Beyond Literary Landscapes

18 and 19-Century Russian Literature

Magic city with old books

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

In this weekly column, I, a self-proclaimed bookworm—and, unsurprisingly, an AU ENGL/POLI SCI student—will be outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads.

From one bookworm to another, this column can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with the works as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  So, do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


Looking at 18th and 19th-century Russian Literature, there are three major authors who may serve as an introduction to the genre, a reminder for fans, and an inspiration for further reading. Those authors are Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, and Varlam Shalamov.  Students interested in further reads in this genre, could also pursue the writings of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Alexander Pushkin, and Ivan Turgenev, amongst countless others.


Russian Literature can be defined as “the body of written works produced in the Russian language.” So 18th and 19th century Russian Literature would include the novels      from the 18 and 19 century, written in Russian, by ethnically Russian authors.  (Although certain authors from the former Soviet Union are sometimes included under this umbrella term, their works, which often focus on distinct ethnicities, languages, and cultures, will be covered in an upcoming column.)

Some classics in this genre include Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, and Kolyma Tales by Varlam Shalamov.

Other well-known novels include Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground and The Brothers Karamazov, as well as Tolstoy’s famed, but admittedly long and complex, War and Peace.  (When reading it, keep a notebook to keep track of the numerous characters in this wide-ranging tome!)


As evident from the genre’s title, these novels’ authors, as well as their geographical settings, take place in Russia, or more particularly, the Russian Empire (Imperial Russia) and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).


These novels mainly take place during the late 18th century until the early 19th, as well as from 1917 until approximately the 1950s.


For readers interested in themes of nihilism, faith, political upheaval, human endurance in the face of great suffering, and the human psyche, 18th and 19th-century Russian Literature will not disappoint.  These types of themes are commonly seen in this genre—which, in turn, serve to unite it—perhaps, as a response to the political, economic, and social issues of the time, including the fall of the Romanov Dynasty, the 1917 October Revolution, and daily existence in the former Soviet Union.


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it effortless to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to Russian Literature are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with a counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in learning more about this particular topic are recommended to visit HIST 327: Imperial Russia, “a three-credit senior-level course that examines the process of empire building in Russia.”  Happy reading!

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