Grigory Zinoviev 1933

Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin

Written: 1933;
First published: 1933 in Literary Heritage, volume 11-12, pp. 357-385
Translated by: Anton P.

It goes without saying that the disciples (of Marx) do not keep their heritage in the same way that archivists keep old paper.


Back in 1897, V. I. Lenin in the article The Heritage We Renounce examined with exhaustive completeness the question of the attitude of Russian Marxists to the legacy of the 60-70s of the 19th century. and showed that it is precisely the revolutionary Marxists, in the future the Bolsheviks, who keep and develop the really valuable in this heritage. “One of these shabby fabrications,” wrote Vladimir Ilyich, arguing against Mikhailovsky, “is the modish phrase that the Russian disciples renounce the heritage, that they have broken with the best traditions of the best, the most progressive section of Russian society, that they have severed the democratic thread, etc., etc., and all the many other ways in which this is expressed.” Two decades after this article was written, the working class of our country, led by Lenin’s party, has won power. And what? Didn’t the Bolshevik Party, also in the period when it is the ruling party, prove that it is fully putting into practice what Lenin said on the question of heritage? Does the entire literary policy of the party–inspired, of course, by the headquarters of the party, by its Central Committee, headed by Comrade Stalin, the best of the successors of Lenin’s work,–not at every step today give confirmation that, in particular, Lenin’s disciples remained unconditionally faithful to this behest of the teacher?

The attitude of the Bolsheviks towards M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin is only a special case of applying to life that program postulate of V. I. Lenin, which is expressed in his above-quoted words about heritage. In his work The Heritage We Renounce, Lenin proved that the three main features of the Russian “enlighteners” were: 1) an ardent hostility to serfdom and all its products in the economic, social and legal field, 2) an ardent defense of education, self-government, freedom, European forms of life and in general a comprehensive Europeanization of Russia, and 3) a defense of the interests of the masses, mainly peasants (who had not yet been completely emancipated or were only emancipated in the era of the Enlightenment), a sincere belief that the abolition of serfdom and its remnants would bring with it general prosperity, and a sincere desire to contribute to this. These three features are the essence of what we call the legacy of the 60s, and it is important to emphasize that there is nothing populist in this legacy (Lenin). It is not against this heritage that Marx’s disciples hurl themselves (this is an absurd fabrication), wrote Lenin, but only against the romantic and petty-bourgeois additions to the heritage made by the Narodniks. The disciples of Marx are much more consistent, much more faithful guardians of the heritage than the Narodniks, writes Vladimir Ilyich. They “not only can, but must fully accept the legacy of the enlighteners, supplementing this legacy with an analysis of the contradictions of capitalism from the standpoint of the property-less producers.” But, of course, preserving a heritage does not at all mean limiting oneself to the heritage, and the disciples add to the defense of the general ideals of Europeanism an analysis of the contradictions that our capitalist development contains, and an assessment of this development from the above specific point of view ... If we talk about the heritage that modern people have inherited, then we must distinguish between two heritages: the one is that of the enlighteners in general, people who are unconditionally hostile to everything pre-Reform, people who stand for European ideals and for the interests of the broad masses of the population. The other is the Narodnik heritage. To confuse these two different things would be a gross mistake ... Did the Russian disciples hurl themselves against the Russian enlighteners? Did they ever renounce the heritage which enjoins unreserved hostility to the pre-Reform way of life and its survivals? Far from hurling themselves against it, they denounced the Narodniks for desiring to maintain some of these survivals out of a petty-bourgeois fear of capitalism.

Vladimir Ilyich wrote the work The Heritage We Renounce<./em> from exile for the “legal” censored press. In a letter to Potresov (dated January 26, 1899), Ilyich then explained that to accept the heritage of Skaldin (Lenin’s article formally had the form of an analysis of Skaldin’s book. – G. Z.) It is I who do not propose anywhere, and that it is necessary to accept the heritage of other people ... I mean Chernyshevsky, but I didn’t have (in exile) Chernyshevsky’s articles and I would hardly have been able to get around the pitfalls. The article The Heritage We Renounce is in many respects a direct continuation of the great fundamental work of the young Lenin, a work that is just now turning 40 years old. We are talking about Friends of the People. In order to fully understand Lenin’s presentation of the question of heritage, one must, of course, carefully remember what Lenin writes about the difference between Enlighteners and Narodniks. But in order to properly take into account this difference, we must again and again recall how Lenin assessed populism itself in Friends of the People. Lenin strictly distinguished the populism of the 70s from the populism of the 90s. The village has long been completely split. Along with it, the old Russian peasant socialism also split, giving way, on the one hand, to workers’ socialism, and on the other, degenerating into vulgar petty-bourgeois radicalism, wrote Vladimir Ilyich.

