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Mikhail Lermontov

Mikhail Lermontov in 1837
Born October 15, 1814 (1814-10-15)
Moscow, Russia
Died July 27, 1841 (1841-07-28) (aged 26)
Occupation Poet, Novelist, artist
Nationality Russian
Writing period Posthumous publication
Genres Romanticism, poetry

Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov (Михаи́л Ю́рьевич Ле́рмонтов Russian pronunciation: [mʲɪxɐˈil ˈjurʲjɪvʲɪtɕ ˈlʲɛrməntəf]), (October 15 [O.S. October 3] 1814 – July 27 [O.S. July 15] 1841), a Russian Romantic writer, poet and painter, sometimes called "the poet of the Caucasus", was the most important Russian poet after Alexander Pushkin's death. His influence on later Russian literature is still felt in modern times, not only through his poetry, but also by his prose. His poetry remains popular in Chechnya, Dagestan, and beyond Russia.


Early life

Lermontov was born in Moscow to a respectable noble family of the Tula Governorate, and grew up in the village of Tarkhany (in the Penza Governorate), which now preserves his remains. According to one disputed and uncorroborated theory his paternal family was believed to have descended from the Scottish Learmonths, one of whom settled in Russia in the early 17th century, during the reign of Mikhail Fedorovich Romanov. The legendary Scottish poet Thomas the Rhymer (Thomas Learmonth) is claimed to be a relative of Lermontov. However this claim has been neither proved nor disproved, and thus remains a legend.[1]

Lermontov's father, Yuri Lermontov, like his father before him, was a military man. Having moved up the ranks to captain, he married the sixteen year old Mariya Arsenyeva, to the great dismay of her mother, Yelizaveta Alekseyevna. A year after the marriage, on the night of October 3 (Old Style), 1814, Mariya Arsenieva gave birth to Mikhail Lermontov. According to tradition, soon after his birth, some discord between Lermontov's father and grandmother erupted, and unable to bear it, Mariya Arsenieva fell ill and died in 1817. After the daughter's death, Yelizaveta Alekseyevna devoted all her love to her grandson, always in fear that his father might move away with him. Either because of this pampering or continuing family tension or both, Lermontov as a child developed a fearful and arrogant temper, which he took out on the servants, and smashing the bushes in his grandmother's garden.

As a small boy Lermontov listened to stories about the outlaws of the Volga region, about their great bravery and wild country life. When he was ten, Mikhail fell sick, and Yelizaveta Alekseyevna took him to the Caucasus region for a better climate. There, young Lermontov for the first time fell in love.

School years

Lermontov as a child

The intellectual atmosphere in which he grew up differed little from that experienced by Pushkin, though the domination of French had begun to give way to a preference for English, and Lamartine shared his popularity with Byron. In his early childhood Lermontov was educated by a Frenchman named Gendrot. Yelizaveta Alekseyevna felt that this was not sufficient and decided to take Lermontov to Moscow, to prepare for gymnasium. In Moscow, Lermontov was introduced to Goethe and Schiller by a German pedagogue, Levy, and shortly afterwards, in 1828, he entered the gymnasium. He showed himself to be an exceptional student. Also at the gymnasium he became acquainted with the poetry of Pushkin and Zhukovsky, and one of his friends, Katerina Hvostovaya, later described him as "married to a hefty volume of Byron". This friend had at one time been an object of Lermontov's affection, and to her he dedicated some of his earliest poems, "Нищий (У врат обители святой)" (The Beggar). At that time, along with his poetic passion, Lermontov also developed an inclination for poisonous wit, and cruel and sardonic humor. His ability to draw caricatures was matched by his ability to pin someone down with a well aimed epigram or nickname.

At the university

After the academic gymnasium, in August 1830, Lermontov entered Moscow University. That same summer the final, tragic act of the family discord played itself out. Having been deeply struck by his son's alienation, Yuri Lermontov left the Arseniev house for good, only to die a short time later. His father's death on such a note was a terrible loss for Mikhail, and is reflected in his poems: "Forgive me, Will we Meet Again?" and "The Terrible Fate of Father and Son".

Lermontov's career at the university was short-lived. He attended lectures faithfully, but he would often read a book in the corner of the auditorium, and rarely took part in student life. A prank pulled by a group of students against one of the professors named Malov brought his time at the University to an end. Several biographers see this incident as the reason for Mikhail's departure.

Lermontov Museum in the village of Taman.

Young cadet - first poems

The events at the University led Lermontov to seriously reconsider his career choice. From 1830 to 1834 he attended the cadets school in Saint Petersburg, and in due course he became an officer in the guards. There Lermontov got a chance to show his incredible strength: he and another junior officer would tie steel ramrods, as if they were simple ropes, into knots, until they were caught at this task . When they were caught doing it,by General Schlippenbach he yelled them "What are you kids doing, pulling pranks like these?" and since then Lermontov would laugh:"Such kids! to tie steel ramrods into knots!"

