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|Died||17 October 1889 61) (aged|
Nikolay Gavrilovich Chernyshevsky 24 July [ O.S. 12 July] 1828 – 17 October 1889) was a Russian revolutionary, materialist philosopher, writer, editor, critic, and socialist (seen by some as a utopian socialist). He was the leader of the revolutionary movement of the 1860s, and had an influence on Vladimir Lenin, Emma Goldman, and Svetozar Marković.(
The son of a priest, Chernyshevsky was born in Saratov in 1828, and stayed there until 1846. He graduated at the local seminary where he learned English, French, German, Italian, Latin, Greek and Old Slavonic. It was there he gained a love of literature.At St Petersburg University he often struggled to warm his room. He kept a diary of trivia like the number of tears he shed over a dead friend. It was here that he became an atheist.
He was inspired by the works of Hegel, Ludwig Feuerbach and Charles Fourier and particularly the works of Vissarion Belinsky and Alexander Herzen. After graduating from Saint Petersburg University in 1850, he taught literature at a gymnasium in Saratov. From 1853 to 1862, he lived in Saint Petersburg, and became the chief editor of Sovremennik (“The Contemporary”), in which he published his main literary reviews and his essays on philosophy. By the time he graduated from the university, Chernyshevsky developed revolutionary and materialist views. From 1851–1853, he taught Russian language and literature at the Saratov Gymnasium. He openly expressed his beliefs to students, some of whom later became revolutionaries.
Chernyshevsky was sympathetic to the 1848 revolutions throughout Europe. He followed the events of the time and rejoiced in the gains of the revolutionary parties.
In 1855, Chernyshevsky defended his master's dissertation, "The Aesthetic Relation of Art to Reality", which contributed for the development of materialist aesthetics in Russia. Chernyshevsky believed that "What is of general interest in life -- that is the content of art" and that art should be a "textbook of life." He wrote, "Science is not ashamed to say that its aim is to understand and explain reality, and then to use its explanation for man's benefit. Let not art be ashamed to admit that its aim is ... to reproduce this precious reality and explain it for the good of mankind."
In 1862, he was arrested and confined in the Fortress of St. Peter and Paul, where he wrote his famous novel What Is to Be Done? The novel was an inspiration to many later Russian revolutionaries, who sought to emulate the novel's hero Rakhmetov, who was wholly dedicated to the revolution, ascetic in his habits and ruthlessly disciplined, to the point of sleeping on a bed of nails and eating only raw steak in order to build strength for the Revolution. Among those who have referenced the novel include Lenin, who wrote a political pamphlet of the same name.
In 1862, Chernyshevsky was sentenced to civil execution (mock execution), followed by penal servitude (1864–1872), and by exile to Vilyuisk, Siberia (1872–1883). He died at the age of 61.
Chernyshevsky was a founder of Narodism , Russian socialism, and agitated for the revolutionary overthrow of the Tsar and the creation of a socialist society based on the old peasant commune. He exercised the greatest influence upon populist youth of the 1860s and 1870s.
Chernyshevsky believed that American democracy was the best aspect of American life. He welcomed the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, which he believed marked a new period for "the great North American people" and that America would progress to heights "not attained since Jefferson's time." He praised these developments: "The good repute of the North American nation is important for all nations with the rapidly growing significance of the North American states in the life of all humanity."
Chernyshevsky's ideas were heavily influenced by Alexander Herzen, Vissarion Belinsky, and Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach. He saw class struggle as the means of society's forward movement and advocated for the interests of the working people. In his view, the masses were the chief maker of history. He is reputed to have used the phrase “the worse the better”, to indicate that the worse the social conditions became for the poor, the more inclined they would be to launch a revolution (though he did not originate the phrase, which predates his birth; for example, in an 1814 letter John Adams used it when discussing the lead-up to the American revolution).
