Russia Population Pyramid


Characteristic of the literature in Russia has been its close connection with the development of society. Where religious preaching has been weak and no political layer has ever really developed, the authors have instead taken the role of outlining the direction of the future. The authorship with its unification of life and works has thus gained an extremely special significance. However, it was not until the 19th century that Russian word art in dialogue with Europe became an integral part of world literature.

Russia Population Pyramid

  • Countryaah: Population and demographics of Russia, including population pyramid, density map, projection, data, and distribution.

After the Russian territories were incorporated into the Eastern Christian cultural circle, a number of translations of Byzantine church literature were added during the 11th century, where, however, the Russian linguistic element had long been left to the church Slavic. In the Kiev state, law writers and chroniclers (with, for example, the semi-mythical “Nestor Chronicle”, c. 1100) appeared, and here also the foremost poetic work of ancient literature, “Igorkvädet”, was created. The Mongolian invasions of the 13th century shielded Russia from Europe, and contacts with the Renaissance culture there were few. Since Moscow became the center of the Russian Empire (15th century), literary creation was increasingly tied to the interests of the state and the church. At the same time, the popular poetry flourished in the village lines, epic heroic tales, which in their northern variants show kinship with the Finnish runo songs.

Reforms during the time of Peter I created new preconditions for a worldly literature produced and read primarily by the formed nobility. European, especially French influence, became evident in the 18th-century redistributions and indigenous word art: the tragedy of Sumarokov, the comedy of Fonvizin, the oath of Lomonosov and Derzjavin. Despite attempts to regulate and modernize the Russian language (Lomonosov’s Grammar, 1757), the language of literature has remained elusive for a long time. First, the groundbreaking, emotional pre-romance (Karamzin’s short story “The Poor Liza”, Zjukovsky’s Ballads) succeeded in approaching the language of literature to the spoken Russian. The satirical fable poet Krylov also belongs to the period.

Pushkin’s works summarized the trends of the time during the 1820’s: the search for national motifs (the verse “Ruslan and Ljudmila”, the historical play “Boris Godunov”), the interest in both the romantic exotic (the poem “The prisoner in the Caucasus”) and the contemporary contemporary depiction. (verse novel “Yevgeny Onegin” on the “superfluous man”), the notion of the poet’s choice in Russian society. Pushkin’s breadth – poetry, prose and drama – and his personal destiny have made him a Russian national call.

During the 1830’s – “the golden age of Russian literature” – several lyrical romanticists appeared in Pushkin’s imitation. With strong emotion, the byronism of Lermontov was developed, which also embodied the Russian spleen sickness in the novel “The Hero of Our Time”. With new reader categories, the Russian prose became increasingly important during the 1830’s and 40’s. It found its form in the many journals of the time such as investigative journalism and in Gogol’s tragicomic works (“Petersburg’s novels” and the novel “Dead souls”). Literature took on socially critical tasks and became an active means in the debate of ideas; it sought the association of beauty and enlightenment. So e.g. the political wrestling era of the 1850’s and 60’s found a form-fitting depictor in Turgenyev (novel “Fathers and Sons”).

The revival of life traits in 1861 was welcomed by the literary establishment, but the big question about R’s further development was answered differently. “What to do?” was the time-honored title of Chernyshevsky’s Utopian-Socialist novel from 1863. A radical, nihilistic literary criticism emerged, which at times denied the role of literature in the social struggle. However, the most important literary genre remained the realistic novel, but its task was interpreted in different ways. At Tolstoy, the cultural-philosophical and general morality-learning perspective prevailed, while Dostoevsky wrestled with the evil and goodness of every human being, thereby preceding the modern, psychologically profound novel.

The lyric of the 1870’s was more acclaimed for its social commitment than for its care about form (Nekrasov’s “Who’s Good in Russia?”). The romantic reverberation poetry of Tiuttev, Nadson and Fet thus came to be newly discovered and appreciated first by a later generation. During the 1890’s, the prevailing realism had also begun to exhaust its possibilities; its claim to be able to change people and the world had come to shame. Chekhov’s short story and drama were therefore characterized by a low-key resigned attitude. However, around the turn of the century, Gorky tried to revitalize the depiction of reality in a revolutionary naturalistic direction.

The break with 19th-century realism was most evident in the poetry of the Russian symbolists. Influenced by a generally pessimistic spirit and by the Russian religious philosophy’s dream of “the unity” – the union of divine and human – in their sonic, symbolic poems they wanted to evoke the image of another, higher reality. To this, the Russian “silver age” work includes Blok’s ecstatic verses on “the beautiful lady”, Belly’s musically driven poem and the prose work “Petersburg”, Brjusov’s tight, anticising poetry. Against the somewhat priestly attitude of the symbolists and refined poetry, after the first Russian revolution of 1905-07, a series of debating poets who sought clarity and simplicity reacted. Among the Akmeists, Mandelstam now spoke of art as a craft, while Achmatova embodied the concreteness of the densified moment. More radical in his criticism of the symbolism of the symbolists were futurists such as Majakovsky and Chlebnikov. With only the name in common with the Italian, Russian futurism paid tribute to the aesthetic aesthetic and the artistic provocation. But the poetry of the futurists was nonetheless noticeably influenced by Russian popular tradition and by lustrous 18th-century lyricism.

