(1809 – 1842)
Alexei Vasilievich Koltsov was born on October 15, 1809 in Voronezh, in a well-to-do petty bourgeois family of Vasilii Koltzov, prasol – a buyer and cattle trader who was known throughout the district as an honest partner and a strict householder. Without limiting himself to prasolstvo, he rented land for sowing grain, bought woods for log houses, traded wood, engaged in gardening. Since childhood, he has identified his son in the trade field: Koltsov served with his father first as a boy, then as a stalwart, and in his mature years as a clerk and assistant. Koltsov had to penetrate from the inside into the most diverse economic concerns of the villager: gardening and tillage, cattle breeding and forestry. In the gifted, reticent nature of a boy, such a life brought up breadth of soul and versatility of interests, direct knowledge of village life, peasant labor and folk culture.
From the age of nine Koltsov studied literacy at home and showed such outstanding abilities that in 1820 he was able to enter the district school, bypassing the parish school. He studied in it for one year and four months: from the second grade, his father took him as assistant. But the passion for reading, the love for the book was already awakened in the boy: first these were fairy tales and popular prints bought from peddlers, then – a library of 70 books from a friend at the school, the son of a merchant from Voronezh – Arabian tales, books of Russian writers of the 18th century.
In 1825, Koltsov bought a collection of poetry by I. I. Dmitriev in the bazaar and experienced a deep shock, having become acquainted with his Russian songs – “moaning blue-eyed blue-eyed”, “Ah, when I used to know.” He ran into the garden and began singing these poems alone, confident that all the poems are songs, that they are all sung, but not read. By this time, fate had brought him with the Voronezh bookseller DA Kashkin, an educated and intelligent man, who loved Russian literature. Kashkin encourages the young poet, supplies him with guidance on the compilation of poems “Russian prosody,” gives advice, rules his poetic experiments, but most importantly – allows his library. In the shop Kashkina Koltsov acquainted with the poetry of Lomonosov, Derzhavin, Merzlyakov, Delvig and Pushkin. The youthful experiments of Koltsov are still very literary and secondary, written in imitation of popular then sentimental-romantic poetry. However, glimpses of original talent are palpable in “Traveler” and especially in “Chumak’s Overnight”.
By the beginning of the 1830s, Koltsov had become famous in the cultural circle of provincial Voronezh as a “poet-prasol”, “self-taught”, “a poet-philistine”. He approaches Andrei Porfirievich Serebryansky, the son of a village priest, a student of the Voronezh seminary, a poet, a talented performer of his own and other people’s poetry, the author of the once popular student song “Fast as waves, the days of our life.” Serebryansky takes a friend seriously, helps him with word and deed. He also instills Koltsov’s taste for philosophical self-education, introduces the professors of the seminary. There are poems – forerunners of future “doom” – “Great mystery”, “God’s peace”, “Prayer”.
In 1827, “at the... dawn of a misty youth,” Koltsov is experiencing a serious heartfelt drama. In the house of his father lived a serf servant, maid Dunyasha, a girl of rare beauty and spiritual meekness. Koltsov passionately fell in love with her, but the father found it humiliating to have a relationship with a servant and, at the time of his son’s departure to the steppe, sold Dunyasha to a remote Cossack village. Koltsov fell into a fever and almost died. Recovering from the disease, he embarks on the steppe in search of the bride, who were unsuccessful. Koltsov paid off his unfortunate grief in verse “First Love”, “Betrayal”, “Last Fight” and especially in the soulful “Separation”, put to music by A. Gurilev and became a popular romance.
In 1831, Koltsov goes into great literature with the help of NV Stankevich, who met with the poet in Voronezh and drew attention to his outstanding talent. On the recommendation of Stankevich in “Literary Gazette” was published “Russian song” “Ring”, and in 1835 on collected by subscription among Moscow friends Stankevich publishes the first poetic collection “Poems by Alexei Koltsov,” which brought the poet fame among literary writers.
Acquaintance with Stankevich opened Koltsov’s access to the Moscow and St. Petersburg literary salons. In 1831, he comes to Moscow on the business of his father and converges with members of the Stankevich philosopher’s circle, students of the Moscow University, including Belinsky, and in Petersburg approaches Zhukovsky, Vyazemsky, and Krylov. A special impression on Koltsov makes an acquaintance with Pushkin and conversations with him on literary topics. Shocked by the untimely death of the poet Koltsov dedicates his memory to the poem “Forest” (1837), in which, through the epic image of Russian nature, conveys the mighty power and national grandeur of Pushkin’s poetic genius.
In the summer of 1837, Koltsov visited Zhukovsky in Voronezh. This visit exalts the poet in the eyes of his father, who is cool to the literary works of his son, but appreciates the links with high-ranking people, recommending that they be used to promote trade enterprises and successfully solve court cases.
In 1838 he willingly releases his son to St. Petersburg, where Koltsov visits theaters, takes a great interest in music and philosophy, and closely approaches Belinsky. Under the influence of the critic, he turns to philosophical poetry, creating one after another his “thoughts”. During this period, Koltsov’s rapid intellectual growth is taking place, his poetic talent is flourishing
In September 1840, Koltsov makes his last trip to the capital in order to complete two lawsuits and sell two generations of bulls in Moscow. But trading zeal leaves it. In St. Petersburg, he stops at Belinsky, causing the great critic sincerely to admire the depth of talent, sharp mind and breadth of nature.
Having unsuccessfully completed his trading business, having survived the money, Koltsov returned to Voronezh to an angry father. Cooling his son to household chores causes his father to reproach “literacy” and “scribbler.” Quarrels begin. In the family conflict is drawn once close to the poet and his beloved sister Anisya. Drama is crowned by fleeting consumption, which brings Koltsov to the grave on November 10, 1842, 33 years of age.