Historical View of the Languages and Literature of the Slavic - Nations
by Therese Albertine Louise von Jacob Robinson
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In modern times considerable attention has been devoted to the examination of the Old Slavic language and its relation to its kindred dialects. Antiquarian and paleographical researches have been happily combined with philological investigations; and the eminent names which are found among these diligent and philosophical inquirers, insure the best prospects to their cause.[28]


[Footnote 1: See below in the History of the Russian Language, and the so called Improvement of the Bible and church books.]

[Footnote 2: In modern times this view has been defended principally by Russian philologists, the Metropolitan Eugene, Kalajdovitch, etc.]

[Footnote 3: See his Kyrill und Method, Prague, 1823. Schloezer considers likewise the Old Slavic as a Bulgarian dialect of the ninth century. See his Northern History, p. 330. In another place he calls it the mother of the other Slavic languages; see his Nestor, I. p. 46.]

[Footnote 4: In his Grammar of the Slavic Language in Carniola, Carinthia, and Stiria.]

[Footnote 5: Jahrbuecher der Literatur, Vienna, 1822, Vol. XVII. Grimm is of the same opinion; see the Preface to his translation of Vuk Stephanovitch's Servian Grammar.]

[Footnote 6: See above, p. 11.]

[Footnote 7: This view Schaffarik takes in his work on Slavic Antiquities, and in his Slavic Ethnography. Palacky, a distinguished Bohemian scholar, adopted the same opinion in his History of Bohemia, Prague 1836. Both were combatted in a furious review by Kopitar, in Chmel's Oestr. Geschichtsforscher, III. 1838; printed separately under the title: Der Pannonische Ursprung der Slavischen Liturgie. etc.]

[Footnote 8: Dobrovsky's Entwurf zu einer allgemeinen Slavischen Etymologie, Prague 1812. See also the Slovanka of this celebrated scholar.]

[Footnote 9: Schloezer's Nestor, III. p. 224.]

[Footnote 10: Rakoviecky, in his edition of the Pravda Russka, Warsaw 1820-22. Katancsich, Specimen Philologiae et Geographiae, etc. 1795. See also Fraehn's publication, "Ueber die alteste Schrift der Russen," St. Petersb. 1835; where a specimen is given of the form of writing which the Arabian author Ibn Abi Jakub el Nedim ascribes to the Russians. This writer lived at the close of the tenth century. He quotes as his authority an envoy sent from some Caucasian prince to the king of the Russians.]

[Footnote 11: As in modern Greek; see also Bullmann's Gram. sec. 3. 2.]

[Footnote 12: See Rees' Cyclopedia, art. Khazares; where however it is incorrectly said, that they were a Turkish tribe.]

[Footnote 13: Posadnik is about the same as mayor.]

[Footnote 14: In the Slavic version of the Chronicle of Dalmatia, the Epistles instead of the Palter are named.]

[Footnote 15: That the Glagolitic alphabet, as has been affirmed, was the one invented by Cyril, and was gradually changed into that afterwards known as the Cyrillic, is an untenable position; partly, because no form of writing could change in such a degree in one or two centuries; and partly, because in some early manuscripts both alphabets appear mixed, or rather are used alternately.]

[Footnote 16: Glagolita Clozianus, Vindeb. 1836.]

[Footnote 17: In his essay On the Old Slavic Language. See the Russian periodical: Treatises of a Society of Friends of Russian Literature, No. XVII. Mosc. 1820.]

[Footnote 18: Extracts from it may be seen in the valuable collection of Documents prepared by P. von Koeppen: Sobranie Slovenzki Pamjatnikov, St. Petersburg 1827. See also Hanka's Edition of Dobrovsky's Slavia, Prague 1834.]

[Footnote 19: This remarkable manuscript was not known until 1738, when it was discovered in the chronicles of Novogorod. It has since been published in six different editions, the first prepared by Schloezer, 1767; the last by the Polish scholar Rakowiecky, enriched with remarks and illustrations. See note 10, above.]

[Footnote 20: Aktu Sobrannyje etc. i.e. Collection of Acts and Documents found in the Libraries and Archives of the Russian Empire, by the Archaeographical Commission of the Academy, etc. 4 vols. St. Petersburg, 1836, 1837. The oldest of these documents does not go farther back than A.D. 1294.]

[Footnote 21: On the remarkable Slavic manuscript called "Texte du Sacre," which was first re-discovered on this expedition, see Glagolitic Literature, in Part II. Chap. II.]

[Footnote 22: According to Vostokof, the dialects of all the Slavic nations deviated not only much less from each other at the time of Cyril's translation than they now do; but were even in the middle of the eleventh century still so similar, that the different nations were able to understand each other, about as well as the present inhabitants of the different provinces of Russia understand each other. The difference of the Slavic dialects was then almost exclusively limited to the lexical part of the language; the grammatical varieties, which exist among them at the present day, had not then arisen. The principal features which distinguish the Russian of the present day from the Old Slavic, are exhibited in an article on Russian Literature in the Foreign Quarterly Review, Vol. I. p. 602.]

[Footnote 23: We learn that P. von Koeppen several years ago discovered a Slavic work printed in 1475; but being unacquainted with the details, we are unable to give a particular notice of it.]

[Footnote 24: See above p. 36.]

[Footnote 25: The first two editions are described above. The third edition did not appear till nearly a century later, after the revision of the text had been completed, Moscow 1751, fol. Subsequent editions are as follows: Moscow 1756, fol. ib. 1757, fol. St. Petersb. 1756, fol. Kief 1758, fol. St. Petersb. 1759, fol. Moscow 1759, 3 vols. 8vo. ib. 1762, fol. ib. 1766, fol. ib. 1778, 5 vols. 8vo. Kief 1779, fol. Mosc. 1784, fol. Kief 1788, 5 vols. 8vo. Mosc. 1790, fol. ib. 1797, fol. ib. 1802, fol. Ofen (Buda) 1804, 5 vols. 8vo. Mosc. 1806, 4 vols. 8vo. ib. 1810, fol. ib. 1813, 5 vols. 8vo. ib. 1815, 8vo. St. Petersb. 1816, 8vo. stereotype edition, issued sixteen times up to 1824. Also in 4to, stereotype edition, issued five times from 1819 to 1821.]

[Footnote 26: In the work of J. Lewicky, Grammatik der ruthenischen oder kleinrussischen Sprache in Galizien, Przinysl 1836, to which is annexed a short history of the Ruthenian Literature, the Russinian and White-Russian dialects seem to be wholly confounded.]

[Footnote 27: Schaffarik mentions that an Old Slavic Grammar and a Dictionary were prepared and ready in manuscript, by Vostokof, in 1826. Whether these works have been since printed we are not informed.]

[Footnote 28: Very valuable and detailed notices on all the subjects in immediate connection with the Old Slavic and modern Russian Bible, are to be found in Henderson's Biblical Researches and Travels in Russia, Lond. 1826. As this book is accessible in this country, and our limits are narrow, we abstain from giving more than a general reference to it, as containing the best information on Slavic matters ever written in the English language. The reader will find there too a table of the Cyrillic and Glagolitic alphabet, taken from Dobrovsky's Institutiones.]

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The name of Russia and the Russians is not older than the ninth or tenth century. The northern part of that vast empire, however, was long before inhabited by Slavic nations, who seem to have been divided into small states under chiefs chosen by themselves; to have been peaceable in their character, and most of them tributary to more powerful neighbours. About the middle of the ninth century, civil dissensions arose among the Slavi of Novogorod, at the election of a new head or posadnik. Troubled at the same time from without, by the conquering and enterprising spirit of the Varegians, a Scandinavian tribe, they no longer felt able to make resistance against them; and therefore, A.D. 862, they chose Rurik, the chief of the Varegians, for their own head. These Scandinavians were by the Finns called Ruotzi, an appellation which in their language signifies strangers. This name, in a somewhat altered form, passed over to the inhabitants of the acquired territory, with whom the conquerors soon amalgamated. Rurik founded thus the first Slavo-Russian state; and his followers, long accustomed to a warlike nomadic mode of life, settled down among the Slavic inhabitants of the country. The nationality of the strangers, comparatively few in number, was merged in that of the natives; but still, in one respect, it exercised a strong influence upon the latter, by infusing into them the warlike spirit of the former. It is only since that time, that we find the Slavi as conquerors. Their empire rapidly extended in the course of the following hundred and fifty years, and their power and external influence also rose; while at the same time the ancient civil institutions of the native Slavi were respected and improved.

