Saltykov-Shchedrin’s “Poshekhonsky Starina” in brief

The life of Nikanor Szatrazny, a nobleman from Poshekhon

Anticipating the story of his past, Nikanor Sapatozny, the heir of the ancient Poshekhonsky noble family, informs that in the present work the reader will not find a complete account of all the events of his life, but only a series of episodes having a connection, but at the same time representing a separate whole.

In the backwoods of Poshekhonya there passes childhood and the young years of Nikanor, who witnessed the very heyday of serfdom, which determined the way of life and the way of the noble family. The land of this region, covered with forest and marshes, is considered provincial, so peasant backs are abundantly rewarded for lack of. valuable land. The possessions of the Sentry are of a low-land nature, but the quitrent from the peasants in Malinovec’s estate is getting right. The family is steadily getting richer, new lands and estates are being acquired, property is growing.


mother, a hereditary merchant, is much younger than an enlightened noble father, which at first brings her displeasure to relatives. However, the diligence and economic sense inherent in it lead the family to well-being and allow other winters to be held in Moscow or St. Petersburg. After twelve years of marriage, she has eight children, who are in the care of governesses before entering the institutes and military service. The younger Nikanor, who turned out to be extraordinarily gifted, is not very lucky with the teachers. His ABC teaches him the ABC, and he will learn to write himself. Nikanor reads the first books on his own, almost uncontrollably, and a little later, on instructions for teachers, he will master the program of junior classes of the gymnasium. This is both the case and the miracle that he will be able to pave his way to the real education himself. In the author’s opinion, children are very easy prey for corruption and distortion of any system of education and upbringing or its absence. “A waxed child’s heart will accept any pedagogical venture without opposition.” But it is very
painful to perceive the era when human thought is condemned to inaction, and human knowledge is replaced by a mass of uselessness and slovenliness.

In the portrait gallery of persons meeting in the house of the Siprazny, a prominent place is occupied by aunty-sisters, first presented by the elderly, then by the very old women. At first the aunt is received in the house quite warmly, they prepare rooms for them, meet and treat them, but then the vindictive mother of Nikanor shows complete stammering and avarice towards them. Old, no-one needs women are driven first to the mezzanine, and then they are completely removed from the yard. They once very badly accepted a new marriage of their brother, and they have absolutely no money, and their possessions are worthless, they are fed only from mercy. And at the right time, they are completely banished from the yard to the far wing, where they, half-starved, die one after another in a cold room.

The history of his father’s third sister Anfisa is connected with Nikanor with the most terrible memories of his childhood. No matter how strict his attitude towards the peasants was with his own mother, who did not spare the girls who “conceived nevovremya,” Anfisa Porfiryevna is even more fierce and ugly, to the tyranny. On her first visit to her aunt in her yard, he sees his peer, tied with elbows to the post, barefoot in a corrosive slurry, unable to defend himself from wasps and hocks. Sitting at a distance two old men will not allow the young man to release this girl. Everyone will only get worse. Anfisa Porfiryevna’s husband and son are openly mocking the peasants and marking many women and children to death. It is no accident that Aunt Anfisa will be strangled by her own housekeeper and the hay girls who came to the rescue.

Nikanor has another aunt, Raisa Porfiryevna, nicknamed sweetheart for her indulgence for a tidbit. All the rooms of her house have “mouth-watering character and suggest appetizing thoughts.” All her household eat and drink from morning till night, and at the same time they will get by. This is one of those rare houses where everyone lives freely, to both masters and servants. Everyone here loves and cherishes each other, is pleased with the guests and serves them a lot of well-thought-out meals. Sleep laid in clean, comfortable and fresh rooms “on the bed, not inspiring the slightest fear in the sense of insects.” For Nikanor, this is important, since in his home the children are driven into tight kennel, where they are rarely cleaned, and not only people who are sleeping on old felt and healthy and sick sleep on dirt and insects. Discontent, constant punishment to peasants and peasants are born by themselves.

The unrelenting local Russian nobility, among which the Dipers are listed, gravitates toward Moscow, which is the center of everything for them. Players find in it clubs, kutily – taverns, mantis people rejoice at the abundance of churches, noble daughters find themselves grooms. In order to marry sister Nikanor, the Zapraznye leave for the winter in the capital, where a furnished apartment is rented in one of the Arbat alleys. Known to everyone Griboedovskaya Moscow, in which, of course, the upper Moscow circle prevails, there is little difference in moral and intellectual sense from Moscow, represented by Nikanor.

