Vladimir Odoevskii

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Odoevskii, Vladimir Fedorovich


Born Aug. 1 (13), 1803, in Moscow; died there Feb. 27 (Mar. 11), 1869. Russian writer, philosopher, teacher, and music critic.

The last member of an ancient princely family, Odoevskii was educated at the Moscow University boarding school for nobles (1816–22). From 1823 to 1825 he was chairman of the Society of Liubomudry, which he had organized. In 1824–25 he and W. K. Küchelbecker published the literary journal Mnemozina (Mnemosyne). Between 1827 and 1830, Odoevskii was one of the most active contributors to the journal Moskovskii vestnik (Moscow Herald); he was also coeditor of Pushkin’s Sovremennik (The Contemporary). In 1826 he moved to St. Petersburg. He became assistant director of the Public Library and director of the Rumiantsev Museum in 1846. From 1861 he was a senator in Moscow. In his public career he engaged in a wide variety of activities. He was one of the founders and leaders of the Society for Visiting the Poor, a charitable organization. The publisher of Sel’skoe chtenie (Rural Reading), a journal for peasants, he actively supported the reforms of the 1860’s.

Odoevskii’s philosophical and aesthetic views were extremely contradictory. Brought up in an atmosphere of rationalism and enlightenment, he was later strongly influenced by German idealist philosophy and aesthetics, especially the work of F. W. J. von Schelling. In his artistic work, Odoevskii continued the tradition of Enlightenment satire, writing didactic apologias and novellas such as The Brigadier (1833), Princess Mimi (1834), and Princess Zizi (1839). But he was also a recognized master of the fantastic romantic novella: The Improviser (1833), Sylphides (1837), Salamander (1840), and Cosmorama (1840). Among his unfinished works are a Utopian science-fiction novel entitled The Year 4338 (published in 1926); the novels Giordano Bruno and Peter Aretino and The Man From Samara; and Russian Nights (1844), a cycle of ten short stories connected by philosophical discussions. The culmination of Russian philosophical romanticism of the 1830’s, Russian Nights reflected the atmosphere of searching and longing characteristic of that period, as well as its ideas on the fundamental problems of being and on Russia’s fate. Odoevskii abandoned literary work in the mid-1840’s.

During the 1830’s and 1840’s, Odoevskii went through an intellectual evolution analogous to Schelling’s, turning from the “philosophy of identity” to the “philosophy of revelation”—a trend in his development that was confirmed by his personal meeting with the philosopher in 1842. This intellectual evolution was caused, in part, by the influence of the 18th-century French mystical philosopher L. de St.-Martin. After the late 1850’s, Odoevskii had a growing interest in “experiential knowledge” of the world. His world view was a mixture of Slavophile and Westernizer motifs.

A founder of Russian classical musicology, Odoevskii was the first to interpret the work of M. I. Glinka. He popularized the works of A. N. Verstovskii and A. N. Serov, and he described and substantiated the distinctive national character of Russian music. He did research on folk songs and ancient Russian church music. A number of his articles were devoted to the work of Mozart, Beethoven, Berlioz, and Wagner. Like many romantic literary works, Odoevskii’s often developed themes associated with the creativity and image of the musician (the short stories “Sebastian Bach” and “Beethoven’s Last Quartet”). An active member of the Russian Musical Society, Odoevskii was one of the founders of the St. Petersburg and Moscow conservatories. He wrote several musical compositions.

One of 19th-century Russia’s outstanding teachers, Odoevskii was the author of a number of textbooks, as well as many essays and handbooks on methods of teaching.


Sochineniia, parts 1–3. St. Petersburg, 1844.
Russkie nochi. Moscow, 1913.
Izbrannye pedagogicheskie sochineniia. Moscow, 1955.
Muzykal’no-literaturnoe nasledie. Moscow, 1956.
Povesti i rasskazy. Moscow, 1959.


Belinskii, V. G. “Sochineniia kn. V. F. Odoevskogo.” Poln. sobr. soch., vol. 8. Moscow, 1955. Pages 297–323.
Sakulin, P. N. Iz istorii russkogo idealizma: Kniaz’ V. F. Odoevskii, vol. 1, parts 1–2. Moscow, 1913.
Mann, Iu. V. “V. F. Odoevskii i ego ‘Russkie nochi.’” In his book Russkaia filosofskaia estetika. Moscow, 1969.
Istoriia russkoi literatury 19 veka: Bibliogr. ukazatel’. Moscow-Leningrad, 1962. Pages 510–15.
Passage, C. E. The Russian Hoffmannists. The Hague, 1963.


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