Andrei Belyi

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Belyi, Andrei


(pseudonym of Boris Nikolaevich Bugaev). Born Oct. 14 (26), 1880, in Moscow; died Jan. 8, 1934, in Moscow. Russian writer; theoretician of symbolism.

Belyi graduated from the mathematics department of Moscow University (1903). His first verses came out in 1901. He belonged to the symbolists of the “younger” generation. His first collection of poems was Gold in Azure (1904). The four “symphonies” written in rhythmical prose (The Heroic, 1900, published in 1903 under the title Northern Symphony; Dramatic Symphony, 1902; Return, 1905; Goblet of Snowstorms, 1908) were marked by decadent features.

The Revolution of 1905–07 aroused Belyi’ s interest in social problems (the collection of poems Ashes, 1909). In the novel Petersburg (1913–14, revised edition, 1922), a harsh satire of reactionary, bureaucratic St. Petersburg emerges through symbolic imagery; however, the revolutionary movement is shown in a distorted light. While abroad in 1912, Belyi was under the influence of the leader of anthroposophy, R. Steiner. In 1916, Belyi returned to Russia. After the October Revolution, from 1919–22, he published the symbolist-oriented journal Notes of Dreamers.

In the postrevolutionary years he wrote primarily prose: the autobiographical novellas Kotik Letaev (1922) and The Baptized Chinaman (1927), and the historical epic Moscow (part 1, The Eccentric of Moscow, 1926; part 2, Moscow Under Attack, 1926; and Masks, 1932). In his prose Belyi remained faithful to the symbolist aesthetic with its fragmented plot, its shifting planes, and its attention to rhythm and the auditory effect of phrasing. He developed a symbolist aesthetic (the collection of articles Symbolism, 1910) and a theory of rhythm in verse and prose in which he was the first to make use of mathematical methods (Rhythm as Dialectic and the “Bronze Horseman,” 1929, and articles in the journal The Furnace in 1919). Belyi’s memoirs On The Border Between Two Centuries (1930), The Beginning of the Century: Memoirs (1933), and Between Two Revolutions (1934) are of great interest.


Sobr. soch., vols. 4, 7. Moscow, 1917.
Masterstvo Gogolia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1934.
Aleksandr Blok i Andrei Belyi: Perepiska. Moscow, 1940.
Stikhotvoreniia i poemy. (With an introductory article by T. Iu. Khmel’nitskaia.) Moscow-Leningrad, 1966.


Briusov, V. Dalekie i blizkie. Moscow, 1912.
Voronskii, A. Literaturnye portrety, vol. 1. Moscow, 1928.
Literaturnoe nasledstvo, vols. 27–28. Moscow, 1937.
Mikhailovskii, B. V. Russkaia literatura XX. v. Moscow, 1939.
Istoriia russkoi literatury, vol. 10. Moscow-Leningrad, 1954.
Denisova, L. Problema dialektiki v sovetskoi estetike 20-kh godov. In Iz istorii sovetskoi esteticheskoi mysli: Sb. st. Moscow, 1967. Pages 407–13.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Andrei Bely and Velimir Khlebnikov saw the convergence of the qualities of the sign and the referent in the word as a point where the particular and the universal coincided.
Andrei Bely (Boris Nikolaevich Bugaev, 1880-1934), one of the principal writers of the Russian Symbolist movement, produced a novel considered by many literary historians to be one of the greatest of the 20th century.