At that time he began writing poetry. He also took a keen interest in Russian history and medieval epics, which would be reflected in the Song of the Merchant Kalashnikov, his long poem Borodino, poems addressed to the city of Moscow, and a series of popular ballads.

Fame and exile

To express his own and the nation's anger at the loss of Pushkin (1837) the young soldier wrote a passionate poem—the latter part of which was explicitly addressed to the inner circles at the court, though not to the tsar himself. The poem all but accused the powerful "pillars" of Russian high society of complicity in Pushkin's death. Without mincing words, it portrayed that society as a cabal of self-interested venomous wretches "huddling about the throne in a greedy throng", "the hangmen who kill liberty, genius, and glory" about to suffer the apocalyptic judgment of God. Cleaving the repressive atmosphere of 1830's Russia like a lightning bolt from a still sky, the poem had the power of biblical prophecy.

Lermontov took delight in painting mountain landscapes

The tsar, however, seems to have found more impertinence than inspiration in the address, for Lermontov was forthwith sent off to the Caucasus as an officer in the dragoons. He had been in the Caucasus with his grandmother as a boy of ten, and he found himself at home, with feelings deeper than those of childhood recollection. The stern and rocky virtues of the mountain tribesmen against whom he had to fight, no less than the scenery of the rocks and of the mountains themselves, were close to his heart; the tsar had exiled him to his native land.

Lermontov visited Saint Petersburg in 1838 and 1839, and his indignant observations of the aristocratic milieu, wherein fashionable ladies welcomed him as a celebrity, occasioned his play Masquerade. His not reciprocated attachment to Varvara Lopukhina was recorded in the novel Princess Ligovskaya, which he never finished. His duel with a son of the French ambassador led to Lermontov being returned to the army fighting the war in the Caucasus, where he distinguished himself in hand-to-hand combat near the Valerik River.

A landscape painted by Lermontov. Tiflis, 1837

By 1839 he completed his most important novel, A Hero of Our Time, which prophetically describes the duel like the one in which he would eventually lose his life.

Death and the aftermath

On July 25, 1841, at Pyatigorsk, fellow army officer Nikolay Martynov, who felt hurt by one of Lermontov's jokes, challenged Lermontov to a duel. The duel took place two days later at the foot of Mashuk mountain. Lermontov was killed by Martynov's first shot. Several of his verses were posthumously discovered in his notebook.

Lermontov's life was dramatic. After attacking the Tsar as complicit in the de facto assassination of Pushkin, Lermontov himself fell in a duel. His major works, which can be readily quoted from memory by many Russians, suffer from the generally poor quality of translation from Russian to English - Lermontov therefore, remains largely unknown to English-speaking readers. His poem "Mtsyri" ("The Novice") tells the story of a young man who finds that dangerous freedom is vastly preferable to protected servitude.


Lermontov's poetic development was unusual. His earliest unpublished poems that he circulated in manuscript through his friends in the military were pornographic in the extreme, with elements of sadism. His subsequent reputation was clouded by this, so much so that admission of familiarity with Lermontov's poetry was not permissible for any young upper-class woman for a good part of the 19th century. These poems were published only once, in 1936, as part of a scholarly edition of Lermontov's complete works (edited by Irakly Andronikov).

During his lifetime, Lermontov published only one slender collection of poems (1840). Three volumes, much mutilated by censorship, were published a year after his death. His short poems range from indignantly patriotic pieces like Fatherland to the pantheistic glorification of living nature (e.g., Alone I set out on the road ...) Lermontov's early verse has been termed by some puerile, for despite his dexterous command of the language, it usually appeals more to adolescents than to adults. But like Percy Bysshe Shelley, with whom he is often compared, he attempted to analyse and bring to light the deeper reasons for this metaphysical discontent with society and himself.

Mikhail Vrubel's illustration to the Demon (1890).

Both his patriotic and pantheistic poems had enormous influence on later Russian literature. Boris Pasternak, for instance, dedicated his 1917 poetic collection of signal importance to the memory of Lermontov's Demon, a long poem featuring some of the most mellifluous lines in the language, which Lermontov rewrote several times. The poem, which celebrates the carnal passions of the "eternal spirit of atheism" to a "maid of mountains", was banned from publication for decades. Anton Rubinstein's lush opera on the same subject was also banned by censors who deemed it sacrilegious and stupid.


A minor planet 2222 Lermontov discovered in 1977 by Soviet astronomer Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh is named after him.[2]

A sample of Lermontov's poetry

The Dream is one of Lermontov's last poems, found posthumously in his diary. Vladimir Nabokov thought this "triple dream" prophetic of the poet's own death.[3]

Mikhail Lermontov.


