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Portrait by Konstantin Somov (1906).

Vyacheslav Ivanovich Ivanov (Russian: Вячеслав Иванович Иванов) (February 16 (28), 1866–July 16, 1949) was a Russian poet and playwright associated with the movement of Russian Symbolism. He was also a philosopher, translator, and literary critic.

Born in Moscow, Ivanov graduated from the First Moscow Gymnasium with a gold medal and entered the Moscow University where he studied history and philosophy under Sir Paul Vinogradoff. In 1886 he moved to the Berlin University to study Roman law and economics under Theodor Mommsen. During his stay in Germany, he absorbed the thoughts of Friedrich Nietzsche and German Romantics, notably Novalis and Friedrich Hölderlin.

In 1893 Ivanov met Lydia Zinovieva-Annibal, a poet and translator. Having divorced their spouses, they married 5 years later, first settling in Athens, then moving to Geneva, and making pilgrimages to Egypt and Palestine. During that period, Ivanov frequently visited Italy, where he studied the Renaissance art. The rugged nature of Lombardy and the Alps became the subject of his first sonnets, which were heavily influenced by the medieval poetry of Catholic mystics.

At the turn of the 20th century, Ivanov elaborated his views on the spiritual mission of Rome and the Ancient Greek cult of Dionysus. He summed up his Dionysian ideas in the treatise The Hellenic Religion of the Suffering God (1904), which traces the roots of literary art in general and the art of tragedy in particular to ancient Dionysian mysteries.

Somov's frontispiece for Ivanov's book Cor Ardens (1907).

Ivanov's first collection, Lodestars, was published in 1903. It contained many of his pieces written a decade earlier and was praised by the leading critics as a new chapter in the Russian Symbolism. The poems were compared to Milton's and Trediakovsky's on account of their detached, calculated archaism.

In 1905 Ivanov made his triumphant return to St Petersburg, where he was much lionized as a foreign curiosity. A turreted house where he and Zinovieva-Annibal settled became the most fashionable literary salon of the era, and was frequented by poets (Alexander Blok), philosophers (Nikolai Berdyayev), artists (Konstantin Somov), and dramatists (Vsevolod Meyerhold). The latter staged Calderon's Adoration of the Cross in Ivanov's house. The poet exerted a formative influence on the Acmeism movement, whose main tenets were formulated in the turreted house.

His wife's death in 1907 was a great blow to Ivanov. Thereafter the dazzling Byzantine texture of his poetry wore thin, as he insensibly slipped into theosophy and mysticism. The poet even claimed to have had a vision of his late wife ordering him to marry the daughter by her first marriage. Indeed, he married this stepdaughter in 1910; their son Dmitry was born 2 years later.

Vyacheslav Ivanov in 1900.

Upon their return from an Italian voyage (1912-13), Ivanov made the acquaintances of art critic Mikhail Gershenzon, philosopher Sergei Bulgakov, and composer Alexander Scriabin. He elaborated many of his Symbolist theories in a series of articles, which were finally revised and reissued as Simbolismo in 1936. At that time, he relinquished poetry in favour of translating the works of Sappho, Alcaeus, Eschylus, and Petrarch.

In the abysmal years following the revolution, Ivanov concentrated on his scholarly work and completed a treatise on Dionysus and Early Dionysianism (1921), which earned him a Ph.D. degree in philology. The new Communist government didn't allow him to travel outside Russia until 1924, when he went to deliver lectures on classical philology at the Baku University. From Azerbaijan he proceeded to Italy, where he settled in Rome. In Rome, Ivanov found employmen as professor of Old Church Slavonic at the Russicum.[1] Ivanov was received into the Russian Catholic Church in 1937. In an interview for the Russicum's newspaper, he stated his reasons and climaxed with the words, "by joining this Church I become truly Orthodox."[2] His last collections of verse were the Roman Sonnets (1924) and the Roman Diary (1944). Many other poems appeared posthumously.

Ivanov's grave in Rome.

Ivanov died in Rome in 1949 and was interred at the Cimitero Acattolico, not far from the graves of Karl Briullov and Alexander Ivanov.


  1. ^ Laslo Puskas, Theodore Romzha: His Life, Times, and Martyrdom, Eastern Christian Publications, 2002. Page 29.
  2. ^ Theodore Romzha: His Life, Times, and Martyrdom, pages 29-31.


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