Nikitin, Ivan Savvich
Born Sept. 21 (Oct. 3), 1824, in Voronezh; died there Oct. 16 (28), 1861. Russian poet.
The son of a merchant, Nikitin attended a theological seminary until 1843. The financial ruin of his father forced Nikitin to become an innkeeper. In 1859 he opened a bookstore, which became an important center of the literary and public life of Voronezh.
Nikitin was first published in 1853. His early works, written from 1849 to 1854, were marked by contradictory tendencies; although much of his poetry of this period dealt with religious, mystical moods and was devoted to idyllic, contemplative descriptions of nature, social motifs were also discernible in some poems, for example, “The Silence of Night” and “Revenge.”
Nikitin’s creative maturity coincided with the social upsurge of the mid-1850’s; his world view was greatly influenced by revolutionary democratic criticism, including articles about himself by N. G. Chernyshevskii and N. A. Dobroliubov. The life of the people became one of his poetic themes, reflected in the poems “The Barge Hauler,” “The Coachman’s Wife,” and “Street Meeting” and in the narrative poem The Kulak (1857; published 1858). Nikitin re-created the hopeless life of the peasants in the poems “A Night’s Lodgings in the Village,” “The Plowman,” “The Beggar,” and “Funeral Repast,” and he depicted the sufferings of the city’s poor in the poems “The Tailor” and “Mother and Daughter.” Poems protesting the unjust social order included “The Village Elder,” “Again, the Familiar Apparitions,” and “Master of the House.” The narrative poem Taras (1860; published 1861) developed the same theme. Revolutionary motifs were characteristic of Nikitin’s popular poems, including “Our Age Will Die a Shameful Death! . . . ,” “Brothers, We Bear a Heavy Cross. . . ,” and “The Despised Tyranny Will Fall” (all published for the first time in 1906). Nikitin’s prose work Diary of a Seminarian (1860; published 1861) posed the problem of molding a new man, so important for democratic literature.
Nikitin is an acknowledged master of the poetic Russian landscape. M. Gorky wrote of Nikitin with great respect, calling him a “brilliant and socially important” poet (Sovetskoe iskusstvo, June 23, 1936). Nikitin’s talent was highly rated by L. N. Tolstoy, I. A. Bunin, A. T. Tvardovskii, and M. V. Isakovskii. His lyric poems were set to music by many composers, including N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov, R. M. Glière, and S. Moniuszko. A memorial literary museum has been opened in Voronezh in the house in which Nikitin lived from 1846.
WORKSPoln. sobr. soch. i pisem, vols. 1–3. St. Petersburg, 1913–15.
Soch. vols. 1–4. Moscow, 1960–61.
Poln. sobr. stikhotvorenii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1965.
REFERENCESTonkov, V. A. I. S. Nikitin: Ocherk zhizni i tvorchestva. Moscow, 1968.
Istoriia russkoi literatury XIX veka: Bibliograficheskii ukazatel’. Moscow-Leningrad, 1962.
V. A. TONKOV