Wellsy wrote:Heard it said that it was Russia that first kicked off with “big novels”.
Nah, that was Fielding, Sterne, Balzac, Stendhal et al. The Russians excelled first as poets before they excelled as novelists. The West tends only to be familiar with Russian novelists, whereas Russians themselves revere their poets far more than their novelists. After all, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Turgenev got most of their ideas from Pushkin, Lermontov and Nekrasov. Lol.
Curious to art and culture in Rusdia now that also seen it said how poetry was popular across all parts of society. Something amazing if true when compared to my experience of modern australia and usa
That is true, and there are specific historical reasons for it. In the West, human values could reside in our institutions, which (from the 17th century onwards) were increasingly liberal and humane. Russia, on the other hand, had no tradition of liberalism and no institutions in which human values could be hallowed or safeguarded. Tsarism was a brutal autocracy, under which not even the Russian aristocracy had any power or any freedom of opinion. Even religion could not safeguard human values, since Peter the Great had reduced the Orthodox Church to a subservient branch of the state apparatus. Where else could human values live in Russia, then, if not in the only refuge left to them - in poetry? The poets became the conscience of Russia under Tsarism and, later, under the Soviet system too. Pushkin and Lermontov were killed by the Tsarist system, and died as martyrs to uphold human values in the face of an inhuman political system. Mandelstam self-consciously followed the same path under the Soviet system. Russian poets have historically regarded themselves as prophets and martyrs, who must be willing to die to bear witness to the truth. This explains the high regard in which poets have traditionally been held in Russian society, in contrast to the West, in which writing poetry is regarded as a fucking joke. As Mandelstam's widow Nadezhda put it, "Here, they kill people for it." That's how seriously Russians take poetry - they are willing to kill and to die for it.