History of Literature








Russian literature

 


 


Nikolay Novikov


born April 27 [May 8, New Style], 1744, Bronnitsky, near Moscow, Russia
died July 31 [Aug. 12], 1818, Bronnitsky

Russian writer, philanthropist, and Freemason whose activities were intended to raise the educational and cultural level of the Russian people and included the production of social satires as well as the founding of schools and libraries. Influenced by Freemasonry, Novikov converted his journals and his ambitious publishing enterprise into vehicles of freethinking and even criticized Empress Catherine II the Great. She suspended publication of his journals and had him arrested in 1792. He was released by Emperor Paul in 1796 but was forbidden to resume his journalistic activities.


 

Nikolay Ivanovich Novikov (Russian: Никола́й Ива́нович Новико́в) (8 May [O.S. 27 April] 1744 - 12 August [O.S. 31 July] 1818) was a Russian writer and philanthropist most representative of his country's Enlightenment. Frequently considered to be the first Russian journalist, he aimed at advancing the cultural and educational level of the Russian public.

Together with Johann Georg Schwartz, Ivan Vladimirovich Lopukhin, and Semion Ivanovich Gamaleya he brought martinism and rosicrucianism to Russia.

Novikov belonged to the first generation of Russians that benefited from the creation of the Moscow University in 1755. He took an active part in the Legislative Assembly of 1767, which sought to produce a new code of laws. Inspired by this kind of freethinking activity, he took over editing the Moscow Gazette and launched satirical journals, patterned after The Tatler and The Spectator. His attacks on the existing social customs prompted jocund retorts from Catherine the Great, who even set her own journal called Vsyakaya vsyachina to comment on Novikov's articles.

By the 1780s, Novikov rose to the highest positions in Russian Freemasonry, which liberally funded his ambitious book-publishing ventures. Novikov's press produced a third part of contemporary Russian books and several newspapers. Novikov used his influence for various noble purposes, such as a large-scale project of promoting Shakespeare to Russian public.

When the French Revolution started, Catherine changed her attitude towards the likes of Novikov. His printing-house was confiscated. Three years later, without a formal trial, he was incarcerated in the Shlisselburg Fortress for 15 years. Much of his printed material was pulped, including 1,000 copies of Edward Young's The Last Day (1713). Emperor Paul set Novikov free, but the latter was too scared and broken-hearted to resume his journalistic activities.

 

 
 
 
 
 

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