One of the reasons people in a vicious addiction - idleness. When he had tilled the land, engaged in trade, how could he lead an idle life?
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Nekrasov Nikolay

Nekrasov Nikolay

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Nikolay Alexeyevich Nekrasov was born on December 10, 1821 – 8 January, 1878 was a Russian poet, writer, critic and publisher, whose deeply compassionate poems about peasant Russia won him Fyodor Dostoyevsky's admiration and made him the hero of liberal and radical circles of Russian intelligentsia, as represented by Vissarion Belinsky and Nikolay Chernyshevsky. He is credited with introducing into Russian poetry ternary meters and the technique of dramatic monologue (On the Road, 1845). As the editor of several literary journals, including Sovremennik, Nekrasov was also singularly successful.

Nikolai Alexeyevich Nekrasov was born in the town of Nemyriv (now in Vinnytsia Oblast, Ukraine), Podolia Governorate.[note 1] His father, Alexey Sergeyevich Nekrasov (1788-1862), was a descendant from Russian landed Gentry, and an officer in the Imperial Russian Army.

There is controversy as to his mother's origins. According to Brokhaus & Efron (and this corresponds with Nekrasov's 1887 autobiographical notes), Alexandra Zakrzewska was a Polish noblewoman, daughter of a wealthy landlord who belonged to szlachta. The church metrics tell a different story; modern Russian scholars have her name as Yelena Andreyevna and insist she had nothing to do with the Polish aristocracy and was an Orthodox Christian, not a Catholic. "Up until recently the poet's biographers had it that his mother belonged to the Polish family. In fact she was a daughter of an Ukrainian state official Alexander Semyonovich Zakrevsky, the owner of Yuzvino, a small village in the Podolia Governorate," maintains Korney Chukovsky. Such discrepancy might be explained by the fact that Nekrasov, according to D.S.Mirsky, "created the cult of his mother, imparted her with improbable qualities and started worshipping her after her death." Pyotr Yakubovich, though, warns against such insinuations, suggesting that Yelena could be converted to Orthodoxy in the course of one day on demand of her fiancé, and that the metrics might have been tempered with so as to conceal the fact that the girl had been indeed taken from Poland without her parents' consent (Nekrasov states as much in his autobiography). Yet, the biographer dismisses the once popular notion of a Polish girl having been kidnapped by a visiting Russian officer, pointing to "Mother", Nekrasov's autobiographical verse describing an episode when he discovered in his family archives his mother's letter written hectically (and apparently in a fit of passion, in French and Polish) which suggested she was at least for a while deeply in love with the army captain.

In January 1823 Alexey Nekrasov, ranked army major, retired and moved the family to his estate in Greshnevo, Yaroslavl province, near the Volga River, where young Nikolai spent his childhood years. This early retirement from the army, and his public job as a provincial inspector, caused Aleksey Sergeyevich much frustration resulting in drunken rages against both his peasants and his wife. Such experiences traumatized the young poet and determined the subject matter of Nekrasov's major poems—a verse portrayal of the plight of the Russian peasants and women. Nekrasov admired his mother and later expressed his love and empathy to all women in his writings. Yelena Andreyevna loved literature and imparted this passion to her son; her love and support helped the young poet to survive the traumatic experiences of his childhood. "His was a wounded heart, and this wound that never healed served as a source for his passionate, suffering verse for the rest of his life," wrote Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Nekrasov's first collection of poetry, Dreams and Sounds (Мечты и звуки), received some favourable reviews but was promptly dismissed as "bland and mediocre" by Vissarion Belinsky, the most important Russian literary critic of the 19th century. It was Belinsky, though, who first recognized in Nekrasov the talent of a harsh and witty realist. "Do you know that you are indeed a poet, and the true one?" he "exclaimed, with tears in his eyes, embracing the author" upon having read his poem, "On the Road" (В дороге, 1845), as Ivan Panayev remembered. Autobiographical "Motherland" (Родина, 1846, banned by censors and published ten years later) "drove Belinsky totally crazy, he learnt it by heart and sent it to his Moscow friends," according to the same source.

"When from the darkness of delusion..." (Когда из мрака заблужденья..., 1845), arguably the first poem in Russia about the plight of a woman driven to prostitution by poverty, brought Chernyshevsky to tears. Of "Whether I ride the dark street though the night..." (Еду ли ночью по улице темной..., 1847), another harrowing story of a broken family, dead baby and a wife having to sell her body to procure money for a tiny coffin, Ivan Turgenev wrote in a letter to Belinsky (November 14): "Please tell Nekrasov that... [it] drove me totally mad, I repeat it day and night and have learnt it by heart." "Among his earlier verses there is the one truly timeless, that's been recognized by many (including Grigoryev and Rozanov) as something so much more important than just a verse - the tragic tale of a doomed love balancing on the verge of starvation and moral fall, - the one that starts with the words 'Whether I ride the dark street through the night...'," wrote Mirsky.

Published in October 1856, The Poems by N.Nekrasov made the author famous. Divided into four parts and opening with the manifest-like "The Poet and the Citizen" (Поэт и гражданин, 1856) it was organized into an elaborate tapestry, parts of it interlinked to form vast poetic narratives (like On the Street cycle). Part one was dealing with the real people's life, part two satirised "the enemies of the people," part three revealed the "friends of the people, real and false", and part four was a lyrical collection of verses on love and friendship. The Part 3's centerpiece was Sasha (Саша, 1855), an ode to the new generation of politically-minded Russians, which critics see as the close relative to Turgenev's Rudin. In 1861 the second edition of The Poems came out (now in 2 volumes). In Nekrasov's lifetime this ever growing collection was re-issued several times (including the 6 volumes 1874 edition). The academic version of the Complete A.N.Nekrasov, ready by the late 1930s, had to be shelved due to the break out of the World War II; it was published in 12 volumes by the Soviet Goslitizdat in 1948-1953.

1855-1862 were the years of Nekrasov's greatest literary activity. One of the several important poems of the time, "Musings By the Front Door" (Размышления у парадного подъезда, 1858) was banned in Russia and appeared in Hertzen's Kolokol in January 1860. Others include "The Unhappy Ones" (Несчастные, 1856), "Silence" (Тишина, 1857) and "The Song for Yeryomushka" (Песня Еремушке, 1859), the latter turned into a revolutionary hymn by the radical youth.