Russian Writers

Vasily Aksyonov is a famous contemporary writer. Aksyonov was born in 1932, in Kazan, Russia. He graduated from the Lenin Medical Institute and became a physician. In 1960, his first famous work Colleagues was published. Later stories Star Ticket, published in 1961, and Oranges from Morocco, 1963, gained him the reputation as "the bright writer of Soviet Literature of 1960-1970." Another work It's Time, My Friend is a social commentary portraying Soviet realities. His more recent novels The Burn and The Island of the Crimea led to the deprivation his Soviet citizenship. Crimea is a Russian peninsula, but in the story it is an island that has never experienced "the socialist way of life." Following his expatriation, Aksyonov moved to the United States in 1980. He now works as a professor at George Mason University of Virginia. His more recent works include Moscow Saga and The Negative of the Positive Character.



Isaac Emmanuilovich Babel was born on July 13, 1894 in Odessa, Ukraine in a Jewish ghetto. During this time most Jews were banned from Russian cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg; over 2 million Jews immigrated to America. These childhood experiences provided a basis for his future writing. Studying science was mandatory, but upon graduation he entered St. Petersburg with a counterfeit passport. There he began to write satire about the political situation. In 1918 he wrote for an anti-Leninist newspaper, and was soon stopped by the government. Babel then traveled for many years, fighting for the Romanians at one point, and allegedly working for the Soviet Secret Police (though no official records state this). He gained national fame in 1926 when he published Red Cavalry, which portrays anti-Semitism among government and military leaders. During this time he was renowned as Russia's most famous writer. In 1931 he published Tales of Odessa, exposing the conditions he experienced as a child. Babel wrote many short stories, plays, and screenplays with influences from Russian, Hebrew, Yiddish, and French writing. He was arrested in 1939 for anti-Soviet activity and died in a prison camp in Siberia in 1941. Babel's work once again became popularized after 1953, when Stalin died. Much of his work that was banned at the time was hidden and still has not been published.

This is a standard encyclopedia entry and includes his political influences and style.

Here you will find more information about specific works he published and how they were received.

This site gives a short overview of the most significant events in Babel's life.

This is a very detailed, objective timeline of important historical events and significant events in Babel's life.

This is an extensive life story of Isaak Babel.

This site gives a summary of his life, with particular attention to his political and religious persecution.

Anrei Bely, a symbolist writer of Russia, lived from 1880 to 1934. He is considered part of the "second-generation" of the "Silver Age." His most famous works were Symphonies, The Silver Dove, Petersbury, and Kotik Letayev. He was thought to be the "most important Russian writer of the 20th cent." (the Bely's father was a math teacher in Moscow who did not approve of Bely's writing. This led to the plot in Petersburg of a son attempting to kill his father. During the Revolution in Russia, Bely was very poor, but continued his writing. Bely's residential apartment was preserved as a museum in 2000.


Joseph Brodsky was born in Leningrad in 1940 and began writing poetry at the age of eighteen. He left school at 15 years of age and worked in a morgue, in mills and in a boiler room of a ship. He taught himself Polish and English. He spent his time learning and working with Anna Akhmatova, a famous Russian poet. He wrote about moral, historical and religious themes. From 1964-1965, he was sentenced into exile into the northern region of Russia known as Arkhangelsk for what officials called "social parasitism." He did not complete his sentence and his poems became published in 1966 and 1967. His book Joseph Brodsky: Selected Poems was translated into ten languages at this time. In 1972 he was sent into exile where he found himself traveling from Vienna to London and finally to the United States. He became a professor at University of Michigan, Smith College, Columbia University and Cambridge University in England, just to name a few. On May 23, 1979 he was accepted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Less than one and To Urania are two of nine volumes of literature that he has published. He is known as one of the greatest poets to date. In 1987 he received the Nobel Prize in Literature. "The one who writes a poem writes it above all because verse writing is an extraordinary accelerator of conscience, of thinking, of comprehending the universe. Having experienced this acceleration once, one is no longer capable of abandoning the chance to repeat this experience; one falls into dependency on this process, the way others fall into dependency on drugs or on alcohol. One who finds himself in this sort of dependency on language is, I guess, what they call a poet." This website is a brief biography of Joseph Brodsky that speaks of his early life and his rise to stardom. It also gives a brief list of some of his famous works. This website is an excellent summary of his life as well as various literary themes that run through his works. The site quotes various segments of his works and comments briefly on them.

