Nikolay Nekrasov

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Nikolay Nekrasov
Born December 10 [O.S. November 28] 1821
Nemyriv, Russian Empire
Died 8 January 1878 [O.S. 28 December 1877]
Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
Occupation Poet, publisher
Language Russian
Nationality Russian


Nikolay Alexeyevich Nekrasov (Russian: Никола́й Алексе́евич Некра́сов; IPA: [nʲɪkɐˈlaj ɐlʲɪkˈsʲejɪvʲɪtɕ nʲɪˈkrasəf] ( ), December 10 [O.S. November 28] 1821 – 8 January 1878 [O.S. 28 December 1877]) was a Russian poet, writer, critic and publisher, whose deeply compassionate poems about peasant Russia won him Fyodor Dostoyevsky's admiration and made him the hero of liberal and radical circles of Russian intelligentsia, as represented by Vissarion Belinsky and Nikolay Chernyshevsky. He is credited with introducing into Russian poetry ternary meters and the technique of dramatic monologue (V doroge, 1845).[1] As the editor of several literary journals, including Sovremennik, Nekrasov was also singularly successful.[2]


Nikolai Alexeyevich Nekrasov was born in the town of Nemyriv (now in Vinnytsia Oblast, Ukraine), Podolia Governorate.[note 1] His father, Alexey Sergeyevich Nekrasov (1788-1862), was a descendant from Russian landed Gentry, and an officer in the Imperial Russian Army.[3]

There is some controversy as to his mother's origins. According to Brokhaus & Efron (and this corresponds to Nekrasov's 1887 autobiographical notes), Alexandra Zakrzewska was a Polish noblewoman, daughter of a wealthy landlord who belonged to szlachta. The church metrics they tell a different story; since then Russian scholars have her name as Yelena Andreyevna and insist she had nothing to do with the Polish aristocracy (and was an Orthodox Christian, not a Catholic, according to the documents). "Up until recently the poet's biographers had it that his mother belonged to the Polish family. In fact she was a daughter of an Ukrainian state official Alexander Semyonovich Zakrevsky, the owner of Yuzvino, a small village in the Podolia Governorate," maintains Korney Chukovsky.[4] Such discrepancy might be explained by the fact that Nekrasov, according to D.S.Mirsky, "created the cult of his mother, imparted her with improbable qualities and started worshipping her after her death."[5] Pyotr Yakubovich, though, warns against such insinuations, suggesting that Yelena, on demand of her fiancée might have been converted to Orthodoxy in the course of one day, and that the metrics might have been tempered with so as to conceal the fact that the girl had been indeed taken from Poland without her parent’s consent (Nekrasov states as much in his autobiography). Yet, the biographer dismisses the once popular notion of a 'sublime' Polish creature kidnapped by a wild Russian 'boar', pointing to "Mother", Nekrasov's autobiographical verse describing an episode when he discovered in his family archives his mother's letter written hectically (and apparently in a fit of passion, in French and Polish) which suggested she was at least for a while deeply in love with the Russian army captain.[6]

In January 1823 Alexey Nekrasov, ranked army major, retired and moved the family to his estate in Greshnevo, Yaroslavl province, near the Volga River, where young Nikolai spent his childhood years.[3] This early retirement from the army, and his public job as a provincial inspector, caused Aleksey Sergeyevich much frustration resulting in drunken rages against both his peasants and his wife. Such experiences traumatized the young poet and determined the subject matter of Nekrasov's major poems—a verse portrayal of the plight of the Russian peasants and women. Nekrasov admired his mother and later expressed his love and empathy to all women in his writings. Yelena Andreyevna who loved literature and imparted this passion to her son, played a pivotal role in his early development; her love and support helped the young poet to survive the traumatic experiences of his childhood.[7] "His was a wounded heart, and this wound that never healed served as a the source for his passionate poetry of a sufferer for the rest of his life," wrote Fyodor Dostoyevsky.[3]

Early years[edit]

In Greshnevo young Nekrasov observed the hard labor of the Volga boatmen, Russian barge haulers. This image of social injustice, so similar to Dostoevsky's childhood recollections, was compounded by the behavior of Nekrasov's tyrannical father.[8]