Young Lenin, more clearly than any of the Russian Marxists of that era, was aware that populism is a trend of thought through and through bourgeois, that the protest of the populists against capitalism remains on the basis of capitalist relations. Even then, Lenin was able to show that the Narodniks were transforming from ideologists of the peasantry into ideologists of the petty bourgeoisie. Even then, Lenin characterized the Narodniks as the ideologists of the miserable bourgeoisie, who fear not bourgeoisness, but only its aggravation, which alone leads to a radical change. Already at the dawn of his political activity, forty years ago, Lenin saw clearly that the Narodniks constantly merged with Russian liberal society by a whole series of gradual transitions, some faced to the past, others to the future. Already in Friends of the People, Lenin openly accused populism of “petty-bourgeois opportunism” and declared that the populists had a program that expresses only the interests of radical bourgeois democracy. And yet, in those same early works, Lenin taught us to see in the populism of that time also its other side: the progressive, revolutionary-democratic, while it was a matter of fighting against serfdom, of overthrowing the Tsarist autocracy – that side of the populism of that time, let us note at once, is what allowed people like Shchedrin to cooperate with the populists. To reject the entire Narodnik program indiscriminately would be absolutely wrong, Lenin wrote at the same time. It must be strictly distinguished between the revolutionary and the progressive side. Marxists, having rejected all the reactionary features of their program, must not only accept the general democratic points, but also carry them more precisely, deeper and further. Lenin spoke of certain testaments of the old Russian populism, valuable for Marxism, referring to the revolutionary-democratic “precepts.” Calling the populist friends of the people “petty-bourgeois ideologists,” Lenin–and this is the main difference between his approach to the problem of populism and all Russian Marxists of that time, not excluding Plekhanov–deems it necessary to explain Narodnik ideas, to show their material basis in our present socio-economic relations, to show how and why the closest connection exists between the ideas and programs of our radicals and the interests of the petty bourgeoisie. These assessments of populism were closely connected with Lenin’s future slogan of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry in the first Russian revolution. These assessments of “classical” (in Lenin’s words) populism were and remained true, despite the fact that when the dictatorship of the proletariat became the order of the day in Russia, contemporary “populists” turned from bourgeois revolutionaries into counter-revolutionaries, and then into accomplices and agents of bourgeois restoration.

Lenin’s works What are the Friends of the people and The Heritage We Renounce are most closely related to each other. His dual assessment of populism in the era of the bourgeois revolution in Russia, which was in the pipeline, is closely connected with his programmatic statements about heritage. Only in the light of his assessments of the enlighteners and populists does it become clear what heritage Lenin did not renounce and the Bolsheviks do not renounce. It is from these general assessments that we must proceed when raising the question of Shchedrin’s legacy.

But did Lenin’s direct statements about his attitude specifically to Shchedrin’s legacy stayed relevant, and did he remained faithful to them throughout his life and his revolutionary developmnent? The answer is yes. In the following chapters, we will focus on some of them. Here we will give one of the final statements of Vladimir Ilyich and, moreover, of a rather late time, namely, 1912. Lenin polemicizes with the Vekhi liberals. He argues in an epoch when Russian liberalism is still inclined to dress up in the cloth of democracy. In 1912, Lenin wrote a wonderful article, In Memory of Herzen, exposing the liberals that they are trying to grab Herzen by the coattails, at the same time carefully concealing how the revolutionary Herzen differed from the liberal. The political legacy of the “liberal Turgenev and the vile liberal Kavelin” Lenin ascribes to liberal Russia. About Herzen he writes: Herzen’s spiritual drama was a product and reflection of that world-historical epoch when the revolutionary spirit of bourgeois democracy was already dying (in Europe) and the revolutionary character of the socialist proletariat had not yet matured ... It was not Herzen’s fault, but his misfortune, that he could not see the revolutionary people in Russia itself in the 1840s. When he saw them in the 60s, he fearlessly took the side of revolutionary democracy against liberalism.

