Nikolai Chernyshevsky

Nikolai Chernyshevsky

Infobox Person
name=Nikolay Chernyshevsky
birth_date=birth date|1828|7|12|mf=y
birth_place=Saratov, Russia
death_date=death date and age|1889|10|17|1828|7|12|mf=y

Nikolay Gavrilovich Chernyshevsky ( _ru. Николай Гаврилович Чернышевский) (July 12, 1828 - October 17, 1889) was a Russian revolutionary democrat, materialist philosopher, critic, and socialist (seen by some as a utopian socialist). He was the leader of the revolutionary democratic movement of the 1860s, and was an influence on Vladimir Lenin and Emma Goldman.


The son of a priest, Chernyshevsky was born in Saratov in 1828, and stayed there till 1846. After graduating from Saint Petersburg University in 1850, he taught literature at a gymnasium in Saratov. From 1853 to 1862, he lived in Saint Petersburg, and became the chief editor of "Sovremennik" ("Contemporary"), in which he published his main literary reviews and his essays on philosophy.

In 1862, he was arrested and confined in the Fortress of St. Peter and Paul, where he wrote his famous novel "What Is to Be Done?" The novel was an inspiration to many later Russian revolutionaries, who sought to emulate the novel's hero, who was wholly dedicated to the revolution, ascetic in his habits and ruthlessly disciplined, to the point of sleeping on a bed of nails and eating only meat in order to build strength for the Revolution. Among those who took inspiration from the character was Lenin, who named a work of political theory of the same name, and who was ascetic in his personal life (lifting weights, having little time for love, and so on). In 1862, Chernyshevsky was sentenced to "civil execution" (mock execution), followed by penal servitude (1864-72), and by exile to Vilyuisk, Siberia (1872-83). He died at the age of 61.


Chernyshevsky was a founder of "Narodism", Russian populism, and agitated for the revolutionary overthrow of the autocracy and the creation of a socialist society. He thought of creating socialism based on the old peasant commune.

Chernyshevsky's ideas were heavily influenced by Alexander Herzen, Vissarion Belinsky, and Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach. He saw class struggle as the means of society's forward movement and advocated for the interests of the working people. In his view, the masses were the chief maker of history. He is reputed to have used the phrase 'the worse the better', to indicate that the worse the social conditions became for the poor, the more inclined they would be to launch a revolution.

According to Professor Emeritus of Slavic and Comparative Literature at Stanford, Joseph Frank, 'Chernyshevsky's novel "What Is to Be Done?", far more than Marx's "Capital", supplied the emotional dynamic that eventually went to make the Russian Revolution.' [ cite book |title= Koba the Dread|last= Amis|first= Martin|authorlink=Martin Amis|year= 2002|publisher= Miramax |isbn=0786868767|pages=27]

Works about Chernychevsky

Vladimir Nabokov's The Gift has the protagonist, Fyodor Godunov-Cherdyntsev, study Chernyshevsky and write the critical biography "The Life of Chernychevski" which represents "Chapter Four" of the novel. The publication of this work causes a literary scandal.


*"Aesthetic Relations of Art to Reality"
*"Essays on the Gogol Period in Russian Literature"
*"Critique of Philosophical Prejudices Against Communal Ownership"
*"The Anthropological Principle in Philosophy"
*"What Is to Be Done?" (1863)
*"The Nature of Human Knowledge"


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Nikolai Leskov — Portrait of Leskov by Valentin Serov, 1894 Born February 16, 1831(1831 02 16) Oryol, Russia Died March 5, 1 …   Wikipedia

  • Nikolai Shelgunov — Nikolai Vasil’evich Shelgunov (1824 1891) was a Russian revolutionary democrat, journalist, and literary critic. Nikolai was the son of a nobleman born in St Petersburg on November 22 (Dec. 4), 1824. He studied at the Forestry Institute… …   Wikipedia

  • Nikolai Danielson — N.F. Danielson Nikolai Frantsevich Danielson (also known as N on, Nik on, Nikolai on, 1844 July 13, 1918) was a Russian economist and sociologist. Contents 1 Early Life …   Wikipedia

  • Nikolay Nekrasov — Born December 10 [O.S. November 28] 1821 Nemyriv Died 8 January 1878 [O.S. 28 December 1877] Occupa …   Wikipedia

  • List of Russian people — The Millennium of Russia monument in Veliky Novgorod, featuring the statues and reliefs of the most celebrated people in the first 1000 years of Russian history …   Wikipedia

  • Peredvizhniki — ( ru. Передвижники), often called The Wanderers or The Itinerants in English, were a group of Russian realist artists who in protest at academic restrictions formed an artists cooperative which evolved into the Society for Traveling Art… …   Wikipedia

  • Sovremennik — ( ru. Современник , literally: The Contemporary ) was a Russian literary, social and political magazine, published in St.Petersburg in 1836 1866. It came out four times a year in 1836 1843 and once a month after that. The magazine published… …   Wikipedia

  • Emma Goldman — Goldman circa 1911 Full name Emma Goldman Born June 27, 1869(1869 06 27) Kovno, Russian Empire Died May 14 …   Wikipedia

  • Chicherin House — Дом Чичерина (Russian) Litography of Chicherin House, 1830 Former names …   Wikipedia

  • Crime and Punishment — For other uses, see Crime and Punishment (disambiguation). Crime and Punishment   …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.