Various poems by Brodsky both in English and Russian.

These two sites are great summaries of his life as well as his accomplishments as a writer. There is a speech he gives from receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1987.

These are two excellent sites in Russian that give samples of his poetry and a biography.



MIKHAEL AFANAS'EVICH BULGAKOV (1891-1940) was born in Kiev, Ukraine in 1891 and moved to Moscow in 1921 with his wife Tatyana Lappa. He was a qualified doctor. During the Russian Civil War he was a field doctor for the White Army, from which he became a journalist. He wrote extensively on the civil war, and was an outstanding playwright of his time. His first novel, The White Guard, was an account of Ukrainian family during the White Army (Tsarist) and Red Army (Bolshevik) clashes. Because he also wrote on the early years of Soviet rule, he was under constant attack from the Soviet government. In 1929, all his plays were burned. He accepted a job at Moscow Academic Arts Theatre, though he did not stage his own plays. He died in 1940, leaving behind no children but manuscripts of a novel, The Master and Margarita, whose full publication was not until 1989.

-- This is an English site by a Middlebury College Professor giving a vast amount of information on Bulgakov.

--This is an English site, which gives information and links to Bulgakov six plays. Briefly describes him as a famous writer often at odds with the Soviet state. --This is a Russian site, which describes Bulgakov as a writer, with comments from what critics say about his work. There is also a journal of his life, having come to Russia in his 20s.

--BBC News makes an evaluation and narration Bulgakov as the author and the dramatist.

--Russian Site devoted to Bulgakov, with "archival documents, autobiographical stories, memoirs, diaries, letters, denunciations, reports of agents of secret police and others unknown before the biographic materials."


Ivan Bunin (1870-1953) is considered to be one of the most influential Russian writers before the revolution of 1918, and eventually was the first Russian to win a Nobel Prize in literature for his post-revolutionary work that mainly focused on criticisms of the Bolshevik Party. Although he is acclaimed mainly for his prose work, he also was a well-known poet accredited for his drastically real depiction of peasant life.

Ivan Bunin was born into a wealthy surf owning family, but his father squandered all of the family inheritance, and what little education he had received was done through public education. He was therefore forced to live within and experience the peasant lifestyle, which gave him the ability to depict such a culture more accurately than any other previous Russian writer. Living within the peasants additionally caused him to have serious doubts as to the intellectual capabilities of the common man. Such doubts caused him to abhor the idea of revolution, especially one that would be led by the working classes of Russia. Because of this, Bunin fled Russia’s borders after the Bolshevik revolt, and although exiled focused almost all of his future writings on the state of Russia.

- A site run by Nobel that provides bibliographical information, the story of his winning the prize, and additionally his acceptance speech.

- A site containing limited bibliographical information, but gives access to both original Russian texts and English translations of many of his works.

- A site containing a library of the original Russian text of many of Bunin’s poems and prose.

- A site providing a limited bibliography of his life and information about some of his literature.

- A Russian site providing many of Bunin’s works, as well as access to bibliographical information.

Anton Chekhov was born on January 29, 1860 to a grocer in Taganrog. In 1879, he moved to Moscow to be with his family. In Moscow, he attended the University of Moscow, where he graduated in 1884 with a degree in medicine. After he graduated, he began his career as a journalist/humorist. In 1887, he wrote his first full-length play, Ivanov, a story concerning the suicide of a young man. He continued to write many one-act plays and other works, writing for the Moscow Arts Theatre even though he had artistic differences with the director. In 1897, Chekhov suffered a hemorrhage of the lung and had to relocate to Crimea. He died of tuberculosis in Germany in 1904, at the age of forty-four.