The Dream

В полдневный жар в долине Дагестана
С свинцом в груди лежал недвижим я;
Глубокая ещё дымилась рана,
По капле кровь точилася моя.
In noon’s blaze in a dale of Dagestan,
A bullet in my breast, my body lay.
My wound was deep and fresh with rising smoke.
My blood was dripping drop by drop away.
Лежал один я на песке долины;
Уступы скал теснилися кругом,
И солнце жгло их жёлтые вершины
И жгло меня - но спал я мёртвым сном.
I lay alone upon the valley sands.
Clustered above my head, the cliffs were steep
With yellowed summits scorched beneath the sun
That now scorched me—but I was dead asleep.
И снился мне сияющий огнями
Вечерний пир в родимой стороне.
Меж юных жён, увенчанных цветами,
Шёл разговор весёлый обо мне.
And in my dream I saw a feast back home
With torches set for evening revelry,
And at that feast young ladies crowned with flowers
Busied themselves with merry talk of me.
Но, в разговор весёлый не вступая,
Сидела там задумчиво одна,
И в грустный сон душа её младая
Бог знает чем была погружена;
But there was one aloof to merry talk,
One girl who sat there in confounded thought.
Her soul with all its youth had been submerged
Into a grievous dream by God knows what.
И снилась ей долина Дагестана;
Знакомый труп лежал в долине той;
В его груди, дымясь, чернела рана,
И кровь лилась хладеющей струей.
Her dream was of a dale in Dagestan.
In that dale lay the corpse of one she’d met,
And in his breast a smoking wound went black
And blood ran in a cooling rivulet.

See also


  1. ^ Young Lermontov also associated the name with the Spanish statesman Duke of Lerma, painted his portrait and produced a whole play named Spaniards, but this relation rests on an absolutely clear fiction.
  2. ^ Schmadel, Lutz D. (2003). Dictionary of Minor Planet Names (5th ed.). New York: Springer Verlag. pp. 181. ISBN 3540002383.  
  3. ^ Nabokov, Vladimir (1958). "Translator's Foreword". in Lermontov, Mikhail. A Hero of Our Time. New York: Doubleday. pp. vi.  

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov (1814-10-151841-07-27) was a Russian Romantic writer and poet, sometimes called "the poet of the Caucasus."


  • O vanity! you are the lever by means of which Archimedes wished to lift the earth!
    • A Hero of Our Time (1839)
  • Many a calm river begins as a turbulent waterfall, yet none hurtles and foams all the way to the sea.
    • A Hero of Our Time
  • I am like a mariner born and bred on board a buccaneer brig whose soul has become so inured to storm and strife that if cast ashore he would weary and languish no matter how alluring the shady groves and how bright the gentle sun.
    • A Hero of Our Time
  • I would make any sacrifice but this; twenty times I can stake my life, even my honour, but my freedom I shall never sell. Why do I prize it so much? ... What am I aiming at? Nothing, absolutely nothing.
    • A Hero of Our Time
    • Referring to marriage
  • Happy people are ignoramuses and glory is nothing else but success, and to achieve it one only has to be cunning.
    • A Hero of Our Time
  • What good are the passions? For sooner or later their sweet sickness ends when reason speaks up;
    And life, if surveyed with cold-blooded regard is stupid and empty — a joke.
    • "Lonely and Sad" (1840)


  • I little lived and was not free
    Two captive lives can never be
    To tortured free one half as good
    I would exchange them if I could.
  • Exchange I would for one short day,
    For less, for but one hour amid
    The jagged rocks where play I did,
    A child, if 'twere but offered me,
    Both Heaven and eternity!

External links

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Simple English

Mikhail Lermontov is Russian poet , writer, dramaturge, painter and officer. Mikhail Lermontov was born on the 15-th(3-rd in the old style) of October in 1814 in Moscow. Died on the 27-th(15-th in the old style) of July in 1841 in Pyatigorsk.

Story of life

M. Lermontov was born in the family of a captain Yury Petrovich Lermontov and Mary Mikhailovna Lermontova. There was bad situation in his family(His parents shouted to each other).
Lermontov's mother died very early and his grandmother got parent for Mikhail without his father.
When Lermontov was a child, he lived in land, which Arseneva held, in the region Penza. He was studing at home. He had known French and German very well since he was a child. In the summer of 1825 Lermontov with his grandmother visited waters of Caucasus. Later, he wrote poems about nature and people of Caucasus like "Caucasus" and "Blue waters of Caucasus, I greet you...". In 1827 his family moved into Moscow. In 1828 Lermontov had humanitarian education. In 1828-1829 he wrote poems "Corsair", "The criminal", "Oleg" and others. In March of 1830 Moscow boarding house, where Lermontov studied, bacame into classical school. In 1830 Lermontov left for a summer classical school. He spent it in country Serednikovo near Moscow, held by Stolypins. In the same year poet became a student of Moscow university. In 1832 he went to Saint Petersburg. He became a student of Nicolay's cavalry college. After his studyings he went to Caucasus. He arrived from Caucasus with lots of poems. Lermontov died on the duel with Martynov Nikolay Solomonovich in Pyatigorsk.

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