- Term Papers and Free Essays

History Of Russian Literature

Essay by   •  November 6, 2010  •  3,254 Words (14 Pages)  •  1,538 Views

Essay Preview: History Of Russian Literature

Report this essay
Page 1 of 14

It could be said that Russian literature did not rise to a powerful and meaningful media until the 17th century, when the Russian literary language underwent drastic changes due to the influence of contacts with the West; and as a result it incorporated elements of Greek, Latin, Polish, German, French, and most recently, English vocabulary and syntax. While on the same account, there is two sections of this sort of evolved storytelling, one being Russian literature that a person might learn in the classroom, while the other is for the Ð''uneducated' as oral-tellings, and urban folklore, usually told as in prose and poetic forms. And while the stories that are orally told within a community can be just as powerful and widespread as any published literary work, that is not what this paper is intending to address. As the published authors represent all the stories and individuals who have been unable to tell their stories, these authors are those that were able to not only experience and reflect upon history, but give back to it, being immortalized forever in their writings.

And so now, newly inspired, Russian literature of the 18th century came a great way in its development: from classicism to sentimentalism (and often times nostalgia), from an ideal of enlightened monarch to intimate feelings of an individual. While the beginning of this new century was rather violent for Russia, with the creation of a navy (an outlet for wars to be fought now at sea, as well as on land), the development of trade and a growing industry now was a growing national consciousness and concern. A Russian classicism came flowing in along with foreigners, their ideas and began the development under the influence of the Age of Enlightenment.

Therefore the main hero in this enlightened literature was often an educated monarch or an ideal citizen who embodied Peter the Great's ideals, often represented in liberty, order, and harmony. The writings would often praise that which was public over private, an intellect over feelings, an order over chaos, and a civilization over nature. But by the middle of the 18th century, many of the people realized that the educated regent ideal was far from real life, and this more or less angered the people. As the people have been fed the prospect of a visionary society, it was far from ever happening, outside the realm of fictional books.

The seed was planted, and the newly accessible writings of both domestic and international authors became available, it inspired the leaders of Russia to become one of the first world powers. But a peasant war (1773-1775), led

by Pugachev showed those uncompromising contradictions that were between ruling class and powerless people. A basic principle of enlighten ideology about absolutism as the only rational power failed.

Then there was a new literary sentiment formed, (sample of authors such as: Kheraskov, Muraviev, Karamzin, Dmitriev) known as sentimentalists. This sort of literature was distinguish by the increasing interest to understand the inward life of human being. Sentimentalists thought that from birth, human beings are kind, without detestation, treachery or cruelty. The main topics in these literary works during this time was to uplift soul and achieve moral excellence. Therefore sensitivity was considered to be the basic source of virtue, that is why all verses were full of compassion, melancholy and sorrow. The first of these took the form of lyric poems, songs, and romances. But both classicism and sentimentalism suffered from the narrow focus because neither were able to emulate exactly what it meant to have an individuals inner integrity.

Finally in the 19th century, there was a "Golden Age" to Russian literature. As the literary works of this time were unique as an untaped source that can not be compared to anything else.

Starting in the 1820's, various concepts were developed in Russia that applied a relationship between history and national literature. For example, the critic Belinsky (1811-1864) perceived Russian literature to be a vehicle of Russia's progress toward joining the nations of the West in their quest to realize the potential of the human spirit. While another critic Apollon Grigoriev (1822-1864), amended Belinsky's "westernizing" notion by suggesting that as a whole, Russian literature was evolving, but to the credit of the individual author, rather than a source influenced by foreign elements. Needless to say, this example of conflict of extremes is one of many, but should clearly illustrate the ordeal surrounding what people believed Russian literature should be.

Now that people were discussing what they believed Russian literature should represent, other individuals were already being inspired by the idea of new, and sometimes opposing revolutionary ideas. One of these moments came to life in St. Petersburg, as the Russian Revolution, when the Decembrists marched into the Senate Square on December 14, 1825. The uprising that these individuals had ignited was immediately suppressed, and the writer Pushkin then wrote, in regards to the czar Nicholas I, "He was made emperor, and right then displayed his flair and drive: sent to Siberia 120 men and strung up five." But it did not end there, as then again in 1848 there was another rising revolutionary circle known as the Petrashevists who were sparked into action by the writings of Belinsky. The purpose of this group was to prepare for uprisings and secretly write and distribute material that supported emancipation and liberty. Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) even became a member of this group. But once again Nicholas I was able to suppress the revolutionaries by arresting and exiling the conspirators to penal servitude in Siberia. Among these was Dostoevsky, who later went on to write Crime and Punishment, mixing both truths and half-truths within his writing. Obviously freedom was a personal theme in his life, as it then became reflected in his writing. But it was this sense of freedom that soon evolved into the freedom of the human spirit, and finally the journey to find the human in a human being.

While revolutionaries came and went, so did the beliefs that they represented, until finally Russian philosophies evolved to Marxists reasoning. One of these supporters was Plekhanov (1856-1918), who saw literature as a part of the superstructure of society and viewed that a writers social class determined the content of his art. Until finally, Soviet ideology conceived literature to be "a truthful, historically concrete representation of reality in its revolutionary development". But what all these views have in common, is that they perceive literary history as an organism connected to all other organisms (art, music, culture, governments, movements), rather than simply a function for a



Download as:   txt (19.6 Kb)   pdf (198.2 Kb)   docx (17 Kb)  
Continue for 13 more pages »
Only available on