In September 1832 Nekrasov joined the Yaroslavl Gymnasium but quit it prematurely in July 1837. Among the possible reasons mentioned by biographers were the expulsion for writing satires upon tutors (no archive documents could be found to have been found to confirm this)[9] and Alexey Sergeyevich's insistence that his son should join the military academy in Saint Petersburg. Nekrasov in his autobiography maintained that it was his own decision to go, and that he himself had made his elder brother Andrey to assist him in making his father procure all the recommendations required.[4] The quality of education in the gymnasium was poor, but here the boy's interest in poetry grew: he admired Byron and Pushkin, notably the latter's "Ode to Freedom". "By the age of fifteen the whole notebook [of verses] took shape, which was the reason why I was itching to flee to the capital," he remembered.[8]

Outraged by Nekrasov's refusal to join the Cadet Corps, his father stopped supporting him. The three year period of what he himself later referred to his as his "Petersburg tribulations" followed when the young man had to live in extreme conditions, having once found himself in a homeless shelter. Things improved when he started to give private lessons and contribute to "The Literary Supplement to Russian Invalid", all the while compiling ABC-books and versified fairytales for children and vaudevilles, under the pseudonym Perepelsky.[6] In October 1838 Nekrasov debuted as a published poet: his "Thought" appeared in Syn Otechestva.[10] In 1839 Nekrasov took exams at the Saint Petersburg University's Eastern languages faculty, failed and joined the philosophy faculty as a part-time student where he studied, irregularly, until July 1841.[7]

Every summer Nekrasov would go hunting to his brother's estate of Karabikha near Yaroslavl (now a memorial museum).

In February 1840 Nekrasov authored his first collection of poetry, Dreams and Sounds, published under the initials "N. N." - as his patron poet Vasily Zhukovsky advised, suggesting the author will be ashamed of his childish exercises in several years' time.[10] The book, reviewed favourably by Pyotr Pletnyov and journalist Ksenofont Polevoy, was dismissed by Alexey Galakhov and Vissarion Belinsky. Several months later the young man started to make journeys to the booksellers to remove and destroy the unsold copies of his first collection.[7]

Nekrasov's first literary mentor Fyodor Koni, an editor of a theater magazine Repertoire and Pantheon (owned by Nikolai Polevoy), helped the young man to debut as a literary critic. Soon he became a prolific author of poetic satires ("The Talker", "The States Official") and vaudevilles ("The Actor", "The Petersburg Money-lender"). This fondness of theater prevailed through the years: Nekrasov's best known poems (Russian Women, The Contemporaries, Who Is Happy in Russia?) had a distinct element of drama to them.[3] In 1839-1840 Nekrasov also contributed to Literaturnaya Gazeta as a columnist and reviewer. He published here a lot of prose too (the worthiness of which later he was skeptical about) and several plays, some of which (notably, No Hiding a Needle in a Sack) were staged by the Alexandrinsky Theatre and enjoyed commercial success.[3]

In October 1841 Nekrasov started contributing for Andrey Krayevsky's Otechestvennye Zapiski (which he did until 1846), writing mostly anonymously, filling in whole sections with satirical verses, humorous prose and reviews of theatre productions and books that he, admittedly, had never seen or read.[10]

In 1843 Nekrasov met Vissarion Belinsky personally and drifted close to his circle, becoming friends with Ivan Turgenev, Ivan Panayev and Pavel Annenkov. Belinsky, obssessed by the ideas of the French Socialists, has found a great sympathizer in Nekrasov for whom horrors of serfdom in his father’s estate were still a fresh memory.[3] "On the Road" (1845) and "Motherland" (1846), two of Nekrasov's early realistic poems, made Belinsky extatic.[11] The poet, in his own turn, considered his early conversations with Belinsky a pivotal moment that changed his whole life. He commemorated the legendary critic in several poems ("In the Memory of Belinsky", 1853; "V.G.Belinsky", 1855; "Scenes from The Bear Hunt", 1867). Before his death in 1848, Belinsky granted Nekrasov rights to publish various articles and other material originally planned for an almanac, to be called the Leviathan.[3]

Career as a publisher[edit]