In the beginning of the eleventh century, Jaroslav, the son of Vladimir the Great, imitating his father's example, divided on his death-bed his empire among his sons, and thus sowed the seeds of dissension, anarchy, and bloody wars; a case repeated so often in ancient history, that it seems to be one of the few from which modern princes have derived a serious lesson. The Mongols broke into the country; easily subdued the Russians thus torn by internal dissensions; succeeded, A.D. 1237, in making them tributary; and kept them for two hundred years in the most dishonourable bondage. During this long period, every germ of literary cultivation perished. In the middle of the fifteenth century, Ivan Vasilievitch III, [1] delivered his country from the Asiatic barbarians, then weakened by domestic dissensions; conquered his Russian rivals; and united Novogorod with his own princedom of Moscow. From that period the power and physical welfare of Russia have increased without interruption to the present time. The literary cultivation of its inhabitants has likewise advanced; at first indeed with stops hardly proportioned to the external progress of the empire; but now for more than a century, in consequence of the despotic activity of their sovereigns, with a wonderful rapidity.

The history of Russian literature has five distinct periods. The first period comprises an interval of more than nine centuries, from the date of our first knowledge of the Russian Slavi, to the coming of age of Peter the Great. A.D. 1689. This period would easily admit of several subdivisions; and did we pretend in these pages to give the reader more than a sketch of literary history, we should perhaps find it advisable to adopt them. This long period, however, both in a comparative and an absolute sense, is so very poor, that, limited as we are, a few words will suffice to give a general survey of it; and so much the more, because the productions of this period are closely connected with the history of the Old Slavic language, and have mostly been already mentioned under that head.

The second period extends from the coming of age of Peter the Great to the accession of Elizabeth his daughter, A.D. 1741, which was the commencement of Lomonosof's influence.

The third period extends from Lomonosof, the creator of Russian prose, to Karamzin, the reformer of it, who was born in 1765.

The fourth period covers the interval from Karamzin to the accession of the emperor Nicholas in 1825.

The fifth period begins with the accession of Nicholas in 1825, and continues to the present time.

Before however we begin our historical notices, a few words relating to the characteristic features of the Russian language, may find a place here. Three principal dialects are to be distinguished, viz.

1. The Russian proper, the true literary language of the whole Russian nation, and spoken in Moscow and all the central and northern part of the European Russian empire. And here we will mention the remarkable fact, that the peasant on the Wolga, on the Oka, and on the Moskwa, speaks the same pure Russian which is heard in the parlour and from the pulpit. Vulgar and corrupted branches of this dialect, are those of Suzdal and Olonetzk, the last of which is mixed with Finnish words.

2. The Malo-Russian, the language of the south of Russia, especially towards the east. The principal difference between this dialect and the Russian proper, consists partly in the pronunciation of several letters; e.g. in that of the consonant [Cyrillic: character ghe], which sounds in the latter like g hard, but in the former like h, as hospodin instead of gospodin, master, lord; partly in many obsolete forms of expression, which seem to give to the Malo-Russian a nearer relationship to the Old Slavic, in which similar idioms are to be found. The influence of the Poles, who for nearly two centuries were rulers of this part of the country, is also still perceptible in the language, This dialect is especially rich in national songs. Many of them are of peculiar beauty, touching naivete; and a poetical truth which far outshines all artificial decorations. The greater part of these songs have an elegiac character; as is the case indeed with most productions of the common people.[2] The dialect itself, however, is far from being less adapted to the expression of the comic. There exists in it a travesty of the AEneid, written by J. Kotliarevski, a Kozak, which has found great favour throughout all Russia, although a foreigner is less able to appreciate its peculiarities and beauties; since indeed all poetic excellence of a comic description can be felt only by those who are familiar not only with the poetic language, but also with all those minute local and historical circumstances, the allusions to which contribute so frequently to augment the ludicrous.

Essentially the same with the Malo-Russian is the idiom of the Russniaks in Red Russia, in the eastern part of Galicia, and the north-eastern districts of Hungary; and the few variations which occur in it have not yet been sufficiently investigated. Comparatively little attention has been paid to this branch of the Slavic race; and their beautiful national songs, scattered among a widely extended people, have only recently become the object of curiosity and examination.

3. The White-Russian is the dialect spoken in Lithuania and a portion of White Russia, especially Volhynia. The situation of these provinces sufficiently accounts for its being full of Polisms. All the historical documents of Lithuania are written in this dialect; and several Russian writers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries employed it in preference to the Old Slavonic. The first Russian translation of the Bible was written in it. It is the youngest of the Russian dialects.

What first strikes us in considering the Russian language as a whole, is its immense copiousness. The early influence of foreign nations appears here as a decided advantage. The German, in the highest degree susceptible for foreign ideas and forms of thought, repels nevertheless all foreign words and forms of expression as unnatural excrescences. It is evidently disfigured by the adoption of foreign words, and can preserve its beauty only by adhering to its own national and inexhaustible sources. The Russian, having been in early times successively subjected to the influence of the Scandinavian, Mongolian, Tartar, and Polish languages, is in this respect to be compared, in a certain measure, with the English, in which the ancient British, the Latin, the Saxon, the Danish, and the French, amalgamated in the same proportion as the ideas of these different nations were adopted. Hence nothing that ever contributed to the singular composition of this rich language, appears to be borrowed; but all belongs to it as its lawful property. But the great pre-eminence of the Russian appears in the use which it made of these adopted treasures. Its greater flexibility made it capable of employing foreign words merely as roots, from which it raised stems and branches by means of its own native resources. It is this copiousness and variety of radical syllables, which gives to the Russian in certain respects a claim over all other Slavic languages.

Another excellence is the great freedom of construction which it allows, without any danger of becoming unintelligible or even ambiguous. It resembles in this point the classic languages; from which however its small number of conjunctions decidedly distinguishes it. This want of conjunctions has been objected to the language as a defect; it seems however to be one of the causes, why it is so remarkably clear and distinct; since it can only admit of comparatively short phrases. In spite of this clearness, its adaptedness for poetry is undeniable; and in this branch the incomparable national songs extant in it would afford a most noble foundation even in respect to forms, if nature could ever obtain a complete victory over the perverted taste of fashion. Whether this language is really capable of entirely imitating the classic metres, is still a matter of dispute among distinguished Slavic philologians.[3] As to its euphony, what has been said above in respect to the Slavic languages in general, may be applied particularly to the Russian. Here however the ear of the unprejudiced listener alone can decide.


To the coming of age of Peter the Great, 1689.

The influence of the Varegians in respect to the language, appears to have been inconsiderable; their own idiom on the contrary being soon absorbed by that of the natives. Rurik's grandsons had already Slavic names.[4] The principal event in those ancient times, and one which manifested its beneficent consequences in respect to civilization here, as every where, was the introduction of Christianity, towards the end of the tenth century. Vladimir the Great, the first Christian monarch, founded the first schools; Greek artists were called from Constantinople to embellish the newly erected churches at Kief; and poetry found a patron and at the same time her hero in Vladimir. Vladimir and his knights are the Russian Charlemagne and his peers, king Arthur and his Round table. Their deeds and exploits have proved a rich source for the popular tales and songs of posterity; and serve even now to give to the earlier age of Russian history a tinge of that romantic charm, of which the history of the middle ages is in general so utterly void. The establishment of Christianity was followed by the introduction of Cyril's translation of the Scriptures and the liturgical books. The kindred language of these writings was intelligible to them; but was still distinct enough from the old Russian to permit them to exist side by side as two different languages; the one fixed and immovable, the voice of the Scriptures, the priests, and the laws; the other varying, advancing, extending, adapting itself to the progress of time.

That this latter, the genuine old Russian, had its poets, was, until the close of the last century, only known by historical tradition; no monument of them seemed to be left. But at that time, A.D. 1794, a Russian nobleman, Count Mussin-Pushkin, discovered the manuscript of an epic poem, 'Igor's Expedition against the Polovtzi,' apparently not older than the twelfth century. It is a piece of national poetry of no common beauty, united with an equal share of power and gracefulness. But what strikes us even more than this, is, that we find in it no trace of that rudeness, which would naturally be expected in the production of a period when darkness still covered all eastern Europe, and of a poet belonging to a nation, which we have hardly longer than a century ceased to consider as barbarians! There hovers a spirit of meekness over the whole, which sometimes even seems to endanger the energy of the representation.

