Garshin, Vsevolod Mikhailovich

Garshin, Vsevolod Mikhailovich

(fəsyĕ`vələt mēkhī`ləvĭch gär`shĭn), 1855–88, Russian short-story writer. "Four Days" (1877), his story of a wounded soldier's ordeal in battle, first won him fame. "The Scarlet Blossom" (1833), about a madman's efforts to destroy the evil he saw in a flower, is considered his masterpiece. These and others, translated in The Signal and Other Stories (1912), express a profound pity for mankind. Garshin suffered intermittently from a mental disorder that resulted in suicide. Chekov's story "The Fit" was suggested by Garshin's life.
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Garshin, Vsevolod Mikhailovich


Born Feb. 2 (14), 1855, on the Priiatnaia Dolina Estate, Bakhmutskii District, in present-day Donetsk Oblast; died Mar. 24 (Apr. 5), 1888, in St. Petersburg. Russian writer.

Garshin’s father was an officer in the Crimean War (1853-56). In 1874, Garshin entered the Mining Institute in St. Petersburg. His first publication appeared in 1876. He became associated with the peredvizhniki (the “wanderers,” a progressive art movement) and wrote a series of articles on painting. In 1879 he volunteered for the Russo-Turkish war, where he was wounded and received an officer’s commission. Garshin’s war impressions are found in the short stories “Four Days” (1877), “The Coward” (1879), and “The Memoirs of Private Ivanov” (1883). Garshin admired the moral strength of the soldier and judged war from a humanitarian point of view. The tragedy of a woman who has to sell herself is portrayed in the stories “An Incident” (1878) and “Nadezhda Nikolaevna” (1885). The problem of the intelligentsia’s path (choosing between bourgeois prosperity and the deprivation that comes with serving the people) is posed in the stories “The Meeting” (1879) and “The Artists” (1879). “Attalea Princeps” (1880) and “The Red Flower” (1883) are allegorical depictions of the revolutionary sacrifices of Narodniks (the Populists) of the 1870’s.

Garshin is a master of the short story that is rich in emotional and philosophical content and in dramatic suspense; in this respect the influence of Dostoevsky is evident. Garshin also explored the genres of the folk tale, the fantastic novella, and the sketch. Garshin’s works are close to L. N. Tolstoy’s popular “folk” stories in their search for a moral ideal and for new forms in mass literature (“The Tale of the Proud Aggei,” 1886, “The Signal,” 1887), but Garshin did not accept Tolstoy’s philosophy of nonresistance to evil. Garshin was painfully sensitive and tended to overreact morbidly to social injustice. In 1880, shaken by the execution of the revolutionary I. O. Mlodetskii and by the failure of his own attempt to help him, Garshin fell gravely ill. He spent nearly two years in a psychiatric hospital and committed suicide during one of his attacks.


Poln. sobr. soch. v trekh tomakh, vol. 3: Pis’ma. [Introduction and commentary by Iu. G. Oksman.] Moscow-Leningrad, 1934. (Volumes 1-2 were not published.)
Soch. [Introduction by G. Bialyi.] Moscow-Leningrad, 1963.
La Guerre. Paris, 1897. (Preface by Guy de Maupassant.)


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Evnin, F. I. “F. M. Dostoevskii i V. M. Garshin.” Izv. AN SSSR: OLIa, 1962, vol. 21, issue 4.
Bialyi, G. A. V. M. Garshin. Leningrad, 1969.
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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.