Nikolai Gogol was born in 1809 in the Ukraine. Often referred to as the father of Russia’s Golden Age of prose, Gogol wrote of romance, humor, and the Supernatural. His first major works Evenings on a Farm near Ditanka focused on his early life in the Ukraine. His next major project, Mirgorod focused on the life of a Cossack. Dead Souls, often considered to be Russia’s first world-class novel is often the focal point of Russian national origins. Other major works of Gogol are set in St. Petersburg. Both the The Overcoat and The Inspector General are set in this 19th century Russian capital. Unfortunately, final work, regarding spiritual values was never completed because he destroyed it out of frustration. He died a sad and depressed man in 1952.


Ivan Alexandrovich Goncharov was born in 1812 in the Moscow area. Son of a wealthy grain merchant, Ivan Goncharov studied economics. Goncharov stayed quite a long time at the Moscow university, since he completed his study at age forty. During his university years, he published his first novel, A Common Story with little success. He starts writing his second novel in the 1840's, but his work is interrupted by the censorship. The novel finally appears in 1859 under the title "Oblamov" This humorous work depicts the life of a Russian aristocrat. Oblamov gained tremendous critical success and is still considered Goncharov's masterpiece. The term oblomovschina has entered the Russian language and means lethargy and upper class privilege. Although Goncharov wrote several other novels, he never reached the level of his second one. Goncharov died in St Petersburg in 1891.

Goncharov's biography. Many informations on any writer can be found on this site.

This biography (in Russian) contains some links to other authors' biographies and literary works.

Biography of the author in Russian. Several interesting - though not very attractive - pages on Russian classics.

A strange, but interesting, mix of cars and writers.

A portrait of Ivan Goncharov by Ivan Kramskoy.


Maksim Gorky was born Alexei Peshkov in 1868. He was sent to live with his grandparents at five and never attended school; he was taught to read by a cook where he worked. Gorky ran away when twelve, scraping away a life as he could. It was his rough experiences then that prompted him write as "Gorky", or, "the bitter one".

At 21, Gorky attempted suicide. Once recovered, he spent three years traveling around Russia, befriending the lowest class–prostitutes, criminals, etc. His encounters with them would be the basis for many of his written works. He rejoined society, spent time writing and jailed for revolutionary activity.

Chekhov first introduced Gorky to Moscow theater in 1900. He wrote many socially critical plays and short stories. He died in 1936, by the order of the police chief–maybe directly passed down from Stalin. Gorky is considered the creator of socialist realism.

Nikolai Mikhailovich Karamzin (1766 — 1826) was the most important and influential Russian writer of the eighteenth century. He reformed the Russian literary language with his completely revolutionary writing style, which was polished elegant and rhythmic. In doing so he laid the groundwork for many authors of the nineteenth century, above all Alexander Pushkin.

In 1789 he travelled through Western Europe visiting many countries such as England, Germany and France. When he returned he wrote one of his first and most famous works, "Letters of a Russian Traveler". Other well known works of his are "Poor Liza" and Natalia the Boyar’s Daughter.

Karamzin was not only a great poet and novelist, he was also a very important historian. His greatest work, "History of the Russian State", is 11 volumes long and contains information on political actions taken by Russian princes and Tsars up to 1613.


Mikhail Yurievich Lermontov (1814-1841)

Though this poet died young, at 26 years of age, his poetry has lived on as some of Russia’s greatest works. Lermontov was quite literally the successor of Pushkin as Russia’s beloved poet when the eulogy he wrote for Pushkin won him widespread attention. In this poem he criticized the Tsar and nobility for the role they played. For these words Lermontov was exiled and sent to war in the Caucasus. Lermontov championed the Russian people and criticized the Tsar and the feudal system. He was both patriotic and forward-looking.

In his writing Lermontov was both a thinker and an artist. His work, very romantic in style, drew on deep, personal feelings interwoven with soicial and philosophical themes. He championed freedom and criticized the aristocracy. He composed a reasonable body of work in his short career including his most famous novel, Hero of our Time, and hundreds of poems. Truly the only way to get a sense of the pastoral richness and romantic energy of Lermontov’s poems is to read the.