To go to balls and give visits To the senile, of course, it is easier and more pleasant than to host, but it is necessary to arrange sms. Nikanor’s sister was so sick of herself that she stayed with the girls, so if you want to, you do not want to, but clean the furniture, wipe away the dust, make yourself comfortable, as if it’s always in the house. Nadine wears fashionable dresses, she even has a brooch with diamonds. A grand piano is opened in the room, notes are placed on the music stand and candles are lit, as if they were just making music. The table is covered with all possible taste, laying out a dowry: teaspoons and other silver objects. However, the grooms are often just lovers of food and drink to the girlfriend. First of all they are in a hurry to release the decanter, it does not reach serious proposals. Sestrice and then in love, especially not in anyone. When this happens, it immediately turns out, that the elect of her heart is a rogue and a gambler, and even a goal as a falcon. In the end, the mother takes her daughter’s diamonds and pearls and takes them back to the village. Finds his destiny poor Nadin only in the province, marrying the armless governor. However, he rakes with one hand money as much as another and does not earn two, and for this the sister regularly gives birth to his children and is the first lady in the province.

All these bridesmaids, balls, dinners, matchmaking are so colorful that they sink deeply into Nikanor’s memory. However, as follows from his notes, the serfs in the yard, who live much worse than the serfs, will also leave their memories of themselves. Run as an economy, as a rule, managers, people to the core of the bones corrupted, served by various shameful merit. Only by a whim, they can bring a well-to-do peasant to beggary, through a flash of lasciviousness, to take away his wife’s wife or dishonor a peasant girl. They are incredibly cruel, but since they are observing lordly interest, complaints about them are not accepted. The peasants hate them and are looking for all possible ways to lime them. When faced with such a vengeance, the landlord environment usually calms down, then to return to the old system.

Of the courtyard women Nikanoru remembered Annushka and Mav-rusha-novotorka. The first knows the gospel and the lives of saints and preaches the complete in this life of masters submission. The second, being a free bourgeois woman who joined destiny with a serf icon painter, rebels against the heavy work imposed on her. Sincere love for her husband grows into her hatred, and she ends her life by suicide.

Of courtyard men, Nikanor’s sympathy is aroused by the laughable Vanka-Kain, by profession a barber, and then a key-bearer. He endlessly sucks with clownish words, but everyone loves him for his jaunt, although the hostess often grumbles. “Oh, you, you bastard offspring,” she says. To which he, like an echo, replies: “Mercy, bonjour.” What a slap in the face, if it does not reach the ear. Ivan is given into recruits, he does not return from the army.

In the landlord environment, Nikanor Zaprazny notes two: the leader of Strunnikov and the exemplary peasant Valentin Burma-kin. The leader of Strunnikov is brought up in one of the higher educational institutions, but he is distinguished by such stupidity and laziness that he will not be able not only to organize life in the district, but also squanders all his members for balls and orchestras. Years later, Nikanor meets him in Geneva, where he serves sexually in a restaurant at the hotel. “There was a Russian gentleman and all went out.”

Valentin Burmakin is the only representative of the university education in the county. Immaculate moral person, a student of Granovsky, an admirer of Belinsky, he is a member of a circle of youth who wants to sow good, love, humanity around him. In the foreground he has music, literature, theater. He is worried about the arguments about Mochalov, Karatygin, Shchepkin, every gesture of which generates a lot of passionate comments. Even in ballet, he sees the truth and beauty, so the names of Sankovskaya and Gerino usually sound in his friendly conversations. They are not just a dancer and a dancer for him, but plastic explanators for the new word, which makes them be pleased and grieved at will, but the isolation from the real soil, the complete lack of understanding of it, ultimately lead Burmakin to an unsuccessful marriage to the simple Milochka, which soon begins to deceive him and leads to ruin. Moscow friends help him decide on a teacher in one of the most distant provincial gymnasiums. In Moscow, he can not find a job.

The mass of images and facts that were implanted in Nikanor’s memory, had an effect on him so overwhelmingly that, having described the visions of his childhood, he doubts whether he will be able to continue his notes in the future.

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Saltykov-Shchedrin’s “Poshekhonsky Starina” in brief