Nikolai Alekseevich Nekrasov (1821 - 1871)

Nikolai Alekseevich Nekrasov is a poet, a prose and drama writer, literature critic and social journalist, a major publisher and public figure of his time. The unique specifics of Nekrasov's «rich personality» (as characterized by V.G.Belinsky) is that he managed to realize all his talents practically in equal measure.

Nekrasov, a son of a Yaroslavl landowner of modest means, had come to Petersburg when he was not yet seventeen years old, and already in early 1840, with V.A.Zhukovsky's approval he published his first collection «Dreams and Sounds».

Nekrasov's organic literature-journalistic talent flourished under the beneficial influence of the major journalists of the time, especially V.G.Belinsky who, as the poet himself testified, «promoted him from literature tramps to nobility».

Together with Belinsky Nekrasov produced in 1845-1846 the famous almanacs «Physiology of Petersburg» and «Petersburg's Collection». That time he also published a number of critical and physiological essays as well as such poems as «On the Road», «Motherland», «Troika» - all this secured Nekrasov a leading position in Russian letters. Since 1847 when Nekrasov de facto became the head of «Contemporary» and during 30 years of its running he occupied the leading position in Russian literature and journalism.

In 1856 he published the collection »Poems» that became one of the dominant events in the history of Russian literature of the second half of the XIX century. The summit of Nekrasov's poetic talent fell on the 60-70s. His poems «The Poet and the Citizen», «Meditations at the Main Entrance», «Railway», «Knight for an Hour», «Stuffy! Without Happiness and Freedom…», long poems «Father Frost, Red Nose», «Russian Women», «Who Lives Well in Russia» acted as a formative influence on aesthetic and civil feelings of several generations of Russian readers, literature and public figures.

Nekrasov's magazines «Contemporary» (1847-1866) and «Notes of the Fatherland» (1868-1877) were the most authoritative and popular organs of print. Nekrasov possessed unfailing literary taste and feeling for talents that made him «godfather» to nearly all major writers and critics of the middle of the XIX century - I.S.Turgenev, I.A.Goncharov, F.M.Dostoevsky, L.N.Tolstoy, N.G.Chernyshevsky, N.A.Dobrolyubov, A.N.Ostrovsky and others.

The most accurate and capacious estimation of Nekrasov's art belongs to F.M.Dostoevsky, who pointed out that Nekrasov was the first after Pushkin who came into literature with «a new word», the essence of which was in «worshipping the popular truth».

The basis of Pushkinsky Dom manuscript collection of Nekrasov materials is formed by Petersburg's part of his archive that was left by Nekrasov in his will to his sister Anna Alekseevna Butkevich. After Anna Alekseevna’s death Petersburg's archive of the writer was passed to the hands of the executor of her will A.F.Koni.

Since 1921, after the festivities devoted to Nekrasov's centennial anniversary, there began the teleological collection of Nekrasov's relics and materials from his archive.

By that time Pushkinsky Dom had already received a great number of Nekrasov's autographs within archives of different writers: the poet's contemporaries, the bibliographers, historians of literature and collectors. Those were Nekrasov's letters to his friends-the writers and workers of his magazines; family albums with photos of Nekrasov and copies of his poems; hand-written verse collections belonging to Nekrasov's contemporaries where they copied the poet's poems; editions of Nekrasov's works made in his life-time with the poet's inscriptions to different people, with insertions made by the author or the owners of the editions in place of censorship cuts and distortions, pictorial materials.

All these materials served as a basis for numerous research works and publications. As early as in 1922 there was published a book with a luxuriant for the time design Nekrasov from the «Unpublished Materials of Pushkinsky Dom» where there was for the first time published a major part of the poet's correspondence, his photographs with inscriptions, facsimile of his autographs. In the end of the XX century the researches of the Institute had carried out the edition of the academic Complete Works by Nekrasov (1981-1998).

In 1922 in connection with the organization of Nekrasov Museum in Petrograd the collection belonging to Koni was acquired, through mediation of V.E.Yevgeniev-Maximov, by Petrogubpolitprosvet and since 1930 practically the whole volume of Nekrasov's Petersburg archive has been kept in the Manuscript Department of Pushkinsky Dom.

In the following years Nekrasov's manuscript materials were accumulated in the form of collections (from V.E.Yevgeniev-Maximov, O.V.Leman and others), separate acquisitions, that now comprise the second and the third lists of Nekrasov's fund. The number of Nekrasov-related materials in the Manuscript Department of Pushkinsky Dom was growing with the acquisition of the archives of Nekrasov's contemporaries (letters, collective manuscripts, autographs and proofs with Nekrasov's notes and corrections, etc.).

The Literature Museum possesses a good number of rare photos of Nekrasov and his milieu, magazine caricatures, and illustrations to the poet's works.

In the library of Pushkinsky Dom there is the most complete collection of Nekrasov's works published in his life-time and after the poet's death, of almanacs and collections, that were published by Nekrasov himself or with his collaboration; of books by Nekrasov's contemporaries that were published on Nekrasov's account; complete sets of periodicals that were edited by Nekrasov or that published his works. There is also a unique collection (over 20 books) of Nekrasov's life-time editions with the poet's inscriptions to different people and with his verse autographs.

B.V.Melgunov