Old School

Alexander Pushkin is widely regarded as one of the greatest poets of the Romantic era and is certainly one of Russia’s most notable. Born in 1799 in Moscow he sadly only lived to be 37 years old following a fatal injury in a duel! From an early age Pushkin showed the literary talent he would later be acclaimed for and published his first work at the tender age of 15. He was even exiled throughout his career for growing political and social criticism of the Tsar, the basis of which formed much of the more well-known works both poetic and in novel and play form. Although young at the time of his death, he left behind four children and the legacy of a formidable body of work, the most notable being Eugene Onegin, The Captive of the Caucasus and The Fountain of Bakhchisaray.

Alexander Petrovich Sumarokov was born twenty years before Pushkin, in 1777, also in Moscow and was a forerunner of the Russian literary scene introducing a greater awareness of literature and theater with more European influences, particularly the French. Much of the early writings are poor imitations of those literary works he admired, but without a doubt his prolific attempts were instrumental in advancing the Russian consciousness of these genres and he is thus highly significant. Subsequently, his daughter Ekaterina emerged as one of the first Russian woman writers being among a very few who saw their work in print, in journals of the 18th century.

A Little Later

Dmitry Merezhkovsky was born in1866 and became a well-known poet and novelist during the period known as the Silver Age of Russian Poetry. He is typically regarded as a co-founder of the Symbolist Movement and was married to Zinaida Gippius, a poet herself. An idealist and religious man of strong beliefs, his work in turn reflected these strong influences and on no less than nine occasions he was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature, although he never won. Significantly, despite his own misgivings about his poet works, many of them were put to music by famous composers such as Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. He died in 1941 at the age of 75.

Also hailing from the Silver Age of Russian Poetry, Konstantin Balmont was a poet born in 1867 and a member of the afore mentioned Symbolist Movement. He was a prolific writer and had many pieces published to much acclaim both in his homeland and abroad. In addition, Balmont was a proficient translator and was noted for his translations of poetry, particularly from German and French languages. He had a long and successful career, culminating in Burning Buildings in 1900 in which he introduced rhymes and rhythms emulated later by others and which elevated him to the status of the Symbolist’s most popular poet.

Recent Times

Dmitry Vodennikov has been recognized as one of the top living Russian poets and is certainly one of the youngest to be so admired. Born in1968 in Moscow he has certainly left a mark on his generation, getting the word out to a younger audience through the medium of radio, hosting two shows dedicated solely to poetry. Clearly the poetry of modern Russia has come a long way from the days of revolution and vast social divides, but nevertheless speaks to the new issues of the modern world in the way that sometimes only poetry can!