One of Nekrasov's talents that greatly bemused Belinsky was that of a shrewd literary entrepreneur. It was this quality that allowed a man in his mid-20s to compile, edit and publish two influential almanacs, The Physiology of St. Petersburg (1845) and St. Petersburg Collection (1846, featuring Dostoyevsky's first novel, Poor Folk). Gathering the works of several up and coming authors (Ivan Turgenev, Dmitry Grigorovich, Vladimir Dal, Ivan Panayev, Alexander Hertzen, Fyodor Dostoyevsky among them), both books played an important role in promoting the new wave of realism in Russian literature. Several Nekrasov poems found their way into the comical First of April compilation he published in April 1846. Among the curiosities featured in the latter was a novel The Danger of Enjoying Vain Dreams, co-authored by Nekrasov, Grigorovich and Dostoyevsky.[10] Among the work of fiction written by Nekrasov in those years was his unfinished autobiographical novel The Life and Adventures of Tikhon Trostnikov (1843-1848); several of its motifs could be found in his better known poetry pieces ("The Unhappy Ones", 1856; On the Street, 1850, "The Cabman", 1855). Part of it, "St.Petersburg Corners", featured in the Physiology of St.Petersburg, was treated later as an independent novelette, the quality exponent of the "natural school" genre.[12][3]


In November 1846 Panayev and Nekrasov acquired[note 2] a popular magazine Sovremennik which was founded by Alexander Pushkin but lost momentum under Pyotr Pletnev. Much of the staff of the old Otechestvennye Zapiski, including Belinksy, abandoned Andrey Krayevsky's magazine, and joined "Sovremennik" to work with Nekrasov, Panayev and A.V.Nikitenko, a nominal editor-in-chief. In the course of just several months Nekrasov managed to draw to the envigorated magazine the best literary forces of Russia. Among the groundbreaking works the have been published in it, were Turgenev's A Sportsman's Sketches, Grigorovich's Anton Goremyka, Ivan Goncharov's A Common Story, Alexander Hertzen’s Magpie the Thief and Doctor Krupov. Among the new names discovered by Nekrasov was young Leo Tolstoy who debuted in Sovremennik with his trilogy Childhood, Boyhood and Youth.[3]

Nekrasov managed to save the magasine during the 'Seven years of darkness' period (1848-1855) it was balancing on the verge of disaster and the secret police' surveillance was imposed on him.[10] In a situation when up to one third of an issue's material could be cut by censors, - with the express purpose of filling such unexpected gaps Nekrasov came up with the idea of creating lengthy picturesque novels (Three Countries of the World, 1848-1849, The Dead Lake, 1851) he was writing with Avdotya Panayeva, his civil wife.[3][13] His way of befriending censors by inviting them to his weekly literary dinners proved to be another useful ploy. Gambling (a habit shared by many male ancestors on Nekrasov’s father’s side; his grandfather lost most of the faily estate through it) was put to the service too, and as a member of the English Club he’s made a lot of useful acquaintances too.[3]

In 1854 Nekrasov invited the revolutionary thinker Nikolai Chernyshevsky to join Sovremennik, in 1858 Nikolai Dobrolyubov became one of its major contributors. This led to the inevitable radicalisation of the magazine and the rift with the liberal flank. In 1859 Dobrolyubov’s negative review outraged Turgenev and led to his departure from Sovremennik and the starting of the long feud which caused Nekrasov great distress.[10] Never daunted, though, he went for a search and came up with a batch of new talents: Nikolai Uspensky, Fyodor Reshetnikov, Nikolai Pomyalovsky, Vasily Sleptsov, Pyotr Yakubovich, Pyotr Yakushkin, Gleb Uspensky soon became important figures on the Russian literary scene.[3] In 1858 Nekrasov and Dobrolyubov founded Svistok (The Whistle), a satirical supplement to Sovremennik. The first two issues (in 1859) were compiled by Dobrolyubov, from the third issue (October 1858) onwards Nekrasov became this publication's editor and regular contributor.[14]

After the series of arsons in Petersburg (for which radical students were blamed) Sovremennik, seen as an ideological stronghold of the leftist elite, was closed in June 1862, and a month later Chernyshevsky was arrested. In December Nekrasov managed to get the Sovremennik re-opened, and in 1863 made a gamble: published What Is to Be Done? by the incarcerated author.[3]

Rise to fame[edit]

In 1855 Nekrasov started working upon his first major poetry collection, which proved to be an important event in the Russian literature of the 1850s.[3] On October 15, 1856, The Poems by N.Nekrasov came out and enjoyed huge success. "The rapture is universal. Hardly Pushkin's fist poems, or The Government Inspector, or Dead Souls have had such success as your book," wrote Chernyshevsky on November 5 to Nekrasov who at the time was abroad, having medical treatment.[15] "Nekrasov’s poems, brought into a focus like this, burn like fire," wrote Turgenev.[16] "Nekrasov is an idol of our times, a worshipped poet, who’s higher than Pushkin," wrote memoirist Elena Stakensneider.[10][3]

