Zhukovskii, Vasilii Andreevich

Zhukovskii, Vasilii Andreevich


Born Jan. 29 (Feb. 9), 1783, in the village of Mishenskoe, present-day Tula Oblast; died Apr. 12 (24), 1852, in Baden-Baden, Germany. Russian poet. Natural son of the landowner A. I. Bunin and Sal’kha, a captive Turkish woman.

The young Zhukovskii’s views and literary inclinations were formed at the Moscow School for Nobles (1797–1801) and in the Friends’ Literary Society (1801), where he came under the influence of the tradition of gentry liberalism. During the Patriotic War of 1812 he served in the militia. The war inspired a number of patriotic poems, including “The Bard in the Camp of the Russian Warriors” (1812). Court service (in 1815 he was appointed the tsarevich’s tutor) allowed Zhukovskii to intercede on behalf of the disgraced A. S. Pushkin, the Decembrists, M. Iu. Lermontov, A. I. Herzen, and T. G. Shevchenko. Retiring from service in 1841, he settled abroad.

Zhukovskii’s first verses, such as “The Village Cemetery” (1802), were written in the style of sentimentalism. In his lyric verses he developed and intensified the psychological yearnings of the poetry of N. M. Karamzin’s school. Dissatisfaction with the reality around him characterized Zhukovskii’s work, with its portrayal of the romantic personality and pro-found interest in the most subtle movements of the human soul. Turning to the ballad genre in 1808, he wrote “Liudmila” (1808), “Svetlana” (1808–12), “The Aeolian Harp” (1814), and other ballads. In his ballads he re-creates the world of folk beliefs and of church legends and chivalry, far removed from his own time. Zhukovskii believed that art reflected not the objective world but the spiritual experiences and moods that this world engenders in man (the poem “The Inexpressible,” 1819). Undoubtedly, Zhukovskii’s psychological romanticism revealed the spiritual world of man for the first time in Russian poetry, thereby preparing the way for the future development of realism.

The achievements of the Zhukovskii school were acknowledged by A. S. Pushkin, who considered Zhukovskii his teacher and wrote about the “captivating sweetness” of his verses. V. G. Belinskii greatly esteemed Zhukovskii’s work: “the importance of this poet for Russian poetry and literature is incalculably great! .. . He introduced romanticism into Russian poetry” (Poln. sobr. soch., vol. 7, 1955, pp. 142–43). From 1830, Zhukovskii devoted himself primarily to translations, of which the best known are those of Schiller’s ballads and the drama The Maid of Orleans (1817–21), Homer’s Odyssey (1849), and parts of Firdausi’s narrative poem Shah Nama.

Zhukovskii was buried in St. Petersburg at the Aleksander Nevsky Monastery, now the Necropolis of Masters of Art.


Poln. sobr. soch., vols. 1–12. Edited and with a biographical essay and commentary by A. S. Arkhangel’skii. St. Petersburg, 1902.
Sobr. soch., vols. 1-4. Introduction by I. M. Semenko, Moscow-Leningrad, 1959–60.
Soch. Introduction by G. N. Pospelov. Moscow, 1954.
Stikhotvoreniia i poemy. [Introduction and commentary by N. Kovarskii.] Leningrad, 1958.


Belinskii, V. G. “Soch. Aleksandra Pushkina” (articles 2, 4, 5). Poln. sobr. soch., vol. 7. Moscow, 1955.
Veselovskii, A. N. V. A. Zhukovskii: Poeziia chuvstva i “serdechnogo voobrazheniia.” St. Petersburg, 1904.
Gukovskii, G. A. Pushkin i russkie romantiki. Moscow, 1965.
Istoriia russkoi literatury XIX v: Bibliograficheskii ukazatel. Moscow-Leningrad, 1962.