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.
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.
It is believed Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev was highly inspired by his dominant mother in his younger days and thus created strong female characters in his novels later. He is remembered for popularizing Russian literature and realism in the West. One of his most notable works was Father and Sons.
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.
One of the most significant Russian romantic authors of the Golden Age of Russian Poetry, Mikhail Lermontov is remembered for his iconic novel A Hero of Our Time. His initial poems, such as Prisoner of the Caucasus, were highly Byronic. His writings laid the foundation for the Russian psychological novel.
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.
Maya Deren was a Ukrainian-born American filmmaker known for her experimental work. She played a major role in promoting the avant-garde in the mid-20th century. A multifaceted personality, she was also a dancer, choreographer, film theorist, photographer, and writer. She abandoned established rules of filmmaking and created her own techniques. Sadly, she died at the young age of 44.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Turkish poet and author Nâzım Hikmet was chiefly known as a Romantic Communist. After being jailed in Turkey for his political activities, he spent the rest of his life in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe. He redefined Turkish literature with his free verse and poems such as Şeyh Bedreddin destanı.
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.
Russian playwright Alexandr Griboyedov is best remembered for his comedy Gore ot uma, or Woe from Wit. He participated in the Decembrist revolt and even got arrested once. He was the Russian Ambassador to Iran and died at the hands of an Iranian mob during an attack on the embassy.
Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy was the second cousin of Leo Tolstoy and a gifted poet, playwright, novelist, and satirist, who often made use of historical themes. His iconic trilogy of historical dramas, consisting of The Death of Ivan the Terrible, Tsar Fyodor Ioannovich, and Tsar Boris, was widely acclaimed.
Russian poet Nikolay Nekrasov established himself as a successful businessman before stepping into writing. He bought and developed the magazine Sovremennik, or The Contemporary. Most of his poems, such as Red-Nosed Frost, spoke about the misery of the peasant class. He also introduced the dramatic monologue to Russian literature.
Born as an illegitimate son of a Russian landowner father and a Turkish slave mother, Vasily Zhukovsky had initially been the tutor of Tsar-Liberator Alexander II. He later co-founded the Arzamas society, which opposed classicism in poetry. With his poems and translations, he brought the Romantic Movement to Russia.
Soviet Russian singer-songwriter and film-actor Igor Talkov is best-known for releasing popular songs like Clean Ponds and Summer Rain. While several of his songs were about love and fate, many also included lyrics containing political message criticising the Soviet regime. He also starred in the films Tsar Ivan the Terrible and Behind the Last Line. He was murdered in 1991.
Born into a family of doctors, Alexander Rosenbaum, too, had initially been a doctor. However, later emerged as one of the greatest singing poets of Russia, best known for his blatnaya pesnya songs such as Gop-Stop, which described the criminal subculture of his country. He was also named the People's Artist of Russia.