Upon his return in August 1857, Nekrasov moved into the new flat in the Krayevsky’s house on Liteiny Lane in Saint Petersburg where he resided for the rest of his life. [10]


News of the 1861 Tzarist manifest abolishing serfdom left Nekrasov unimpressed. "Is that freedom? More like a fake, a jibe at peasants," he said, reportedly, meeting Chernyshevsky on March the 5th, the day of the Manifest's publication. His first poetic responses to the reform were "Freedom" ("I know, instead of the old nets they'd invented some new ones...")[17] and Korobeiniki (1861) which originally appeared in the Red Books series which Nekrasov started specifically for the peasant readership, which was being sold by 'ophens', vagrant traders, not unlike korobeiniks ('basket-men') Tikhonych and Ivan, the heroes of the poem, travelling across Russia selling goods and gathering stories.[3] The second issue of the series, though was to be the final one due to censorial problems.[10]

In 1861 Nekrasov started campaigning for the release of his arrested colleague, Mikhail Mikhaylov, but failed: the latter was deported to Siberia. More successful was his plea for the release of Afanasy Shchapov: the decree ordering the Petersburg historian’s demotion to a monastery was retrieved by the Tzar.[10] After his father's death Nekrasov in May 1862 bought the Karabikha estate in Yaroslavl Province and since then was spending there each year, hunting with his local friends.[3]

Among Nekrasov's best known poems of the 1860 were "Peasant Children" (1861), "A Knight for An Hour" (1862), the result of his visit to his native places and his mother's grave,[18] "Orina, the Soldier’s Mother" (1863) and The Railroad (1964), the powerful swipe at the ruthless Russian capitalism. This, like most of his better known poems of the time were suppressed by censors. In the 1860s Nekrasov featured in the 3rd Depertment's list of "people demanding most of the attention".[10]

Otechstvennye Zapiski[edit]

In April 1866, after Dmitry Karakosov's attempt on the life of the Tzar, political situation in Russia deteriorated. Trying to save Sovremennik from the imminent demise, Nekrasov wrote the Ode to Osip Komissarov (the man who allegedly saved the monarch’s life by pushing Karakosov aside) to read it publically in the posh English Club he was the member of, then with another poetic address greeted Muravyov the Hangman, a man responsible for the brutal suppression of the 1863 Polish Uprising, now in charge of the Karakosov case. Both gestures proved to be futile and in May 1866 Sovremennik was closed for good. [10]

In the end of 1866, assisted financially by Ivan Panayev and landlord Grigory Tolstoy, Nekrasov purchased Otechestvennye Zapiski to become this publication’s editor with Grigory Yeliseyev as his deputy (soon joined by Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin) and previous owner Krayevsky as a nominal administrator.[10] Among the authors attracted to renewed OZ were Alexander Ostrovsky, Gleb Uspensky and Dmitry Pisarev who was put in charge of the literary criticism section, later succeded by Alexander Skabichevsky and Nikolai Mikhaylovsky.[3]

In 1869 OZ started publishing what turned out to be arguably Nekrasov's most famous poem. Who is Happy in Russia? (1863–76). In 1873 a group of narodniks in Geneva printed the misleadingly titled, unauthorised Collection of New Poems and Songs by Nekrasov, featuring all the protest poems banned in Russia - a clear sign of what an inspiration now the poet has become for the revolutionary underground.[10]

Illness and death[edit]

Tomb of Nikolay Nekrasov at the Novodevichy Cemetery (Saint Petersburg).

Form many years Nikolai Nekrasov suffered from a chronic lung condition, for which he had to spend months in the warmer climate, mainly in the Mediterranean coast of Italy.[7]

In April 1876 Nekrasov’s condition deteriorated, severe pain brought about insomnia that lasted for months. In June Saltykov-Shchedrin arrived from abroad to succeeded him as an editor-in-chief of OZ. Still unsure as to the nature of the condition, doctor Sergey Botkin advised Nekrasov to go to the Crimea. In September 1876 Nekrasov arrived at Yalta and, despite suffering greatly, continued to work hard on his major poem Who Is Happy in Russia’s final part, "The Feast for All the World" (promptly banned and soon started spreading in hand-written copies all over Russia).[10] In December the high-profile concilium led by Nikolay Sklifosovsky diagnosed the intestinal cancer.

