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Thorny way of "plain people".

Thorny way of "plain people".

 (Chapter is written in cooperation with A.B.Sokol)


Most likely the theme of the farmers in Russian literature started on the second half of the 18th century in the articles written by N.I.Novikov. Those were general allegoric considerations, made not by the farmer but the representative of absolutely different group, about separate wicked landlords as well as sorrows about hard farmers life.  


Example 52 "Poor farmers ... they work day and night, but ... hardly get a daily food... scarcely can pay Lords duties" (1)*


A little bit later on, in the magazine Medley Emin shows the farmers intellectual supremacy comparing with landlords (2). But Krilov in certain terms announces:

"Chaste and fair farmer is hundred of times worthier for me than the landlord, who has been in this social circle for thirty generations but does not have any good points" (3). Of course, squire Krilov wants to see the chaste and fairness of farmers in squires manner. It is not so important that the being of such qualities is unreal. That is the reason why farmers literary images, showed up during that period, are confusing and unreal.**

Just at the very end of the 18th century the farmers appears as substantive character in "Trips from Petersburg to Moscow" written by A.N.Radishchev.

But they are still rather desirable than real. Taking the same folk Radishchev the farmer refuse to receive money after lending a helpful hand. It is typically for romantic tradition rather than for real farmers (4).

In farmers social circle there were changes at that time.

The life conditions become more and more ruthless but the bondmen situation does not allow reacting at them. People start feeling that something is going wrong. This process is reflected in the writers-romantics paper work N.F.Pavlov and V.A.Sollogub. But even there the psychology of the genre is embellished by the authors impressions about the farmers.


Example 53 Here goes typical romantic statement of Ivan Vasilyevich a character in Tarantas written by Sollogub: "Look at Russian man: what can be more beautiful than him and gorgeous?" (5).


At the beginning of the 19th century, the notion of the intelligence about the farmers had already been established. It is possible now to write about it. So, V.F.Odoyevskiy  in his work Kate or the Stories of Step-daughter showed one of the possible contradictions with other groups. A girl taken away from the farmers family, understands how terrible and afflictive is live in another group (6). Turgenev  in his Hunters Notes moved even further there the element of wilful frustration appears; besides not from individual persons but farmers as the group that has its specific culture (7).

However, Nekrasov and his followers where the ones who finally established the positive theme of Russian farmers having all details included. The basic line of this theme: good people are cruelly, nasty and unfairly enslaved. 

The theme has been established. Now the recent past and present is able to be seen through this prism. The breakdown between own folks and strangers is being done. The activities carried on by own folks are excused but the ones done by strangers - slandered. 


Example 54 Gertsens typical expression, A bondman killed his landlord, standing up for his fiancés reputation. And did it well we add" (8).


Example 55 Nekrasov writes analogically: "We pertain to drink! Drink means feel the power! (9).


The same will occur later on when the anti-theme will expand just own folks and strangers will turn the tables.


Example 56 Here is the statement of G.Uspenskiy: Life out of law in all its matters is rude, sluttish, degenerative, vulgar but the most important, definitely parasitic all from one trend of marvellous truth with the sense that came together with the liberation of bondmen was brought to nought and the man who just recently was authoritative, stable and powerful, who triumphed turned to absolute pigmy, to poor and accused one." (10).


(Lets compare the last part of dreamer about the past Uspenskiys statement with the words said by the onlooker Novikov, given at the beginning of this chapter. Affected by his conviction that bondmen lived better while having bondage rights, Uspenskiy did not see what Novikov saw bondmens ruthless slavery. Reality is covered by groups impressions. But dont think that it happened only with Uspenskiy. It regularly happens with every of us. Such is a peculiarity of human beings thinking model is stronger than reality.)

Transition to anti-theme of bad farmers will follow a little bit later. But before it, novels appear where the sub-themes of good farmers are turned to anti-sub-themes.  

(Efforts to discover the anti-sub-themes were also earlier (11). But then all energy was directed to the establishment of theme therefore such efforts did not have conclusive implication and were not noticed.)

Anti-sub-themes are reflection of sub-themes they are as typical as the first ones. Parallel lines of samples related to sub-themes and anti-sub-themes are depicted below. Pay attention to the years when the mentioned paper work was written. 


) Good, oppressed farmers are helpless faced with the states system of tsarist Russia: clerks, police, church etc. (12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20).

Farmers can not overcome the states system of tsarist Russia due to personal disinclination to commence something as well as apathy and non-prescience etc. (16, 21, 22, 23, 40).


b) Specific moral purity farmers women and children this theme related to them is depicted with a particular brilliance (24, 46).


