(1743 – 1816)
Derzhavin Gavrila Romanovich (1743-1816) – poet, playwright, translator.
Derzhavin was born in 1743. The future poet spent his childhood in the provincial backwoods near Kazan. When in Kazan in 1758 the gymnasium was opened for the first time, in the same year he was sent there to study. There he showed his ability to draw, plastic arts, which left a deep imprint in his work.
In 1760, the director of the Kazan Gymnasium showed in St. Petersburg a map of the Kazan province, drawn by Derzhavin. Estimating the ability of a teenager, Derzhavin enlisted as a junior in the Engineering Corps so that he would come to the place of service at the end of the gymnasium.
However, in 1762, Derzhavin, who had not finished school, was suddenly asked to go to Petersburg, to the Preobrazhensky regiment, and it turned out that Gavrila Derzhavin, a descendant of the Tatar tribe of Bagrim, now a lowly and poor nobleman, had not been careless of his parents or misunderstanding since childhood enlisted in the military service and must now serve in the soldiers. Since 1762, almost a decade of the soldier’s service of the poet begins.
Together with the Preobrazhensky Regiment, he participated in the palace coup July 28, 1762. Later, Derzhavin was sent from the regiment with some young science-minded young people to the Commission for the drafting of a new code and spent six months in it as a secretary – “writer.” At that time his whole soldier’s life was broken. He was at the very center of the struggle between ideas, worldviews, the class forces of his time.
In January 1772, the twenty-eight-year-old Derzhavin received the first officer rank, and in 1773, when the peasant war broke out, his first literary experiments were published: the translation of prose from Ovid and the ode to the marriage of Grand Duke Pavel Petrovich.
At the end of 1773 Derzhavin went to fight against Pugachev.
In 1776, Derzhavin’s odes were published as a separate book. In them are visible features of the author’s poetic nature: his sparkle, excitement, poetic temperament, bursting through the vitality, yet not submitting to the poet a motley language. The book goes unnoticed. Derzhavin is thirty-three years old, but poetry for him is still a hobby, not a matter of all life, and he prefers the service awards to the laurels of the singer.
Participation in the struggle against Pugachev
brought Derzhavin some fame at the court. Returning to St. Petersburg, he seeks gratitude for his service during the peasant war. In 1777 he finally receives three hundred serfs in Belorussia, but at the same time he is fired from the army against his will.
Since 1779, according to Derzhavin, for him a new path begins in literature: by this time his worldview is finally forming. From the peasant war,
he emerged as a staunch supporter of the idea of an enlightened autocracy. He believed that the people are hostile to the nobility, oppressed, dark. It can not be liberated, then the death of the nobility is inevitable. Only the sovereign, through education and fair execution of laws, can protect noblemen from popular uprising. Such was, in general terms, Derzhavin’s political position in the dispute between the two directions of Russian social thought. The idea of enlightened absolutism was primarily marked by the cycle of odes about Felice.
For Derzhavin, it was important to at least in the generalized and abstract forms of classicism glorify the reality as he saw it, understood and felt it. For him, in the military and economic successes of the country and the people was the greatest source of inspiration. In Catherine II, he sees an enlightened monarch – “Felice”, and only gradually, in time, his prototype will fade in his eyes.
But Derzhavin’s poetic genius went further than his views of the servant of the monarchy, and this was reflected in his powerful, deeply original, full of strength and at the same time contradictory nature. His poetry absorbed the thought of the extra-human value of man, his dignity and greatness – one of the great ideas of pan-European enlightenment. Critical direction in Derzhavin’s poetry echoed criticism from the camp of Russian enlighteners.
Until 1783 Derzhavin knew very few people as a poet, although many excellent poems were published, quite unusual for the literature of those years. He was on a new path, a new voice sounded in the literature, but he had not yet been heard, understood or appreciated. And suddenly the ode “Felitsa” was published – a hymn to an enlightened monarch, turned directly to Catherine II. Catherine immediately appreciated the benefits that Derzhavin promised her ode, satirically portraying the nobles and singing Felitsa. And from this moment Derzhavin’s dizzying career begins. After the Olonets province he was transferred to Tambov, where he served from 1786 to 1788. During his governorship Derzhavin in a short time managed to change a lot in this wilderness.
Having neglected the verses, he showed an indefatigable will to work in the spirit in which he imagined the role of administrator of an enlightened monarchy. But it is this activity of the governor that shows that the ideals of kindness, honor and justice meet the dislike and irritation of officials. The fervent character of Derzhavin only increases the difficulties. He is accused of abuse of power, of insults, of insolence. In 1789, he came to Moscow, where his case should be considered. During periods of official trouble, Derzhavin usually remembers his verses about verses-Catherine’s best defenders. He writes an ode “Picture of Felitsa” and goes with her to St. Petersburg. But later Catherine II parted not without annoyance with her truth-loving secretary cabinet.
Disillusionment in the possibility of giving supreme power in Russia the form of enlightened absolutism has never been directly expressed by Derzhavin. However, it existed and was reflected in his work. This was simultaneously a disappointment in liberal ideas and in their own efforts in the service field.
By the end of the century Derzhavin’s worldview changed. Huge administrative activities did not bring satisfaction: it was difficult to change anything in despotically administered Russia. The epigram “On the coffin of a loser” is typical, which the poet attributed to himself:
Mazilka, buffoons, leader, scribe and interpreter,
Torgash and guardian, speaker and rhyme, Counted
, judged, reconciled, and more defended,
Was also a hunter, chased,
But he did not catch a single hare, –
Alas! in this coffin fell
In October 1803 Derzhavin resigned. In his estate Zvanka on the Volkhov River, he writes the famous epistle to Evgeny: Zvan Life. There he was engaged in poetry. In 1811-1812 Derzhavin wrote his famous autobiographical “Notes” (1743-1812), which appeared in print only in 1859.
“Notes”, criticized in the 60’s and 80’s of the XIX century, “Notes”, which can be said that they are “a great denunciation of the offspring of himself,” were one of the most characteristic memoirs of the era.
In the last years of his life Derzhavin was fond of theater. He wrote a series of poetic tragedies, operas and comedies, translated Rasin’s tragedies in verse. Among the dramatic works of Derzhavin, mention should be made of a theatrical performance with music in five acts: Dobrynya (1804), Pozharsky, or the liberation of Moscow, a heroic performance in four acts with choirs and recitatives (1806), an opera in three acts of the Rudokopy.
Derzhavin died on July 8, 1816 in Zvanka. His unprecedented life from soldier to minister, his life experience was reflected in poetry. Provincial nobleman, official, statesman, he was the spokesman of the ideas of enlightened absolutism in Russia; in his poetic work, in his lyrical world, deeply individual, despite the framework of classicism, light, sunny, full of energy and youth, among other themes themes and thoughts of the stormy age of the Enlightenment sounded, his critical spirit sounded. Derzhavin not only sang the Catherine’s age, but with great poetic power criticized him, and this critical direction gave the originality and significance of his poetry.