Our Notes & References
A “most important monument of Russian culture and literature”: one of the – if not the – first thematic anthologies of Russian poetry at the dawn of its Golden Age.
An exceptional example, uncut in its original pink printed wrappers, of these very rare two volumes: Worldcat doesn’t locate any copy of this edition, but we could trace two in the RNB; no other copy at auction outside Russia. “Due to its small print run, [the edition] had become a bibliographic rarity already at the beginning of the [20th] century” (Aizikova, our translation here and below). It was republished for the first time in 2015 in Moscow.
Fascinating for several reasons, this Collection has been, at last, a bit more studied by Russian scholars in the last decade, and it has been hailed as a “most important monument of Russian culture and literature, containing almost all Russian poems written in 1812 and early 1814 relating to the theme of The Patriotic War of 1812 [and reflecting] the public mood, the national consciousness and the living literary process of the 1810s.” (Aizikova). Its wide range of authors, styles and content creates “a vivid picture of moral, philosophical and poetic development of the early 19th century Russian lyric poetry, which undoubtedly influenced subsequent Russian literature about the War of 1812 (the late Decembrists, the Slavophiles, Leo Tolstoy)” (Aizikova).
Upon the defeat of Napoleon, many patriotic verses of all sorts were actively published in Russian literary journals and individual brochures. Such creative energy gave to a man of letters the idea of channelling this poetic flow into these two volumes as soon as 1814, less than two years after the events, and the exact same year as Pushkin’s very first publication. Forming an anthology following a common theme was highly unusual (“the only one of its kind” – Aizikova) and we couldn’t trace anything similar in the following years and decades either. There were few anthologies at all, and those which saw light would just follow aesthetic goals, such as Zhukovskii’s contemporary Sobranie russkikh stikhotvorenii, vziatykh iz sochinenii luchshikh stikhotvortsev rossiiskikh i iz mnogikh russkikh zhurnalov [Collection of Russian Poems taken from the Works of the Best Russian Poets and from Many Russian Magazines] (1810-15).
It seems however that the compiler didn’t want to be hailed as a pioneer: the book came out anonymously, and the editor was neither named in contemporary newspaper advertisements, nor in later journalistic references. In 1959, the magazine Russkaia literatura suggested Vasilii Zhukovskii as compiler. “Despite the dubiousness and vulnerability of the argument” (Bodrova), this assumption was popularised by the subsequent scholars, including Smirnov-Sokolskii. It was rebutted only in 2012 when additional archival research finally confirmed that Prince Nikolai Mikhailovich Kugushev (1777-after 1825) was responsible for the conception and the realisation of this ground-breaking project. A participant of Suvorov’s Italian campaign in 1799, Kugushev was badly wounded, retired with the rank of lieutenant and lived most of his life in Tambov. There he would write at leisure, publishing poetry anonymously in the 1800s and 1810s, but often indicating Tambov as the writer’s residence – as in two of his own poems included in this anthology, “Zhertva khrabrym rossiianam” [Sacrifice to the Brave Russians] and “Tsidulka k sosedu…” [A Small Letter to a Neighbour…]). An aristocratic man of letters, Kugushev kept active contacts with the publishing world and the Moscow literary community.
Applying no filter, Kugushev managed to give a remarkably wide-ranging reflection of the early 19th-c. Russian literature, allowing us to grasp all its “lively diversity, fluid boundaries between different literary movements, as well as between the “key names” [Gavrila Derzhavin, Vasilii Zhukovskii, Vasilii Kapnist, Nikolai Karamzin, Petr Viazemskii, Konstantin Batiushkov] and “contextual” (local, secondary) phenomena” (Aizikova). The poets here come from across the vast Russian Empire, and from across the layers of its society: from the statesman Pavel Golenishchev-Kutuzov to a Voronezh educator Stepan Iushkov, they are included in the collection regardless of their poetic talent, their fame, their social origins, or their involvement in the military actions. Many poems are anonymous, signed with only toponyms (villages “Chernaia Sloboda”, “Zagorie”, “Starorusino”; “St. Peterburg”) which emphasise “the comprehensiveness of the events of 1812, memorable equally for the capital and for the Russian villages” (Nikonova).