Special depression and primitivism in farmers women and children (12, 25, 47).


c) Farmers poorness the after-effect of unfair oppression (23, 26).


Farmers poorness the consequence of apathy and sloth (35).


d) Good traditions of farmers society so called "peace" (24, 27).


"Peace" weapon of even bigger farmers oppression, the break in every attempt to overcome the bounds of patriarchal dirt.  (17, 28, 36).


e) Efforts to the change the situation are noble.  (22).


Efforts to the change the situation are carried out only by the loonies (33).


f) Farmers general moral merits (24, 27).


Farmers miserliness, stupidity, laziness and atrocious malignancy (29, 32, 34, 37, 39).


g) Farmers stratification into rich and poor ones here the sub-theme of poor farmers and anti-sub-theme of rich farmers exists parallel. (13, 27, 28, 30, 31).


Thereby, by the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century clearly demonstrative anti-theme was established in Russian literature: farmers in tsarist Russia were completely debarred of any human image.

By the way, about the realism of Russian "writers-realists". When V.A. Sleptsov (..) pushed up some kinds of anti-sub-themes of Russian peasantry in 19th century, Turgenev accused him on ... deficiency of fantasy describing the characters of Russian farmers.

The most lucidly anti-theme are demonstrated in N.G.Garin-Mikhailovskiys (..-) writings.


Example 57 "...kind, jack like people proved to be mean, disrespectful dastards who opaquely and uselessly broke their personal welfare" (32).

A writer compares the previously glorified farmers peace with  a wolf that live on peoples corpses: "widows, orphans and landless peasants" (36).

Of course, the movement of the development is not steady. At the end of 19th century and the beginning of 20th century, the writings with the characters of good farmers appeared (38). They turned out the exaltation of elderly generation, educated on Nekrasov and Turgenev. The new generation the same folk Bunin  caused sceptical smile his patriarchal farmers already were a nice lie.

But the theme does not stand offhand. While there are readers tears for clear, noble farmers who are gone, the group of farmers starts to split (42, 43). People with the soul of owner bloodsucker from one hand and people with the soul, toiler, peoples interests on the other hand outgrow from one root, one social circle (27). Lot of writings appear where the fighters and agitators are shown. At the beginning there are not many of them and they can do nothing. These are individual characters whose efforts to change the situation suffer failure. In the best way the attention is not paid to them, in other cases they are brought to death (36, 44). Afterwards, whole groups of fighting people develop. Their culture has not changed, yet, they are still a mob and actually do not differ from ordinary farmers. But it is enough with the smallest differences to stimulate regular cross-talks with the old group (45).  In general, there is nothing to be envious of those in the old group. A complete destruction is dominating there. Envy to people who have already left the group but have not found their niche increases (" to dissatisfied ones").


Example 58 In story written by A.P.Chekhov " ", there is excellently demonstrated this envy turned against young teacher who most often has to deal with drunk care-taker beating her school children. Besides, she started working at school because of poorness. (42).


But the farmers theme starts moving forward over-system. There are efforts to join good and bad farmers (48). The theme of farmers is united also with other themes. For example, with the theme of self-enamoured journalists, loyal to flat banality and personal yapping who are far from real life (36).

In this case, the general theme of working people forms over-theme. And really, after the farmers theme had been drained in Russian literature, the theme of workers expands.    

M.A.Sholohovs Virgin Land is a sample of changed inner environment: farmers in new conditions within the Soviet power.

New themes, created by these periods, develop on the same way as the previous ones. Theme of Soviet farmers moved from absolutely unreal considerations made by V.V.Mayakovskiy ("big fellows are sitting, they are dodgy, plough up the land write down the poem") and scoffing made by A.P.Platonov to nice folks collective farmers depicted by F.A.Abramov and countryside writers. But V.M.Shukshin  started the anti-theme with his story Cut off depicting malicous, envious and uneducated collective farmers. In some manner, this anti-theme exists even nowadays. Wherewith in the stories written by Rasputin, Astafyev  there are still vigorous woes remembering the patriarchal peasantry, broad allegation of all the fresh referring to moral reduction and deficiency of soul.