The genuineness of this poem has, so far as we know, never been questioned; but it is indeed a very surprising feature, that during the recent diligent search through all the libraries in the country after old manuscripts, not a single production has been discovered, which could in any way be compared with it. This remarkable poem stands in the history of ancient Russian literature perfectly isolated; and hence exhibits one of the most inexplicable riddles in literary history.[5]

On the whole, the Russians enjoyed at this early period as much mental cultivation as any other part of Northern Europe. There were several writers even among their princes. Jaroslav, the son of Vladimir the Great, was not less active than his father had been in advancing the cause of Christianity, and all that stands in connection with religion. He sent priests throughout the whole country to instruct the people, and founded in Novogorod a theological seminary for three hundred students. He took care that the translation of the church books was continued; but the most remarkable monument of his reign, as well in an historical as in a philological respect, is the Pravda Russka, a collection of laws.[6] Another grand duke of Russia, Vladimir Vsevolodovitch Monomach, who died in 1125, wrote 'Instructions for his Children;' one of his successors, Constantine Vsevolodovitch, a hundred years later, produced a history of the Russian princes, which is now lost. The clergy, safe in their cells from the tempests of war, were busy in translating from the Greek; Nestor wrote his valuable annals;[7] another priest, Basilius, described the cotemporary events in the south of Russia; Sylvester, bishop of Perejaslavl, ob. 1124, and several others of the clergy, continued Nestor's annals;[8] while Hegumen Daniel wrote his travels to Palestine in the beginning of the twelfth century.

The theological productions of the early portion of this period, are of less value than the historical. It was however this field, that was cultivated most diligently. There are several sermons, or rather synodal oraisons, still extant; some of which, by another Cyril, metropolitan of Kief, A.D. 1281. are said to be not without real eloquence. Most of the productions of this early period, which belong indeed more to the history of the Slavonic than of the Russian literature, perished in the devastations and conflagrations of the Mongols.

From A.D. 1238 to 1462, the Russian princes, as we have seen, were vassals of the Mongol Tartars, or the Golden Horde.[9] In the course of these two centuries, nearly every trace of cultivation perished. No school existed during this whole time throughout all Russia. The Mongols set fire to the cities; sought out and destroyed what written documents they could find; and purposely demolished all monuments of national culture. The convents alone found in their policy a sort of protection. Science therefore became more than ever the exclusive possession of the monks. Among these, however, no trace of classical learning, and hardly a show of scholastic wisdom, was to be found. Fortunately they improved their time as well in respect to posterity by writing annals, as for their own personal benefit by accumulating wealth.

The re-establishment of Russian independence in the middle of the fifteenth century, had a reviving influence on national science and literature. The nation however had been too long kept back, ever to be able to overtake their western neighbours. From this point a new division of this period begins. Some of the Russian princes were men of powerful and active minds; they invited artists and physicians from Greece, Italy, and Germany, into their country, and rewarded them liberally. Ivan IV,[10] A.D. 1538-84, ordered schools to be founded in all the cities of his empire; under his reign the first printing-office was established in Moscow in 1564. Soon afterwards a theological academy was founded at Kief. Boris Godunof, 1598-1605, sent eighteen noble youths to study at foreign universities. The princes of the house of Romanof showed themselves not less active. Alexei and Fedor, the father and brother of Peter the Great, opened the way for that bold reformer, and appear as his worthy predecessors; indeed the merit of several improvements, which have been generally ascribed to Peter, belongs to them. During this whole later period, the Polish language and literature exerted a decided influence on the Russian; and some writers began to use the dialect of White Russia, an impure mixture of the two,[11] while the pure Russian was despised as merely fit for vulgar use. The Malo-Russian also, or Ruthenian dialect, was, by the influence of the Polish language, cultivated before the pure Russian; which last began, only in the latter half of the seventeenth century, to shake off these chains and acquire for itself an independent form.

The first germs of dramatic art were likewise carried from Poland to Russia. In Kief, the theological students performed ecclesiastical dramas; and travelled about during the holidays, to exhibit their skill in other cities. The scenes which they had to repeat most frequently, were the three Children in the fiery furnace, and Haman's execution. The tragedies of Simeon of Polotzk, in the Old Slavic language, had great success in the middle of the seventeenth century. Their renown penetrated from the convents to the court; where they were performed before Tzar Fedor, the predecessor of Peter.[12] His minister, Matveyef, the Slavic Mecaenas of his time, and himself a writer, invited the first stage-players to Russia; and at his instigation, the first secular drama, a translation of Moliere's "Medecin malgre lui," was played before the gratified princesses and their enraptured maids of honour. The sister of the two Tzars, the Tzarevna Sophia, was a great patroness of the dramatic art: and was herself the author of several tragedies and comedies, which were acted before her by her ladies.

This latter portion of the first period, poor as it is, has nevertheless several books of travels to exhibit. A merchant of Tver, Athanasius Nikitin, travelled in the year 1470 to India, visited the Dekkan and Golconda, and gave on his return a description of those countries. Two other merchants of Moscow, Korobeinikof and Grekof, described a century later their travels through Syria, Palestine and Egypt. Fedor Baikof, Russian envoy to China, published likewise a book of travels in that remarkable country.

In the department of history, this portion of the first period was surprisingly productive. Not only were the Annals of the venerable Nestor, the basis of all Slavic history, continued by the monks with fidelity and zeal; but a whole series of other annals, biographies of single princes, and chronographies, were produced; and even some foreign nations received their share of attention.[13] The reader however must not expect to find a vestige of philosophical genius, nor a philosophical representation of the events. Entirely unacquainted with classical literature, the Greek writers of the Byzantine age were their only models. The best that can be expected is a dry and faithful narrative of facts.[14]

The weakest part of the literature of this later portion of the period, is the theological branch; a sketch of which however may not be inappropriate here. It is true, that the Improvement of the old church books was executed with much zeal; but in what spirit this was done, in a philological respect, we have mentioned above in the history of the Old Slavonic literature, to which the labours of the translators properly belong. Nikon, patriarch of Russia, ob. 1681, carried on this work with the greatest activity; and besides this set on foot a collection of historical annals.[15] The light of the Reformation, which at that time spread its beneficent beams over all Europe, and exerted particularly such a strong influence on Poland, did not penetrate into the night of the Russian church; the gloom of which, however, had always been mitigated by a spirit of meekness and Christian charity. Still, we notice among the pulpit productions of this time somewhat of the polemic genius of the age. It was not, however, against the bold innovations of Lutherans or Calvinists, that the clergy found occasion to turn their weapons, but against the Jewish heresy![16] A translation of the Psalms of David, Moscow 1680, deserves to be distinguished among similar productions. The writer was the monk Simeon of Polotzk, author of the above-mentioned spiritual dramas, and instructor of the Tzar Fedor. Still more remarkable is the first attempt to translate the Bible into the Russian language. Francis Skorina, the translator, likewise a native of Polotzk, where the Polish influence was stronger than in any other quarter, was a doctor of medicine; but the time had now come when it began to be felt over all Europe, that the holy volume did not belong exclusively to the clergy. Some parts only of his translation have been printed.[17]

In the course of the sixteenth century, several printing offices had been established in Russia, almost exclusively for the benefit of theological works. Nearly all the historical writings were preserved in manuscript; and have been first printed in modern times. The awkward appearance of Cyril's alphabet seemed to add an unnecessary difficulty to the diffusion of the knowledge of reading. Towards the end of the seventeenth century Elias Kopiovitch made some improvement in the appearance of the Slavic letters; it was however reserved to Peter's reforming hand, to give to them a fixed and permanent shape.


From the majority of Peter the Great, A.D. 1689, to Lomonosof, A.D. 1741.

The history of the genuine Russian literature begins only with the adoption of the language of the people for all civil writings. It was Peter the Great, who raised this language to be the language of public business, in which all transactions of the courts of justice henceforth were to be held, and all ordinances to be issued. Ere this energetical man was able to establish a Russian printing office in his own empire, in order not to lose time, he gave a privilege for fifteen years to the Dutch printer Tessing for Russian works. It was in Amsterdam, in 1699, that the first Russian book was printed. About the year 1704, Peter himself invented some alterations in the Slavic letters, principally so as to make them more similar to the Latin. He caused a fount of these new types to be cast by Dutch artists; and the first Russian newspaper was printed with them at St. Petersburg in 1705. These letters, with some additional alterations during the course of the following ten years, were generally adopted for the Russian language, and are in use at the present time. The same letters, with a few slight variations, are also used by that portion of the Servians who belong to the eastern church; the other portion making use of the Latin alphabet. In all theological writings, however, the ancient forms of the letters are preserved. This is the difference between the grashdanskii and tzerkvennii, or the civil and church alphabet.[18]

The energy with which this emperor, a real autocrat, proceeded, caused his people to overleap a whole century. If there is something revolting to a liberal mind, in the despotic haste with which he deprived a great nation at once of a part of their nationality, through his arbitrary decision in all that he deemed best for them; still it serves greatly to allay this feeling, to observe that the resistance which he experienced did not proceed from the people, but almost exclusively from the obstinate pride of a spoiled nobility, and the narrow-minded policy of an ignorant and jealous priesthood. The Russian nation itself is indeed, more than any other people, susceptible of deep impressions. Hence they are in general not averse to innovations; and were in Peter's time, as now, willing to be conducted by a hand acknowledged as that of a superior. In consequence of these very national qualities, good or bad, they are capable of being readily moulded into any new form.