In February 1877 groups of radical students started to arrive to Yalta from all over the country to provide the moral support for the dying man. Painter Ivan Kramskoy came to stay and work upon the poet's portrait. One of the last people Nekrasov met in his lifetime was Ivan Turgenev who came to make peace with hism after years of bitter feud.[10] The surgery performed on April 12, 1877 by Theodor Billroth who was invited from Vienna brought the relief, but not for long.[10] "I saw him for the last time just one month before his death. He looked like a corpse... But not only did he speak, but retained the clarity of mind and it seemed he refused to believe that the end was near," remembered Dostoyevsky.[19]

Nikolai Alekseyevich Nekrasov died on January 8, 1878. Four thousand people came to the funeral and the procession leading to the Novodevichy Cemetery turned into a political rally.[10] Fyodor Dostoyevsky gave the keynote eulogy, noting that Nekrasov was the greatest Russian poet since Alexander Pushkin and Mikhail Lermontov. A section of the crowd, youthful followers of Chernyshevsky (Georgy Plekhanov being one of their leaders), chanted "No, he was greater!"[20] Members of Zemlya i Volya alongside other radical groups (with wreaths "From the Socialists") were also present. "His funeral was one of the most striking demonstration of popularity ever accorded to a Russian writer," according to Mirsky.[21]


Nekrasov's first collection of poetry, Dreams and Sounds (Мечты и звуки), was promptly dismissed as Romantic doggerel by Vissarion Belinsky, the most important Russian literary critic of the first half of 19th century. It was Belinsky, though, who first recognised the talent of a harsh and witty realist. "Do you know that you are indeed a poet, and the true one?" he "exclaimed, with tears in his eyes, embracing the author," having read his poem, On the Road (В дороге, 1845), Ivan Panayev remembered. Autobiographical "Motherland" (Родина, 1846, banned by censors and published ten years later) "drove Belinsky totally crazy, he learnt it by heart and sent it to his Moscow friends," according to the same source.[22][23]

"When from the darkness of the delusions..." (Когда из мрака заблужденья..., 1845), arguably the first poem in Russia about the plight of a woman driven to prostitution by poverty, brought Chernyshevsky to tears. Of "Whether I'm riding the dark street at night..." (Еду ли ночью по улице темной..., 1847), another harrowing story of a broken family, dead baby and a wife having to sell her body to procure money for a tiny coffin, Ivan Turgenev wrote in a November 14 letter to Belinsky: "Please tell Nekrasov that... [it] drove me totally mad, I repeat it day and night and have learnt it by heart."[24]

Published in October 1856, The Poems by N.Nekrasov made the author famous. Divided into four parts and opening with the manifest-like "The Poet and the Citizen" (Поэт и гражданин, 1856) it was organized into an elaborate tapestry, parts of which (like On the Street cycle) were linked to form vast poetic narratives. Part one was dealing with the real people's life, part two satirised the "the enemies of the people", part three revealed the "friends of the people, real and false", and part four was a lyrical collection of verses on love and friendship. The Part 3 highlight was Sasha (Саша, 1855), an epic ode to the new generation of politically-minded Russians, eager to risk their lives to make life in their country changed for the better, which critics see as the close relative to Turgenev's Rudin.[3] In 1861 the second edition of The Poems came out (now in 2 Volumes). In Nekrasov’s lifetime the ever growing collection was re-issued two more times: in 1864 (3 Volumes) and 1874 (6 Volumes).[3]

Several important Nekrasov's poems were written in the 1850s. One of them, "Musings at the Front Door" (Размышления у парадного подъезда, 1858) was banned in Russia and appeared in Hertzen’s Kolokol in January 1860.[10] Others include "The Unhappy Ones" (Несчастные, 1856), "Silence" (Тишина, 1857) and "The Song for Yeryomushka" (Песня Еремушке, 1859), the latter becoming a hymn for several generations of Russian revolutionary youth.[3]

Nekrasov's first poetic response to the 1861 reform (which he was highly sceptical about) was Korobeiniki (Коробейники, 1861), telling both hilarious but (in the end) tragic story of two 'basket-men', Tikhonych and Ivan, who travel across Russia selling goods and gathering news. The fragment of the poem’s first part evolved into a still popular folk song.[3]

Among Nekrasov's best known poems of the early 1860 were "Peasant Children" (Крестьянские дети, 1861), highlighting moral values of the Russian peasantry, and "A Knight for an Hour" (Рыцарь на час, 1862), the result of the author’s visiting his mother’s grave.[25] "Orina, the Soldier’s Mother" (Орина, мать солдатская, 1863) glorified the motherly love that defies death itself, while The Railroad (Железная дорога, 1964), condemning the Russian capitalism ‘built on peasant bones’, continued the line of protest hymns started in the mid-1840s.

