History of Literature

Russian literature



Old Russian literature. (10th–17th centuries)

The 18th century

The 19th century

The Silver Age. (From the 1890s to 1917)

Post-Revolutionary literature

Thaws and freezes


Russian literature

Old Russian literature (10th–17th centuries)

Hilarion of Kiev
"The Song of Igor’s Campaign" Translated by Vladimir Nabokov
Avvakum Petrov



The body of written works produced in the Russian language, beginning with the Christianization of Kievan Rus in the late 10th century.

The unusual shape of Russian literary history has been the source of numerous controversies. Three major and sudden breaks divide it into four periods—pre-Petrine (or Old Russian), Imperial, post-Revolutionary, and post-Soviet. The reforms of Peter I (the Great; reigned 1682–1725), who rapidly Westernized the country, created so sharp a divide with the past that it was common in the 19th century to maintain that Russian literature had begun only a century before. The 19th century’s most influential critic, Vissarion Belinsky, even proposed the exact year (1739) in which Russian literature began, thus denying the status of literature to all pre-Petrine works. The Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Bolshevik coup later in the same year created another major divide, eventually turning “official” Russian literature into political propaganda for the communist state. Finally, Mikhail Gorbachev’s ascent to power in 1985 and the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1991 marked another dramatic break. What is important in this pattern is that the breaks were sudden rather than gradual and that they were the product of political forces external to literary history itself.

The most celebrated period of Russian literature was the 19th century, which produced, in a remarkably short period, some of the indisputable masterworks of world literature. It has often been noted that the overwhelming majority of Russian works of world significance were produced within the lifetime of one person, Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910). Indeed, many of them were written within two decades, the 1860s and 1870s, a period that perhaps never has been surpassed in any culture for sheer concentrated literary brilliance.

Russian literature, especially of the Imperial and post-Revolutionary periods, has as its defining characteristics an intense concern with philosophical problems, a constant self-consciousness about its relation to the cultures of the West, and a strong tendency toward formal innovation and defiance of received generic norms. The combination of formal radicalism and preoccupation with abstract philosophical issues creates the recognizable aura of Russian classics.

Old Russian literature (10th–17th centuries)

The conventional term “Old Russian literature” is anachronistic for several reasons. The authors of works written during this time obviously did not think of themselves as “old Russians” or as predecessors of Tolstoy. Moreover, the term, which represents the perspective of modern scholars seeking to trace the origin of later Russian works, obscures the fact that the East Slavic peoples (of the lands then called Rus) are the ancestors of the Ukrainian and Belarusian as well as of the Russian people of today. Works of the oldest (Kievan) period also led to modern Ukrainian and Belarusian literature. Third, the literary language established in Kievan Rus was Church Slavonic, which, despite the gradual increase of local East Slavic variants, linked the culture to the wider community known as Slavia orthodoxa—that is, to the Eastern Orthodox South Slavs of the Balkans. In contrast to the present, this larger community took precedence over the “nation” in the modern sense of that term. Fourth, some have questioned whether these texts can properly be called literary, if by that term is meant works that are designed to serve a primarily aesthetic function, inasmuch as these writings were generally written to serve ecclesiastic or utilitarian purposes.

The Kievan period

The Kievan period (so called because Kiev was the seat of the grand princes) extends from the Christianization of Russia in 988 to the conquest of Russia by the Tatars (Mongols) in the 13th century. Russia received Christianity from Byzantium rather than from Rome, a fact of decisive importance for the development of Russian culture. Whereas Catholic Poland was closely linked to cultural developments in western Europe, Orthodox Russia was isolated from the West for long periods and, at times, regarded its culture as dangerous. Conversion by Byzantium also meant that the language of the church could be the vernacular rather than, as in the West, Latin; this was another factor that worked against the absorption of Western culture.

Russia was not the first Slavic culture to be converted to Christianity, and a standardized language, the Old Church Slavonic pioneered in the 9th century by Saints Cyril (or Constantine) and Methodius, was already available. Bulgaria, which had been Christianized a century earlier and had offered a home to the Cyrillo-Methodian community, became a conduit for the transmission of Greek culture, translated into Old Church Slavonic, to Russia, which in turn rapidly established its own scribal activities in copying and translating. Thus a significant literary activity of the Kievan period consisted of translating or adapting borrowed works. It is worth stressing that the enormous prestige accorded to translating has continued to be a distinctive characteristic of Russian culture. Even in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, major Russian writers devoted their energies to the translation of foreign works, which in some cases constituted their most significant contribution—a literary fact reflecting Russia’s status as a self-conscious cultural borrower for much of its history.

