Antiokh Kantemir


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Kantemir, Antiokh Dmitrievich

 

Born Sept. 10 (21), 1708, in Constantinople; died Mar. 31 (Apr. 11), 1744, in Paris. Russian satiric poet and diplomat. Son of D. K. Kan-temir, a Moldavian hospodar. Broadly educated, he had complete mastery of several languages; he studied the exact sciences and humanities and history of Russian culture.

Kantemir began his literary activity in 1725 with translations. His political epigrams and original satires (1729–31) boldly defended the reforms of Peter I. He became ambassador to Great Britain in 1732 and served as ambassador to France in 1738–44. While abroad he continued to write satires and translated Horace and Anacreon, attempting in vain to have his works printed in St. Petersburg. A supporter of the theory of natural law, he spread the ideas of the Enlightenment and sharply criticized the church and clergy.

In 1730, Kantemir translated into Russian The Discourse On the Plurality of Worlds, a treatise by the physicist B. Fontenelle. In 1742 he wrote a commentary to the treatise, much of which went into the letters On Nature and Man, which represented the first attempt at creating Russian philosophical terminology and materialistic explanations of important philosophical conceptions. He introduced such words as ideia (idea), deputat (deputy), materiia (matter), and priroda (nature) into Russian speech. In 1756 the Holy Synod confiscated his translation of the treatise. Upon reading V. K. Trediakovskii’s New and Brief Method for the Composition of Russian Verses (1735), Kantemir propounded a defense of syllabic versification.

Kantemir’s works and translations, as well as his ties with such figures as Montesquieu and Voltaire, strained his relations with the tsarist government in the early 1740’s. However, his prestige in European capitals, his deep knowledge of international relations, and his skill in the complex situation of the War for the Austrian Succession (1740–48) forced the Russian government to tolerate his services in responsible diplomatic posts. His communiques and diplomatic correspondence contain a serious analysis of the domestic affairs and foreign policies of European states. A large part of them have not been published and are preserved in Soviet archives. Kantemir is one of the founders of Russian classicism and the new satirical poetry.

WORKS

Sochineniia, pis’ma i izbr. perevody, vols. 1–2. St. Petersburg, 1867–68.
[Pis’ma.”] In the book Materialy dlia biografii Kantemira. Compiled by L. N. Maikov. St. Petersburg, 1903.
Sobr. stikhotvorenii. (Introduction by F. Ia. Priima.) Leningrad, 1956.

REFERENCES

Timofeev, L. I. “Kantemir i razvitie sillabicheskogo stikha.” In his book Ocherki teorii i istorii russkogo stikha. Moscow, 1958.
Blagoi, D. D. Istoriia russkoi literatury XVIII v, 4th ed. Moscow, 1960.
Plekhanov, G. V. “‘Uchenaia druzhina’ i samoderzhavie,” part 3 (A. D. Kantemir). Sock, vol. 21. Moscow-Leningrad, 1925.
Plekhanov, G. V. “Obshchesvennaia mysl’ v iziashchnoi literature.” Ibid.
Istoriia filosofii v SSSR, vol. 1. Moscow, 1968. Pages 293–98.

E. E. IUROVSKAIA and I. Z. SERMAN