Nekrasov's Дедушка Мазай и зайцы ("Grandfather Mazay and the Hares") remains among the most popular children's poems in Russia

"Grandfather Frost the Red Nose" (Мороз, Красный нос, 1864), a paen to the Russian national character, went rather against the grain with the general mood of the intelligentsia, steeped in self-deprecation after the Polish Uprising of 1863 and the suppression of it by the Imperial forces. [3] "A man is thrown into the life as an enigma for his own self, each day draws him nearer to demolition which frightens and seems so unfair one might loose one’s mind thinking about it. But then you notice that somebody needs you, and all of a sudden your whole life acquires the sense, and you stop feeling an orphan who’s needed by nobody...", wrote Nekrasov to Lev Tolstoy, explaining the Grandfather Frost's main idea. [26]

The late 1860s brought about the second birth of Nekrasov the satyrist. The high point of this development was the two-part poem The Contemporaries (Современники, 1865), a vicious swipe at the rising Russian capitalism and its immoral promoters.[3] Critic Vladimir Zhdanov rates The Contemporaries alongside the best of Saltykov-Shchedrin's satires. The latter too praised the poem which impressed him with it's power and realism."[27] In 1865 the new law was passed abolishing the preliminary censorship and toughening punitive santction. Nekrasov lambasted this move in his satirical cycle Songs of the Free Word (Песни свободного слова), the publication of which сaused more trouble for now doomed Sovremennik.[10]

In 1867 Nekrasov started his Poems for Russian Children cycle (concluded in 1873), full of humour and great sympathy for the peasant youth, but devoid of maudlin sentimentality or patronising. "Grandfather Mazay and the Hares" (Дедушка Мазай и зайцы) and "General the Stomping-Bear" (Генерал Топтыгин) up to this day remain the children’s favourites in this country.[3]

The rise of Narodniks in the early 1870s coincided with the renewal of interest towards the Decemberists in Russia. It was reflected in "The Grandfather" (Дедушка, 1870), then "Princess Trubetskaya" (Княгиня Трубецкая, 1871) and "Princess Volkonskaya" (Княгиня Волконская, 1872). The last two, forming the Russian Women cycle, told the true story of two princesses, Ekaterina Trubetskaya and Maria Volkonskaya, who followed their husbands, participants in the failed Decembrist revolt of 1825, to exile in Siberia. All three prove to be popular among the new generation of the radical left.[3][10]

In 1870s the tone of Nekrasov’s poetry changed: it became more declarative, over-dramatised and featured the recurring image of Poet the fighter, a "repressed priest" serving "the throne of truth, love and beauty". Nekrasov’s late poetry is the traditionalist one, quoting and praising the giants of the past, like Pushkin and Schiller, trading political satire and personal drama for elegiac musings, often in a Lermontov's mode.[28] In poems like "The Morning" (Утро, 1873) and "The Horrible Year" (Страшный год, 1874) Nekrasov sounds like a precursor to Alexander Blok, according to biographer Yuri Lebedev. The final urge to rise above the mundane in search for universal truths forms the leitmotif of The Last Songs (Последние песни, 1877), a lyrical cycle filled with the wisdom and sadness of the dying poet.[3]

Among his most important works were his last (and unfinished) epic Who is Happy in Russia? (Кому на Руси жить хорошо?, 1863-1876), telling the story of seven peasants who set out to ask various elements of the rural population if they are happy, to which the answer is never satisfactory. The poem, noted for its rhyme scheme ("several unrhymed iambic tetrameters ending in a Pyrrhic are succeeded by a clausule in iambic trimeter". - Terras, 319) resembling a traditional Russian folk song, is regarded as Nekrasov's masterpiece.[3][7]

Recognition and legacy[edit]

Nekrasov was credited for being Fyodor Dostoyevsky's first editor, in 1845, and as the long-standing publisher of Sovremennik, making it the leading Russian literary magazine of his time. Sovremennik was originally founded by Pushkin, and Nekrasov continued the legacy.