Lermontov attempted to return from his first exile, only to be sent to the Caucasus again. On his second trip he got into a quarrel at a vacation resort and died in the resulting duel.

: Good quick summary of his life with quotes from his poetry.

: Detailed biographical information and interpretation of his literature. Most (all?) of his works in Russian.


Nikolai Semenovich Leskov, who also wrote under the non de plume of M. Stebnitskii, lived from 1831 until 1891. He was well educated until his father's death in 1346, an event which bankrupted his family. He married, then separated from his wife after having two children. His first novel, Nekuda, which he wrote in Moscow at the age of 33, dealt with his struggle between idealism and reality. His most famous piece, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, identified flaws in the church's bureaucracy which he claimed lead its congregations towards "spiritual death". His unwillingness to conform to the censor's standards for religious criticism gained him the attention of both Russian police and such writers as Chekhov, who held him in high esteem.

Discusses briefly Leskov's biography, then analyzes several of his most famous works

In Russian, does not deal with Leskov's life, but instead examines in great detail his novellas

A concise Russian biography which includes many key dates overlooked by other websites

A good cite for a general idea of Leskov's work and the era in which he wrote

Analyses in great detail Leskov's literary effect on censorship and sexism .


Vladiimir Nabokov was born on April 23, 1899 into a wealthy family in Saint Petersburg. The Nabokov family was trilingual and young Vladimir began reading various Russian, English, and French literature at an early age. Not surprisingly, but perhaps ironically, much of Nabokov's genius was said to be in his use of the English language. He however, would say only that he does not even think in a particular language, "but in images." After his family was forced into exile because of his father's connection to the short lived Kerensky government, Nabokov studied Romance and Slavic languages and literatures at Trinity College of the University of Cambridge. During his last year there, while on Easter vacation, his father was killed in an effort to protect Paul Milyskov, a leader of the Constitutional Democratic party-in-exile. He spent most of his twenties and thirties in Berlin and Paril where he wrote prolifically in Russian and created the first Russian cross word puzzle.

In 1940, Nabokov moved to the United States. After he arrived, he held teaching positions at Wellesley, Harvard, and Cornell. He decided to give up writing in Russian and begin writing in English. Although he felt as though he was betraying his heritage, he nevertheless produced some of his greatest works during this period including Bend Sinister in 1947, Lolita in 1955, Dnin in 1957, and Pale Fire in 1962. At this time, he also translated some of his earlier works in to English as well as some of Lermontov's and Pushkin's works. He began to write some books of criticism in addition. In 1977, Nabokov died in Montreaux, Switzerland. (excellent)


Alexander Nikolaevich Ostrovsky, born in Moscow in 1823, wrote nearly fifty plays between the years of 1840 and 1880, an era of Russian history known for the turbulence resulting, in part, from the emancipation of the serfs. His work was well-known for reflecting different groups of people at unrest during this time: the serfs, their former masters, the middleclass, the clergy, etc. His plays include It's a Family Affair - We'll Settle it Ourselves (1850), The Poor Bride (1852), The Storm (1860), The Forest (1871), and The Dowerless Girl (1879). Among his works are several Russian translations of English plays such as The Taming of The Shrew (1865) and (uncompleted) Antony and Cleopatra. Ostrovsky was also intricately linked to the Maly Theatre, where nearly all of his plays were preformed, and which was often referred to as the "Ostrovsky House", even during his life.

