Grigory Ryzhakov – Russian Writer

The Pillar of Russian Poetry: Mikhail Lermontov – 200th Anniversary


A portrait of Mikhail Yurievich Lermontov by Pyotr Zabolotsky, painted in 1837.

This week the world celebrates the 200th birthday of a great Russian poet, Mikhail Lermontov, who had Scottish roots,  so it’s a cultural hallmark in Russia as well as in the UK.

Lermontov’s poetry and prose is in the school literature curriculum in Russia. Practially  every grown-up Russian has read Lermontov’s masterpiece novel, A Hero of Our Time, which you can download for free from the Gutenberg Project website.

The novel is centered on  a Byronic hero, a military man called Grigory Pechorin, who travels around Caucasus leaving a trail of broken hearts and taken lives. If you are looking for superb prose, this novel is an embodiment of it. I can’t recommend it enough.

At school, I was fascinated with this book. I had even written an essay on it as  a part of the university entry exam (when I admitted to Moscow State Uni).  To think of it, 200 years later and Caucasus still remains a gunpowder barrel.

Not that many people know that Lermontov enjoyed drawing as well as writing,  landscapes were his favourite.


A peasant under a tree.M. Lermontov, ink, 1832-1834

For those, who would like to learn more about him, Russia Beyond The Headlines has published a series of articles on Lermontov, including an interactive map of his travels in Russia.

I’d like to finish with one of Lermontov’s poems,

The Angel

The angel was flying through sky in midnight,
And softly he sang in his flight;
And clouds, and stars, and the moon in a throng
Hearkened to that holy song.
He sang of the garden of God's paradise,
Of innocent ghosts in its shade;
He sang of the God, and his vivacious praise
Was glories and unfeigned.
The juvenile soul he carried in arms
For worlds of distress and alarms;
The tune of his charming and heavenly song 
Was left in the soul for long.
It roamed on earth many long nights and days,
Filled with a wonderful thirst,
And earth's boring songs could not ever replace
The sounds of heaven it lost.

© Copyright, 1996
Translated from Russian by Yevgeny Bonver, October 1995.


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