Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy, is widely considered as one of the greatest authors ever. After experiencing a profound moral crisis in the 1870s, Tolstoy went through a phase of spiritual awakening, which had a great impact on his subsequent works that incorporated ideas on nonviolent resistance. These works influenced personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, thereby effectively changing the course of history.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a Russian novelist, philosopher, historian, and political prisoner. An outspoken critic of Communism and the Soviet Union, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn helped raise awareness of the Gulag, a government agency that oversaw forced labor camps set up in accordance with Vladimir Lenin's order. His non-fiction text The Gulag Archipelago was a highly influential work and sold millions of copies.
Maxim Gorky was a writer and political activist. He is best remembered for founding the socialist realism literary method. Gorky, who was nominated for the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature on five occasions, published several novels that were later adapted into plays, films, and operas. In 1938, Valery Zhelobinsky adapted Gorky's novel Mother into an opera.
Russian philosopher Peter Kropotkin was a passionate advocate of anarcho-communism. He was also an activist, revolutionary, economist, and sociologist. He was arrested and imprisoned for his activism in 1874. However, he managed to escape and lived in exile for over 40 years in different countries across Europe. He returned to Russia after the Russian Revolution in 1917.
Son of an artist father and a pianist mother, Boris Pasternak initially wished to become a musician. He is best known for his novel Doctor Zhivago, set against backdrop of the Russian Revolution. The Soviet Communists forced him to decline the Nobel Prize, which his descendants later accepted.
Mikhail Bulgakov was a Russian writer, playwright, and medical doctor best remembered for his work The Master and Margarita, a novel which has been acclaimed as one of the 20th century's masterpieces. Over the years, his works have inspired several other personalities, including Salman Rushdie and Mick Jagger.
Vladimir Mayakovsky was a Russian and Soviet playwright, poet, artist, and actor. He was a prominent figure of the Russian Futurist movement in the pre-Revolution period leading to 1917. He produced a large and diverse body of work during his career. He admired Vladimir Lenin and supported the ideology of the Bolsheviks. He was popular outside Russia as well.
One of the greatest Russian women poets, Anna Akhmatova had started writing poems at age 11. She was part of the Acmeists, who laid down their own style, Acmeism. Poema bez geroya and Requiem remain two of her finest works. She later wrote about the horrors of the Stalinist regime.
Born into a peasant family, Russian lyrical poet Sergei Yesenin was a significant figure of Imaginism. Known as "the last poet of wooden Russia," Yesenin soared to fame with works such as Radunitsa. He later committed suicide in a hotel, having written his last poem in his own blood.
The firebrand National Bolshevik Party leader Eduard Limonov gained fame with his first novel, It's Me, Eddie, which contained explicit sexual imagery and obscene language, and was written while he was in literary exile in New York. He was also part of The Other Russia, a group of Putin opposers.
Russian-American journalist and The New Yorker staff writer Masha Gessen is known for his sharp criticism of political figures such as Donald Trump. The renowned author of the internationally popular books such as The Man Without a Face and The Future Is History, he identifies as nonbinary and trans.
Russian-born German author Lou Andreas-Salomé apparently rejected renowned philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s marriage proposal and then married a professor instead. A skilled psychoanalyst, she was also close to Rainer Maria Rilke and Sigmund Freud. She was one of the first to offer a psychoanalytic perspective to female sexuality.
Russian author and journalist, Vasily Grossman, by training a chemical engineer, began writing fulltime at the age of twenty-five, eventually publishing several short stories and novels, including Life and Fate and Forever Flowing. Considered a threat, these works were later censured. A war correspondent during WWII, he was also one of the first journalists to write on Treblinka extermination camp.
Russian author Isaac Babel was a reporter before plunging into full-time writing. He is remembered for his short story collections Red Cavalry and Odessa Stories. One of his most popular stories was The Story of My Dovecote. He was part of the Soviet 1st Cavalry Army as Kiril Lyutov and documented the Polish-Soviet War.
Ivan Bunin was a Russian writer whose stories and poems are regarded as one of the richest collection of works in the Russian language. In 1933, Ivan Bunin became the first Russian writer to be honored with the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature. Subsequently, he donated 100,000 francs to a charity fund.
Alexandra Kollontai was a Russian revolutionary, politician, and diplomat. She served as the People's Commissar for Welfare in Lenin’s government. A powerful figure, she became the first woman in history to become an official member of a governing cabinet. She was also one of the few women to play a prominent role during the Russian Revolution.
Vladimir Bukovsky was a Russian-born British writer and human rights activist. An important member of the Soviet dissident movement, Bukovsky spent 12 years in prisons, psychiatric prison-hospitals, and labor camps of the Soviet Union. A neurophysiologist, Bukovsky is celebrated for his efforts to expose Soviet Union's political abuse of psychiatry. In 2001, he was awarded the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom.
Russian Little Booker Prize-winning author Victor Pelevin is known for his unique style of mingling pop culture and science fiction in his works. A qualified engineer, he worked as a journalist and a copywriter before he began writing. His works such as Omon Ra mirror the despair of the Russian youth.
Remembered as one of the greatest Russian literary figures of the 20th century, Marina Tsvetaeva was an integral part of Russian symbolism. She faced the Russian Revolution and lost her youngest daughter to the famine that followed. After her husband’s execution under espionage accusations, she committed suicide at age 48.
Russian author Yevgeny Yevtushenko, known for works such as Wild Berries and Bratsk Station, is also remembered for his advocacy of artistic freedom in Russian literature rather than a reliance on political overtones. Following the death of Stalin, he focused on using unadulterated language and lyrics with a personal touch.
Russian-Jewish author and poet Hayim Nahman Bialik was one of the leading figures behind the development of modern Hebrew poetry. He grew up amid poverty and worked briefly as a lumber merchant, before becoming a teacher. Apart from expressing the anguish of the Jewish people through his works, he also translated many classics.
Lyubov Dostoevskaya was a Russian memoirist and writer. The daughter of popular Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky and his wife Anna Grigoryevna Snitkina, Lyubov Dostoevskaya is best remembered for her work, Dostoyevsky as Portrayed by His Daughter. Many of her memoirs, which were written in French, were translated into other European languages.
Best known as the coauthor of a collection of works, entitled Mitrokhin Archives, Vasily Nikitich Mitrokhin was the First Chief Directorate of the KGB before his defection to the United Kingdom. The 25,000 pages of files he had handed over became the basis of these books, the most significant of them being The KGB in Europe and the West.
Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy, also known as Comrade Count, initially tasted fame with the novel Nikita’s Childhood and then redefined the science-fiction, thriller, and historical novel genres. As part of the Extraordinary State Commission, he was the first to ascertain that the Nazis had used gas vans during World War II.
A co-founder of the avant-garde association OBERIU, Daniil Kharms was a Soviet author who was a major figure of surrealism and absurdism. Known for his works such as The Old Woman, he made a huge contribution to children’s literature. He was later arrested and exiled for writing anti-Soviet works.
Author Sergei Lukyanenko is also a qualified psychotherapist and child psychiatrist, though he has premanently quit medicine for writing. Known for his gripping science-fiction and fantasy books such as Labyrinth of Reflections, he also redefined the genre of urban fantasy with the Night Watch series, which inspired a hit film.
Russian children’s author Sergey Mikhalkov is remembered for writing the lyrics of the national anthems of Russia and the Soviet Union. He created the popular children’s character Uncle Styopa. He was also the father of filmmakers Nikita Mikhalkov and Andrei Konchalovsky. A 3-time Stalin Prize winner, he also mastered the satirical fable genre.