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Silver Age of Russian Poetry
October 14, 2008 20:18

With the end of the 19th century “the Golden Age” of Russian literature finished giving place to a crucial stage that later went down into history under the beautiful name of the Silver Age. It engendered a great flight of Russian culture, at the same time becoming a beginning of its tragic fall down. The beginning of the Silver Age is usually referred to the 1890s, illuminated with poems by Valery Bryusov, Innokenty Annensky, Konstantin Balmont and other splendid poets.

The notion “Silver Age” is rather relative and encompasses a phenomenon of quite controversial outline and uneven pattern. For the first time this term was suggested by the well-known philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev, and yet it became customary in literature not until the 1960s.

The heyday of the Silver Age fell on the year 1915, the time of its highest rise and its end.

 Konstantin Balmont

The social and political environment of that epoch was characterized by a deep crisis of power, turbulent and wild atmosphere in the country calling for radical changes. Probably this is why the ways of arts and politics came to intersect. Just like the society was intently searching for paths to the new social order, so writers and poets were striving to master new artistic forms and ways of expression, and put forward bold innovative ideas. Realistic portrayal of life did not satisfy authors any longer, and their argument with the classics of the 19th century generated new literary movements, such as symbolism, acmeism, and futurism. They proposed various ways of perceiving of being, yet each of them excelled in unusual poetic tunes, original expression of feelings and experiences of the lyrical character, and aspiration for the future.

One of the first literary currents was symbolism that united quite different poets, such as Konstantin Balmont, Valery Bryusov, Andrei Bely, and others. Theorists of symbolism asserted that an artist was to create new art with the help of symbolical images, that would help express the poet’s feelings, sensations and thoughts in a subtler and more general way. Furthermore, the truth and the revelation might arise within an artist not as a product of thinking, but at the moment of creative ecstasy, being granted from above. Poets-symbolists were carried away to the heights of dream and raised global queries about saving the mankind, returning the faith in God, attaining harmony by merging with the Soul of the World, the Eternal Femininity, Beauty and Love.


Valery Bryusov
A recognized master of symbolism is Valery Bryusov, who implemented not only formal innovative achievements of this school, but also its ideas in his poetry.

Symbolic poets managed to express their epoch in all its unsteadiness, fluctuations and transitivity.

Just as negation of realism generated symbolism, so the new literary movement – acmeism – came out of controversy with symbolism. It rejected symbolists’ inclination towards the unknown, as well as their concentration on the realm of one’s one soul.

Nikolay Gumilyov
Acmeism, according to poet Nikolay Gumilyov, was not supposed to reach for the unknown, but instead turn to things that could be perceived, i.e. to reality, and try and fully encompass the diversity of the world. With this approach an acmeist poet, unlike symbolists, found himself participating in the world rhythms, at the same time estimating the phenomena one was describing. As a matter of fact, when attempting to get insight into the theoretical basis of acmeism, one comes across obvious contradictions and incoherence. Nowadays acmeism is remembered only due to the names of outstanding poets, such as Nikolay Gumilyov, Anna Akhmatova, and Osip Mandelstam.


Velimir Khlebnikov
Utter political indifference and disregard of burning issues of the day was typical of acmeism. This was perhaps the reason for its giving way to the futurism, which was notable for its revolutionary rebellion and opposition to bourgeois society, its morals and aesthetics, as well as the overall system of social ties and relations. Not without reason was the futurists’ first book of poems titled “A Slap in the Face of Social Taste”. The manifesto of Russian Futurism, it was drawn up by Velimir Khlebnikov, Alexander Kruchenykh, Vladimir Mayakovsky and David Burliuk in 1910. Vladimir Mayakovsky’s early creativity was closely related to Futurism.

In the union of poetry and struggle Futurist poets, such as Mayakovsky, Velimir Khlebnikov, Vasily Kamensky, etc. discerned a specific spiritual state of the epoch and tried to find new rhythms and images for poetic embodiment of tumultuous revolutionary life.


Marina Tsvetaeva
The end of the Silver Age that fell on the late 1920s, when literary activity independent of the Soviet State d to die away, was marked with publication of the books Half-voiced by Sophia Parnok (1928) and The Trout Breaks the Ice (1929) by Mikhail Kuzmin.

Different were the hard fates of wonderful Silver Age poets. Somebody could not bear living in the newly reshaped motherland and had to flee, others, like Nikolay Gumilyov, were innocently executed, somebody, like Anna Akhmatova, stayed in the native land and suffered through all its sorrows, whereas some of them, like Vladimir Mayakovsky or Marina Tsvetaeva voluntarily quit the scene. Anyway, all of them had contributed to the true miracle, creating the Silver Age of Russian poetry.

    Russian Wiki


Tags: Russian Literature SIlver Age of Russian Poetry Russian Poets Russian Classics  

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