Opening with Derzhavin’s victorious “Gimn liro-epicheskii na prognanie frantsuzov iz otechestva 1812 goda” [“Lyro-epic Hymn to the Expulsion of the French from the Fatherland in 1812”], the anthology notably includes poems by two Russian women: one by the celebrated Anna Bunina, “the first female Russian writer to make a living solely from literary work” (Smith), with “Na konchinu Aleksandra Ivanovicha Kutaisova…” [“On the death of Alexander Ivanovich Kutaisov killed in the Battle of Borodino on August 26, 1812”); and another by Anna Volkova (1781—1834), “Chuvstvovaniia rossiianki” [Feelings of a Russian woman excited by the victories of the Russian troops over the fleeing enemy of the Fatherland”]).
Derzhavin is further represented with two other poems ( “K portretu grafa Vitgenshteina” [“To the Portrait of count Vitgenshtein”] and “Oda na smert feldmarshala kniazia Smolenskogo” [“Ode to the death of Field Marshal Prince Smolensk”]), and Karamzin with his “Osvobozhdenie Evropy i slava Aleksandra I” [“The liberation of Europe and the glory of Alexander I”].
The work also includes what became an anecdote related to Pushkin. In the first part (p. 245), “On the death of Prince M. L. Golenishchev-Kutuzov-Smolenskii” is signed “A. Pushkin”, after having been published in Vestnik Evropy in 1813 (№ 11-12. p. 188) under the same name. In the early 1840s, when the publisher Kraevskii was preparing Aleksandr Pushkin’s complete works, the poem came to the surface and was quickly attributed by Vissarion Belinskii to Aleksandr Sergeevich, making it is very first publication, when he was less than 14 years old.
Even though the Tsar Nicholas I himself gave the “highest authorisation” to publish this poem in Pushkin’s works, the literary critic Pavel Annenkov thought that the quality was not worth of his 1855-57 edition: “such bad poems, probably composed by a child, should not be published”. The poet Petr Viazemskii finally concluded: “This poem is by Aleksei Mikhailovich Pushkin”, a translator and amateur actor from the Pushkin family (1771-1825); he wrote later in his diary: “What a hilarious thing! The new edition of Pushkin’s works almost included poems by Aleksei Mikhailovich Pushkin… I noticed and took them away”.
Altogether, this edition “reflected the ideological tendencies of the era and shaped the official ideology and public consciousness of the Patriotic War more thoroughly than any other artistic work of the early nineteenth century” (Kiselev). It also formed “a literary canon of official history” and established the tradition of representations of the war between Russia and France, skipping the “unheroic pages of history that could tarnish the glorious past of Russia and the deeds of Alexander I” (Guzairo).
Overall, the collection brings together sixty-five identified authors next to several anonymous ones. They include:
the playwright and member of militia in 1812 Sergei Glinka (1776-1847)
the philologist Aleksandr Vostokov,
the prominent freemason and publisher Maksim Nevzorov,
the uncle of the poet Aleksandr Pushkin, Vasilii Lvovich Pushkin
the poet and philologist Nikolai Grammatin (1786-1827)
the senator Ivan Lamanskii (1793-1879)
the writer Vasilii Levshin (1746-1826)
the poets and soldiers during the Napoleonic wars Sergei Marin (1776-1813) and Dmitrii Glebov (1789-1843)
the Voronezh merchant Ivan Nechaev (1768-1838)
the commander of the Moscow Militia regiment in 1812 Aleksandr Argamakov (1776-1833)
the poet and freemason Mikhail Vinogradov
the Moscow priest Matfei Avramov (178?-182?)
