(1828 – 1889)
Nikolai Gavrilovich Chernyshevsky was born July 24, 1828 in Saratov in the family of Archpriest Gavriil Ivanovich Chernyshevsky and his wife Eugene Yegorovna (nee Golubeva). Both his grandfather and great-grandfather on the maternal line were priests. In Chernyshevsky’s house there was prosperity and a warm family atmosphere, inspired by deep religious feelings. In May 1846 Chernyshevsky, having finished his studies at the seminary, arrived in Petersburg and successfully passed the exams for the history and philology department of St. Petersburg University. Here he was carried away by the teachings of the French socialists-utopians and decisively changed his way of thinking. Having successfully graduated from university, Chernyshevsky returned to Saratov and became a gymnasium teacher. The fate of the provincial teacher for Chernyshevsky was clearly inadequate. He decides to go to Petersburg.
Shortly before his departure, he makes an offer to the daughter of the Saratov physician Olga Sokratovna Vasilieva. Chernyshevsky’s love is unique: the ordinary young feeling is complicated by the motive of salvation, the release of the bride from the despotic care of the parents.
In May 1853, Chernyshevsky with his young wife came to Petersburg and soon became the leading critic of Nekrasov’s journal Sovremennik. Since 1857, when the young Dobrolyubov takes control of the literary critic department of Sovremennik, Chernyshevsky leaves criticism and turns to economic and political issues and to the theory of the peasant socialist revolution. In the mid-1960s, he became one of the inspirers and leaders of the underground revolutionary organization Earth and Freedom. July 7, 1862 he was arrested and imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress.
A two-year investigation began; In addition to contacting the “London propagandists,” Chernyshevsky was accused of authorship of the revolutionary proclamation “To the peasantry from their well-wishers for bowing.” Here, in a solitary cell of the Alekseevsky ravelin, Chernyshevsky for four months is working hard on the novel “What to do?”. It was started on December 4, 1862 and ended April 14, 1863. The novel appeared in 1863 on the pages of the magazine “Sovremennik”, which had just been allowed after eight months.
After the publication of the novel “What to do?” pages of legal publications closed for
Chernyshevsky forever. Following the civil execution, long and painful years of Siberian exile were drawn. However, even there Chernyshevsky continued his stubborn fiction work. He conceived a trilogy consisting of novels “Old Man”, “Prologue” and “Utopia.” The novel “Starina” was secretly sent to St. Petersburg, but the writer’s cousin A. N. Pypin was forced to destroy him in 1866 when after a shot of Karakozov in Alexander II, searches and arrests were made in St. Petersburg. The novel “Utopia” Chernyshevsky did not write, the design of the trilogy went out on the unfinished novel “Prologue.”
Only in August 1883 Chernyshevsky was “graciously” allowed to return from Siberia, but not to St. Petersburg, but to Astrakhan, under the supervision of the police. He met Russia, embraced by a government reaction after the assassination of the People’s Will of Alexander II. After seventeen years of separation, he met with the aged Olga Sokratovna (only once, in 1866, she visited him for five days in Siberia), with adults who were completely unfamiliar to him sons. In Astrakhan Chernyshevsky lived alone. All Russian life has changed, which he hardly understood and could not enter into.
After much trouble, he was allowed to move to his homeland, in Saratov. But soon after his arrival here, October 29, 1889, Chernyshevsky died.