• Russian literature refers to the literature of Russia or
its émigrés, and to the Russian-language literature of
several independent nations once a part of what was
historically Russia or the Soviet Union.
• Roots of Russian literature can be traced to middle Ages,
when epics and chronicles in Old Russian were composed.
In the Age of enlightenment, literature had grown in
importance, and from the early 1830s, Russian literature
underwent an astounding golden age in poetry, prose, and
drama. After the Revolution of 1917, Russian literature split
into Soviet and white émigré parts. Soviet Union
assured universal literacy and highly developed book
printing industry, but also carried out ideological
• Russian authors significantly contributed
almost too all known genres of the literature.
Russia had five Nobel Prize in
literature laureates. As of 2011, Russia was
the fourth largest book producer in the
world in terms of published titles. A popular
folk saying claim Russians are "the world's
most reading nation".
• Old Russian literature consists of several
masterpieces written in the Old Russian
language (not to be confused with the
contemporaneous Church Slavonic). Anonymous
works of this nature include The Tale of Igor's
Campaign and Praying of Daniel the
Immured. Hagiographies (Russian: жития
святых, zhitiya svyatykh, "lives of the saints")
formed a popular genre of the Old Russian
literature. Life of Alexander Nevsky offers a wellknown example.
• The 19th century is traditionally referred to as
the "Golden Era" of Russian
literature. Romanticism permitted a flowering
of especially poetic talent: the names of Vasily
Zhukovsky and later that of his
protégé Alexander Pushkin came to the fore.
Pushkin is credited with both crystallizing the
literary Russian language and introducing a
new level of artistry to Russian literature.
• In the second half of the century Anton
Chekhov excelled in writing short stories and
became perhaps the leading dramatist
internationally of his period
• Nineteenth century Russian literature
perpetuated disparate ideas of suicide; it
became another facet of culture and society in
which men and women were regarded and
treated differently. A woman could not commit
the noble, heroic suicide that a man could; she
would not be regarded highly or as a martyr, but
as a simple human who, overcome with feelings
of love gone unfulfilled and having no one to
protect her from being victimized by society,
New Realism of the 21st century
• In the 21st century, a new generation of Russian
authors appeared differing greatly from the
postmodernist Russian prose of the late 20th century,
which lead critics to speak about “new
realism”.Having grown up after the fall of the Soviet
Union, the "new realists" write about everyday life, but
without using the mystical and surrealist elements of
• The "new realists" are writers who assume there is a
place for preaching in journalism, social and political
writing and the media, but that “direct action” is the
responsibility of civil society.
• Children's literature in Soviet Union was
considered a major genre, because of its
• While fairy tales were relatively free from
ideological oppression, the realistic children's
prose of the Stalin era was highly ideological
and pursued the goal to raise children as
patriots and communists
Themes in Russian books
• Suffering, often as a means of redemption, is a
recurrent theme in Russian literature. Fyodor
Dostoyevsky in particular is noted for
exploring suffering in works such as Notes
from Undergroundand Crime and Punishment.
Christianity and Christian symbolism are also
important themes, notably in the works of
Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Chekhov.
• In the 20th century, suffering as a mechanism
of evil was explored by authors such as
Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago. A
leading Russian literary critic of the 20th
century Viktor Shklovsky, in his book, Zoo, or
Letters Not About Love, wrote, "Russian
literature has a bad tradition. Russian
literature is devoted to the description of
unsuccessful love affairs."