There are those arguing, in the words of Professor Joseph Frank, that “Chernyshevsky’s novel What Is to Be Done? , far more than Marx’s Das Kapital , supplied the emotional dynamic that eventually went to make the Russian Revolution”.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky was enraged by the demagoguery of the political and psychological ideas expressed in the book,and wrote Notes from Underground largely as a reaction against it.
Russian bolshevik Vladimir Ilyich Lenin praised Chernyshevsky: "..he approached all the political events of his times in a revolutionary spirit and was able to exercise a revolutionary influence by advocating, in spite of all the barriers and obstacles placed in his way by the censorship, the idea of a peasant revolution, the idea of the struggle of the masses for the overthrow of all the old authorities”
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels studied Chernyshevsky's works and called him a "great Russian scholar and critic".
A number of scholars have contended that Ayn Rand, who grew up in Russia when Chernyshevsky's novel was still influential and ubiquitous, was influenced by the book.
Nikolay Alexeyevich Nekrasov was a Russian poet, writer, critic and publisher, whose deeply compassionate poems about peasant Russia made him the hero of liberal and radical circles of Russian intelligentsia, as represented by Vissarion Belinsky, Nikolay Chernyshevsky and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He is credited with introducing into Russian poetry ternary meters and the technique of dramatic monologue. As the editor of several literary journals, notably Sovremennik, Nekrasov was also singularly successful and influential.
Alexander Ivanovich Herzen was a Russian writer and thinker known as the "father of Russian socialism" and one of the main fathers of agrarian populism. With his writings, many composed while exiled in London, he attempted to influence the situation in Russia, contributing to a political climate that led to the emancipation of the serfs in 1861. He published the important social novel Who is to Blame? (1845–46). His autobiography, My Past and Thoughts, is often considered one of the best examples of that genre in Russian literature.
Vissarion Grigoryevich Belinsky was a Russian literary critic of Westernizing tendency. Belinsky played one of the key roles in the career of poet and publisher Nikolay Nekrasov and his popular magazine Sovremennik. He was the most influential of the Westernizers, especially among the younger generation. He worked primarily as a literary critic, because that area was less heavily censored than political pamphlets. He agreed with Slavophiles that society had precedence over individualism, but he insisted the society had to allow the expression of individual ideas and rights. He strongly opposed Slavophiles on the role of Orthodoxy, which he considered a retrograde force. He emphasized reason and knowledge, and attacked autocracy and theocracy.
The Petrashevsky Circle was a Russian literary discussion group of progressive-minded intellectuals in St. Petersburg in the 1840s. It was organized by Mikhail Petrashevsky, a follower of the French utopian socialist Charles Fourier. Among the members were writers, teachers, students, minor government officials and army officers. While differing in political views, most of them were opponents of the tsarist autocracy and Russian serfdom. Like that of the Lyubomudry group founded earlier in the century, the purpose of the circle was to discuss Western philosophy and literature that was officially banned by the Imperial government of Tsar Nicholas I. Among those connected to the circle were the writers Dostoevsky and Saltykov-Shchedrin, and the poets Aleksey Pleshcheyev, Apollon Maikov, and Taras Shevchenko.
Sergey Gennadiyevich Nechayev was a Russian philosopher and communist revolutionary, often associated with the nihilist movement and known for his single-minded pursuit of revolution by any means necessary, including terrorism and revolutionary terror. He was the author of the radical Catechism of a Revolutionary.
Nikolay Alexandrovich Dobrolyubov was a Russian literary critic, journalist, poet and revolutionary democrat. He was a literary hero to both Karl Marx and Lenin.
Sovremennik was a Russian literary, social and political magazine, published in Saint Petersburg in 1836–1866. It came out four times a year in 1836–1843 and once a month after that. The magazine published poetry, prose, critical, historical, ethnographic and other material.
What Is to Be Done? is an 1863 novel written by Russian philosopher, journalist, and literary critic Nikolai Chernyshevsky, written in response to Fathers and Sons (1862) by Ivan Turgenev. The chief character is Vera Pavlovna, a woman who escapes the control of her family and an arranged marriage to seek economic independence.