During the Kievan period the selection of translated foreign works circulating in Russia by and large reflected the interests of the church: almost all were from the Greek, and most were of ecclesiastical interest. Ostromirovo evangeliye (The Ostromir Gospel) of 1056–57 is the oldest dated Russian manuscript. Versions of the four Gospels, the Book of Revelation, guidebooks of monastic rules, homilies, hagiographic collections, and prayers reflect the religious interests of the clerical community. To be sure, translations of secular works also circulated, including Flavius JosephusThe Jewish War (which influenced Russian military tales), chronicles, and some tales. But, on the whole, translations offered a rather limited access to Greek culture aside from the ecclesiastical.

A celebrated monument of Old Russian literature is Hilarion’s Slovo o zakone i blagodati (1037–50; “Sermon on Law and Grace”), an accomplished piece of rhetoric contrasting Old Testament law with New Testament grace. Other significant homiletic works were written by Clement of Smolensk, metropolitan of Russia from 1147 to 1154, and by St. Cyril of Turov (1130–82). The central genre of Old Russian literature was probably hagiography, and a number of interesting saints’ lives date from the earliest period. Both a chronicle account and two lives of Boris and Gleb, the first Russian saints, have survived to the present day. The sanctity of these two men, who were killed by their brother Svyatopolk in a struggle for the throne, consists not in activity but in the pious passivity with which, in imitation of Christ, they accepted death. This ideal of passive acceptance of suffering was to exercise a long-lasting influence on Russian thought.

The monk Nestor (c. 1056–after 1113), to whom a life of Boris and Gleb is ascribed, also wrote Zhitiye prepodobnogo ottsa nashego Feodosiya (“Life of Our Holy Father Theodosius”) (d. 1074). The Kievo-Pechersky paterik (The Paterik of the Kievan Caves Monastery), closely related to hagiography, collects stories from the lives of monks, along with other religious writings. A saint’s life of quite a different sort, Zhitiye Aleksandra Nevskogo (“Life of Alexandr Nevsky”) (d. 1263), celebrates a pious warrior prince. The tradition of pilgrimage literature also begins in this period. Nestor was involved with compiling the Povest vremennykh let (“Tale of Bygone Years”; The Russian Primary Chronicle), also called the Primary Chronicle of Kiev (compiled about 1113), which led to the writing of other chronicles elsewhere.

From a literary point of view, the best work of Old Russian literature is the Slovo o polku Igoreve (The Song of Igor’s Campaign), a sort of epic poem (in rhythmic prose, actually) dealing with Prince Igor’s raid against the Polovtsy (Kipchak), a people of the steppes, his capture, and his escape. Composed between 1185 and 1187, the Igor Tale, as it is generally known, was discovered in 1795 by Count Musin-Pushkin. The manuscript was destroyed in the Moscow fire of 1812; however, a copy made for Catherine II the Great survived. The poem’s authenticity has often been challenged but is now generally accepted. Its theme is the disastrous fratricidal disunity of the Russian princes.

Hilarion of Kiev

Enthronement of Hilarion of Kiev from Radziwiłł Chronicle

flourished 11th century

the first native metropolitan of Kiev, who reigned from 1051 to 1054, and the first known Kievan Rus writer and orator.

A priest, Hilarion became the second archbishop of Kiev, the chief city in Rus at that time. Although Kievan bishops had all previously been appointed by the patriarch of Constantinople, Hilarion was chosen by Prince Yaroslav I the Wise and an assembly of Rus bishops. Scholars are divided in interpreting his election, but it is likely that an agreement on the matter had been reached between the Rus and Greek hierarchies.