At the beginning of the century, at the same time with poetry, the Russian prose also developed in several directions. Gorky’s program piece “A Mother” (1907) formed the basis for socialist realism.

The war, the revolution and the Bolshevik coup drew Russian literature to a new situation. Several of the “silver age” poets emigrated; However, Blok stopped and contributed to the mythology of the Revolution with his lyrical collage “The Twelve” (1918). Young, debutant poets of proletarian origin denied the cultural heritage and introduced the factory songs and hammer blows into the lyrics. For a time, the so-called co-runners were tolerated, writers who did not share the political views of the new regime but who, on the other hand, tested an often intrinsically artistic talent: Pilnjak with the first Soviet, experimental novel “The Naked Year” (1921), Bulgakov with “The white guard “Babel with” Budjonnyj’s Red Rider Army “- all with motives from the Civil War. In addition to Majakovsky’s left-leaning usage poetry, the lyrics were developed in exquisitely saturated verses by Pasternak,

Stalin’s time led to tremendous trials for the authors. The goal was to create one against the state and the so-called building of socialism through loyal intelligentia. In the 1930’s, therefore, the diversity of equality of the revolutionary era and the 1920’s was followed; see Soviet Union (Literature). Several writers were forced into silence (Pasternak) or emigration (Zamjatin). The great purges hit with special force the writer’s corps (Mandelstam, Babel). Many adapted to the new arrangement of revisions of previous works or consequently newly written. The original freshness of Sholochov’s short stories and of the novel “Stilla float Don” was replaced by a simple edifying message in his later production. In addition to the officially supported and award-winning literature, however, another, then never published, alternative word art, e.g. Andrei Platonov’s deeply pessimistic, mythical commentary on Soviet society and Bulgakov’s devilishly tragic satire “The Master and Margarita”.

The literary policy of High Stalinism during the war years of 1941-45 led to a more open attitude to traditional form-conscious and patriotic authorship (Achmatova, Pasternak) but later favored a schematic falsifying prose and poetry. Against this “conflictlessness” in the 1950’s, the so-called thaw weather literature reacted. The criticism of the Stalin era developed in the style of traditional realism at Ehrenburg and in the form of tribal poetry in a new lyricist generation with names such as Yevchenko and Voznesensky. Pasternak’s abroad published novel “Doctor Zhivago” (1957) contributed to his Nobel Prize, but with his view of the revolution he elicited, in principle, an official hot campaign against the author.

After the rejection of Stalinism by the state leadership at the party congresses in 1956 and 1961, the literary criticism of the Soviet system increased, mainly through the works of Solzhenitsyn who embodied the reality of the prison camps.

During the 1970’s, the officially printed literature in Russia began to be seriously challenged by unofficially disseminated poetry, prose and essays (samizdat). Found here Brodsky’s Petersburg traditional, philosophical lyric, Solzhenitsyn’s “Gulag Archipelago”, about the concentration camps in Stalin’s Russia, and Sakharov’s political program texts. Above this literary underground, at the same time, the Russian word art was dominated by a kind of rural literature with the Russian peasant as the foremost fact and hero (Valentin Rasputin, Belov). This peasant poetry became increasingly utopian-national and preservative in the end of the Soviet era. On the other hand, around 1990 appeared a number of writers who abandoned the fictional prose in favor of memoirs and documents. Thus, both camps sought in their own way for Russia’s identity in a changing world.

Drama and theater

The Russian dramatic art, which in the 20th century was pioneering in European theater, began to develop late. The counterpart to the interplay between national drama and new performing arts found in Shakespeare’s London or Moli豕res Paris first came to Russia during Chekhov’s collaboration with Moscow’s Artistic Theater around 1900 (see Artistic Theater).

Before the beginning of the 18th century there were plays by market magicians, Shomorochi, who, as heirs to pagan traditions, were persecuted by the church. This even offered weekend dramas of Bible history itself. As part of Peter I’s and daughter Elizabeth’s secularization and Europeanization program, theaters of the French classical model were started, first with foreign teachers. With the performance of Fonvizin’s comedy “Lantjunkaren” in 1782, the Russian dramatic theater was established.