Whether the rapidity, nay, vehemence of the Tzar's improvements were a real benefit to the nation, this is not the place to examine; but for the free development of the language and literature, it is evident, that his proceedings were injurious, notwithstanding their apparently wonderful effect. Although the language possesses all the elements of completeness, and notwithstanding the not inconsiderable mass of talent which has developed itself in the course of time, the Russian literature has perhaps not yet produced a single work of great and decided original value. The best works which they have, are imitations; and he is the most distinguished writer whose discernment leads him to choose the best model. No doubt, the present standing of the Russian literature in general would have been much lower, and its extent especially would have been much smaller, than it now is, had the Russian genius been permitted to break its own way through the darkness; but there is still less doubt, that in this case it would have preserved its original peculiarity, that wonderful blending of the East and the West, of Asiatic suppleness and European energy, of which their popular songs give such affecting, and in some cases powerful specimens.

Peter, without delay, caused many books to be translated into Russian, from the German, French, English, and Dutch languages. The haste however with which this was performed, and the greater attention of the Tzar to the matter than to the form, had the natural consequence, that most of these translations were miserable productions, executed without the least regard for the language itself. Peter's only object was to enable his subjects to become a reading people, and to communicate to them useful knowledge through the medium of books. Beauties of style, and even mere purity of language, belong in a certain measure to the luxuries of literature; the Tzar thought only of utility.

These innovations in literature found of course a great many opponents among the clergy; but there were some enlightened priests, among those who held the highest standing in the church, who favoured in general the Tzar's plan. The field of theology became somewhat more cultivated during this period. Theophan Prokovitch, archbishop of Novogorod, ob. 1736, alone wrote sixty works, of which however only about half were printed. He was Peter's faithful assistant; and not only his learning and mental gifts, but his high moral character, gained him a decided influence. He was styled the Russian Chrysostom.

The metropolitan of Rostof, called the holy Demetrius, ob. 1709, was likewise a very productive theological writer. He was considered by his contemporaries as a true pattern of Christianity; and was equally distinguished for his learning. The metropolitan Stephen Javorsky, ob. 1722, was celebrated for his eloquence in the pulpit. Gabriel Bushinsky, bishop of Rjazan and Murom, ob. 1731, was not only a theological writer, but translated also works on history. A remarkable example in this period, is Elias Kopiyevsky,[19] ob. 1701, who studied theology in Holland, and became a protestant, and afterwards a pastor at Amsterdam. He aided zealously in Peter's great work of translations. Several historical and philological works translated by him, were published by Tessing. Luther's Catechism was translated about the same time by the pastor Glueck of Livonia, who had been made a prisoner by the Russians and carried to Moscow. It was in his house that Catharine, the future empress of Russia, was brought up.[20] Among the secular writers of this period, prince Antiochus Kantemir, ob. 1745, must above all be mentioned. Of Greek extraction and born in Constantinople, with all the advantages of an accomplished education, and in full possession of several highly cultivated languages, he nevertheless chose the Russian idiom for his poetical productions. These are mostly satires, and evidently bear the stamp of a thorough knowledge of the classics. Besides these he wrote on different subjects of natural philosophy; and translated a selection from the Epistles of Horace, and Fontenelle's work on the plurality of worlds. About the same time, Leont. Magnitzky wrote the first Russian Arithmetic with Arabic numerals.

Among the lyric poets two Kozaks, Cyril Danilof and Semen Klimofsky, are named with some distinction. The first of the two, better known under the diminutive of his name, Kirsha Danilof, deserves particular attention. The Russians have their cyclus of heroic legends, as well as the occidental nations. Vladimir and his Boyars are to them what Arthur and his Round table, Charlemagne and his twelve peers, are to Britons, Franks, and Germans. These traditions lived still among the people in Kirsha Danilof's time; and yet live to some extent as nursery tales. Kirsha versified them; and, we fear, changed them according to the spirit of his time. They have only been printed and published in the present century, at least seventy-five years after they were written; for Kirsha was a cotemporary of Peter I. It is no doubt to him, that we owe their preservation through an age of a false and pedantic taste, which could only have despised these relics of barbarism, and during which they were forgotten by the Frenchified literati.[21] In historical contributions this period is not wholly poor; but as the writers paid not the slightest attention to style, or did not know from what principles to begin, the language remained entirely uncultivated. There was as yet no thought of a Russian Grammar. In poetry the system of rhymed verses, in which the syllables were not measured, but counted, in imitation of the Poles, reigned exclusively. Meanwhile the popular songs held faithfully to the old Russian irregular but highly musical numbers, consulting only the ear. Trediakofsky, born 1703, was the first who examined more closely the nature of the language, and advised the adoption of the classical metres founded on quantity. He applied on this point merely the principles which Zizania and Smotrisky, nearly a century before, had established for the Old Slavic idiom, and with equal propriety. But, as the talent for illustrating his rules by good examples was wanting in him, he made very little impression; and his name and endeavours were soon forgotten.[22]


From Lomonosof to Karamzin, A.D.1741—1796.

We have now reached the epoch from which the temple of Russian literature, as it appears at present, must be dated. It was Peter's hand that laid the corner-stone; it was Lomonosof who raised it above the ground; whilst the fortunate turns of Elizabeth's and Catharine's vanity caused it to be filled with more worshippers than would otherwise ever have sought the way thither. Academies were founded for the sciences and arts; numerous institutions for the education of all classes and ages were created and endowed with true imperial magnificence. In the year 1758 the university of Moscow was founded; while other scientific institutions of all descriptions were established by Catharine's unbounded liberality. In the year 1783 the free establishment of printing offices was permitted; of course not without reserving to the government the privilege of a strict censorship. A seminary for educating teachers for popular schools was erected, with the intention of founding Gymnasia all over the country. These measures, no doubt, had an essential and beneficial influence on the general civilization of the nation. But the common people, the peasantry, remained entirely neglected.

It was however in a family of the lowest standing, that Michael Lomonosof was born, A.D. 1711. His father was a fisherman in the government of Archangel. During the long winters, when his father's trade was interrupted, Lomonosof learned to read of one of the church servants. The beauties of the Bible, and the singing of the Psalms during the church service, in the rhymed translation of Simeon of Polotzk, first awakened his own poetical faculties. An ardent desire for an education caused him to leave home privately and seek his way to Moscow, where, he was told, was an institution, in which foreign languages were taught. Circumstances proved fortunate; he found liberal patrons; was educated afterwards in Kief and St. Petersburg, and obtained means to go to Germany. Here he connected philosophy with the mathematical studies which he had hitherto chiefly pursued; devoted a part of his time to the science of mining, at the celebrated school in Freiburg; and sat in Marburg at the feet of the philosopher Wolf. In passing through Brunswick, he escaped with difficulty the horrors of the Prussian military system. He succeeded in reaching Holland, and thence returned to his own country; where he was well received and honourably employed by the government. He died A.D. 1765, in the enjoyment of high general esteem, but not that degree of reputation which has been allotted to him by a more judicious posterity. He first ventured to draw a distinct boundary line between the Old Slavic and the Russian languages; which hitherto had been confounded in a most intolerable manner. In his Russian Grammar, he first laid down principles and fixed rules for the general compass of the language; without however checking the influence of the Church Slavonic more than was necessary, in order to preserve the identity of the former. He wrote a sketch of Russian History, a long and tedious epic poem called the Petreide, speeches, odes, tragedies, and several works on chemistry and mineralogy. None of his productions are without merit; but he was more a man of sagacity and strong talent, than of poetical genius. His poems are all cold and artificial; excepting perhaps his version of a few chapters of the book of Job, where the beauties of the original appear to have inspired him. His speeches and odes are written in the same style of panegyric, which then reigned, and which reigns still, in all the creations of Russian poetry or prose having the least reference to the imperial family; and which, in connection with the boastful style of all productions purporting to describe national deeds, is a real blemish upon the Russian literature, fitted to render it disgusting to all foreigners.[23]

The two most celebrated writers among Lomonosof's cotemporaries, though somewhat younger than he, were Alexander Sumarokof, ob. 1777, and Michael Kheraskof, born 1733, ob. 1807. Both were very productive writers in prose and poetry, overwhelming the reading public with tragedies and comedies, odes and epistles; and the latter also with two long epic poems, one in twelve, and the other in eighteen cantos! Both were highly admired, and the overflowings of their pens were devoured with avidity. Kheraskof was called the Russian Homer. The childhood, in which Russian literature then was, is not the age of criticism; sounder judges of later times have allotted to those productions a place hardly above mediocrity.

