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Pnin, Ivan Petrovich
Born 1773 in Moscow; died Sept. 17 (29), 1805, in St. Petersburg. Russian exponent of the Enlightenment, poet, and publicist.
The illegitimate son of Field Marshal N. V. Repnin, Pnin studied at the boarding school of Moscow University and later at the Artillery Engineering Corps, from which he graduated in 1789. He retired from military service in 1797 and, together with A. F. Bestuzhev, the father of the Decembrist Bestuzhevs, began publishing the progressive literary and political Sankt-Peterburg-skii zhurnal in 1798. In 1801 he met A. N. Radishchev, who was to exert a great influence on him. In 1805, Pnin became president of the Free Society of Amateurs of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts. In his An Essay on Enlightenment With Reference to Russia (1804), he condemned despotic landowners and appealed for the liberation of the serfs; soon after the book appeared, it was confiscated.
Pnin reworked the traditional genre of the ode, which he attempted to infuse with Enlightenment ideas. His nature and philosophic lyrics were those of a deist convinced of the freedom of human reason and the individual. Many of his poems, such as “On the Death of Radishchev” and “Ode to Justice,” were marked by a lofty civic consciousness and criticism of the excesses of autocracy and serfdom; these traits were further developed in the political lyrics of the Decembrists. However, Pnin also recognized “the sacred right to private property,” was an adherent of constitutional monarchy, and placed his hopes chiefly on education, justice, and the reforms of an “enlightened sovereign.”
WORKSSoch. Moscow, 1934.
[Poems.] In the the collection Poety-radishchevtsy. Leningrad, 1961.
In Russkie prosvetiteli, vol. 1. Moscow, 1966.