The imperial scenes, the Alexandrate Theater in St. Petersburg and the Malyyte Theater (Little Theater) in Moscow, led the theater development in the 19th century. In Malay, actors such as the romantic Motjalov and the master of the realistic comedy Shchepkin appeared. A national repertoire, dominated by comedies, grew up with Gogol, for example. “The Accountant” (1836). However, the censorship severely hampered the repertoire and long stopped both the moral satires of Griboyedov and Suchovo-Kobylin as well as Pushkin’s history drama “Boris Godunov” (1825, erected in 1870) and Lermontov’s romantic drama “Masked” (1835, erected in 1862).

With Ostrovsky, Russia got a playwright who from 1855 created a realistic repertoire of eighty plays in all genres and sought to make Malyj a national scene of European type. The abolition of the imperial theater monopoly in Moscow and Petersburg in 1882 meant a breakthrough for popular French and Russian mass-produced melodramas and vaudevilles and the beginning of the divinity’s dominance on stage. In opposition, however, actor Stanislavsky and playwright Nemirovich-Dantchenko founded the Artistic Theater in Moscow in 1897 with high demands on conscious repertoire, actor technique and ensemble playing. Stanislavsky’s and Nemirovich-Dantchenko’s psychologically penetrating sets of new dramas by Ibsen, Gorky and, above all, Chekhov, where all elements were subordinated to a main idea,

On the basis of artistic theater reforms but in opposition to its naturalistic style ideal, a new generation of directors came into close contact with modern literature and art (symbolism, expressionism, futurism). Meyerhold linked in experimental performances and as director of the Alexandrate Theater in Petersburg 1908-18 to pre-realistic traditions such as commedia dell’arte and the Russian market theater to develop the stage’s own plastic and visual expressions. The author who wrote for this “theatrical” theater was Leonid Andreiev and after World War I Majakovsky.

The first years after the October Revolution of 1917, mass spectacle plays with elements of chronicle play and parade enjoyed great popularity. However, the artistic theater was long dominated by the directors from previous years. Meyerhold’s first sets after 1921 were characterized by advanced experiments, in which clown tradition was mixed with futuristic machine worship. Later, Meyerhold (for example, with “The Auditor” in 1926), as well as Tairov’s Chamber Theater, sought for monumental, synthetic forms. Futuristic experiments by Eisenstein and other Meyerhold students showed the way to the new era’s “all-art work”, the film.

Gradually, dramatists emerged in the spirit of socialist realism, but the strength of the Russian theater remained the grotesque comedy (new classic sets, Majakovsky’s and Erdman’s satires). Artistic theater realism became mandatory in the Soviet theater (see Soviet Union: Theater) in the 1930’s, a compulsory method for audience participation in the right political ideals. The representatives of modernism were condemned and an academic theater prevailed, where, however, the high level of actor art and the classical repertoire were maintained.

During the “thawing weather” after Stalin’s death in 1953, a partial reconnection with the broken traditions began, among other things. new classic interpretations by Georgia Tovstonogov in Leningrad and in the 1970’s by Anatoly Efros in Moscow. New everyday realistic drama began to be played. At the Tagan Theater in Moscow, Ljubimov in expressive and satirical forms linked the legacy of the interwar period. The liberation of the 1980’s brought forth dramatists with a new, illusion-free language (Viktor Slavkin, Ljudmila Petrusevskaya), but above all led to a breakthrough for a commercial theater. The social upheavals had long been given no equivalent in a new form of will, either in the drama or in the directing and acting art that, at the turn of the century, led Russia to an international leadership position.


For the time leading up to 1991, see Soviet Union (Film). Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the critical feature film and documentary film experienced a short-lived upswing. The film studios became independent, and a number of private production companies emerged. The studios were, however, largely hired by foreign low-budget producers and by young domestic filmmakers. The latter quickly embraced the Hollywood film’s genres and storytelling, which had a major impact on the Russian audience. International co-productions also became commonplace. Among active film directors from the Soviet era are Nikita Michalkov, Sergei Bodrov (born 1948), Kira Muratova (born 1934), Karen Sjachnazarov (born 1952) and Aleksandr Sokurov, while under new names are Vladimir Chotinenko (born 1952), Aleksey Balabanov (1959-2013), Timur Bekmambetov (born 1961), Pavel Lungin (born 1949), Aleksandr Rogozjkin (born 1949) and Valerij Todorovsky (born 1962) and Andrej Zvjagintsev (born 1964).

Michalkov’s epic settlement with Stalin’s purges in “Burned by the Sun” (1994) became popular both in the home country and internationally. Bodrov’s international breakthrough with “The Prisoner of the Mountains” (1996) was followed by the major initiative “Mongol” (2007), the first in an epic trilogy about Jingi’s Khan. Sokurov first became known outside his native country in 1988 with the “Prison of the Solar Eclipse”, followed by international co-productions such as Hitler’s study “Molok” (1999) and “Russian Ark” (2002), a historical exhibition depicted in a single long take through the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg. For the younger audience, Balabanov became a poster name with the gangster movie “Brothers” (1997, sequel 2000).

