V. A. Zhukovsky introduced European romantic idealism into Russian poetry. Increasing interest in national characteristics was expressed in the fables of I. A. Krylov, and literary nationalism rose to a high pitch during the wars against Napoleon I. In the 1820s a modern Russian literary style, realistic and nationally conscious, if to some degree shaded by romanticism and by European influence, was advanced by the versatile Aleksandr Pushkin, generally considered the greatest of Russian poets. M. Y. Lermontov's poetry maintained this stylistic excellence for a brief time. The despair detailed in the works of the romantic poet and novelist Yevgeny Baratinsky reflects the repressive atmosphere that existed under Czar Nicholas I.
In the 1830s cultural schism was manifested in the conflict between Slavophiles and Westernizers; the leader of the Westernizers, the critic V. G. Belinsky, stressed the importance of literature's relationship to national life, thus furthering the development of Russian literary realism. Nikolai Gogol, considered the primary initiator of realistic prose, also revealed aspects of romantic and morbid fantasy in his satirical and humanitarian tales. At mid-century a merciless realism, not devoid of humor, was developed by I. A. Goncharov, while A. N. Ostrovsky, who first made the merchant world a subject of Russian literary works, wrote a vast number of plays, most of which are no longer performed. The poetry of F. I. Tyuchev conferred philosophic significance upon everyday events. N. A. Nekrasov created verses of social purpose.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.