Aleksey Zhemchuzhnikov

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Aleksey Zhemchuzhnikov
Aleksey Zhemchuzhnikov 1.jpg
Born 1821
Died 1908
Genre poetry, drama, criticism

Aleksey Mikhailovich Zhemchuzhnikov (Russian: Алексе́й Миха́йлович Жемчу́жников, February 11 (23), 1821 - March 25 (April 7), 1908) was a Russian poet, dramatist, essayist and literary critic, a nephew of Antony Pogorelsky, a cousin to A.K. Tolstoy and co-creator of Kozma Prutkov, the famous mid-nineteenth century comical literary character.[1]


Aleksey Zhemchuzhnikov, a son of senator Mikhail Zhemchiznikov, was born in Pochep, Chernigov Governorate (present-day Bryansk Oblast) and up until 14 stayed at home, receiving private education. In 1835, after a short stint at Saint Petersburg's 1st Gymnasium he joined the College of Law, that of which Prince Oldenburg was a trustee.[2] It was "the set of high ideals and honourable aspirations" he's got in this college, that formed the basis of his outlook and life philosophy.[1]

After the graduation in 1841 Zhemchuzhnikov joined the Russian Senate as an official, in 1847 he moved to the Ministry of Justice and in 1849 to the State Chancellery, all the while suffering greatly from "stupid mechanical routine" of these offices, seeking solace partly in high society's frivolous pleasures but more and more in literature exercises and numerous intellectual circles, including that of Mikhail Petrashevsky.[1][3]

In the late 1840s Aleksey Zhemchuzhnikov alongside brothers Vladimir and Aleksander, as well as Aleksey K. Tolstoy, created the Kozma Prutkov character which soon became famous. The Fantasy, a comedy he co-wrote with Tolstoy, was premiered on January 8, 1851 and was a spectacular flop; Nikolay I demonstratively left the theater, outraged "with the absurdity of what's been going on stage", and the play was promptly banned. Not long before this, in 1850, Aleksey Zhemchuzhnikov made his own debut in Sovremennik‍ '​s February issue with his comedy The Strange Night (Странная ночь). In 1852 another comedy of his, The Madman (Cумасшедший) appeared in Sovremennik (#11).[1] All through the 1850s his poems appeared in satirical Svistok (The Whistle), Otechestvennye Zapiski, Biblioteka Dlya Chteniya and Iskra magazines. On January 1, 1858, Zhemchuzhnikov quit the state service and started a new life, enjoying of "total private freedom", striking friendships with people like Sergey Aksakov, Ivan Turgenev, Vladimir Odoyevsky, Fyodor Tyutchev. In 1858 he married Yelizaveta Dyakova.[2]

A sort of creative crisis made Zhemchuzhnikov (who felt he was turning into a sub-Nekrasov type of a poet) stop writing, leave the capital and move first to Kaluga, then Moscow. From the mid-1860s he lived mostly in Europe - Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Southern France. In the late 1860s he returned to literature and started to contribute again to Otechestvennye Zapisky. Another long gap in Aleksey Zhemchuzhnikov's career was caused by his wife's illness. She died in 1875. In 1880s he again started publishing poems, mainly in Vestnik Evropy, a magazine whose editorship and authors he had friendly relations with.[1]

In 1892 in Saint Petersburg Aleksey Zhemchuzhnikov's first volume of Select Poems came out in two volumes which received exceedingly warm reviews.

From 1884 Zhemchuzhnikov lived mostly in Pavlovka village in the Oryol Governorate, from 1890 - in Tambov and Ilyinovka village. Another collection, critically acclaimed Songs of the Old Age (Песни старости, 1900), made Zhemchuzhnikov one of Russia's most respected authors of the early 1900s. In 1899 he became the Honorary member of the Lovers of Russian Literature society and in 1900 an Honorary member of the Saint Petersburgh Academy. Aleksey Mikhailovich Zhemchuzhnikov died in Tambov in 1908.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Николаев, П. (1990). "Классика: Жемчужников Алексей Михайлович. Биобиблиографическая справка". "Русские писатели". Биобиблиографический словарь. Том 1. А--Л. Под редакцией П. А. Николаева. М., "Просвещение", 1990. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  2. ^ a b Автобиографический очерк // Избр. произв.-- М., 1963.-- С. 63.
  3. ^ Переходное время // Русский вестник.-- 1861.-- No 2.-- С. 763.