The following decade, the Kazakh-born Bekmambetov became a world name with his vampire film “The Guardian of the Night” (2004, sequel 2006). He moved to Hollywood at the end of the decade to directing the action movie “Wanted” (2008). Zvjagintsev gained international attention in the 2010 with his dramas “Elena” (2011) and “Leviatan” (2014).

The state animation film industry, with Soyuzmultfilm (founded in 1936) as dominant, collapsed. Many directors and cartoonists switched to commercials for a time. One of the few productions during the 1990’s was Aleksandr Petrov’s (born 1957) award-winning IMAX production “The Old and the Sea” (1999), after Ernest Hemingway’s novel. With the reconstruction of Soyuzmultfilm in 1999 and the establishment of a Russian production company owned by Disney, the 2000’s became a reconstruction period.

During the 1990’s, the number of cinema visits dropped dramatically, partly because of rising prices and partly by widespread piracy on video. The dissolution of the Soviet Union also caused a reduction in film production, from 115 feature films in 1992 to 65 in 1998. In 2012, 64 feature films were produced, including co-productions with other countries.


Vladimir the Great’s decision in 988 to allow Kiev to follow Byzantine Christianity, with the icon as its art form, came to forever strongly influence both Russian art and the whole Russian concept of art. Up until the time of Peter I, art was identical to religious images; no profane art in the real sense existed. But even after this time, the perception that art reproduces a higher truth, conveys a message, dominates.

Early court centers such as Kiev and Vladimir developed in their art, mainly frescoes and mosaics, a completely Byzantine style, where national features from the middle of the 11th century can be traced (Sofia Cathedral, Kiev). “The God Mother of Vladimir”, a Byzantine icon from the beginning of the 12th century, who came to Vladimir (and later Moscow) early via Kiev, has been of great importance for the icon painting in Russia. The first known Russian icon painter is Alippij at the Cave Monastery in Kiev, according to the chronicle of the death of 1114.

In Novgorod a style emerged with clear features, evident already in the icon “Angel with the golden hair” or the frescoes of the Church of the Savior, Nereditsa (destroyed during the Second World War), both from the late 1100’s. During the 13th and 13th centuries, icon painting developed against ever stronger popular expression and reflected the city’s democratic rule. The Byzantine influence is illuminated by Theofanes Greek frescoes (Church of the Savior on Eliasgatan, 1378).

Despite the proximity to Novgorod, a highly distinctive style was educated in Pskov, evident in both expression, color and iconography. Local schools are also met in Rostov, Yaroslavl and Tver.

From the end of the 1300’s, Moscow appears as a cultural center. The foremost representative of its style is Andrei Rubljov, who, under the impression of the spiritual climate of Byzantium, created a lyrical-meditative style of great impact (the icon “The Old Testament Trinity”, the frescoes of Marie Ascension Cathedral in Vladimir). This style had its end around 1500 with Dionisij and his sons.

During the 16th and 16th centuries a more complex iconography and a detailed miniature style were developed, cultivated in the Tsar workshops and the so-called Stroganov School’s studios. Simon Ushakov (1626-86) was strongly influenced by the Western European art he encountered, among others. at court. His art can be seen as the end of the traditional icon style.

Peter I’s decision to “open the window to Europe” meant that Western European style ideals became increasingly dominant. With the establishment of an art academy in St. Petersburg in 1757, this was further strengthened. Invited sculptors such as Rastrelli and Falconet laid the foundation for a Russian sculpture tradition. The portrait painting, which later came to develop a Russian character, was represented during the 18th century. by French artists, as well as by the Swedish Roslin, but also by native artists such as Fjodor Rokotov and Dmitrij Levitsky.

Pushkin’s foremost portraitist is Orest Kiprensky. An artist in the last half of the 19th century with his very own profile is Aleksej Venetsianov, a painter of farmers in the landscape. Central to the more academic painting is Karl Brjullov with “Pompeii’s last day” (c. 1830). Aleksandr Ivanov’s “Christ Appears to the People” (1837-57) was a key piece in the ethico-aesthetic debate, while its numerous sketches marked the beginning of outdoor painting.

Pavel Fedotov performed around 1850 genre pictures with social critical capitals. This direction was reinforced during the period of critical realism from about 1860, with Vasilij Perov. In 1870, the group Hiker Goals was formed, which started as an opponent movement within the academy but soon became a significant factor. They dreamed of an art that “was based on people’s needs” and wanted to reach out with traveling exhibitions. Leading artists of the time belonged to the group, such as portrait painter Ivan Kramskoj, history painters Nikolaj Ge (Gay) and Vasily Surikov or landscape painters Aleksey Savrasov and Isaak Levitan, as well as Ilja Repin, whose art covered all genres. Valentin Serov and Konstantin Korovin are counted as Russian impressionists. Symbolist Michail Vrubel exhibits a strong personal style in his paintings, sculptures and decorative works. In opposition to the Wanderers’ Paintings, in St. Petersburg 1898-99, Mir Iskusstva (“The World of Art”) was formed, who wanted to assert freedom of the arts, a closer contact with the West and who was also interested in graphic design and theater decor. The leaders were Aleksandr Benois and L谷on Bakst.

