Belinsky, Vissarion Grigoryevich [key], 1811–48, Russian writer and critic. He was prominent in the group that believed Russia's hope to lie in following European patterns. Under Hegel's influence he condoned czarism and reaction for a time but returned in the 1840s to his early liberalism and repudiated the doctrine of “art for art's sake.” As critic for four major reviews he became the principal champion of the realistic and socially responsible new Russian literature. His emphasis on the use of literature to express social and political ideas is the basis of Soviet literary criticism. Among the authors whose talents he recognized and encouraged were Gogol, Lermontov, and Dostoyevsky. A selection of his philosophical and sociological works was published in English in 1948. It includes Letter to Gogol (1847), a summation of his beliefs. Belinksy lived in poverty and died at 37 of tuberculosis.
See studies by H. Bowman (1954, repr. 1969) and V. Terras (1973).
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