Hilarion’s importance to the Rus Church derives from the sentiments he expressed c. 1050 in his classically structured panegyric of Saint Vladimir (grand prince of Kiev 980–1015), the first Christian ruler of Kievan Rus and the institutor of Orthodoxy as the state religion. Entitled “Sermon on Law and Grace,” the encomium not only rhetorically extolled the monarch for implanting the true religion in his country but also eulogized the Slavic people. Recalling the historical events by which Saint Vladimir uprooted the pre-Christian Slavic cults so that Christian worship and monasticism could flourish, Hilarion fused local patriotism with the universality of Christian belief in the inexorable unfolding of a divine plan of salvation. He showed a wide familiarity with Greek patristic and apologetic literature and styled his work in the form of Byzantine imperial panegyrics. His appreciation of Greek Orthodoxy is manifested by his concept of the Rus Church as the Slavonic version of Byzantine Christian culture.




born c. 1056, Kiev [now in Ukraine]
died Oct. 27, 1113, Kiev

a monk in Kievan Rus of the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev (from about 1074), author of several works of hagiography and an important historical chronicle.

Nestor wrote the lives of Saints Boris and Gleb, the sons of St. Vladimir of Rus, who were murdered in 1015, and the life of St. Theodosius, abbot of the Monastery of the Caves (d. 1074). A tradition that was first recorded in the 13th century ascribes to him the authorship of the Povest vremennykh let (“Tale of Bygone Years”; The Russian Primary Chronicle), the most important historical work of early medieval Rus. Modern scholarship, however, regards the chronicle as a composite work, written and revised in several stages, and inclines to the view that the basic (though not final) version of the document was compiled by Nestor about 1113. The chronicle, extant in several medieval manuscripts, the earliest dated 1377, was compiled in Kiev. It relates in detail the earliest history of the eastern Slavs down to the second decade of the 12th century. Emphasis is laid on the foundation of the Kievan state—ascribed to the advent of Varangians (a tribe of Norsemen) in the second half of the 9th century, the subsequent wars and treaties between Rus and Byzantium, the conversion of Rus to Christianity about 988, the cultural achievements of the reign of Yaroslav the Wise of Kiev (1019–54), and the wars against the Turkic nomads of the steppe.

Written partly in Old Church Slavonic, partly in the Old Russian language based on the spoken vernacular, The Russian Primary Chronicle includes material from translated Byzantine chronicles, west and south Slavonic literary sources, official documents, and oral sagas. This borrowed material is woven with considerable skill into the historical narrative, which is enlivened by vivid description, humour, and a sense of the dramatic.

The Russian Primary Chronicle

also called Chronicle of Nestor or Kiev Chronicle, Russian Povest vremennykh let (“Tale of Bygone Years”)

medieval Kievan Rus historical work that gives a detailed account of the early history of the eastern Slavs to the second decade of the 12th century. The chronicle, compiled in Kiev about 1113, was based on materials taken from Byzantine chronicles, west and south Slavonic literary sources, official documents, and oral sagas; the earliest extant manuscript of it is dated 1377. While the authorship was traditionally ascribed to the monk Nestor, modern scholarship considers the chronicle a composite work.



"The Song of Igor’s Campaign"
Translated by
Vladimir Nabokov


also translated Lay of Igor’s Campaign, Russian Slovo o polku Igoreve

masterpiece of Old Russian literature, an account of the unsuccessful campaign in 1185 of Prince Igor of Novgorod-Seversky against the Polovtsy (Kipchak, or Cumans). As in the great French epic The Song of Roland, Igor’s heroic pride draws him into a combat in which the odds are too great for him. Though defeated, Igor escapes his captors and returns to his people. The tale was written anonymously (1185–87) and preserved in a single manuscript, which was discovered in 1795 by A.I. Musin-Pushkin, published in 1800, and lost during Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812.

The tale is not easily classified; neither lyric nor epic, it is a blend of both, with a suggestion of the political pamphlet as well. It is the product of a writer familiar with oral poetry, chronicles, and historical narratives. It is distinguished principally by its modernity. The author’s worldview is secular; Christianity is incidental to events.

The Song alone of all Old Russian literature has become a national classic, one that is familiar to every educated Russian. An English translation of it by Vladimir Nabokov was published in 1960.


