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Russian Culture

Timeline: Russian Culture

Part III: The Golden Age

by David Johnson

1756 1801 1852 1900 Next: Soviet Period


Czarina Elizabeth allies Russia with France; cult of French Enlightenment (Francois Voltaire, Denis Diderot) rises, French language spreads among aristocracy


Peter III emancipated nobles from state service, allowing development of leisured, cultured class; Winter Palace, triumph of lavish rococo style, begun in St. Petersburg


D. Levitsky, court painter to Catherine II, excels in realistic portraits of important Russians in pseudo-classical surroundings; secular work replaces icon painting as leading style


The Adolescent, play by Denis Fonvizin, is performed. Russia's first drama of social satire, early masterpiece of secular literature, questions Russian Enlightenment


Charles Louis Diderot, French ballet master, father of classical Russian ballet, establishes St. Petersburg company


Napoleon invades Russia; French Enlightenment loses favor, German culture, philosophy (Fredrich Schelling, Georg Hegel) becomes more popular


Pan-Asianist Raphael Zotov writes The Last Descendant of Genghis Khan, seeks to create proto-Asian society by reconnecting with Russia's Mongol roots


Aleksandr Pushkin, father of modern Russian literature, seeks inspiration from Russian history, builds national identity, creates modern Russian language, writes poems, short stories, plays—Eugene Onegin, 1823-1831; The Bronze Horseman, 1833; Boris Godunov, 1831


Bolshoi Theater opens, Moscow


Two philosophical movements: Westernizers believe European modernism is answer to Russia's problems; Slavophiles seek salvation in Russia's Slavic heritage


Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka, father of modern Russian music, composes opera, A Life for the Czar, followed by Russlan and Ludmilla, 1842

Nikolai Gogol, Russia's greatest humorist, father of Russian realism, writes The Inspector-General, probably greatest play written in Russian; short story The Overcoat; novel Dead Souls, 1842.


Mikhail Lermontov, greatest poet after Pushkin, writes heroic poem, The Song of the Merchant Kalashnikov; novel A Hero of Our Time, 1840, classic of Russian realism


French choreographer Maurius Petipa arrives in St. Petersburg, enhances training, stages acclaimed productions of Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Raymonda; Russian ballet becomes world class


Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, opens


Ivan Goncharov, writes novel Oblomov, satiric masterpiece featuring stock characters: indolent, lovable Slav, industrious, unpopular German


Novelist, dramatist, short story writer, Ivan Turgenev, publishes Fathers and Sons, brilliant philosophical novel, presents Nihlist philosophy, seeks to reverse old order through social equality


N.G. Chernyshevsky, writes novel What is to Be Done? calls for 'new men and women' to change Russia through deprivation, suffering, influenced Bolsheviks


Feodor Dostoyevsky, Russia's most illustrious Slavophile, romantic realist, novels Crime and Punishment; 1866; Brothers Karamazov, 1880, one of greatest novels ever written


Composer Modest Moussorgsky, pioneer of Russian national style, finishes Boris Godunov, devastatingly powerful opera

Count Leo Tolstoy, one of world's greatest novelists, writes War and Peace, 1869, epic on Napoleon's invasion. 7 years later he will complete Anna Karenina, a tragic, psychological novel

Peter Tchaikovsky, one of most popular composers in history, composes symphony, Romeo and Juliet; ballets, Swan Lake, 1877; The Nutcracker, 1892; melodious, emotional, melancholy music, uses European techniques, in contrast to Russia's nationalist composers


Ilya Repin, most influential Russian realist painter, paints Volga Boatmen, hailed as "art of the people"


Composer Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov completes opera, The Golden Cockrel, 1909, refines Russian romanticism


Constantin Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko establish Moscow Art Theatre; revolutionize theatrical training by creating method acting


Dramatist Anton Chekhov writes masterpiece Uncle Vanya; The Three Sisters, 1901; The Cherry Orchard, 1904; focus on character's internal drama major innovation


Mir Iskusstva (World of Art Group) formed, similar to Art Nouveau /ce6/ent/A0804891.html


Mir Iskusstva (World of Art Group) formed, similar to Art Nouveau


Sergei Diaghilev founds Ballets Russes, revolutionizes ballet, sets standard for 20th century


Igor Stravinsky rockets to international fame, composes ballet Firebird at Ballet Russes; ballet Rites of Spring, 1913, features irregular, primitive rhythms, dissonance; audience riots, later accepted as landmark work


Vladimir Lenin founds newspaper Pravda (Truth) while in exile


Casimir Malevich promotes suprematism, art movement featuring geometric shapes painted on canvas; influences modern art, architecture, industrial design

Vladimir Tatlin founds constructivism, art movement featuring abstract elements


Sergei Prokofiev's Classical Symphony mixes modern, traditional elements

Bolshevik Revolution

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