From the turn of the 1900’s, Moscow and St. Petersburg developed into leading art centers in close contact with Paris, Berlin and Munich, but with the national art, especially Russian folk art, as an important source of inspiration. Key names in this development were Natalja Gontjarova, Mikhail Larionov with his rayonistic manifesto (1913), as well as Marc Chagall, Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich and Vladimir Tatlin, treated in greater detail during the Soviet Union (Art).


Through Peter I, about 1700, the Russian handicraft began to approach the Western European, primarily the French, which was mediated by convened furniture carpenters and other craftsmen. The attraction to the splendor and monumentality was striking, and the often over-decorated furniture is characterized by a heavy massiveness, which, however, fits well with the palace interiors for which they were intended. Alongside this court style, during the 19th century, bourgeois furniture art appeared with birch as the most favored type of wood.

In the field of ceramics, the international fashion styles were linked to the tableware, while the extensive figurative production shows strong national features with powerfully modeled figures from folk life in bold colors and with a great immediacy in expression. In glass art, the opal glass became a specialty at the end of the 18th century and was used during the 19th century for all types of objects, often with painted decor. At the same time, high-quality cut glass was produced. During the Art Nouveau, there was a significant production of galas in Gal谷s art. The Russian table silver followed French role models but also gives a variety of distinctive shapes, among them the boat-shaped cobsand a round or cylindrical super cup, so-called tar. In St. Petersburg there was already a highly developed jewelery art in the 18th century, in whose tradition Faberg谷 then worked.

See also Moscow Ceramics, niello, revolution, china, St Petersburg (Crafts) and tulaarbete.


Domestic architecture grew with the Christianization of Russia. Models from Byzantium were converted from the 11th century in Kiev, Novgorod and Vladimir – Suzdal into a characteristic Russian church architecture with simple white volumes and onion domes. At the same time, the timber building was developed into a championship in the wooded country. Richly composed volumes with extensions, escalating gable motifs (coconut) and domes characterize this tradition with the Exploration Church of 1714 on the island of Kizji in Karelia as a highlight. Also, the residential buildings with carved details in the skis and window coverings were part of the wooden building art.

The wooden architecture was then interpreted as stone in church and palace construction, not least in Moscow, to which Italian architects who united Russian tradition with the Renaissance were called in. The Baroque became the first distinctly Western influenced period in Russian architecture. The construction of Saint Petersburg became the symbol of the opening of Russia to the west. Invited architects from Italy, France, Germany and Scotland contributed to the build-up. During the 18th century, a design of pattern cities in the village was also developed, led by the capital. The rebuilding of Tver after the fire in 1763 was the first example of the regular plans with wide tree-planted streets that came to affect tree towns in Finland and Sweden. A distinctive Russian building type is the market hall (gostinyj dvor) with one of the arcades surrounding the courtyard.

The 19th century style architecture took up motifs from older Russian architecture. Jugend, in Russian called the modern style, was a powerful part of the turn of the century’s cultural heyday. The Swedish-born Fredrik (Fjodor) Lidvall was one of the foremost architects.

The Soviet era came at the beginning to mean intensive innovation. Russian 1920’s architecture, with its center in Moscow, became an important part of international functionalism. Constructivism was the ideologically leading movement (see Constructivism). The extensive construction of the five-year plans in the early 1930’s was followed by official support for a monumental, “speaking” and gradually increasingly classicist architecture. This “academism” was in turn strongly criticized by Khrushchev. Housing construction was industrialized into heavy element building systems and modernist urban planning. The 1980’s have meant attempts to get away from the nuanced large scale, but much has remained on paper during a time of greatly reduced construction.


Classical music

In the Russian Orthodox Church, in the 11th century, znamennyj raspev, a Byzantine influenced, sacred vocal style, was developed with signs and sung in church Slavic since about 1400 (it still lives today with the old believers). In 1551 special schools were established for church singing. Unlike the Catholic Church, the Russian did not accept polyphony until the end of the 16th century. Since Russia was strongly isolationist, most international influences were also lacking.

During the second half of the 17th century, foreign musicians appeared to a limited extent in Moscow, but a life of music in the Western European sense was first created under Peter I in the early 18th century. With the help of mainly composers called in from Italy, operas were played with biblical at first, later also other motifs. The church song was also influenced by Italy, for example with Dmitry Bortnjansky (compare orthodox church music).