A collection of play names and dates with a short summary of a few of his most well-known plays

A very brief biography, but a good place to start when beginning to put the author into context

Discusses Ostrovsky's motivation for writing, and the impact of his plays

An in-depth analyses of Ostrovsky's life, ties to Moscow, and myths and stereotypes of his work

A brief history of the Maly Theatre, to which Ostrovsky was heavily connected


Boris Leonidovich Pasternak was born in Moscow in 1890, at a time when revolutionary notions had yet to fully erupt throughout Russia. However, his life would be characterized by strong criticism from and fear towards the Soviet government. He left the Moscow Conservatory in 1910 and eventually ended up in Germany, where he studied at the Marburg University for the next several years. He began his literary career dabbling in poetry and short stories, although the strict guidelines that the Soviet Union imposed upon artists caused him to give writing original works a rest. Ironically enough, Pasternak supported the Revolution until he learned how violent it really was. He later began translating many of the great works of Shakespeare and other poets in Russian without much interference by the Communist party. Pasternak is most famous for penning Doctor Zhivago, which gained immediate success in the United States after its completion in 1956 but which was not published in the Soviet Union until 1988. After receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature for Doctor Zhivago in 1958, Pasternak was banned from the Union of Soviet Writers. He died in Peredelkino in 1960.

This is a link off of a site that examines others deemed as heroes. In addition to some background information on Pasternak, the link is full of quotes by the author/poet and one of his poems, written soon after he received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1958. The author is clearly biased in Pasternak’s favor, but there are many interesting facts here.

This article offers a very thorough look at Boris Pasternak’s life and his literary works. Also included is an interesting look at the American film Doctor Zhivago, which, according to this source, "omitted a number of scenes and characters, important for Pasternak's philosophical vision of the fate of his generation." Pasternak clearly produced an amazing collection of works before his death.

The site is only one page, but it contains among other things a very moving picture of an older, unsmiling Pasternak. The article presents Pasternak as apologizing for his break with the Soviet government, although I’m not sure this is necessarily true. Pasternak’s later works are listed, as well as his later attitudes when he wrote.,mozilla,mac,russian,win,new

This offers a brief description of Pasternak’s published works and not much else. It was interesting to read all that he wrote in his seventy years, however.

The Russian version of Pasternak’s poem, "Winter Night," or "Zimnyaya Noch." Published in 1946, the poem depicts the snow flurries and shadows and lights that perfectly illustrate a night in the wintertime.


Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov, born in 1905, a native of the Kamenskaya region, or land of the Cossacks, grew to become one of Russia’s most famous authors. He was educated at various high schools, fought as a revolutionary, became a journalist and short-story writer in Moscow, and joined the Communist Party. His first major work was a volume of short stories, Tales from the Don. His greatest piece, the novel And Quiet Flows the Don, won the Stalin Prize in 1941 and the Nobel Prize for literature in 1965. Other major works of his include Virgin Soil Upturned, another piece of the Don Cycle, and "The Fate of Man," a short story.

An interesting and unique site containing the Boston Globe’s obituary for Sholokhov.

A concise but very informative site with a small picture.

A typical encyclopedia site, plenty of facts and dates for a quick reference.

All of the sites I found with the search-engine were either in English or had nothing to do with Sholokhov the author (apparently the Tikhi Don ship and hotel are more important).


Konstantin Mikhailovich Simonov was born in 1915 and died in the year 1979. He started off as a poet, and is the author of many notable poems about World War II, such as "Battle on a Frozen Lake". Simonov was also a journalist in Russia, where he traveled throughout the country during times of war. He wrote his reports in verse. War was the basic theme and inspiration for much of his work. His works glamorize the Soviets and their patriotism. He wrote a novel Days and Nights and the play "The Russians" during the Great Patriotic War. He continued writing in succeeding years and became a leader of the Union of Writers. He got into making films, once again based upon the theme of war. He won the Stalin Prize three times before he died on August 28, 1979.

This site gives a very quick overview, but was very useful as a starting point for further research.

This puts Simonov in context with his peers, history, and the role that he played.

A Russian bibliography of his life.

An example in Russian of his writing.

An article celebrating his 85th birthday.


Alexander Solzhenitsyn was born into an intellectual family of Cossacks, but was very poor following his father’s death and could not study in Moscow. He entered the army and left it a decorated captain. He was sent to prison in the gulags 1945 and remained until 1953 for a letter he wrote to a friend criticizing Stalin. Following prison and a bout with cancer, he began teaching. He first published a book under Khruschev called One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Later works, such as The Cancer Ward and The Fist Circle, were censored by the government but published in the West. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature but this was seen as a treasonous act and he was sent away.