The first Russian theatre was instituted in Jaroslav. A.D. 1746. The permission, which the actors obtained A.D. 1754, to establish themselves in St. Petersburg, and still more the foundation of a national stage in Moscow in 1759, served much to awaken the decided dramatic talent of the Russians; a faculty in which they are perhaps incomparable, and certainly are not surpassed by any other nation. Several gifted literary men employed themselves in writing for the stage. Such were J. Knjashnin, ob. 1791, an imitator of the French, but not without talent of his own; Von Wisin, ob. 1792, the author of two comedies, full of genuine comic power; Maikof, Nicolef, Klushin, etc. The distinguished productions of Von Wisin alone have continued to hold possession of the stage.[24]

As the most prominent poets of a miscellaneous character the following may be mentioned: Hippolit Bagdanovitch, born 1743, ob. 1805, author of a tale in verse, Dushenka, Psyche, not without gracefulness and naivete; Chemnitzer, ob. 1784, the writer of the best Russian fables; Gabriel Dershavin, born 1743, ob. 1816, the most celebrated Russian poet of his time. The glory of Catharine II, and of the Russian army, was his favourite theme; but even the panegyrical style of his odes, the most dangerous enemy not only of moral, but likewise of poetical truth, cannot destroy the power of his truly poetical genius. His ode To God has obtained the distinction of being translated not only into several European languages, but also into Chinese, and hung up in the emperor's palace, printed with golden letters on white satin.[25] Further, Vasilii Kapnist, born 1756, ob. 1823, who as a lyrical poet stands next to Dershavin; Bobrof, familiarly acquainted with English literature, which he endeavoured to imitate, full of imagination, but bombastic and obscure; Prince Dolgoruky. distinguished by a philosophical vein; Neledinsky-Meletzky, whose songs are known even by the lower classes.

During this period also the field of translation was not less cultivated. Kostrof translated the Iliad in rhymed verses, A.D. 1787, and also Macpherson's Ossian from the French. Petrof gave a version of the AEneid in 1793. Bulgakof first made the Russian public acquainted with Ariosto; Popovsky with Pope and Locke, etc.—As a writer of general and favourable influence on literature, we must not forget to name N. Novikof, editor of several periodical journals, author of the first Russian bibliographical work, and a man of that general literary activity, which, even without productiveness of its own, induces others to exercise theirs.

The patriotism which caused the Russians ever to pay a certain degree of attention to their national history, deserves the highest praise. During all periods of their literature, this branch has been attended to with diligence. It is however especially the laborious collection and faithful preservation of materials, for which posterity is indebted to them; since there is little of a philosophical spirit to be found in their arrangement of these materials; and in regard to the language in which they are presented, it is striking to observe how the Russian prose was always far behind the Russian poetry. G.F. Mueller, ob. 1783, a German by birth, but who devoted all his life to Russian literature, published the first Russian periodical, dedicated chiefly to historical objects.[26] He also caused several old manuscripts to be printed; and added greatly to their value by his investigations and commentaries. Prince Shtsherbatof wrote fifteen volumes of Russian history, besides several smaller works,—a mere collection of facts, but rendered more important by a review and criticism upon them by Boltin, ob. 1792, a distinguished historian. Tchulkof wrote a history of commerce; Jemin, Rytchkof, Golikof, and others, wrote on particular portions of Russian history.

For the philological studies of the language, the foundation of the Russian Academy. A.D. 1783, was of great importance. A standard grammar and etymological dictionary were published by it in 1787-90, founded on a plan perfectly new, and in the merit of which the empress Catharine had no small personal share. Her example awakened not a few Mecaenases among the magnates of the country; and it became a point of high ambition to favour literature and literary men.[27]

As for theological and biblical science, scarcely any thing interesting, certainly nothing gratifying, meets our eye in this vast deserted field. Except a few didactic works on dogmatics and rhetoric, several catechisms and similar productions, this department is limited exclusively to sermons, or rather synodal discourses. There is not always a want of talent, and sometimes even a rich share of natural power; but the language, though first developed in similar productions, is here so full of bombastic, tasteless, and mere rhetorical ornaments, that the thought seems to be entirely drowned in them.

Demetrius Sjetchinof, metropolitan of Novogorod, ob. 1767, and the archbishop of White Russia, Konissky, oh. 1795, are considered as not being without eloquence. Platon Levshin, metropolitan of Moscow, was the most productive of the ecclesiastical writers. He died in 1812, and continued to write until the end of his life; his productions consequently, in respect to time, belong partly to the next period of Russian literature.[28] Anastasius Bratanofski, archbishop of Astrachan, ob. 1806, takes the first place among Russian ecclesiastical orators, in respect to style and command of language; though higher powers and profounder feelings are ascribed to an arch-priest of Kief, Ivan Levanda, ob. 1814. Here our catalogue terminates. All the remaining ecclesiastical writers of any distinction, although only a few years younger than those here mentioned, seem in respect to language to belong to the following period.


From Karamzin, A.D. 1796, to the commencement of the reign of the emperor Nicholas in 1825.

The number of Russian writers increases during this period so considerably, that we feel more than ever obliged to limit ourselves to the most distinguished; thus, no doubt, passing over in silence many a name more deserving to be mentioned than others of the preceding periods, which borrowed a comparative lustre only from the poverty of the times.

The emperor Alexander, during the first years of his reign, showed a zeal for the mental cultivation and enlightenment of his subjects, which presented him to the eyes of admiring Europe in the light of one of the great benefactors of mankind. Whoever will take the trouble to follow the career of this prince closely, and contrast the shouts of acclamation with which the world hailed him at first, with the disesteem into which the same individual a few years afterwards shrunk, as a weak and insignificant being,—and then again compare the enthusiasm with which during the time of his better fortunes he was received anew as the deliverer of Europe, with the part which was afterwards assigned him in the system of obscurantismus supposed to be adopted by the united sovereigns of Europe,—whoever considers all this, cannot but be struck with the small portion of discernment and discrimination which is manifested in the world. A sober and keen-sighted observer might have seen even in the beginning, glorious as it was, that not all is gold that glitters. All that was done, was accompanied with a noise and boasting which strangely imposed upon foreigners. Universities, on the plan of the venerable institutions of learning in Germany, were founded, where all the preparation necessary in order to profit by them was wanting; and the profoundest sciences were professedly taught to pupils, who were still deficient even in elementary knowledge. We do not however mean to say, that much real good was not done; and even if some of the new institutions were not propitious in their immediate results, still the time has come, or will come, when all of them are or will be at least in a measure useful. The establishment of numerous common schools of a less elevated character throughout the whole empire, deserves unqualified praise. More than fifty higher schools, called gymnasia or governmental schools, and twice as many lower or provincial schools, were established under Alexander's reign alone.[29]

Besides the universities, eight in all, of which Alexander founded five, there are a considerable number of professional schools; among which are four theological academies. In the year 1823, an Institution for the study of oriental languages was founded at St. Petersburg; and in 1829 a similar one at Odessa, a city which has by its location more natural advantages for the learning of Asiatic languages than any other, and where for most of them native teachers may be readily obtained. On the other hand, the Asiatic Museum, attached to the school at St. Petersburg, contains all the means and aids for those studies to be met with at a more remote place. Richly endowed by the munificence of the emperor Alexander, who caused scientific treasures of every kind to be liberally purchased, it was also greatly augmented during the late war with Persia; where by order of the emperor all conquered cities were deprived of their libraries, whether public or private; while, by a stipulation in the treaty of peace, the Persian government was compelled to deliver to Russia towards four hundred manuscripts, a list of which was drawn up by the orientalists Fraehn and Senkofsky. Among these were the geography of Ptolemy, and several Arabic translations of Greek and Latin works, lost in the original languages. Although the object of the oriental schools in Russia was originally to educate translators for diplomatic missions, they have proved themselves very useful to oriental philology in general; especially through the many gifted Germans in the Russian service, who avail themselves gladly of opportunities for those studies which their own country cannot give. It will however be seen in the sequel, that several learned Russians also have paid an honourable attention to this branch, especially within the last twenty years.