With some right, Michail Glinka is usually designated as the father of Russian music. In his eclectic creation, he was the first to combine Russian styles and subject choices with Western European technology, and he wrote the first Russian operas, followed by the same generation of Aleksandr Dargomyzhsky. In the second half of the 19th century, explosive development took place in two often rival main directions. One, in St. Petersburg, sought to preserve the genuine Russian in music and rejected in-depth academic music education. At the center were the New Russian school with Milij Balakirev, C谷sar Cui, Modest Musorgsky, Nikolaj Rimsky-Korsakov and Aleksandr Borodin. The other, in Moscow and with Pyotr Tchaikovsky as its main representative, joined Western European currents.

In both directions, however, common style traits can be found, which until today have been perceived as typically Russian. Since Russian art music was not to the same extent as Western European was based on the major-minor opposite and was also inspired by popular traditions, melody and harmonics developed much freer. Other features are the spoken language-influenced vocal music and a superb orchestral treatment (mainly at Musorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, respectively). The establishment of conservatories in Saint Petersburg (1862) and Moscow (1866) created the conditions for the tradition of these styles.

Towards the end of the 19th century, a generation of composers such as Anton Arensky, Aleksandr Glazunov, Aleksandr Gretjaninov (1864-1956), Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov, Anatoly Ljadov, Sergei Ljapunov (1859-1924) appeared and Sergei Taneyev. A unique visionary was Aleksandr Skrjabin, who drove the music to the limit of the occult, while his contemporary Sergei Rachmaninov took a more conventional path.

The first Russian composer to become style-forming for the whole world was Igor Stravinsky, who together with Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitry Shostakovich were the foremost Russian composers of the 20th century. Stravinsky, however, emigrated even before the Russian Revolution to stay abroad, while Prokofiev returned home in 1936. He and Shostakovich, who never left the homeland, were sharply criticized after the Soviet leadership established strict control over the creation of music; watch Soviet music.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, the last obstacle to adapting Russian music creation to the outside world was removed. Now, some composers who had hitherto lived a more or less semi-official existence, such as Galina Ustvolskaja, Vjatjeslav Artiomov (born 1940), Jelena Firsova (born 1950), Jurij Kasparov (born 1955), Nikolaj Korndorf (1947-2001), Vladimir Martynov (born 1946) and Boris Tishchenko. Most of these use styling tools that were not well-seen in ruling Soviet circles. Notable, however, is that Russian composers are so strongly rooted in the country’s traditions that the origin of music is usually unmistakable. Victoria Borisova-Ollas, born in Vladivostok and educated in the Russian Federation, has been active in Sweden since 1992.

Russian music education is at an exceptionally high level in both quality and breadth. Consequently, the country owns some of the world’s leading orchestras, such as St. Petersburg’s (formerly Leningrad’s) Philharmonic Orchestra, and musical theaters, such as the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow.

Folk music

Russian folk music is very complex and only partly explored. Surrounding Turko-Tatar, Finnish-Ugric and Slavic peoples have influenced the music in partially different directions. Some style elements, scattered throughout most of the Russian Federation, date from the pre-Christian era, others from the time of the Russian Empire’s formation in the late Middle Ages, but also the stylistic turbulence of recent centuries has left traces.

Many old songs have short formulaic melodies with a small range and complex compositional rhythms, eg. complaints (pritjitanija), work, calendar and wedding songs. Byline (epic songs) in the north are usually soloistically performed, in the south multistory. Lyrical songs are very popular, from all kinds of songs to so-called protiazhnyje pesni(‘drawn-out songs’) which has gained a status as a Russian national symbol. These are slow, richly melodically ornate, single- or multi-voiced, with inserted syllables, rewatches and exclamations, as well as texts with so-called chain opening: a new phrase begins with the last words of the former. Multiplicity is common and occurs in a large number of forms. Usually the parts are freely designed and very movable, only when cadences coincide in unison, quint or octave.

Since the 19th century, a number of new genres have been developed, such as Tjastushki, rhymed four-line verses with improvised content, which are sung to balalaika or accordion. Common instruments used to be flute (dudka, gopher), shalma (zjalejka, brjolka), horn (rozhok) and violin (gudok, skripka). In the southwest pan flutes (kugikly) were played by women and in the northwest psalterium (gusli). Accordion has been manufactured in a large number of variants since the 1840’s.

The Balalajkan, which had completely disappeared in many parts of the 19th century, gained renewed popularity since it was reconstructed and distributed by Vasily Andreev (1861-1918) in the 1880’s. His Russian folk instrument ensemble and the choir of folk singers formed by Mitrofan Pyatnitsky (1864-1927) in 1914 became role models for folk music ensembles in the Soviet Union, later also throughout Eastern Europe and parts of the Third World.


During the early 1900’s, avant-gardeism flourished in Russian cultural life, and even an decade after the revolution, an experimental spirit continued. At this time, the cabaret singer Aleksandr Vertinskij (1889-1957) and the influential multi-artist Valentin Parnach (1891-1951) appeared who introduced the jazz. The early Soviet film became an important mediator of both modern art and popular music. One of its first major stars was the jazz singer and comedian Leonid Utjosov (1885-1982).