From the 14th to the 17th century

Moscow’s ascendancy

Beginning in the 1230s, the Tatars conquered most of the Russian lands, thus destroying the hegemony of Kiev and initiating a period in which political and cultural power was dispersed among numerous principalities. Eventually the grand princes of Moscow succeeded in defeating the Tatars (1480) and subduing the principalities. (The exception was the lands under the rule of the Lithuanian-Polish kingdom, and this division initiated the development of separate Ukrainian and Belarusian cultural traditions.) Once the Russian lands were united, Tsar Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible; reigned 1533–84) undertook a campaign against the remaining power of the old aristocracy (boyars). Reflecting these political facts, chronicles and saints’ lives served the interests of particular local powers. A series of works in various genres, known as the Kulikovo cycle, celebrated the first (but by no means definitive) Russian victory over the Tatars in 1380 under the leadership of Grand Prince Dmitry Ivanovich (“Donskoy”). A rather weak imitation of the Igor Tale, the Zadonshchina (attributed to Sofony of Ryazan and composed no later than 1393) glorifies Dmitry Donskoy.

The Second South Slavic Influence

The Ottoman occupation of the Balkans at the end of the 14th century, and later the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, drove a number of prelates to Russia, thus initiating the “Second South Slavic Influence.” Schooled in an Eastern Christian theological movement, Hesychasm, these men brought with them a style of writing closely linked to their theological doctrines. Known as “word weaving,” this ornamental style played with phonic and semantic correspondences. It appears in the most notable hagiography of the period, Zhitiye svyatogo Sergiya Radonezhskogo (“Life of Saint Sergius of Radonezh”) by Epifany Premudry (Epiphanius the Wise; d. between 1418 and 1422).

Possessors and Nonpossessors

A theological and political controversy of great significance took place between St. Joseph of Volokolamsk (1439–1515) and his followers, known as the “Possessors,” or “Josephites,” and Nil Sorsky (1433–1508) and his followers, known as the “Nonpossessors.” Joseph justified the killing of heretics and the church’s possession of lands (thus the name “Possessors”). These positions were disputed by Nil and his followers, especially Vassian Patrikeyev (d. before 1545) and Maximus the Greek (c. 1475–1556). The Nonpossessors called for greater tolerance and an inner, more spiritual religion, a view that left its mark on a tradition eventually embodied in Dostoyevsky’s ideal monk, Father Zosima, in his novel The Brothers Karamazov. With the Josephites’ triumph, the division between church and state dissolved; apostasy and treason became inseparably linked.

Works reflecting Muscovite power

Accompanying Moscow’s rise were a series of writings on the theme of translatio imperii (“translation of empire”), which constructed genealogies and described the transmission of imperial and ecclesiastical regalia to Russia. Particularly important is the monk Philotheus’ (Filofei’s) epistle to Vasily III (written between 1514 and 1521), which proclaimed that, with the fall of Constantinople (the second Rome), Moscow became the third (and last) Rome. Along with the title tsar (caesar) and the claim that Orthodox Russia was the only remaining true Christian state, the doctrine of the Third Rome came to justify Russian imperial ambitions and to legitimize the idea that it was Russia’s destiny to save and rule the world.

Reflecting the consolidation of Muscovite power were a series of encyclopaedic works, including the enormous Velikiye Minei-Cheti (“Great Martyrologue”) of 1552, the Ulozheniye (“Code of Laws”), and other collections or codifications. Encyclopaedic writing also includes the famous Domostroy, or rules for household management, which later became a byword for oppressive narrow-mindedness. The 16th century also saw the first examples of polemical writing by laymen. Ivan Peresvetov (rather superfluously) urged Ivan the Terrible to inspire fear. From a literary point of view, the most remarkable work of this period is the correspondence between Andrey Mikhaylovich, Prince Kurbsky (1528–83) and Ivan the Terrible. In a series of letters Kurbsky, who escaped from Russia and entered the service of the Polish king, denounced Ivan’s tyrannical rule and developed a theory justifying rebellion against unjust power. In a simple but polemically powerful style, which included citations from Cicero, he also denounced Russian cultural backwardness, thus earning a reputation as Russia’s first “Westernizer” (as well as first “dissident” and first “émigré” writer). In his vituperative replies, Ivan exhibits the psychology of a victim (self-pitying in accounts of his childhood) turned victimizer.

