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ABOUT RUSSIA / CULTURE AND ART / LITERATURE


Literature

Russian literature has become an integral part of the world's culture and it has won recognition among the most prominent artists.

The leading role of literature in the cultural life of the Russian people is explained by its origin and the significance acquired from the moment of its rise. The written language and literature were brought into Russia with Christianity. A book appeared in Russia in the form of Holy text that influenced radically the place and the role of literature in the history of Russian culture.

For many centuries church literature remained the main and the only intellectual and moral food for Russian scribes and for the whole people. In doing so it contributed to the formation of the national character greatly. Thus once and forever Russian literature showed its links with people and state.

The most prominent works of the Kiev period are 'Exhortations of metropolitan Illarion' (11th century), 'Story of Temporal Years' (11th-12th centuries), 'Exhortation of Prince Vladimir Monomakh' (11th-12th centuries), scriptures of Bishop Kirill Turovsky (12th century), 'Word about Igor's Regiment' (12th century), 'Wandering of Daniil Zatochnik' (12th century). It was the period of lively literal activity that created patterns of literary forms and genres for the following centuries.

The Russian literature of the latest medieval period is characterized by the feeling of superiority (the theory of Moscow - the third Rome). Internal shock it experienced in the 16th - 17th centuries gave literature the character of religious, social and political journalism. In a number of cases those works reach the highest artistic standard (Epistles of Ivan the Terrible and 'Life of Archpriest Avvakum'). At the same time folklore attained great strength, beauty and expressiveness but unfortunately Old Russian writers did not make use of it. However, since the end of the 16ht century temporal stories on the theme of everyday life were in full swing. As a rule they were just the remakes of the plots of the Western and Eastern literature.

Since the end of the 17th century Russian culture has experienced swift intrusion of Eastern European values in it. Great change in the outlook together with the reform of the language and writing resulted in cultural crisis of the 18th century. On the one hand the writers of that time imitated French patterns but on the other hand they were in search of their own themes, language and style. During the whole period the writers were trying to give literature peculiar national character: V.K. Trediakovsky and M.V. Lomonosov created the theory of proper patterns of Russian versification; A.V. Sumorokov composed songs in the folk style; D.I. Fonvizin created comedies on Russian everyday life written in vivid language.

N.M. Karamzin, V.A. Zhukovsky and A.S. Pushkin completed the formation of the Russian literary language. During the reign of Alexander for the first time in their lives the Russian writers experienced great satisfaction of independent creative work quite national in spirit and style. Poetry was considered to be indisputable spiritual exploit and vocation and what is more, it acquired the meaning of 'religious rite'. In literature of that period there felt a great strive for life and A.S. Pushkin's works were vivid example of it.

Since 1840s moral anxiety was growing in literature and it found its expression in Romanticism. The theme of 'an odd man' appeared.

The epoch of 'great reforms 1860 - 1870s aroused great literature to social problems. At large there were two trends in Russian literature. Adherents of so-called 'pure art' (A. Grigoriev, A.V. Druzhinin, A.A. Fet) were definitely against moral and utilitarian function of literature, while L.N. Tolstoy aimed at 'destruction of aesthetics' for the sake of moral transformation of people through art. Religious interpretation of Russian experience of the 19th century found its expression in the works of F.M. Dostoevsky. The predominance of philosophical problems in literature resulted in flourishing of a Russian novel. However, philosophical motives could be found in lyrics as well (F.I. Tyutchev).

In pre-revolutionary years there observed a new cultural rise, known as 'Silver Age'.

Since 1890s a new flourishing of Russian poetry started. Symbolism became not only a literary trend but also a new spiritual experience. Poetry and literature obtained special vital significance as a way to faith and eternity through art. As for artists they tried to be 'on the far side of good and evil' and to overcome ethics through aesthetics. Mysticism of V.S. Solovyov is reflected in brilliant poetic comments in the works of A.A. Block. Acmeism became the reaction to religious excitement of Symbolism, to understanding a poet as a medium of supreme and irrational power (N.S. Gumilev). At the same time A.P. Chekhov and I.A. Bunin continued the classic trend of Russian literature enriching it with the latest achievements in the field of a form.

The Revolution of 1917 resulted in an artificial separation of Russian literature into home and emigrant ones, though the most prominent writers happened to be abroad. But on the whole literature preserved its unity based on adherence to traditions of classic Russian culture. Those traditions to this or that extent could be found in the works of I.A. Bunin, V.V. Nabokov, I. I. Shmelev, G.I. Gazdanov, G.E. Ivanov, V.F. Khodasevich, O. Mandelstam, M.A. Bulgakov, B.L. Pasternak, M. Gorky and M. Sholokhov. It is just that line of Russian literature, which gained worldwide recognition.

The works of A.I. Solzhenitsyn are the greatest patterns of Russian prose, as he managed to give the second breath to a classic Russian novel. In the field of poetry the works of I. Brodsky gained worldwide recognition.

The greatest contribution of Russian literature of the 20th century to the world's culture is the evidence of its indisputable worldwide significance and inexhaustible creative potential.



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