Fedor Ivanovich Tiutchev

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Tiutchev, Fedor Ivanovich


Born Nov. 23 (Dec. 5), 1803, in the village of Ovstug, in what is now Briansk Oblast; died July 15 (27), 1873, in Tsarskoe Selo, now the city of Pushkin, Leningrad Oblast. Russian poet.

Tiutchev belonged to an old, noble family. He began writing poetry early in life, and in 1819 his first published work appeared, a free adaptation from Horace. From 1819 to 1821 he studied in the philology department of Moscow University. After completing his course of study, he began working in the Collegium of Foreign Affairs. Tiutchev was in the Russian diplomatic service in Munich from 1822 to 1837 and in Turin from 1837 to 1839. While he was abroad, his poetry and translations (including translations of Heine) were published in Moscow journals and almanacs. In 1836, A. S. Pushkin, greatly impressed by poems of Tiutchev sent to him from Germany, published them in Sovre-mennik (The Contemporary). Tiutchev returned to Russia in 1844, and in 1848 became senior censor in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From 1858 until the end of his life, he headed the Committee of Foreign Censorship.

Tiutchev’s best works were written in the late 1820’s and during the 1830’s; his lyric masterpieces from this period included “Insomnia, ” “A Summer Evening, ” “A Vision, ” “The Last Cataclysm, ” “Just as the ocean embraces the earthly sphere, ” “Cicero, ” “Silentium!”, “Spring Freshets, ” and “An Autumn Evening.” Tiutchev’s lyrics, marked by intensity of thought and an acute sense of the tragedy of life, reflect the complexity and inconsistency of reality. In the late 1840’s and early 1850’s, Tiutchev wrote a great many poems; his first poetry collection, published in 1854, was highly praised by his contemporaries.

During his student years and early in his stay abroad, Tiutchev was influenced by liberal political ideas. However, as the revolutionary trend in Europe developed, his conservatism became stronger. In the 1840’s, Tiutchev became a Pan-Slavist, maintaining that autocratic Russia, destined to unite all the Slavic peoples, was a bulwark against the revolutionary West. This view was apparent in his political article “Russia and Revolution” (1849) and in the poems “The Sea and the Cliff, ” “Dawn, ” and “Prophecy.” While fearing revolution, Tiutchev was at the same time acutely interested in the “elevated spectacles” of social upheavals. He sensed within himself “a fearful duality” and “the double existence” that he believed was typical of contemporary man (“Our Age, ” 1851; “O my prophetic soul!” 1855).

Tiutchev’s philosophical views were influenced by Schelling’s philosophy of nature. In Tiutchev’s lyric poetry, there is a sense of trouble, and the world, nature, and man are shown in constant conflict. Man is doomed to a “hopeless, ” “unequal” battle, a “desperate” struggle with life, fate, and himself. However, fatalist motifs in Tiutchev’s poetry are combined with praise of the victory of strong-willed characters (“Two Voices, ” 1850). Tiutchev is particularly drawn toward the depiction of storms in nature and in man’s soul.

In Tiutchev’s poetic system all of nature is seen as a living entity, and man’s inner world is identified with the outer world. Nature imagery in Tiutchev’s late lyric poetry has a previously lacking Russian national character. Tiutchev and E. A. Baratynskii are the greatest Russian 19th-century philosophical lyric poets. Tiutchev’s verse, while unique, reflected the general trend from romanticism to realism in Russian poetry of the 19th century.

In the 1850’s and 1860’s, Tiutchev wrote his best love lyrics, whose remarkable psychological penetration revealed the deepest human feelings.

A true lyric poet and thinker, Tiutchev was a master of Russian verse who endowed traditional meters with unusual rhythmic variety and made use of bold, highly expressive metrical combinations. Many of his poems have been set to music, for example, “Spring Freshets, ” with music by S. V. Rachmaninoff. Many of his poems have also been translated into foreign languages.

Tiutchev’s life and work are the subject of museum exhibitions at the Muranovo estate near Moscow and in the village of Ovstug in Briansk Oblast.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.