and April the First. The Illustrated Comical Almanac (Первое апреля. Комический иллюстрированный альманах). The Physiology of Saint Petersburg had considerable success and is regarded in retrospect as a major incentive for the development of realism in the Russian literature.

The Village (Grigorovich novel)

The Village (Derevnya, Деревня) was a debut novel by Dmitry Grigorovich, first published by Otechestvennye Zapiski (Vol. XLIX, book 12) in 1846. It had strong impact upon the Russian literary society and was praised for being "the first work in the Russian literature to face the real peasants life" by Ivan Turgenev.


Westernizers (; Russian: За́падник, tr. Západnik, IPA: [ˈzapədʲnʲɪk]) were a group of 19th-century intellectuals who believed that Russia's development depended upon the adoption of Western European technology and liberal government. In their view, western ideas such as industrialisation needed to be implemented throughout Russia to make it a more successful country. In Russian the term was known as zapadnichestvo (зáпадничество), which can be translated as "westernism", and its adherents were known as the zapadniki, westernists in English.In some contexts of Russian history, zapadnichestvo can be contrasted with Slavophilia. Latter's proponents argued that the West should adopt Russian cultural values, rather than the other way around.

In modern usage, especially in the developing world, the term can refer to supporters of Western-style economic development.

Notable members included Vissarion Belinsky and Alexander Herzen.

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