Novikov, Nikolai Ivanovich

Novikov, Nikolai Ivanovich

(nyĭkəlī` ēvä`nəvĭch nô`vēkəf), 1744–1818, Russian journalist and publisher. In 1769, with the Drone, he started the vogue of the satirical magazine modeled on Addison's Spectator. This and subsequent journals were halted by Catherine II in 1774 because of their sharp attacks on serious social injustice. He published several other short-lived satirical journals and huge numbers of books designed to spread enlightenment at a modest price, and again was stopped by imperial order. Novikov was imprisoned (1792–96) for affiliation with the Freemasons. Released a broken man, he retired to study mysticism in seclusion.
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Novikov, Nikolai Ivanovich


Born Apr. 27 (May 8), 1744, on the family estate Tikhvinskoe-Avdot’ino, near the village (now city) of Bronnitsy, near Moscow; died there July 31 (Aug. 12), 1818. Russian representative of the Enlightenment; writer, journalist, and publisher.

Novikov studied from 1755 to 1760 at Moscow University’s Gymnasium for the nobility. He then served in the Izmailovskii Regiment. From 1767 he worked for the Legislative Commission, which was set up to draft a new code of laws. His work on the commission played an important role in the formation of his Enlightenment views and in his opposition to serfdom.

After the commission was dissolved in 1769, Novikov published the satirical journals Truten’ (The Drone), Pustomelia (The Tattler; 1770), Zhivopisets (The Painter), and Koshelek (The Purse; 1774), in which he included his own works under various pseudonyms, including Pravduliubov. In these works he angrily denounced advocates of serfdom and government officials from the dvorianstvo and sympathetically portrayed peasants—the “feeders of society.” Conducting polemics in Truten’ with the journal published by Catherine II, Vsiakaia Vsiachina (All Sorts of Things), Novikov affirmed the need for serious social satire and exposed the empress’s hypocritical game of playing the “enlightened monarch.” Of particular success was the journal Zhivopisets, in which he printed the antiserfdom “Letter to Fallaley” and “A Fragment of a Journey”; artistically these were his most significant works. (Novikov’s authorship of these works has been disputed by some scholars.)

Novikov considered one of his most important tasks to be the struggle for a national basis for Russian culture—a struggle against the nobility’s worship of all things foreign. He published the book Attempt at a Historical Dictionary of Russian Writers (1772), ancient works on Russian history (Ancient Russian Library, 1773–75), and Russia’s first philosophical journal, Utren-nii svet (Morning Light; 1777–80). In 1777 he began publishing Sankt-Peterburgskie uchenye vedomosti (The St. Petersburg Scholarly Gazette), the first Russian journal of critical bibliography.

In the period of reaction after the crushing of the Peasant War of 1773–75 under the leadership of E. I. Pugachev, Novikov joined a Masonic lodge. While sharing the Masonic Utopian belief in the possibility of the moral reeducation of people corrupted by serfdom, he kept aloof from the mystical strivings of the “brothers” and sought to use the Masonic order and its financial resources for educational purposes—for the extensive development of book publishing. Having signed a ten-year lease for the university printing press in Moscow, where he moved in 1779, Novikov created the Typographic Company, which had two additional presses. He published numerous periodicals, including the newspaper Moskovskie vedomosti (The Moscow Gazette; 1779–89), the journal Moskovskoe ezhemesiachnoe izdanie (The Moscow Monthly Publication; 1781), the periodical Gorod-skaia i derevenskaia biblioteka (Town and Country Library; 1782–86), and the first journal in Russia for children, Detskoe chtenie (Children’s Reading; 1785–89). He also printed textbooks and books in various fields of knowledge. Literary and theoretical works by representatives of the Enlightenment, including D. Diderot, J. J. Rousseau, and G. E. Lessing, occupied a special place among the works he printed. He published nearly one-third of all books published in Russia during these years. Novikov organized book selling in 16 Russian cities and opened a library with a reading room in Moscow. With the income from book sales he created two schools for children of the raznochintsy (intellectuals of no definite class), as well as a free pharmacy in Moscow. He also used his income to provide assistance to peasants who had suffered in the 1787 famine. During this period he continued his literary work, writing the cycle of satirical short stories entitled Russian Proverbs (1782); he also authored philosophical, economic, and pedagogical works. In 1792 he was arrested and sentenced, without a trial, to 15 years in the Shlis-sel’burg Fortress. He was freed in 1796 under Paul I but without permission to continue his earlier activities.

Novikov’s contribution to the development of Russian literature and social thought was highly valued by A. S. Pushkin, the Decembrists, V. G. Belinskii, A. I. Herzen, N. G. Chernyshev-skii, N. A. Dobroliubov, and G. V. Plekhanov.


Izbr. soch. Moscow-Leningrad, 1951.
Satiricheskie zhurnaly N. I. Novikova. Moscow-Leningrad, 1951.


Svetlov, L. B. Izdatel’skaia deiatel’nost’ N. I. Novikova. [Moscow] 1946.
Makogonenko, G. P. Nikolai Novikov i russkoe prosveshchenie XVIII v. Moscow-Leningrad, 1952.
Blagoi, D. D. “Satiricheskie zhurnaly 1769–1774 gg. N. I. Novikova.” In his book Istoriia russkoi literatury XVIII v., 3rd ed. Moscow, 1955.
Zapadov, A. V. “Zhurnalist, izdatel’ i pisatel’.” In the collection Kniga, fasc. 17. Moscow, 1968.


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