During its 20 years of steady and careful literary policy, Sovremennik evolved into a literary salon and served as a cultural forum for all Russian writers. Sovremennik published the works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Ivan Turgenev, and Leo Tolstoy, as well as Nekrasov's own poetry and prose, among many other writers. During the 1850s and 1860s, Sovremennik had the largest circulation of all Russian literary magazines, it was also distributed among Russian expatriate communities in Europe. The success of Sovremennik was mainly attributed to Nekrasov's talent as a publisher, as well as to the circle of talented writers in Russia and abroad. Sovremennik was one of the very few Russian magazines to publish the works of leading European authors, such as Flaubert and Balzac, translated into Russian. However, the lack of real political freedom in Russia, coupled with financial difficulties, led to the end in 1866, when the magazine was closed by the tsar's government in connection with the arrest of its radical editor, revolutionary Nikolai Chernyshevsky.

Nekrasov's estate in Karabikha, his St. Petersburg home, as well as the office of Sovremennik magazine on Liteyny Prospekt, are now national cultural landmarks and public museums of Russian literature.

Selected bibliography[edit]


  • "The Money-lender" (Rostovshchik, 1844)
  • "On the Road" (V doroge, 1845)
  • "Motherland" (1846)
  • "The Doghunt" (Psovaya okhota, 1846)
  • On the Street (Na Ulitse, 1850), 4 poems cycle
  • "The Fine Match" (Prekrasnaya partia, 1852)
  • "Unmowed Line" (Neszhataya polosa, 1854)
  • "Vlas" (1855)
  • "V.G. Belinsky" (1855)
  • Sasha (1855)
  • "The Forgotten Village" (Zabytaya derevnya, 1855)
  • The Poems by N.Nekrasov (1856; reissied in 1861, in 2 Volumes; 1864 - 3 volumes; 1874 - 6 Volumes)
  • "Musings at the Front Door" (Razmyshlenya u paradnovo pod’ezda, 1858)
  • "The Unhappy Ones (Neschastnye, 1856)
  • "The Poet and the Citizen" (Poet i grazhdanin, 1856)
  • "Silence" (Tishina, 1857)
  • "The Song for Yeryomushka" (Pesnya Yeryomushke, 1859)
  • Korobeiniki (1861)
  • "The Funeral" (Pokhorony, 1861)
  • "Peasant Children" (Krestyanskiye deti, 1861)
  • "A Knight for An Hour" (Rytsar na thas, 1862)
  • "Green Roar" (Zelyony shum, 1862)
  • "Orina, the Soldier’s Mother" (Orina, mat soldatskaya, 1863)
  • The Railroad (Zheleznaya doroga, 1864)
  • "Grandfather Frost the Red Nose" (Moroz, Krasny nos, 1864)
  • Contemporaries (Sovremenniki, 1865)
  • Songs of the Free Word (Pesni svobodnovo slova, 1865-1866)
  • Poems for Russian Children (Stikhotvorenya, posvyashchyonnye russkim detyam, 1867-1873)
  • "The Bear Hunt. Scenes from the lyrical comedy" (Medvezhya okhota, 1967)
  • Grandfather (Dedushka, 1870)
  • "The Recent Times" (Nedavneye vremya, 1871)
  • Russian Women (Russkiye zhenshchiny: 1871-1872), two-poems cycle
  • "The Morning" (Utro, 1873)
  • "The Horrible Year" (Strashny god, 1874)
  • The Last Songs (Poslednye pesni, 1877), a cycle
  • Who is Happy in Russia? (Komu na Rusi zhit khorosho, 1863-1876)


  • There is No Hiding a Needle in a Sack (Shila v meshke ne utayich, 1841)


  • The Life and Adventures of Tikhon Trostnikov (Zhizn i pokhozhdenya Tikhona Trostnikova, 1843-1848) - autobiographical nove, unfinished


