The Russian writer Alexander Ivanovich Herzen was born in Moscow on March 25, 1812 (April 6, New Style). Thanks to a famous phrase from Lenin’s “In Memory of Herzen” – “The Decembrists awakened Herzen. Herzen began the task of revolutionary agitation.” – everyone who grew up in the Soviet Union knew Herzen’s name, whether or not they had ever read a line of his work.
Lenin’s phrase inspired the contemporary poet Naum Korzhavin to write the humorous, “In Memory of Herzen or Ballad of a Historic Lack of Sleep,” which explains all of Russia’s historical woes in terms of the crankiness a series of the country’s revolutionary heroes felt after being awakened before they had gotten a good night’s sleep.
But actually, the common conception of Herzen as a revolutionary is rather one-sided. Dostoyevsky wrote about this after Herzen’s death, expressing the opinion that his revolutionary activities represented a departure from his true calling as a writer:
Don't have an account? signup
Russian Life is a 29-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.
PO Box 567
Montpelier VT 05601-0567