Dmitry Vasilyevich Grigorovich was a Russian writer, best known for his first two novels, The Village and Anton Goremyka, and lauded as the first author to have realistically portrayed the life of the Russian rural community and openly condemn the system of serfdom.
Westernizers were a group of 19th-century intellectuals who believed that Russia's development depended upon the adoption of Western European technology and liberal government. In their view, western ideas such as industrialisation needed to be implemented throughout Russia to make it a more successful country. In Russian the term was known as zapadnichestvo (зáпадничество), which can be translated as "westernism", and its adherents were known as the zapadniki, westernists in English.
Pyotr Nikitich Tkachev was a Russian writer, critic and revolutionary theorist, who it is claimed formulated many of the revolutionary principles that would later be further developed and put into action by Vladimir Lenin. Although Tkachev has sometimes been described as "the First Bolshevik", he did not figure prominently in the mythology of the Soviet Union.
Avdotya Yakovlevna Panaeva, née Bryanskaya,, was a Russian novelist, short story writer, memoirist and literary salon holder. She published much of her work under the pseudonym V. Stanitsky.
Valerian Nikolayevich Maykov was a Russian writer and literary critic, son of painter Nikolay Maykov, brother of poet Apollon and novelist Vladimir Maykov. Valerian Maykov, once a Petrashevsky Circle associate, was considered by contemporaries as heir to Vissarion Belinsky's position of Russia's leading critic, and later credited for being arguably the first in Russia to introduce scientific approach to the art of literary criticism.
Two Fates is a poem by Apollon Maykov, first published in 1845 in Saint Petersburg, as a separate edition, under the title "Two Fates. A Real Story by A.N.Maykov" and with considerable censorship cuts. It hasn't been re-issued in the author's lifetime and first appeared in its original form in The Selected Works by A.N.Maykov.
Georgi Valentinovich Plekhanov was a Russian revolutionary, philosopher and a Marxist theoretician. He was a founder of the social-democratic movement in Russia and was one of the first Russians to identify himself as "Marxist". Facing political persecution, Plekhanov emigrated to Switzerland in 1880, where he continued in his political activity attempting to overthrow the Tsarist regime in Russia.
Marxist–Leninist atheism, also known as Marxist–Leninist scientific atheism, is the irreligious and anti-clerical element of Marxism–Leninism, the official state ideology of the Soviet Union. Based upon a dialectical-materialist understanding of humanity's place in nature, Marxist–Leninist atheism proposes that religion is the opium of the people; thus, Marxism–Leninism advocates atheism, rather than religious belief.
The Narodniks were a politically conscious movement of the Russian intelligentsia in the 1860s and 1870s, some of whom became involved in revolutionary agitation against tsarism. Their ideology, a type of agrarian socialism, was known as Narodnichestvo (народничество), from the Russian народ, narod, "people, folk". It is sometimes mistranslated as "peopleism" or "populism". The Narodniks are known for the "хождение в народ" campaigns, meaning "going to the people". The Narodniks were in many ways the intellectual and political forebears and, in notable cases, direct participants of the Russian Revolution, in particular of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, which went on to greatly influence Russian history in the 20th century.
Anton-Goremyka is a novel by Dmitry Grigorovich, first published by Sovremennik, in 1847, vol. 6, issue XI. In retrospect it is regarded as arguably the strongest anti-serfdom statement in the Russian literature of its time.
Natural School is a term applied to the literary movement which arose under the influence of Nikolai Gogol in the 1840s in Russia, and included such diverse authors as Nikolai Nekrasov, Ivan Panayev, Dmitry Grigorovich, Ivan Turgenev, Alexander Hertzen, Ivan Goncharov, Vladimir Dal, Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Evgeny Grebyonka, among others. Modern day Russian historians of literature use the term only in its historical context, otherwise preferring to speak of "the earliest stage of critical realism in Russia."