  1. ^ History of Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature, by Dmitrij Cizevskij et al. Vanderbilt University Press, 1974. Page 104.
  2. ^ Vladimir Zhdanov (1971). "Nekrasov". Molodays Gvardiya Publishers. ЖЗЛ (The Lives of Distinguished People) series. Retrieved 2014-01-13. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab Lebedev, Yu,V. (1990). "Nekrasov, Nikolai Alekseyevich". Russian Writers. Biobibliographical Dictionary. Vol. 2. Ed. P.A.Nikolayev. Moscow. Prosveshchenye Publishers. 
  4. ^ a b Chukovsky, K.I.. Commentaries to N.A.Nekrasov’s Autobiography. The Works by N.A.Nekrasov in 8 vol. Khudozhestvennaya Literatura, Moscow. 1967. Vol. VIII. Pp. 463-475.
  5. ^ Mirsky, D.S. (1926). "Nekrasov, N.A. The History of the Russian Literature from the Ancient Times to 1925. (Russian translation by R.Zernova)". London: Overseas Publications Interchange Ltd, 1992. -- С. 362--370. Retrieved 2014-05-01. 
  6. ^ a b Pyotr Yakubovich (1907). "Nikolai Nekrasov. His Life and Works". Florenty Pavlenkov’s Library of Biographies. Retrieved 2014-01-13. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "Nekrasov, Nikolai Alexeyevich". Russian Biographical Dictionary. 1911. 
  8. ^ a b Nekrasov N.A. Materials for Biography. 1872. The Works by N.A.Nekrasov in 8 vol. Khudozhestvennaya Literatura, Moscow. 1967. Vol. VIII. Pp. 413-416.
  9. ^ The Works by A.Skabichevsky, Vol. II, Saint Petersburg, 1895, p.245
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Garkavi, A.M. N.A.Nekrasov's biography. Timeline. The Works by N.A.Nekrasov in 8 vol. Khudozhestvennaya Literatura, Moscow. 1967. Vol. VIII. Pp. 430-475
  11. ^ Panayev, Ivan. Literary Memoirs. Leningrad, 1950. P.249.
  12. ^ Zhdanov, p. 335.
  13. ^ An Encyclopedia of Continental Women Writers, Volume 1, Taylor & Francis, 1991.
  14. ^ Maksimovich, A.Ya. Nekrasob in The Whistle // Некрасов — участник «Свистка». Literary Heritage. The USSR Academy of Science. 1946. Vol. 49/50. Book I. Pp 298—348
  15. ^ The Complete N.Chernyshevsky, Vol. XIV. P. 321.
  16. ^ The Complete Works by I.Turgenev in 28 volumes. Letters. Vol. III. P. 58.
  17. ^ Zhdanov, 364
  18. ^ Kovalevsky, P.M. Poems and Memoirs. Petrograd, 1912. P. 279.
  19. ^ Dostoyevsky, F.M., The Diary of a Writer. Russian Classics. Moscow, 2006. P.601
  20. ^ Dostoyevsky, F.M., The Diary of a Writer. Russian Classics. Moscow, 2006. P.604
  21. ^ Mirsky, D.S. (1926). "Nekrasov, N.A. The History of the Russian Literature from the Ancient Times to 1925.". (curtailed version) London: Overseas Publications Interchange Ltd, 1992. -- Pp. 362--370. Retrieved 2014-01-13. 
  22. ^ Panayev, Ivan. Literary Memoirs. Leningrad, 1950. P.249.
  23. ^ Chukovsky, K.I., Garkavi, A.M. The Works by N.A.Nekrasov in 8 vol. Khudozhestvennaya Literatura, Moscow. 1967. Commentaries. Vol. I. Pp. 365-415
  24. ^ Turgenev, Ivan. Letters in 13 volumes. Vol.I, Moscow-Leningrad, 1861, p. 264.
  25. ^ Kovalevsky, P.M. Poems and Memoirs. Petrograd, 1912. P. 279.
  26. ^ The Complete N.A.Nekrasov. Moscow, 1952. Vol. X. Pp. 344--345.
  27. ^ Zhdanov, 376.
  28. ^ Skatov, N.N. Nekrasov. Contemporaries and Followers// Современники и продолжатели. P.258


  1. ^ Some biographies have it he was the third of thirteen children. According to ten of them died at an early age. Scholar Vladimir Zhdanov seems to be unsure: in his 1971 biography he mentions six: Andrey, 1820; Yelizaveta, 1821; Nikolay, 1821, Anna, 1823; Konstantin, 1824 and (sometime later, the exact date unknown) Fyodor. What's definite is that brother Andrey and (in particular) sister Anna have featured prominently in the poet's life.
  2. ^ 35 thosand rubles was given by Ivan Panayev, but the Kazan Province landlord Grigory Tolstoy was not among the sponsors, as some Russian sources maintain. Tolstoy, a Nozdryov-type character who's ingratiated himself with the mid-XIX century Russian revolutionary circles in France (and even found his way into the Marx-Engels correspondence, mentioned there not once as a 'fiery Russian revolutionary' who, having had the long conversation with Marx, declared his intention to sell his estate and give the moneys to the revolutionary cause, but forgot about it on return) indeed promised to subside Nekrasov with 35 thousand rubles, but failed to produce a single kopeck in the end. (see Korney Chukovsky's essay Nekrasov and Tolstoy)

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