He was forced to leave Russia but returned in 1994 after living in Vermont.


Konstanin Sergeyevich Stanislavski was born in 1863. He was one of the most influential people in theatre in the twentieth century as a director, an actor, and a teacher. His famous method is for actors to express themselves by psychologically becoming their character. In a play, the actor has three responsibilities: a "super-objective," "objectives," and "sub-objectives." The actor must attain "absolute psychological identification with the character." Stanislavski believed that there were physical ways to "bridge the gap between life on and off the stage." He also asserted that the verbal part of acting, the deliverance of lines, is less important and meaningful than the mental preparation of making the character’s emotions the actor’s emotions. Slanislavski died in 1938.


Ivan Turgenev ( 1818-1883) was born into the wealthy landed gentry class in Russia and received a fairly standard upbringing. He attended both Moscow and St. Petersburg University and received a master degree in philosophy. At first he doubted his ability to become a successful writer until the success if one of his first books A Sportsman's Sketches received great acclaim. The effect that this strong protest against serfdom in A Sportman's Sketches had on Russia could be comparable to Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin in the U.S. It is even thought to have made such an impression on the Czar Alexander II that it was what influenced him to free the serfs and gain him the name of the Czar Liberator (Before the freeing of the serfs, Turgenev had freed his own serfs).

In some of Turgenev's later works, he began to concentrate more on the morbid psychological study of mankind that was typical of other writers of his time, concentrating on the"superfluous man." Russian people felt stuck between their need to westernize and their desire to retain their distinct, unique Russian culture. That is reflected in Turgenev's "The Diary of a Superfluous Man", where the author describes one of these particular men's struggle to essentially live with himself by examining his own identity.

Some of Turgenev's other popular novels were Rudin (1856), A Nest of Gentlefolk (1859) , On the Eve (1860) and Fathers and Sons.

Turgenev decided to leave Russia and work and travel abroad throughout Europe, reflected in his later novels, Smoke (1867), and Virgin Soil (1877). Most of the views presented in this works showed Turgenev's further estrangement from Russian society. Even though he became less popular in Russia towards the end of his life, he continued to be popular in the rest of Europe.


Yevgeny Zamyatin was born in Lebedyan in 1884. He joined the Bolshevik faction of the Social Demicractic Labour Party, to "follow the path of greatest resistance." Though arrested and exiled, he returned at the 1905 revolution, protested against Tsar Nicholas II and was sent to prison. When he returned he lectured on naval arcgitecture and wrote about naval and military subjects. Zamyatin went to England to help build icebreakers during WWI. Returning post October Revolution, he began to question the government’s attempt to censor the arts, and finally switched support to the Left Socialist Revolutionaries.

The first group of Zamyatin’s works include A Provincial Tale and a military satire, At the World’s End. When he began to question the government he wrote Tomorrow and I Am Afraid, two essays criticizing it. He criticizes the Cheka (secret police) in Fires of St. Dominic. For a while Zamyatin worked on translating literature.

HG Wells’ science fiction inspired We, a satire on the utopia of a collectivist state. It was smuggled out to the US to be published and circulated in E Europe 3 years later. It was met with fierce criticism and was banned. He was allowed to leave Russia to have his literary freedom in 1931. This book was deeply influential and inspired works like Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World.

Most importantly, Zamyatin started a new genre of literature called dystopian literature, where the character is not a party of the story, but a world unto himself. The character is the world. This genre could not be analyzed in the traditional methods.

Zamyatin settled in France and died in 1937.

Detailed information on Zamyatin’s life, major and minor incidents in his life, important facts everyone should know about him, detailed reference to major works, how he was influenced, who he influenced. Link to quotes and all important related info. Excerpts from important docs.

Bibliography of required reading for understanding Zamyatin’s We.

Critical essays and analyses on We.

Forum of serious discussion about Zamyatin’s new genre or dystopian literature.

Index of Zamyatin’s most influential works. Easily accessed, small files.

Detailed information about Zamyatin’s life and works.