Pyotr Vyazemsky

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Pyotr Vyazemsky (1824) by Pyotr Sokolov P.F. Sokolov 007.jpg
Pyotr Vyazemsky (1824) by Pyotr Sokolov

Prince Pyotr Andreyevich Vyazemsky [1] (Russian :Пëтр Андре́евич Вя́земский,IPA:  [ˈpʲɵtr ɐnˈdrʲejɪvʲɪt͡ɕ ˈvʲæzʲɪmskʲɪj] ; 23 July 1792 22 November 1878) was a leading personality of the Golden Age of Russian poetry.

Russian language East Slavic language

Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although nearly three decades have passed since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia.



His parents were a Russian prince of Rurikid stock, Prince Andrey Vyazemsky, and an Irish lady, Jenny O'Reilly. As a young man he took part in the Battle of Borodino and other engagements of the Napoleonic Wars. Many years later, Tolstoy's description of the battle in War and Peace would appear inaccurate to him and he would engage in a literary feud with the great novelist.

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The Battle of Borodino was a battle fought on 7 September 1812 in the Napoleonic Wars during the French invasion of Russia.

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In the 1820s Vyazemsky was the most combative and brilliant champion of what then went by the name of Romanticism. Both Prince Pyotr and his wife Princess Vera, née Gagarina were on intimate terms with Pushkin, who often visited their family seat at Ostafievo near Moscow (now a literary museum). Unsurprisingly, Vyazemsky is quoted in Pushkin's works, including Eugene Onegin . The two friends also exchanged several epistles in verse.

Romanticism period of artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that started in 18th century Europe

Romanticism was an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical. It was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature—all components of modernity. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but had a major impact on historiography, education, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. It had a significant and complex effect on politics, with romantic thinkers influencing liberalism, radicalism, conservatism and nationalism.

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Vyazemsky and the other leading Russian liberals such as Pushkin and Aleksandr and Nikolay Turgenev, were all heavily shaped by the Kantian teachings of Aleksandr Kunitsyn, and often discussed their attitudes on serfdom, the Russian administration and legal system, civil society, and foreign policy through private correspondence, where Vyazemsky was highly critical of the administrations abuses in the western province. [2] He also published a prospectus declaring an "uncompromising war to all the prejudices, vices and absurdity that reign in our society." [3]

At that time, the elderly poet gained admission to the Russian court, in part through his daughter's marriage to Pyotr Valuev, the future Chairman of the Committee of Ministers. In the 1850s, Vyazemsky served as a deputy minister of education and was in charge of the censorship in Russia. In 1863, he settled abroad on account of bad health. Prince Vyazemsky died in Baden-Baden, but his body was brought to St. Petersburg and buried there.

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Literary output

Vyazemsky is probably best remembered as the closest friend of Pushkin. Their correspondence is a treasure house of wit, fine criticism, and good Russian. In the early 1820s, Pushkin proclaimed Vyazemsky the finest prose writer in the country. His prose is sometimes exaggeratedly witty, but vigor and raciness are ubiquitous. His best is contained in the admirable anecdotes of his Old Notebook, an inexhaustible mine of sparkling information on the great and small men of the early nineteenth century. A major prose work of his declining years was the biography of Denis Fonvizin.

Denis Fonvizin Russian writer

Denis Ivanovich Fonvizin was a playwright of the Russian Enlightenment, whose plays are still staged today. His main works are two satirical comedies which mock contemporary Russian gentry.

Though Vyazemsky was the journalistic leader of Russian Romanticism, there can be nothing less romantic than his early poetry: it consists either of very elegant, polished, and cold exercises on the set commonplaces of poetry, or of brilliant essays in word play, where pun begets pun, and conceit begets conceit, heaping up mountains of verbal wit. His later poetry became more universal and essentially classical.


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  1. Also transliterated Petr Andreevich Viazemsky
  2. Berest, Julia (2011). The Emergence of Russian Liberalism: Alexander Kunitsyn in Context, 1783-1840. Springer. p. 60.
  3. Berest, Julia (2011). The Emergence of Russian Liberalism: Alexander Kunitsyn in Context, 1783-1840. Springer. p. 87.