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Russian literature of XVIII-XX centuries and its international relations

The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

The principal objective of the project was a comprehensive study of international links of the Russian literature in the 18th–20th centuries. 

The project was aimed to explore the transformative influence of West-European literary forms and cultural models upon the coming-of-age and further evolution of Russian literature and language, as well as the reciprocal impact of Russian letters on world literature, philosophy, and art of the late 19th and 20th century. The project was meant to reflect on the special role of Russian discourse as the transmitter of West-European literary forms, cultural patterns, and political frameworks.


At the basis of the method adopted in the study lies the evolving theory of comparative and historical poetics, which involves a combination of traditional literary studies with formal (and, particularly, exact) analytic methods. Special attention is accorded to the investigation of various levels in the textual and linguistic structure. In our work we also strive to describe the semantics of the structural elements of texts, in some cases founded on their typological analysis. Source criticism, textual criticism, corpus linguistics, narratology provided methodological tools employed in the project. We also adopted methods that make it possible to detect the influence of historical events, as well as of cultural and philosophical developments on the literary process and art.

Empirical base of research

The corpus of Russian and foreign-language (multi-lingual) texts provided the empirical basis of the study; the corpus data of main European language and of lexica were also drawn upon, as well as archival and library sources. The main object of investigation was the structure of literary works, elements of their poetics and semantics. Special attention was accorded to the reception of the French revolution in Russian literature, to the problem of the evolution of concepts in the development of the Russian literary culture, as well as to the analysis of selected key Western European sources of the Russian philosophical thought. Various aspects of the early Soviet poetic language and the meaning of the neoliberal revolution in the late 1980s – early 90s for the arts and letters was also within the range of the project’s scholarly concerns.

Results of research

As a result of the studies undertaken, novel foreign sources of the Russian literary culture of the 18th and 20th centuries were uncovered and literary forms that came into existence in Russia under the influence of foreign models were investigated.New data on the genesis of Russian syllabo-tonic verse in 18th-century poetry were accumulated under the project. In particular, new arguments were discovered to support the hypothesis of the influence of German verse and language on Mikhail Lomonosov’s work. The hypothesis of a revolutionary, not evolutionary way of development of Russian literature in the Elizabethan era was tested. The study of Alexander Sumarokov’s versification was continued.

The influence of the Latin tradition on the Russian Enlightenment in the 18th century was substantialized with new data. The early period of the Novgorod pontifical school (1706-1737) was closely investigated. Textual constraints incorporated in the organizational layout of theology courses taught at Kiev-Mogilan Academy continued to be investigated. The impact of the Great French Revolution on Russian literature and culture is completed. Its role in the acquisition of international literary practices is duly described.

One of the project’s outcomes is that Russian literary reception of West-European—primarily German—idealist philosophy has now been broadened. The study of Hegel’s influence on the Russian intelligentsia has been broadened significantly. The influence of realist aesthetics upon Vissarion Belinsky’s work and the members of the Stankevich circle has been fully conducted.

The in-depth analysis of the emerging Russian early 19th-century prose has revealed its close relation to poetry and verse. The impact of verse and versification on Pushkin’s prose style was analyzed for the first time. This impact is found to have grown from the poet’s early prose fragments all the way through his last novellas. The methodological foundation for the extensive study of West-European influences on Russian verse is in good progress. The role of European cultural models in Russian literary development was studied in depth. The influence of German philosophy on Russian literature was traced on to the first half of the 20th century. Alexandre Kojeve’s Hegelian seminar series was studied in terms of its impact on the Russian emigre literature.

Studies in comparative history of ideas proceed. Special emphasis was put on the development of the new poetic language in the early Soviet era, while Gorky and Khodasevich were also covered by the scope of the project. Marina Tsvetaeva’s long poem “Perekop” was contextualized among European trends. Current tendencies in Russian culture, such as the Last Avant-garde and neoliberal revolution, were also subject to research. The acquired data reshape our notions with respect to the role of foreign sources and cultural models in the evolution of Russian literature and language forms. Furthermore, they provide new insights into the significance of Russian literature for the global cultural landscape.

Level of implementation,  recommendations on implementation or outcomes of the implementation of the results

Results of our research are being used by members of the Department of Comparative Literature and Linguistics at the Higher School of Economics at St. Petersburg in teaching classes on verse theory, poetics and history of ideas. They will also be used in the classes on Russian and world literature. Results of our research are included in several scholarly publications (see below for Project Publications).

Data obtained as well as the corpus of texts investigated can be put to use by other specialists working on problems in the history of Russian literature and its international ties.

Students at the BA Program in Philology who are in their 2nd and 3rd years of study took part in the project and, as a result, obtained useful skills of scholarly work with texts in different languages.

Main research results belong to the domain of theoretical, comparative and applied poetics, as well as the history of ideas. They can be put to use in new scholarly projects related to the study of literature, language and cultural semiotics.


Суториус К. В. Преподавательская деятельность Иосифа Ямницкого в Новгородской семинарии: археографический обзор // В кн.: Новгородский исторический сборник. Вып. 17 (27). Вып. 17 (27). Новгородский государственный университет им. Ярослава Мудрого, 2017. С. 197-227.
Суториус К. В., Салоников Н. В. Ведомости учеников Новгородской архиерейской школы и семинарии как источник по истории образования в первой половине XVIII в. // В кн.: Документальное наследие Новгорода и Новгородской земли. Проблемы сохранения и научного использования. Великий Новгород : [б.и.], 2018. Гл. 3. С. 19-36.
Наконечная Е. Т. The Prosody of a Poet's Prose: Comparative Analysis of the Rhythmic Structure of A. Pushkin Prose, in: Proceedings of the 22nd Conference of Open Innovations Association FRUCT. Jyvaskyla : , 2018. P. 361-365.
Durinova G. La Révolution française et les intellectuels russes, in: Proceeding of International Conference in Montpellier. , 2018.
Platt J. Child of the Age or Little Napoleon?: Two Russian Responses to The Red and the Black // Russian Review. 2018. Vol. 77. P. 7-29.
Deutschland – Russland. Stationen gemeinsamer Geschichte – Orte der Erinnerung [Germany and Russia: Sites of Shared History – Places of Commemoration]. Band 1 / Отв. ред.: M. Lavrinovich.; Ed. by C. Scharf, H. Möller, M. Lavrinovich. Vol. 1: Das 18. Jahrhundert. Herausgegeben von Horst Möller, Claus Scharf, Wassili Dudarew und Maja Lawrinowitsch. Oldenbourg : De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2018.
Суториус К. В., Салоников Н. В. Академическая успеваемость учащихся Новгородской семинарии в середине XVIII в. // В кн.: Новгородика – 2018. Повседневная жизнь новгородцев: Материалы VI международной научной конференции 26-27 сентября 2018. В 2-х т. Т. 1. Новгородский государственный университет им. Ярослава Мудрого, 2018. С. 275-284.
Shkolnikov V. Stankevich, Bakunin, Belinsky, and the Phenomenology of Conscience: On the Founding Myth of the Russian Intelligentsia // Die Welt der Slaven. Internationale Halbjahresschrift für Slavistik. 2018. Vol. 63. No. 2. P. 334-363.
Суториус К. В. Богословский курс Сильвестра Кулябки в Киево-Могилянской академии (1741–1745) и влияние на него лютеранской схоластики. // В кн.: Религия. Церковь. Общество / Под ред. А.М. Прилуцкого. Вып. 7. СПб.: Скифия-принт, 2018. Вып. 7. СПб. : Скифия-принт, 2018. С. 288-310. doi