Polevoi, Nikolai

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Polevoi, Nikolai Alekseevich


Born June 22 (July 3), 1796, in Irkutsk; died Feb. 22 (Mar. 6), 1846, in St. Petersburg. Russian writer, critic, journalist, and historian.

The son of a merchant, Polevoi did not receive a formal education. He began publishing in 1817. From 1820 to 1836 he lived in Moscow. Polevoi was a constitutional monarchist and one of the first bourgeois ideologists in Russia in the 1820’s and 1830’s. He published the journal Moskovskii telegraf (Moscow Telegraph; 1825–34), in which, from a liberal and bourgeois point of view, he criticized feudalism and the nobility and praised the civic honor, merits, and monarchical patriotism of the merchant class. The journal published many articles on history and ethnography. In his articles on V. Hugo’s novels and the state of the drama in France, Polevoi repudiated the aesthetics of classicism and defended romanticism, which he saw as a means for strengthening democratic art. Antiaristocratic views, characteristic of Polevoi, were set forth in the romantic novellas The Painter (1833) and Emma (1834), in the novel Abbaddonna (1834), and in the historical novel Oath at the Lord’s Tomb (1832).

After Moskovskii telegraf was banned in 1834 owing to the reactionary policies of Nicholas I’s regime, Polevoi abandoned his earlier views and became a rightist. Moving to St. Petersburg, he took part in the work of the journal Syn otechestva (Son of the Fatherland) and of the newspaper Severnaia pchela (The Northern Bee). He criticized the work of N. M. Karamzin, writing the History of the Russian People (vols. 1–6, 1829–33) to counter Karamzin’s History of the Russian State. In this work, Polevoi attempted to set forth the development of the folk principle in history. Instead of focusing on court, military, and diplomatic history and on the merits and shortcomings of princes and tsars, he proposed that the inner laws motivating the course of Russian history should be revealed. However, he proved incapable of realizing these new and important aims. Instead of the promised history of the people, Polevoi’s study, like Karamzin’s, gave first place to the history of state authority.

Polevoi also made a Russian prose translation (1837) of Shakespeare’s Hamlet His articles on G. R. Derzhavin, V. A. Zhukovskii, Pushkin, and other writers were published in Studies in Russian Literature (parts 1–2, 1839). Late in life, he attacked V. G. Belinskii and the Gogolian trend in literature.


Soch., books 1–3. Moscow, 1903.


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