the Mozhaisk nobleman Boris Blank (1769-1826)
the poet and publisher, member of militia in 1812-13 Aleksandr Voeikov (1778-1839)
the Moscow poet Grigorii Volkov
the poet, playwright, member of the Russian Academy Dmitrii Gorchakov (1758-1824)
the freemason Pavel Zamyslov
the playwright Fedor Ivanov (1777-1816)
the poet Nikolai Ivanchin-Pisarev (1790-1849)
the writer and journalist Aleksandr Izmailov (1779-1831)
the writer and censor Vladimir Izmailov (1773-1830)
the playwright Nikolai Ilin (1777-1823)
the Moscow baron Ilia Kovalevskii (d. 1854)
the poet from ‘Malorussian’ nobility Ivan Kovanko (1774-1830)
the playwright and translator Fedor Kokoshkin (1773-1838)
the poet and engineer Vasilii Kolosov (1782-1857)
the translator, member of the Russian mission to Napoleon’s Kingdom of Holland Petr Korsakov (1790-1844)
the journalist Andrei Kulakov
the poet and ‘protodecembrist’ Mikhail Milonov (1792-1821)
the Moscow poet Apollonii Nesterov
the clerk Andrei Nikitin (1790-1859)
the poet Nikolai Nikolaev (1758-1815)
a teacher at St Petersburg Theological Seminary Grigorii Okulov
the poet and translator Nikolai Ostolopov (1782-1833)
the philologist Iakov Pozharskii
the Moscow merchant Ivan Popov (d. 1839)
Count Sergei Potemkin (1787-1858)
A student from Kharkiv, Aleksandr Prozhika
the historian of Siberia Petr Slovtsov (1767-1843)
the statesman and creator of Kaluga militia Aleksandr Stepanov (1781-1837)
a teacher from Vladimir and freemason Aleksei Uryvaev (1789-1819)
the Academician Aleksandr Khvostov (1753-1820)
the writer and journalist Petr Shalikov (1767-1852)
the poet Nikolai Shatrov (1765-1841), the son of a captive Persian, Shatr, taken to Russia as a boy
a member of Imperial Academy of Sciences, Sergei Shirinskii-Shikhmatov (1783-1837)
the director of the Audit Department of the Maritime Ministry and soldier during the Napoleonic wars Mikhail Shchulepnikov (1778-1842)
And the educator and scholar Nikolai Iazvitskii (1782-?).
Georgii Makogonenko (1912-86, a noted Soviet philolog and Pushkin scholar who published series of editions on Russian authors of the early 19th century; ex-libris stamps on titles).
Mikhail Krasnov (sold, Christie’s London, 27 Nov. 2019, lot 36)
Private European collection.
Smirnov-Sokolskii, Moia biblioteka, 1437; Almanakhi, 169-70. K.V. Anisimov, ‘Problemy nauchnogo izdaniia’, p. 30, Smirdin 6584.
Aizikova I. A., Kiselev V. S., Nikonova N. E., Istoriko-literaturnoe znachenie «Sobraniia stikhotvorenii, otnosiashchikhsia k nezabvennomu 1812 godu», Moskva, Iazyki slavianskoi kultury, 2015.
Bodrova, Alina, “Kto zhe byl sostavitelem “Sobraniia stikhotvorenii, otnosiashchikhsia k nezabvennomu 1812 godu?”, NLO, #6, 2012.
Gusairo, Timur, “Stanovleniie poeticheskogo kanona ofitsialnoi istorii: «nepamiatnye» sobytiia v «Sobranii stikhotvorenii, otnosiashchikhsia k nezabvennomu 1812 godu»”, NLO, №118, 2012.
Dubrovskii, A. V. Strategiia prisvoeniia chuzhogo: Mnimyi Pushkin. / Shagi. T. 8. № 2. М., 2022, pp. 134-135.
Smith, Bonnie, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History, Volume 1. Oxford University Press. pp. 265–266, 2008.