St. Petersburg: M. Stasyulevich, 1880. , 145, 207 pp. 21,5x14 cm. Original publisher’s cloth with few bumps on the edges of the spine, but generally a very good copy.
Extremely rare. No auction records found.
The first separate edition of the poem which social resonance in Russian society is hard to compare to any literary piece at the time. The first part was published in the periodical ‘Otechestvennye Zapiski’ in 1869, and the different parts and variations appeared in periodicals throughout the 1870s.
Nikolay Alexeevich Nekrasov (1821-1878) was a Russian poet who has revolutionized both the metrics of the Russian verse (many of the Silver Age poets have considered himself as their predecessor) and the agenda of the poetry itself - emphasizing the social importance and reflexion towards the fate of Russia. He was highly influential as the editor of the widely read periodicals like ‘Sovremennik’, and generally regarded by the radical and liberal opposition as its leader.
Nekrasov started working upon the poem soon after the Tsarist manifest abolishing serfdom was published in March 1861, and in a way the poem is the answer to the manifest.
The poem is telling the story of seven peasants who set out to ask various elements of the rural population if they are happy, to which the answer is never satisfactory. The poem, noted for its rhyme scheme resembling a traditional Russian folk song.
All parts of the poem had their problems with censorship. Part 4, which was supposed to appear in Otechestvennye Zapisky’s November 1876 issue, was banned altogether. A. Petrov, the head of the Saint Petersburg censorship committee, informed the magazine that it will be closed immediately should it proceed with the proposed publication. For the terminally ill author this proved to be a heavy blow. The uncensored version of that part was only published finally in 1927.
Nekrasov’s magnum opus is regarded as a groundbreaking work, a ‘‘great poem, featuring the whole of the Russian people as its main hero’’, according to Korney Chukovsky. ‘‘With its extraordinary verbal expressiveness, energy and many discoveries, this is one of the most original Russian poems of the 19th century’’, commented historian Prince Mirsky.