Among the other noteworthy works of this period are some tales of entertainment, including Povest o Petre i Fevroni (mid-16th century; “Tale of Peter and Fevroniya”). In his Khozhdeniye za tri morya (“Journey Beyond Three Seas”) a merchant, Afanasy Nikitin, describes his travels to India and Persia during 1466–72. However, what is most striking about this period is what did not take place: Russia experienced no Renaissance and became quite isolated from the West. With nothing resembling Western secular literature, philosophy, or science, it remained a land remarkable for its lacks.


The 17th century

The 17th century began with a period of political chaos. The ruling Muscovite dynasty came to an end in 1598. Before Michael Romanov was at last proclaimed tsar in 1613, Russia was convulsed by struggles for power, peasant rebellions, and foreign invasions. This Time of Troubles became the topic of a number of historical or memoiristic works, including Avraamy Palitsyn’s Istoriya v pamyat sushchim predydushchim godom (completed in 1620; “History to Be Remembered by Future Generations”).

Western cultural influences gradually penetrated Russia in the 17th century. They entered the country through a number of channels, including the “German [foreign] quarter” in Moscow and through Ukraine, which was united with Russia in 1654. Ukrainian and Belarusian clerics, who had received a Polish-style education at the Kiev Academy, brought Western and Latin culture with them to Moscow. By the end of the 17th century, Russian literature had changed in important ways. A key figure in producing these changes was Simeon Polotsky (1629–80), a monk educated at the Kiev Academy. He played the leading role in introducing syllabic poetry (verse that is measured by the number of syllables in each line), based on Polish models, into Russia. Old Russian literature had been dominated entirely by prose, and so Polotsky’s verse marked a decisive break. So did the introduction of drama into Russia with Polotsky’s school dramas (modeled on Jesuit Counter-Reformation plays having biblical or religious themes), the establishment of a court theatre by Tsar Alexis, and the production of Artakserksevo deystvo (1672; “Action of Artaxerxes”), the first court play (in prose), by Johann Gottfried Gregory. The change in literary culture is also evident in the beginnings of prose fiction. Translations of foreign adventure romances appeared, along with Russian stories, parodies, and satires, including the picaresque (and erotic) Povest o Frole Skobeyeve (“Tale of Frol Skobeyev”) and Kalyazinskaya chelobitnaya (“The Kalyazin Petition”). Povest o Gore-Zlochastii (“Tale of Woe-Misfortune”), written in folk-epic verse, combines motifs of temptation, adventure, and salvation.

In the mid-17th century liturgical reforms undertaken by Patriarch Nikon split the Russian church. The dissenters (or Old Believers) produced some remarkable work, including the masterpiece of 17th-century Russian writing Zhitiye protopopa Avvakuma (1672–73; The Life of the Archpriest Avvakum). Avvakum, who eventually was burned at the stake, narrates his life in a powerful vernacular alternating with Church Slavonicisms. Written in prison, his narrative conveys a feel for his fanatic, earthy personality in a paradoxical form that is both autobiography and autohagiography.

The “Ukrainian hegemony” over Russian letters continued during the reign of Peter I the Great. St. Dmitry (Tuptalo) of Rostov, Stefan Yavorsky, and Feofan Prokopovich, the three most important writers of the period, were all educated at the Kiev Academy.

Avvakum Petrov

The Burning of Avvakum (1897), by Grigoriy Myasoyedov

born 1620/1621, Grigorovo, Russia
died April 14, 1682, Pustozersk

archpriest, leader of the Old Believers, conservative clergy who brought on one of the most serious crises in the history of the Russian church by separating from the Russian Orthodox church to support the “old rite,” consisting of many purely local Russian developments. He is also considered to be a pioneer of modern Russian literature.

Avvakum Petrov (Russian: Аввакум Петров) (November 20, 1620 or 1621 – April 14, 1682) was a Russian protopope of Kazan Cathedral on Red Square who led the opposition to Patriarch Nikon's reforms of the Russian Orthodox Church. His autobiography and letters to the tsar, Boyarynya Morozova and other Old Believers are considered masterpieces of 17th-century Russian literature.

Starting in 1652 Nikon, as Patriarch of the Russian Church, initiated a wide range of reforms in Russian liturgy and theology. These reforms were mostly intended to bring the Russian Church into line with the other Orthodox Churches of Eastern Europe and Middle East. Avvakum and others strongly rejected these changes. They saw them as a corruption of the Russian Church, which they considered to be the "true" Church of God. The other Churches were more closely related to Constantinople in their liturgies and Avvakum argued that Constantinople fell to the Turks because of these heretical beliefs and practices.

