Reference Guide to Russian Literature

By Neil Cornwell; Nicole Christian | Go to book overview


Antiokh Dmitr'evich Kantemir 1708-1744
Satirist and translator


Born in Constantinople, zI September 1708, the youngest son of a Moldavian aristocrat who became viceroy of Moldavia, 1710. The family moved to Russia in 1711; lived in Moscow, 1713-19 and then moved to the new capital, St Petersburg, 1719. Kantemir spoke Greek and Italian at home and was taught Russian and Latin by tutors. As a result of his father's service to Peter the Great, he became acquainted with court life at an early age. Accompanied his father on Peter's Persian campaign, 1722-23. Studied mathematics, physics, history, and moral philosophy under foreign professors brought to St Petersburg by Peter, 1724-25; subsequently served in Preobrazhenskii regiment. Started to produce literary works, from 1726 (including translations of first four satires of Boileau and a work by Fontenelle on Copernican heliocentric system). During the struggle that took place on accession of Anna to the throne, Kantemir took the side of the men of learning (prominent among them, Prokopovich), 1730; they represented the new Petrine gentry and opposed old aristocratic families seeking restoration of their privileges. Served as Russia's diplomatic representative in London, 1732-38; became ambassador to France, 1738-44. Died in Paris, II April 1744.


Collected Editions

Sochineniia, pis'ma i izbrannye perevody [ Works, Letters and Selected Translations], edited by V.Ia. Stoiunin and P.A. Efremov. 2 vols. 1867-68.

Sobranie sochinenii, edited by F.Ia. Priima and Z. I. Gershkovich , "Biblioteka poeta", Leningrad, 1956.


"Satire I: To My Mind", in The Literature of Eighteenth‐ Century Russia, edited and translated by Harold B. Segel, 2 vols, New York, Dutton, 1967, vol. I, 151-65.

Critical Studies

"Istoriia russkoi obshchestvennoi mysli", by G. V. Plekhanov, in his Sobranie sochinenii, 24 vols, Moscow and Leningrad, 1924-27, vol. 21, 78-102.

"Kantemir", by V. G. Belinskii, in his Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 13 vols, Moscow, 1953-59, vol. 3, 613-34.

Russian Versification: The Theories of Trediakovskij, Lomonosov and Kantemir, by R. Silbajoris, New York, Columbia University Press, 1968.

A History of I8th Century Russian Literature, by William Edward Brown , Ann Arbor, Ardis, 1980, 31-53.

"The Eighteenth Century: Neoclassicism and the Enlightenment", by Ilya Serman, in The Cambridge History of Russian Literature, edited by Charles A. Moser, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 1989, 45-53; revised edition, 1992.

A History of Russian Literature, by Victor Terras, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1991, 122-24.

Through his translations of such authors as Boileau, Horace and Anacreon, Antiokh Kantemir helped to introduce classical and western literature to a country, which before Peter the Great was ignorant of western learning. He also wrote a number of odes, fables, epistles and epigrammes, an unfinished epic poem on Peter the Great (whose reforms he lauded), and a treatise on versification, "Pis'mo Kharitona Makentina k priiateliu o slozhenii stikhov russkikh" [A Letter from Khariton Makentin (a near anagram of Antiokh Kantemir) to a Friend about the Composition of Russian Verses]; it was first published posthumously as an appendix to Kantemir's translation of some of Horace's epistles in St Petersburg in 1744. Kantemir's importance in Russian literature, however, rests on his nine satires. The first five satires were written in Russia between 1729 and 1731 and subsequently reworked; the last four were written later in London or Paris.The first eight satires were first published in a French prose translation in London in 1749, and then in a German verse translation in Berlin in 1752. The first Russian edition was published in St Petersburg in 1762, although the satires circulated in Russia in manuscript form before this.

Kantemir's first — and perhaps most famous and notable satire, directed at "the detractors of learning" ("na khuliashchikh ucheniia"), is a scathing denunciation of those who for one reason or another resisted the western sciences and enlightenment introduced into Russia by Peter.By means of a series of colourful portraits of types, Kantemir identifies a number of opponents: first, the Church, which looks on learning as a source of heresy and a threat to ecclesiastical wealth and authority; second, those who see cultivation of the new sciences, which range from philosophy to physics, chemistry, medicine, astronomy, and mathematics, as unnecessary for the management of one's estates and unbecoming in an aristocrat; and third, those who object to scholarly occupations on purely hedonistic grounds. In the second half of the satire he goes on to


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Reference Guide to Russian Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Reference Guide to Russian Literature *
  • Contents *
  • Editor's Note vii
  • Advisers xi
  • Contributors xi
  • Alphabetical List of Writers and Works xiii
  • Alphabetical List of Works xix
  • Chronological List of Writers xxiii
  • General Reading List xxvii
  • Chronology xxxv
  • Glossary xxxix
  • Introductory Essays *
  • Old Russian Literature 3
  • Pre-Revolutionary Russian Theatre 9
  • Russian Literature in the I8th Century 13
  • Aleksandr Pushkin: from Byron to Shakespeare 18
  • The Classic Russian Novel 25
  • The Superfluous Man in Russian Literature 29
  • Women's Writing in Russia 35
  • Russian Literary Theory: from the Formalists to Lotman 40
  • Post-Revolutionary Russian Theatre 45
  • Experiment and Emigration: Russian Literature, 1917-1953 49
  • Socialist Realism in Soviet Literature 55
  • Thaws, Freezes, and Wakes: Russian Literature, 1953-1991 59
  • Russian Literature in the Post-Soviet Period 64
  • Writers and Works *
  • A 73
  • B 127
  • C 213
  • D 237
  • E 271
  • F 297
  • G 311
  • H 379
  • I 389
  • K 413
  • L 485
  • M 521
  • N 559
  • O 585
  • P 611
  • R 685
  • S 707
  • T 789
  • U 859
  • V 861
  • Y 897
  • Z 899
  • Title Index 933
  • Notes on Advisers and Contributors 963


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