Mel’nikov, Pavel Ivanovich
(pseudonym, Andrei Pecherskii). Born Oct. 25 (Nov. 6), 1818, in Nizhny Novgorod, present-day Gorky; died there Feb. 1 (13), 1883. Russian writer.
Born into a noble family, Mel’nikov graduated from the department of philology at the University of Kazan in 1837 and became a teacher. After 1847, serving first as a special commissioner under the Nizhny Novgorod governor and then (from 1850) at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, he participated in measures toward eradicating the schismatics. He retired in 1866.
Mel’nikov’s short stories, such as “The Krasil’nikovs,”“Poiarkov,”“Grandfather Polikarp,”and “The Indispensable” (all in 1857), attracted the attention of readers and critics by their candid expose of the “secrets”of bureaucratic administration and the mores of serfdom, as well as by their artistic mastery. His best works are the novels In the Woods (1871-74) and In the Mountains (1875-81). The former describes life in the Trans-Volga Region (handicrafts, family relations, manners, and rituals) against a background of poetic scenes of nature. While admiring the integrity of his heroes’ characters as the bearers of ancient, indigenous national traditions, Mel’nikov showed that this old way of life was bound to crumble under the onslaught of the cynical business relations that were gaining strength in the merchants’ milieu. Denunciation motifs are especially powerful in the novel In the Mountains, which portrays everyday life along the Volga. While some heroes of In the Woods are endowed with the attractive traits of the national character, the novel In the Mountains sketches with biting satire the colorful figures of the “kingdom of darkness.”Mel’nikov also wrote numerous works on ethnography, statistics, and the history of the 17th-century Old Believer schism.
WORKSPoln. sobr. soch. , vols. 1-7. St. Petersburg, 1909.
Sobr. soch. , vols. 1-6. Moscow, 1963. (Vol. 6 contains a biographical essay by M. P. Eremin.)
REFERENCESLotman, L. M. “Mel’nikov-Pecherskii.” In Itoriia russkoi literatury, vol. 9, part 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1956.
Lotman, L. M. “Roman iz narodnoi zhizni.”In Itoriia russkogo romana, vol. 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1964.
Lavrov, D. G., and F. A. Pesikin. “Istoriko-kraevedcheskie trudy P. I. Mel’nikova-Pecherskogo.” Istoriia SSSR, 1961, no. 4.
Itoriia russkoi literatury XIX v.: Bibliograficheskii ukazatel’. Moscow-Leningrad, 1962.
L. M. LOTMAN