From Tolstoy to Lenin, Gorky and Chaliapin - in Japan

SKITALETS [pseud. of Stepan Gavrilovich PETROV].

O znamenitykh russkikh liudiakh

[On Famous Russian People]

Publication: Nagoia, Robunkaku, 1927.

SKITALETS [pseud. of Stepan Gavrilovich PETROV].

, O znamenitykh russkikh liudiakh

Very rare Russian book published in Japan, presenting short sketches of important Russian contemporaries, such as Tolstoy, Lenin, Gorky and Pleakhanov.

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Our Notes & References

A very rare Japanese imprint. We are not aware of any other example having been on the market, and we could locate only two copies of this first edition in public institutions worldwide: in the Berlin State Library and the National Diet Library in Japan; neither the Russian State library nor the Russian National library seem to hold a copy.

This is the first edition of literary sketches recollecting the lives of a highly disparate group of cultural and political figures, all of whom were known personally to the author. Those featured include: the writers Maxim Gorky, Leonid Andreev, Lev Tolstoi, and Nikolai Garin-Mikhailovskii, the singer Fedor Chaliapin, and the Marxist revolutionaries Vladimir Lenin and Georgii Plekhanov.

Skitalets was the pseudonym of the Russian poet and essayist Stepan Gavrilovich Petrov (1869 – 1941). Born into a worker’s family in Samara Province, Petrov became an early adherent of the revolutionary movement. After being excluded from a seminary college for political unreliability, he spent four years travelling around the south of Russia, where he would later meet many of the cultural and political luminaries featured in this work. Among them was Lenin, whom he first met in 1889.

Petrov wrote throughout his youth, but did not publish any of his writing until 1897, when he started writing articles for local newspapers in Samara. The following year, he came into contact with Gorky, who became a close companion and a strong influence on his writing. Petrov’s first literary work, a short story, was published in 1900, and two years later his first book was published by Znanie, a leftist publisher run by Gorky.

Petrov played an active role in the 1905 Revolution, an event that figured prominently in his poems and short stories. During the period that followed, he came into contact with many of the figures in the present work, including Chekhov, Tolstoi, and Chaliapin. Although he welcomed the February Revolution and the overthrow of the Tsar, Petrov was less enthusiastic about the Bolshevik takeover later in the year. He emigrated to China in 1921, and from 1922 to 1928 lived in Harbin.

In summer 1923 Petrov paid a visit to Japan, where for two months he stayed in Osaka, in the house of the prominent Russian journalist and litterateur Nikolay Matveeev (1865 – 1941). It is very likely that Matveev, who was actively involved in publishing of Russian books and book dealing in Japan, helped Petrov to publish his essays on famous Russians five years later.

Petrov was steadily moving closer in ideological outlook to the Soviet regime, and in 1927 he announced a break with the émigré press. From 1928 onwards, he was published regularly in the Soviet Union, and in 1934 he finally moved back. It appears that many of the memoirs contained in the present volume were published in Soviet journals in the late 1920s and early 1930s, but we can find no other record of their publication in book form. It seems that a second edition, or issue, was made in 1929. Petrov died in Moscow in 1941.


Avenir Nizoff (émigré, pianist, who lived in Edmonton, Canada, in the second half of the 20th century, and gathered a large, wide-ranging library of Russian works, especially covering art, history and literature).


Хисамутдинов Амир Алексеевич, Японец русского происхождения: Николай Матвеев, 2017;

Хияма Синъити, Моргун 3.Ф., Жизнь Матвеева в эмиграции в Японии;

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Physical Description



Rebound in quarter buckram and card, with front wrapper pasted on.


Light wear to extremities. Occasional light spotting to pages.

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