The Russian Bible Society, founded A.D. 1813. was at first patronized by the emperor. Under its auspices, and at the instigation of the emperor himself, there was prepared a version of the Scriptures in the Russian dialect. In the year 1820, not less than 50,000 copies of the Gospels and the Acts were issued from the press; in 1823 the whole New Testament was finished, and in the course of eight months 20,000 copies were distributed. For this translation the peasantry, to whom the Old Slavic church Bible was only half intelligible, showed such an eagerness, as soon to excite trouble among the clergy. In some of the governments, remote from the capital, the readers of this version of the Bible had to encounter serious persecution. In respect to translations into foreign languages, a kind of rivalship arose between the parent society in England and the daughter in St. Petersburg. Besides the preparation by the latter of translations into thirty-one different languages and dialects within the limits of the Russian empire, she likewise took care of several Asiatic nations, and founded auxiliaries in the deserts of Siberia, and also in the midst of the Kozaks of the Don and the Circassian provinces. In A.D. 1820, this society had fifty-three sections and 145 auxiliaries; and the number of copies of whole Bibles and of New Testaments distributed, exceeded 430,000. But in 1822, the society held its last aniversary; and three years later, some of the more important Russian clergy succeeded in closing the series of annual reports. In April 1826, the activity of the society was ultimately terminated, or, as it was expressed, was suspended, by the Ukase of the emperor Nicholas, at the instigation of the metropolitans Eugene and Seraphim. Since that time, only the sale of the copies already printed has been permitted.[30]

The Russian Bible Society stood of course in connection with societies for Foreign Missions; but was active in this respect chiefly through the agency of the United or Moravian Brethren. In 1823 the Moravians of Sarepta sent, with the express consent of the minister of Ecclesiastical Affairs, two missionaries to the Kalmuks; into whose language the Gospels had been translated at St. Petersburg by Schmidt. In the same degree that they found the people susceptible for divine truth, did they meet with opposition from the priesthood. The Khans, yielding to the influence of the priests, threatened to emigrate; and the Russian government found it advisable to withdraw the mission. An interesting report of this mission was published in 1824, in the Journal of St. Petersburg. In the year 1824, a mission of the Greek church, at the instigation of the bishop of Archangel, was sent to the Samoyedes. This was the first attempt ever made to convert that savage people to Christianity; of the results we are not informed.

The compass of Russian literature extended itself during the course of Alexander's reign, or rather from A.D. 1800 to 1822, with a most remarkable rapidity. In the year 1787 the number of books written in the Old Slavonic and Russian dialects, did not exceed 4000;[31] before 1820 twice that number was counted; the year 1820 alone produced 3400 works, 800 of them translations from the French, 483 from the German, and more than 100 from the English. Sopikof, in his bibliographical essay, enumerates the titles of 13,240 Russian and Slavonic books, printed in Russia from A.D. 1552 to 1823. But at this time literature seems to have reached its height in respect to productiveness; and sunk again with a still greater rapidity, probably in consequence of the political measures of the government. The year 1824 produced only 264 Russian works. The yearly average of literary productions, original and translated, from 1800 to that time, is about 300 to 400. This number perhaps will not strike the reader as so very small, if he is informed that in the whole eighteenth century only 1000 works were printed. Three hundred and fifty living authors were enumerated in the year 1822; mostly belonging to the nobility, and only one eighth part to the clergy. Their literary activity towards the end of this period, and at the commencement of the next, was in a great measure confined to works of fiction; especially novels end lyrical poetry. But at this time a deeper interest in their national history began to be awakened. This department indeed had never been entirely neglected; and more than 10,000 manuscripts, unopened and unexamined, lay scattered throughout the imperial and monastic libraries.

Nicholas Karamzin, from the commencement of whose influence this period of Russian literature is in general dated, was born A.D. 1765. He was educated in the house of a German professor at Moscow. In spite of the early development of his literary propensities, he entered the military service, which was then considered as the most honourable in Russia. After two years spent in travelling through Europe, he opened his literary career with the publication of a periodical work called the Moscow Journal, which exercised a decidedly favourable influence on Russian literature; although those productions of Karamzin himself, which first appeared in this journal, evidently bear the stamp of the author's youth. Both in his prose writings and in his scattered lyrical poems, at this period, there is a certain dulcet sentimentality, behind which we look in vain for energetic or true poetic thoughts. He showed more maturity in his second periodical, called the European Messenger; where political and moral subjects occupied his pen. But his principal reputation rests upon his History of the Russian Empire. In composing this work, he was greatly favoured by the government; all the archives were opened to him; all documents delivered into his hands; and when it was completed, rewards and gratuities of every description were heaped upon the author with imperial munificence, and continued to his widow and children after his decease in 1826. [32]

The beauties of Karamzin's style are so entirely idiomatic, that no one, who is not perfectly and thoroughly acquainted with the language, is able to appreciate in what the charm of his writings consists. To foreigners of sound critical taste, on the contrary, the productions of his early life exhibit an affectation, a pretension to feeling, and an emptiness of original thought, sometimes quite intolerable. And as to the more condensed and exact style of his great historical work, even the highest beauties of diction, and the acknowledged diligence and accuracy of the writer's examination of facts, could never reconcile us to that want of truth, which, without wresting the fact itself, impresses upon it a false character by the whole colouring and mode of representation. Over the characteristic barbarism of ancient times his dexterous hand throws a veil of embellishment, and lends a spirit of chivalry and romantic charm to historical persons and deeds, where all the circumstances of place and time stand in absolute contradiction to it. Not seldom do we seem to be perusing a novel.

By this mode of proceeding he of course flattered the national feelings of his countrymen; and thus gained their approbation and applause, in the same measure that he disgusted all other nations. His History of Russia will nevertheless remain a standard work in Slavic literature, partly on account of the copiousness of its sources, partly because of the great learning and research displayed by its author.

In respect to Karamzin's innovations on the language, his influence was early counterbalanced. He considered the French or English mode of construction as better adapted to the present state of the Russian language, than that imitation of the classical structure, which had hitherto given to the Russian prose writings so stiff and awkward an air. He himself adopted with ease and gracefulness the peculiarities of these modern languages; but a portion of his followers thought to reach the same object by introducing Gallicisms. Just at the proper time an opposition was formed; the head of which, Admiral Shishkof, insisted upon preserving the influence of the Church Slavonic upon the Russian language; and reproached Karamzin with having injured the purity of the latter by the introduction of foreign forms. These two parties, which still divide the Russian literature in some measure, are called the Russian and Slavonic, or also the Moscow and St. Petersburg parties.

Not much less influence than Karamzin on the Russian prose, has Ivan Dmitrief, born 1760, exercised on poetry. He had more taste and purity than any of his predecessors; and was the first to prove by a great many poetical tales, fables, odes, etc. that imagination and correctness of language are not incompatible. The most successful of his followers are the following:

Vassilii Shukofsky, born 1784, a poet of true and deep feeling, without affectation, possessing more of what the Germans call subjectivity, than any other Russian writer. He took the Germans for his models, and partly imitated and partly translated them with success. Ivan Koslof, interesting by his personal character and trying misfortunes, must be mentioned as one of the most happy translators from the English and German. His literary talents were awakened only when he had lost the power of enjoying the world. Early in life he was deprived by sickness of the use of his limbs; and of his eyes, some years after. He bore this great affliction with the most amiable philosophy; devoted himself entirely to literature; and studied and imitated the English poets, chiefly Byron. Another successful translator of this great poet, who excited as much interest in Russia as in any other country, was Baron Rosen. Further, as lyrical poets, are also esteemed: Prince Vjazemsky, Vostokof distinguished as an Old Slavic philologist, Chwostof, Batjushkof,[33] Rileyef,[34] Baron Delwig, Glinka, etc.

At the head of the Russian poets stands, almost without a rival, Alexander Pushkin, born 1798, ob. 1835; but as his principal productions belong to the next period, and his influence is chiefly perceptible among the more recent poets, we defer for the present a fuller notice of his writings and his fortunes.

The Russians are particularly fond of fables. Besides Chemnitzer, mentioned above, who is flat and prosy, Ivan Krylof, born 1768, is celebrated in this department. He may be truly called the favourite of the nation. His fables, equally popular among all classes and conditions of life, are the first book that a Russian child reads. A considerable portion of them has been translated into French and Italian; partly by Count Orlof at Paris, and partly by friends of the latter, ladies and gentlemen of the most fashionable society in that capital, among whom that nobleman distributed the labour of translation. He then published them, with the original, in the year 1825. The perfect harmlessness and naivete of this author has made him also a favourite of the government; and when, twelve years ago, he celebrated his seventieth birthday, honours and distinctions of all kinds were accumulated on his head.

As dramatic poets, Shakhofskoi, Chmelnitzky, Gribojedof,[35] and Ozerof, must be mentioned; the first three chiefly as writers of comedies; the last as the author of a very popular drama entitled Gore ot Uma, Miseries of Intellect. While it cannot be doubted that the Russians have a decided talent for the comic, both as writers and as actors, it is still a fact that they have never produced a single tragedy of great power. Ozerof, who wrote quite a number of them, belongs more in spirit to the preceding period; during which the French was the only acknowledged model. The success he met with can be explained only by the want of competitors.

No form of poetry has found more favour in Russia than the historical novel. It was cultivated to some extent at this time; but the flower of this branch falls more properly within the following period. A voluminous novel, entitled Bursak by B. Nareshnoi, belonged to another species. It was written with a good deal of harmless humour, somewhat in the style of Le Sage's Gil Blas. It narrated the history of a Bursarian, or scholar of one of the monastic seminaries in Malo-Russia; and is full of adventures, lively descriptions of manners, and amusing incidents.[36]

The literature of translations continued to occupy very many pens. Here must be mentioned: Gnjeditch's version of the Iliad; Merzljakof's translation of Tasso's Jerusalem; Wojeikof's AEneid; Martynof's translation of several ancient classics, etc.

