Portrait by Levitsky, 1856.
August 13, 1803|
|Died||March 11, 1869
Prince Vladimir Fyodorovich Odoyevsky (Russian: Владимир Федорович Одоевский) (13 August [O.S. 1 August] 1803 – 11 March [O.S. 27 February] 1869) was a prominent Russian philosopher, writer, music critic, philanthropist and pedagogue. He became known as the "Russian Hoffmann" on account of his keen interest in phantasmagoric tales and musical criticism.
The last of his family, Prince Odoevsky was genealogically the most senior member of the House of Rurik. Considered by his contemporaries as a typical Muscovite, he was educated at the Nobility School of the Moscow University in 1816-22. In the mid-1820s, Odoyevsky presided over the Lyubomudry Society, where he and his fellow students met to discuss the ideas of Friedrich Schelling and other German philosophers. At that period, he came to know many future Slavophiles and Westernizers, but refused to identify himself with any of these movements.
Since 1824, Odoyevsky was active as a literary critic and journalist. In 1824 he and Wilhelm Küchelbecker founded the short-lived Moscow literary magazine Mnemozina. Perhaps most famously, he co-edited the Sovremennik with Alexander Pushkin in the mid-1830s. In 1826, he moved to St Petersburg, where he joined the staff of the Imperial Public Library. Two decades later, he was put in charge of the Rumyantsev Museum. Odoyevsky finally returned to Moscow in 1861 but continued to serve as a senator until his death. He is buried in the Donskoy monastery necropolis.
Aspiring to imitate Ludwig Tieck and Novalis, Odoyevsky published a number of tales for children (e.g., "The Snuff-Box Town") and fantastical stories for adults (e.g., "Cosmorama" and "Salamandra") imbued with the vague mysticism in the vein of Jakob Boehme and Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin.
Following the success of Pushkin's The Queen of Spades, Odoyevsky wrote a number of similar stories on the dissipated life of the Russian aristocracy (e.g., Princess Mimi and Princess Zizi). On account of his many short stories from the 1820s and 1830s, Odoyevsky should be listed among the pioneers of the impressionistic short story in Europe.
His most mature book was the collection of essays and novellas entitled The Russian Nights (1844). Loosely patterned after the Noctes Atticae, the book took two decades to complete. It contains some of Odoyevsky's best known fiction, including the dystopian novellas The Last Suicide and The Town with No Name. The stories are interlaced with philosophic conversations redolent of the French Encyclopedists.
As a music critic, Odoyevsky set out to propagate the national style of Mikhail Glinka and his followers, denigrating their forebears such as Dmitri Bortniansky. He also wrote a romanticised biography of the Russian violinist Ivan Khandoshkin, whose career he presented as thwarted by the malign influence of such Italian musicians as Giuseppe Sarti. Among his many articles on musical subjects, a treatise about old Russian church singing deserves particular attention, though he expressed strong distaste for strochnoy (early Russian polyphonic) chant: "No human ear could possibly bear the succession of seconds that are constantly to be encountered." Johann Sebastian Bach and Beethoven appear as characters in some of his novellas. Odoyevsky was active in the foundation of the Russian Musical Society, Moscow Conservatory, and St. Petersburg Conservatory.
Odoyevsky took part in development of the electroplating technology, invented by Moritz von Jacobi in Russia. In 1844 Odoyevsky wrote a book Galvanism applied in technology (Гальванизм в техническом применении). He made a number of experiments and developed cobalt electroplating.
Recently, Odoyevsky has been credited to have predicted blogging, and the basic principles of the Internet. In his unfinished utopian novel Year 4338 (fragments published 1835 and 1840; the whole manuscript 1926), he mused:
Finally, today we received a household journal from the prime minister, where we, among others, were invited to a soiree. You need to know that in many houses, especially those well connected, such journals are published, having replaced regular correspondence. . . . The journals usually provide information about the hosts’ good or bad health, family news, various thoughts and comments, small inventions, as well as invitations; in case of a dinner invitation, also the menu. Besides, for communicating in emergency, friends' houses are connected by means of magnetic telegraphs that allow people who live far from each other to talk to each other.
- The Living Corpse (1844)
- Princess Mimi, The Sylph, and The Live Corpse, (stories), from Russian Romantic Prose: An Anthology, Translation Press, 1979.
- The Salamander and Other Stories, (stories), Gerald Duckworth, 1992.
- Two Princesses, (novel), Hesperus Press, 2010.
- Two Days in the Life of the Terrestrial Globe and Other Stories, (stories), Ama Classics, 2012.
- Ritzarev (2006): p. 341
- Ritzarev (2006): p. 197
- V. Martynov: "Divine Liturgy for the Feast of St Peter and St Paul" CD note, Opus 111 OPS 30-161.
- History of electroplating in the 19th century Russia (Russian)
- Russian website on Odoyevsky
- Odoyevsky on the Russian National Library Website
- Works of Odoyevsky
- Mosnews.com - Blogging Predicted by a 19th-century Russian Prince at the Wayback Machine (archived October 13, 2005)