Many early songs derived from a national romantic, folkloric aesthetic. A popular song genre was so-called Russian romance, sung by Estrada singers such as Klavdija Sjulchenko (1906-84) and Isabella Jurjeva (1899-2000) or singers like Pjotr Lesjchenko (1898-1954) and Vadim Kosin (1903-94), who both came to be imprisoned under Stalinist oppression.

During the 1930’s, music creation became increasingly centralized in the Stalinist spirit; music would be “social realist”, popularly inspired and easily accessible. The Russian romance was stamped as belonging to a decadent, pre-revolutionary, bourgeois culture and became taboo. As long as the Soviet Union was allied with the United States during the war, jazz flourished, but towards the end of the 1940’s it was increasingly fierce. The jazz culture that lived was spread through what was called samizdat, underground literary dissemination. All music production would be controlled by the Soviet state and from the beginning of the 1960’s all professional musicians had to associate with the state-owned music company Melodija.

In the emerging rock and poper, so-called VIA bands (vocal and instrumental ensembles) or solo artists appeared who sang radio-adapted music, composed by state-approved professional composers. Among these artists are the still popular Valerij Leontiev (born 1949) and Alla Pugatjova. Pugatjova became famous in Sweden during the 1980’s through Jacob Dahlin’s TV program “Jacob’s Ladder” (1985-88).

As an alternative to VIA and the professionally made popular music, bard music emerged during the 1960’s-70’s. This song genre was influenced by the French chanson and the American folk renaissance and was performed by vispoets called bards. Their sometimes anti-Soviet songs got spread through word of mouth or home-copied cassette tapes. However, some singers, such as Bulat Okudzhava (1924-97) and the legendary Vladimir Vysotsky, became so popular that they were eventually released on Melodija.

The experimental and progressive rock, with groups such as Aquarium (formed in 1972), Masjina Vremeni (1969) and Arsenal (formed in 1973), were also allowed to operate underground. Only when the Soviet censorship loosened up towards the end of the 1980’s could rock music start to flourish with new wave groups such as Kino (formed in 1981), Alisa (formed in 1983) and folk rock group DDT (formed in 1980). The genre-crossing composer and musician Sergei Kurjochin (1954-96) became the first Soviet underground artist to be released in the West.

Following the fall of communism, pop and rock music developed in a variety of directions with direct international exchanges and a new type of media coverage via radio channels and television.

During the 1990’s, many bands that played punk, grunge and alternative rock got their breakthroughs, such as Korol i Sjut (formed 1988), Nogu Svelo! (formed in 1988) and Mumi Troll (formed in 1983).

The biggest international artists in the early 2000’s include pop duo tATu (formed in 1999) and girl trio Serebro (formed in 2006). Other great artists in the middle line of popular music are Grigorij Leps (born 1962), Stas Michajlov (born 1969), Nikolaj Baskov (born 1976) and Zemfira (born 1976). Somewhat difficult to categorize is the pop singer Vitas (actually Vitalij Grachov, born 1979) with his spectacular opera voice.

A major genre is heavy metal where the group Aria (formed 1985) and the progressive metal band Mechanical Poet (formed 2002) can be mentioned. The hip hop scene is varied and experimental with artists such as the rap group Bad Balance (formed in 1989) and the rap artist Dolphin (born 1971). Electronic music is underrepresented in mass media; however, the PKK group (formed in 1999) has reached a larger audience.

A modern rock-influenced variant of Russian romance, so-called Russian chanson, has a certain dubious reputation through the texts’ romanticization of crime. Nevertheless, artists such as Aleksandr Rozenbaum (born 1951) and rock band Ljube (formed 1989) have won the acclaim of Putin and other politicians.

A significant part of the music market is dominated by some major music producers, not quite unlike Soviet state control of power. But with the new media and technology of the new era, many independent artists have also emerged. Since 1994, the Russian Federation has participated in the Eurovision Song Contest and won in 2008 with singer Dima Bilan (born 1981). Russian popular music has a large audience in the former eastern states.

Some of the features that may be noticeable have been recurring in the multifaceted Russian popular music are the experimental creation, the grand, dramatic expression, a closeness to Russian folklore and the themes of the mythological.