For his opposition to the reforms, Avvakum was repeatedly imprisoned. For the last fourteen years of his life he was imprisoned in a pit or dugout (a sunken, log-framed hut) at Pustozyorsk above the Arctic Circle before finally being burned at the stake[1] The spot where he was burned is now marked by an ornate wooden cross. Groups rejecting the changes continued, however, and they came to be referred to as Old Believers. Avvakum's colourful autobiography memorably recounts hardships of his imprisonment and exile to the Russian Far East, the story of his friendship and rupture with the Tsar Alexis, his practice of exorcising demons and devils, and his boundless admiration for nature and other works of God.

Imperial literature

The Petrine reforms

The Westernization of Russia

Peter the Great’s radical and rapid Westernization of Russia altered the daily life of the upper classes and all high culture. The nobility was made to conform to Western models in its dress, customs, social life, education, and state service; women came out of seclusion; a European calendar was introduced; Russians were sent abroad to study; foreign languages were learned. Western culture was absorbed so rapidly in the course of the 18th century that by the 19th century the first language of the upper nobility was not Russian but French. As a result, a large cultural gap opened between the nobility and the peasantry, whose distance from each other became an important theme of Russian literature. In the context of world history, Russia may be seen as the first of many countries to undergo rapid modernization and Westernization while wrestling with a question capable of different answers: in adopting Western technology and science, is it also necessary to adopt Western culture and forms of living? Under Peter’s autocratic will, Russia was forced into an uncompromisingly affirmative answer to this question, which has concerned Russian writers up to the present moment.

In 1703 Peter founded a new capital, St. Petersburg. It was built in Western architectural style and populated by his command on an inhospitable swamp. The city—Peter’s “window to the West”—became a key theme of literary works, including Aleksandr Pushkin’s poem The Bronze Horseman, Dostoyevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment, and Andrey Bely’s novel St. Petersburg. In contrast to Moscow, St. Petersburg came not only to symbolize the power of the state over the individual but also to stand for reason and planning divorced from tradition, individual human needs, and the nonrational elements of human nature. The hero of Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground calls the capital the world’s “most artificial city,” associating it with utopian contempt for tradition and experience. Like Peter’s reforms generally, the city evoked the idea of historical change by sudden leaps rather than by a gradual, organic process.


The response of writers and critics

By the 19th century it became commonplace to regard Russia as a young country that had entered history only with the Petrine reforms. The very genres in which 19th-century literature was written had essentially no counterpart in medieval Russia, deriving instead from European literary history. Thus, in tracing their literary past, Russians often felt the necessity of “crossing borders.” To be sure, it became common for Russian writers to appropriate old Russian themes, characters, and events, as is the case in Pushkin’s Boris Godunov, Mikhail Lermontov’s Pesnya pro kuptsa Kalashnikova, and Tolstoy’s Father Sergius. But these works are recognizably conscious of overcoming a break. Some scholars have insisted that the idea of a radical break in Russian literary history is mistaken, but there is no doubt that the perception of discontinuity is a key fact of Russian literary history.

An aura of foreignness adhered to high culture, which is one reason why a tradition arose in which the sign of Russianness was the defiance of European generic norms. Justifying the self-consciously odd form of War and Peace, Tolstoy observed that departure from European form is necessary for a Russian writer: “There is not a single work of Russian artistic prose, at all rising above mediocrity, that quite fits the form of a novel, a poem, or a story.” This (admittedly exaggerated) view, which became a cliché, helps explain the enormous popularity in Russia of those Western writers who parodied literary conventions, such as the 18th-century British novelist Laurence Sterne, as well as the development of Russia’s most influential school of literary criticism, Formalism, which viewed formal self-consciousness as the defining quality of “literariness.” The sense that culture, literature, and the forms of “civilized” life were a foreign product imported by the upper classes is also reflected in a tendency of Russian thinkers to regard all art as morally unjustifiable and in a pattern of Russian writers renouncing their own works. While English and French critics were arguing about the merits of different literary schools, Russian critics also debated whether literature itself had a right to exist—a question that reveals the peculiar ethos of Russian literary culture.



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