The indications of the numbers in the text:


1. N.I.Novikov Recipe for Mr Bezrassud ( .. . ) : History of Russian journalism ( ). ., 1991. p.15. 1769.

2. F.Emin. Devil mail ( . ). In Honest peoples friend ( ). ., 1989. p.15. 1770.

3. I.Krilov Spirits mail ( . ).  Ib. p.20. 1789.

4. A.R.Radishchev  Trip from Petersburg to Moscow ( .. ). ., 1969.  1790.

5. V.A.Sollogub Tarantas ( .. ). Selected prose. ., 1983. p.243.   1840.

6. V.F. Odoyevskiy Katya or the Story about the Step-daughter ( .. , ).Stories and tales. ., 1959. p.123. 1834.

7. I.S.Turgenev Hunters Notes ( .. ). Selected essays ., 1987. p.18. 1852.

8. A.I.Gertsen Christened property ( .. ). History of Russian Journalism ., 1991. p.144. 1860.

9. N.A.Nekrasov Who lives well in Russia ( .. ). Selected essays . 1947. p.251. 1873.

10. G.Uspenskiy The power of Land ( . . ). ., 1988. p.241. 1887.

11. D.Fonvizin Exhortation ( . ). In: Honest peoples friend ( ). ., 1989. p.120.1783.

12. N.I.Naumov At the Crossing ( .. ). In Farmers Destinies ( ). ., 1986. p.142.1863.

13. N.I.Naumov Worlds Tab ( .. ). Ib. p.156. 1873.

14. S.Karonin (N.E.Petropavlovskiy) The outlawed ( . ( ..) ). Ib. p.322. 1880.

15. S.Karonin (N.E.Petropavlovskiy) Scientist ( . ( ..) ). Ib, p.342.   1880.

16. S.Karonin (N.E.Petropavlovskiy) Where and how did they moved? ( . ( ..) ?) Ib. p. 355. 1880.

17. P.V.Zasodimskiy Lost Person ( .. ). Ib. p.429. 1883.

18. P.V.Zasodimskiy From Plough to Arms ( .. ). Ib. p.454.1885.

19. S.Karonin (N.E.Petropavlovskiy) Light Festival ( . ( ..) ). Ib. p.312.1887.

20. P.V.Zasodimskiy History of one Manual ( .. ). Ib.  p.484.

21. V.A.Sleptsov The pigs ( .. ). Ib. p.54.1864.

22. N.I.Naumov The Insane ( .. ). Ib. p. 179.1879.

23. A.I.Ertel ( .. ). Ib. p.402. 1881.

24. A.A.Potekhin Farmers Children ( .. ). Ib. p.226. 1881.

25. V.A.Sleptsov ( .. ). Ib. p.44.1863.

26. P.V.Zasodimskiy ( .. ). Ib. p.410.1880.

27. A.I.Ertel From one root ( .. ). Ib. p.410. appr. 1881.

28. A.I.Levitov Revenge ( .. ). Ib. p.70. 1862.

29. P.V.Zasodimskiy Black Crows ( .. ). Ib. p.471.1886.

30. F.M.Reshetnikov Auntie Oparin ( .. ). Ib. p.80.1886.

31. N.N.Zlatovratskiy Abrakham ( .. ). Ib. p.204.1887.

32. N.G.Garin-Mikhailovskiy Some Years at the Countryside (- .. ). Stories and notes. ., 1984. p.5. . 1880-.

33. N.G.Garin-Mikhailovskiy (- .. ). Ib. p.207. 1894.

34. N.G.Garin-Mikhailovskiy At the Noblewoman Yarishchevs Estate (- .. ). Ib. p.254. 1894.

35. N.G.Garin-Mikhailovskiy Lodging for the Night (- .. ). Ib. p.392. 1896.

36. N.G.Garin-Mikhailovskiy Wolf (- .. ).Ib. p.385. 1902.

37. I.A.Bunin Fedoseyevna ( .. ). Stories. .,1983. p.31. 1891.

38. I.A.Bunin Tantka ( .. ). Ib. p.36.1892.

39. I.A.Bunin Victim ( .. ). Ib. p.322.1913.

40. I.A.Bunin Fire ( .. ). Ib. p.423. 1930.

41. I.S.Shmelyov Crossings ( .. .) Country Writings. ., 1990. p.447. 1933.

42. A.P.Chekhov Upon the input ( .. ). Ib. p.81.1897.

43. N.N.Potapenko Occassional fiest (.. ). Ib. p.94. 1891.

44. E.N.Chirikov ( .. ). Ib. p.189, Pastoral Court p.205. 1905.

45. I.E.Volnov The Youth ( .. ). Ib. p.218. 1913.

46. N.A.Nekrasov Frost red nose ( .. ). Selected essays p.101. 1863.

47. R.Blaumanis Weed ( . ).

48. R.Blaumanis In the Shadow of death ( . ). 1899.

* Numbering of sources is related only to this chapter.

** Farmers were mentioned in the literature also earlier. However, it is not a theme, not characters; rather elements of view, like  "" in The Lay on Igors Ranks. Or heroic characters like Ilya Muromets. According to his work, he is not a farmer just descended from farmers family.


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