In the Middle Ages, the people of Russia were entertained by wandering Shomorochi (jockeys, singers, dancers), whose air leaps (convertibles) were perpetuated on frescoes in the Sofia Cathedral in Kiev. In the 18th century, the upper class began to learn the foreign social dances, which became mandatory for young men at the court. Their teacher Jean-Baptiste Land谷 established a ballet school in Saint Petersburg in 1738, which became the foundation of the Imperial Ballet and later the Kirov Ballet. Land谷’s students learned basic classical techniques, which together with the folk dance heritage from the beginning created the specific character of the Russian ballet. In Moscow, a ballet school was opened in the Home for Orphans in 1773, the beginning of the Bolshoi Ballet. Live dancers, owned by the rich nobility, were both knowledgeable in folk dance and professionally trained. Foreign guest choreographers such as Charles Louis Didelot, the Italian Gaspero Angiolini (1731-1803) and the Austrian Franz Hilverding (1710-68) were employed extensively in both St. Petersburg and Moscow. Marius Petipa, active at the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg during the latter half of the 19th century, developed Russian ballet art with, among other things, “Swan Lake”, “Törnrosa” and “Bajadären”, which still today are role models for the pure classical dance. The Imperial Ballet’s Repertory Theater was the beautiful Mariinsky Theater (1935-91 Kirov Theater). In Moscow in the 1930’s Bolshoi Theater and its ballet became the foremost of the kingdom. A new generation of choreographers emerged in the early 1900’s, innovators such as Michel Fokine, Aleksandr Gorsky and Fjodor Lopuchov.

During the 70-year Soviet period, a whole new ballet style – the dramatically realistic – emerged with representatives such as Leonid Lavrovsky and Yuri Grigorovich. Dance technique developed rapidly, mainly through Agrippina Vaganova’s pedagogy. In 1956, the Bolshoi Ballet appeared for the first time in the West. In London, Lavrovsky’s “Romeo and Julia” and “Giselle” were erected. It was a huge success for the Russians and their main ballerina Galina Ulanova. The Soviet style, both in terms of choreography and technology, spread rapidly in Europe and the United States. During the 1960’s-1980’s, several dancers jumped off, primarily from the Kirov Ballet. These became especially indicative of the male dance with role models such as Nureyev and Baryshnikov; Natalja Makarova should also be mentioned.

Folk dance became an important cultural movement within the Soviet Union. Research and recording took place in the regions, and choreographers were invited to create new old motifs. Igor Moiseev’s ensemble and Nadezhda Nadezhdina’s group Berjozka have, through folkloric dance traditions and a classical ballet dance technique, spread the folk dance internationally through tours.

Folk culture

Here, ethnic Russian folk culture is treated. The non-Russian minorities within the borders of the Russian Federation have their own articles.

The Russian area is far from having a homogeneous popular culture. In particular, the difference between southern and northern is striking. However, although the border between them – at the same level as Moscow – has been considerably widened by colonization and other population movements, it can clearly be observed in, for example, housing and costume. Among the factors that have seemed to be compatible are the influence of the Orthodox Church on primarily folk customs and the innovations emanating from the Moscow area in the first place.

In Russian countryside, the settlements have been concentrated in villages, in the north rather small, in the south and in the east. There, not least, water supply and the need for joint defense against war nomadic people were an important factor behind the growth of very large villages. The earlier fragmentation of ownership in the villages was eliminated when they were transformed into kolchoses during the Soviet era. In most of the Russian area, wood has been used as building material and knot carpentry as building technology, even in the cities; the almost only example of a stone city in the Western European sense was Saint Petersburg, while Moscow has long been a typical wooden city. Houses of stamped mud and kline houses were characteristic of mainly the steppe areas. To the south were the courtyards with the apartment building (chata)) long side facing the city street. The couple’s cottage is usually a floor plan. In the north, the dwelling (izba) has often had a ground floor for pets and storage, and lay with the gable facing the city street. In forest areas, decisions dominated, otherwise, selected thatched roofs were common. The fireplace, the oven, was long chimney-free.

In the costume, old legacy (such as foot patches and beakers) has been combined with news, for example. the classic Northern Russian sleeveless women’s skirt, the sarafan, which is considered one of the news emanating from Moscow, but whether its name derived from Persian indicates the origin is disputed. Inspired from the east, the kaftan cut is certainly the hallmark of many men. Russian feasting shows a strong connection to the church. Examples include the celebration of St. Georg (strongly associated with the livestock management) and the Thursday’s rich ceremonial ceremony. Among the forms of popular belief, the house or courtyard council (domovoj) is a common tradition dominant alongside the forest council (lesjij) that appears in man. Within the poem are the epic hero songs (see village lines)) especially strange. The fairy tales collected since the mid-19th century often form distinctive forms that strongly deviate from Western tradition.

Folklore research in Russia has long been more focused on folklore than on material culture, and within the theory of folk poetry research in particular, Russian scientists have been guiding; as early as the turn of the century, the study of storytelling began, and in the field of traditional bearer research, Mark Azadovsky became a pioneer. Vladimir Propp was a pioneer in folk-poetry structuralism, and one of Europe’s strangest collectors of tradition in the spirit of national romance was Aleksandr Afanasiev. The discriminatory attitude that the Communists sometimes emphasized against the culture and language of the minorities resulted in, among other things, in that these people continued the oral tradition to a greater extent than in the Russians themselves, as it was the only form in which their language and poetry could be manifested.

Russia Arts and Literature