To foreigners, the travels of the Russians by sea and land offer the most interesting and instructive part of their literature. The most distinguished of their well known expeditions have indeed been conducted by Germans, as Krusenstern, Kotzebue, Bellinghausen, Wrangel; some however by Russians, as Golovnin, Lazaref, and others; and the results of all of them contribute to the honour of Russia, and are laid up in the temple of her literature. The regions of Malo-Russia, the Caucasus, and Taurida, of which comparatively little was known, were explored by Muraviev-Apostol, Glinka, Bronefsky, and others; and described by them in valuable volumes. An account of China by Timkofsky, was translated in 1827 into the English language. The works of the monk Hyacinth Bitchourin, head of the Russian ecclesiastical mission at Pekin, published in 1828-32, are of great importance for the knowledge of China, Thibet, and the country of the Mongols.[37] The great patriot and protector of science, Romyanzof, whose name is known throughout the civilized world, caused Abalghasi's Historia Mongolorum et Tartarorum to be printed in 1825, under the special care of the distinguished German oriental scholar Frahn. The publication of the Mongol work. History of the Eastern Mongols and their Princes, written by Ssanang Ssetzen, with a German translation and illustrations and remarks by J.J. Schmidt, although no Russian work, may be mentioned here; as it was only made possible by Russian means, and the support of the emperor. The same author, known to the literary world by his learned Researches in Eastern Asia, translated also the Gospels into the Mongol and Kalmuk languages for the Russian Bible Society. A Mongol Grammar was prepared by him in 1828, and the Mongol-German-Russian Dictionary was announced in 1834. A Mongol-Russian Dictionary had been previously published by Igumnof of Irkutzk. Volkof composed a Tartar Dictionary, an earlier one having been written by Giganof in 1804. For the study of the Armenian, numerous opportunities are presented; the Armenian archimandrite Seraphim published in 1819 an Armenian elementary Encyclopedia, and in 1822 a Russian Armenian Dictionary. But the oriental studies of the Russians are not limited to the languages of the Russian empire. A Hebrew Grammar has been published by Pavsky, the learned author of the Russian version of the Old Testament; and in the year 1821 there were, according to Henderson, not less than forty of his pupils employed as teachers in the different academies and seminaries throughout the country. An Arabic Grammar has been published by Boldryef, and also a Persian Chrestomathy in 1826. Senkofsky translated the Derbent-Nahmeh; and also edited with considerable additions the French-Arabic dictionary, originally written by the Swede Berggren, a work of great utility to the Arabic scholar; not a mere vocabulary, but full of geographical notices and general information; in short a work which, according to the prospectus written by the learned Fraehn, "contains every thing that can be useful to the traveller, diplomatic agent, missionary, physician or merchant." The editor among other things has added in Roman characters the vulgar pronunciation of the Arabic, which differs materially from that given by the grammarians.

Among the ecclesiastical writers of this period, Ambrosius Protasof archbishop of Kazan and Simbirsk, and Philaret Drozdof archbishop of Moscow, are considered as the most eloquent. The last is the author of several works on church history. Other theological writers are the following: Eugene Bolchovitinof metropolitan of Kief,[38] Ambrosius Podobjedof metropolitan of Novogorod, and Michael Dosnitzky metropolitan of St. Petersburg. Stanislas Bogush, a Roman Catholic priest, published a history of Taurida and several other historical works in the Russian language. The branch of Memoires in the French sense of the word, has recently been much cultivated. The publications of Count Munich, in 1818; of Prince Shakhofsky, 1821; of General Danilevsky. 1830; and of Admiral Shishkof, 1832; are valuable contributions to the history of our time. The two latter, although belonging to the next period in respect to the years of publication, are nevertheless productions of the period now under review, and refer chiefly to it.

The national feeling of the Russians has led them, during the period of their literary history, to examine the nature of their language; and all philosophical investigations, or antiquarian researches, which could throw additional light upon the past, have been favoured by persons of distinction and influence; as for example, by Admiral Shishkef, himself a writer on various subjects. With this view he caused a new edition of the Dictionary of the Russian Academy to be published; and set on foot the preparation of another more perfect work of that kind, founded on an improved plan.[39] To this class of philological antiquarians belong the names of Vostokof already cited in these pages, Sokolof, Kalaidovitch, and Stroyef; the two latter learned and judicious commentators on old manuscripts which they first published, and which but for them would still lie mouldering in dust and oblivion. In the department of literary history and bibliography, we find as writers of merit, P. Koeppen, author of the well-written article "Kunst mid Alterthum in Russland" in the Vienna Jahrbuecher, and of various valuable paleographic and other essays in the Russian language; also Gretsch, Sopikof, Anastasevitch, the metropolitan Eugene above mentioned, Pletuef, Mussin-Pushkin, Korshavin, Katchenofsky, etc. etc. The principal activity and success of this school falls within the next period.


From A.D. 1825 to the present time.

The reign of the emperor Nicholas opened with a bloody tragedy, which concerns us here only so far, as the dissatisfied, effervescing, unhealthy spirit of the literary youth of Russia was in a very striking manner exhibited in it.

Several poets and men of some literary fame were among the conspirators. Rileyef, Bestushef, and others, became the victims of their imprudence. An analogous spirit had some years before banished young Pushkin from the capital. It was evident, that the Russian muse was no longer the good old gossiping lady in French court-dress and hoops, who was ready to drop a humble courtesy to every person of rank and influence; she was no longer the shepherdess who had inspired Dmitrief with his sweet yet tame verses; she had been by the example and the pernicious influence of the modern philosophical schools gradually metamarphosed into a wild romantic girl, burning with desire to drink freely, and without being watched by police agents, from the true source of poetry open to all nations; to rove about in the world of imagination free from fetters and restraint. The means which the emperor chose to cure her from these eccentricities; to chain her at home by endearing it to her; in short, to Russify her again; were certainly judicious.

We have seen that the spirit of historical and archaeological researches, as well as the interest for the study of the Slavic languages, was already awakened in the preceding period. The government did every thing to favour it, and to nurse that truly patriotic zeal which tries to penetrate the past in order to search for those links which connect it with the present. All influence from without was as much as possible checked; the professorships of philosophy were abolished at all the universities (1827); the scissors of censorship were directed to cut sharper; the catalogue of forbidden books was made longer; the permission to travel was often denied, and the term of lawful absence for a Russian subject confined to five years. But in the interior, within the safe inclosure of the Chinese walls of protection against the epidemic fever of the age, the most energetic measures were taken to promote national education, and to cultivate those fields of science where no political tares could be sown among the grain.

Of all political ideas, one at least was favoured; and this was the great idea of Panslavism, that is, of the close connection or union of all the Slavic races among themselves. Of this great family, some of whose members after a short period of flourishing life are withering fast away, if not supported by the whole, Russia is the natural head, the great animating soul, into which the other parts all must naturally be absorbed at last. This idea, first scientifically wrought out by Bohemian scholars, and cherished by their pride, which was justly offended by the oppressions and undisguised contempt experienced from the Germans, was well received by the Russian literati; and even by many of those who naturally loved the Poles, and did not approve of the harsh measures of the Russian government. There was even in Poland itself a school which adopted this view; nay, some distinguished Polish scholars claim it as their own original idea. According to them, the Austrians and Prussians alone were the real usurpers; in being absorbed by Russia as a member of the great Slavic empire, Poland yielded only to its fate, and could hope for a more glorious Panslavic resurrection, i.e. a resurrection as a member of the great whole.[40]

In reference to the critical researches, which were made through all branches of history, the period now under review may be appropriately called the historical period. The investigations of the Archaeological Commission, have been mentioned above. It was first appointed in 1834; and considerably enlarged in 1837. The examination of manuscripts was not confined to the libraries of the empire; Stroyef was sent to Paris, Newerof to Germany, Solovyef to Denmark and Sweden, Wenelin to Bulgaria; and Nadeshdin travelled among the despised Russian tribes of Northern Hungary. In 1844, five volumes of Russian annals were printed; besides a series of historical and juridical documents which had preceded them. The Moscow Historical and Geographical Society, an older institution, and also the St. Petersburg Historical Society founded in 1846, have contributed their share of information; and a general interest has been awakened among the higher classes of society.

The new critical spirit of the times was first perceptible in the bold attitude assumed by the editor of a periodical work, called the Telegraph. Polevoi was a self-made man, a merchant without classical education, without deep learning, and indeed without depth in any thing. He had however by an uncommon share of sagacity, by a rare energy of thought, and a restless activity, gained more influence over his countrymen than any previous writer; and succeeded In giving to his very popular periodical an important voice in all matters of literature. In the year 1829 he announced a new History of Russia, in twelve volumes; and at the same time expressed the opinion, that Karamzin's work was to be called neither practical nor philosophical, and was no longer worthy of the present standing of Russian literature. His own publication, which followed soon afterwards, and was executed with the rapidity which was characteristic of the man, proved that it is easier to point out the deficiencies of others, than to avoid them ourselves.

The young historical school found another champion in Sergei Skromnenko, who attacked the authority of Nestor, or at least the age ascribed to this first Russian annalist; essaying to prove that he did not write before the beginning of the fourteenth, or perhaps towards the end of the thirteenth century.[41] Another young historian, J. Bodianski, defended this opinion. W. Perewostschikof examined it in a separate work.[42] Pogodin, a name of more weight, refuted it in his Studies on Nestor; and it seems since to have been given up.

Another production of some importance was an "Essay towards a Geography of the Old Russian World," by Nadeshdin; in which the author attempted with ability and success to trace the old seats of the Slavic nations. Several monographs and histories of particular regions or periods appeared in the interval between 1830 and 1842. Such were the histories, e.g. of the unfortunate Prince Ivan and his relatives, by Polenof; of Catharine II. by Lefort; of Tzar Boris Godunof, by Krayefski; of Peter II, by Arsenief. Also a History of the time of troubles (as the period between Boris Godunof and the reign of the house of Romanof is called) by Buturlin; the biographies of the first three Tzars of the house of Romanof, by Berg; the histories of Kief by Samailof, of Pskow by Pogodin, of Siberia by Slowzof; of the fair of Nishni Novogorod, which goes back to the fourteenth century, by Zubof; of the Zaporoguean Kozaks by Sreznefski. This latter valuable work is especially rich in historical popular songs, never before printed. Further, the History of the insurrection of Pugatschef, by the poet Pushkin; the Historical and statistical survey of Russia, by T. Bulgarin; and the Memoirs for Russian History by Svinyin (ob. 1839); must be here mentioned. The two latter had hitherto been more known as writers of novels than as historians; and the rosy light which the first of the two tries to throw over his subject, seems still to testify more to his talent for romance than to his historical truthfulness.

This was however the spirit in which the government wished its historians to write. A work of decided importance appeared in 1839, a History of Russia, in which the principles of Panslavism were developed in a striking manner. The author, Professor Oustrialof, who had made himself favourably known by several monographs relating to Russian History, has displayed in the above-mentioned work not only considerable acuteness, but also a great deal of research, consistency, and thoroughness.[43] His principal tendency is to represent Russia as the natural central point of the Slavic race. The immediate result of the appearance of this work was, that Oustrialof was commissioned by the government to write a compendium or guide for historical instruction in all the schools of the empire.

Although this view may be called the most popular in Russia, it appears from the decided predilection with which Russian writers of history devote their pens to subjects anterior to the reign of Peter I, that they consider the comparatively greater liberty which is allowed them in their researches into the history of this earlier period as a decided advantage. Karamzin had proved by the picture he drew of Ivan the Terrible, that, at this remote period at least, justice was free. It may thus be explained, why Boris Godunof, the friend of the people, the promoter of liberal ideas and modern improvements, is a favourite subject of the young historical school.

The treatment of modern history has in Russia its own difficulties, which may easily be comprehended; and nothing is permitted to appear without the approval of the government. General Michailovski-Danilevski, who wrote a history of the war of 1812-14, may be considered as its true representative. He ascribes all the merits of the final victory of the Allies to the Russians alone. Among several works of that time written in an analogous spirit, the "Description of the campaigns of 1812 and 1814" must be noticed; because the author is a lady by the name of Dorof, who served in the army as a common soldier, and describes only what she saw. An anonymous work, written by an eye-witness, gives an account of the Turkish war in 1828-29. The work entitled "Biographies of the Russian Admirals" (1834), gives a history of the Russian navy.

In no department has Russian Literature remained more behind its age, than in the treatment of foreign history, and especially European history. The series of publications which have appeared relating to it, consist almost exclusively of defective translations, or weak imitations. For the Russian scholar this defect was less essential than for the public in general, as all of them read foreign languages. Pogodin has recently begun to give more attention to this subject.

In respect to several Asiatic nations we are almost entirely dependent on Russian writers. The priest Hyacinth, honourably mentioned in connection with this branch, continues his useful activity. Chopin on the provinces of the Caucasus (1840); Nefedyef on the Wolga-Kalmuks (1835); several articles in the Siberian Mercury, a periodical; a History of the Mongols, from the Persian, by Grigoryef; the Kirgises of the inner Horde, by Khanikof; and several publications of the Geographical Society of St. Petersburg; deserve to be noticed here. The works of two foreigners, one by Haguemaster on the Commerce with Persia and Turkey, the other by Chaudoir on the Numismatics of China, Japan, and Korea, may also be included; as they appeared simultaneously in the Russian and French languages, and were both of them occasioned by the Russian government.

The interest of the Russians for Law as a science has only recently been excited. Prince Peter of Oldenburg, a cousin of the emperor, founded a Law School in 1832. Since that time the nobility have endowed several professorships of law in the universities; and the names of N. Krylof and Manoshkin have become favourably known in this department.

In Statistics the name of Arsenyef is an authority. Many valuable contributions are to be found in Stepanof's Description of the Government of Yennissci, and in various Russian periodicals; especially in the annals of several Bureaus, which are from time to time published by the government, and the Statistical Annuals edited by the Academy.

The literature of Travels cannot well be very rich at the present day, in a country where travelling to foreign lands meets with so many difficulties; and where even travels in the interior are at least not made very easy. To the most valuable productions in the first department belong: Norof's Journey to the Holy Land, St. Pet. 1838; Davidof's to Greece and Italy; Demidof's to Moldavia and Wallachia; Korf's to Persia; Wcewolodski to the East and through Europe; Gretsch to the Western countries of Europe, etc. Two collections of old travels, viz. one containing those made by Russians to foreign countries, among which is the description of a journey to the Holy Land in the twelfth century; another comprising the accounts of foreigners who travelled in Russia in olden times; have also recently been published.

Modern works of travels in Russia have been written by A. Demidof, Baer, Boethlingk, Glagolyef, Kavelin, and others. Most of these journeys were made for certain scientific purposes. Mouravyef's Pilgrimage to the holy places of Russia must be classified rather as a work of religion.

And here a short survey of this latter branch of Russian literature may naturally be subjoined. To it belong the other works of the writer just mentioned; who is attached to his own church with an almost fanatical enthusiasm. They are, first, a History of the Greek Church; secondly, Letters on the Greek Church Service. An elaborate History of the Russian Patriarchate, published a few years ago, is ascribed to the bishop Philarete, a clergyman who is said to have shown an immoderate zeal in making proselytes in the Baltic provinces. A biographical History of the Russian Saints, by Yeristof, belongs also here. Of theological science there can hardly be a trace, in a country where all free investigation in exegetical matters is cut off. Theological literature is entirely confined to synodal orations and some ascetic writings. The spirit of the present age in Russia is strictly orthodox; and the monocracy of the Greek Church is the great object for which clergy and laity exert themselves; especially in the Baltic provinces. Among sermons, those of Innocenz, vicar of the metropolitan of Kief, are much admired.

Literary history has recently been a favourite branch. Polevoi, Gretsch, Schevyrof, Maximovitch, Nadeshdin, Nikitenko; and, in respect to languages and antiquities, Kalaidovitch, Vostokof and Koppen, the latter of German extraction, and mentioned in the preceding period; are the names which have most weight in these matters.

We have at last come back to belles lettres, the department of literature by which the genius of a nation is most distinctly characterized. The tendencies which in Russia prevail in the other branches, viz. a revival of interest for all that is native, Slavic, or relating to the past; the reaction from a period of fondness for all that was foreign and outlandish; is very clearly perceptible also in this portion of literature. Yet the Russians, once forcibly thrust into the way of imitation by their great Tzar, appear here even now only as imitators; and are still far from having found the path back to their simple popular poetry.

After this remark it cannot surprise us, that towards the close of the last, and especially at the beginning of the present period, the historical novel was cultivated with particular fondness; and was almost exclusively devoted to Russian history. T. Bulgarin, P. Svinyin, Sagoskin, Massalski, wrote the most approved works of that kind. More recently the novelists have rather returned to the description of morals and manners, as their more appropriate province. Pawlof, Prince Odoyeski, Lermontof, Gogol, Laschetnikof, Weltmann, Dahl, who writes under the name of Kozak Luganski, are the most popular writers of tales. Karamzin and Shukofski are still considered as models in this department.

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