Soon Lenin again turns to the same theme when the Vekhi liberals try to grab from the tails Nekrasov and Shchedrin. Even such pillars of Russian national liberalism as the vekhists Struve and Izgoev are still trying in this era to be considered “relatives” with Nekrasov and Shchedrin. The Russian liberal bourgeoisie is against any revolution, it is for a deal with the Tsarist monarchy. But “at worst”, if the revolution breaks out, it will be a bourgeois revolution, and consequently power in it will definitely go to the bourgeoisie – this was “guaranteed” by the Mensheviks and Plekhanov himself. Precisely in this case, it is necessary to think in advance about the means suitable for hastily saddling the democratic movement of the masses; one of these means is sometimes to hold on to the tails of people like Nekrasov and Shchedrin, to pretend that the legacy of these great writers belongs to the liberal bourgeoisie. Lenin, among other things, exposes this method of the “advanced” bourgeois. In the article Another March on Democracy he dwells on this specifically. Lenin not only does not at all want to concede to anyone the legacy of Chernyshevsky, but also the legacy of Nekrasov and Shchedrin. In the article titled, he writes: It is especially unbearable to see when subjects like Shchepetov, Struve, Gredeskul, Izgoev and other Cadet brethren grab at the tails of Nekrasov, Shchedrin, etc. Nekrasov, being personally weak, vacillated between Chernyshevsky and the liberals, but all his sympathies were on the side of Chernyshevsky. Nekrasov, due to the same personal weakness, sinned with notes of liberal servility, but he himself bitterly mourned his “sins” and publicly repented of them: “I did not trade lyre, but it happened, / When inexorable fate threatened, / The lyre made the wrong sound / My hand...” A wrong sound – that’s what Nekrasov called his liberal-serving sins. And Shchedrin mercilessly mocked the liberals and branded them forever with the formula “applied to meanness.” For Lenin it is unbearable to see how Messrs. Struve and Izgoev grab hold of Shchedrin’s tails. Lenin reminds the Vekhists how mercilessly Shchedrin mocked the liberals and how he branded bourgeois liberalism forever. In order to give a correct answer to the question of how the Bolsheviks feel about Shchedrin’s legacy, one must first of all remember the above statement by Vladimir Ilyich, made in 1912. It is of great importance for our topic.

The Bolsheviks consider the legacy of M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin to be theirs in approximately the same sense in which Lenin considered the legacy of N. G. Chernyshevsky, Dobrolyubov, and Nekrasov to be ours. If we compare Lenin’s attitude to the legacy of one N. G. Chernyshevsky and one M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin, then of course here we need to make a “correction” for the fact that Chernyshevsky was a great scientist, leader, hero and martyr of the direction, and Shchedrin served it predominantly as a great artist and publicist, who only in his early youth personally participated in Petrashevsky’s circle, and then devoted himself exclusively to literature; and besides, it must be taken into account that in Shchedrin’s social activities there were individual failures.


M. E. Saltykov in his early youth dedicated himself to the ideas of utopian socialism. In his “Abroad” – a work containing many autobiographical testimonies – Saltykov tells how, having just left the school bench, he joined the Westernizers. “But not the majority of Westernizers, but to that obscure circle that instinctively clung to France. Of course, not to the France of Louis-Philippe and Guizot, but to the France of Saint-Simon, Cabet, Fourier, Louis Blanc, and especially George Sand. From there, faith in humanity poured over us.” Explaining how exactly he and the youth with whom he was of the same mind “instinctively clung” to the French names mentioned, Shchedrin wrote: Spiritually we lived in France. Russia was an area, as it were, shrouded in fog, in which even such a thing as the publication of the Collection of Russian Proverbs was whimsical and reprehensible. France back then was another thing. Is it possible, having a young heart in your chest, not to be captivated by this inexhaustible creativity of life, which, moreover, did not at all agree to be concentrated within certain boundaries, but was eager to capture everything further and further?

It was not to Europe in general, not to France in general, that young Shchedrin’s heart clung at that time, but to that French, that European social trend, which is most closely associated with the names of Saint-Simon, Cabet, Fourier. About the French bourgeoisie, Shchedrin wrote in Abroad in the following terms: Neither heroism nor ideals are beyond the power of the modern French bourgeoisie. It is too heavy to be unfrightened at the mere thought of personal self-denial, and too satisfied to need to expand its horizons. It has long understood that horizons can be expanded only to the detriment of it. Shchedrin denounced the ruling French bourgeois for his “unprincipled satiety” and pinned all his hopes on the forces that were taking shape and strengthening in the anti-bourgeois camp. It is clear that some significant inner work is going on, that new underground springs have been born, that simmer and boil with obvious determination to break through. The primordial flow of life is more and more drowned out by this subterranean buzz; the difficult time has not yet come, but its closeness is already recognized by everyone. (Shchedrin, Little Things in Life).

M. S. Olminsky was right when he wrote about Shchedrin that he was a utopian socialist, the ideologist of all working and exploited people: they had not yet differentiated in his mind into the class of the past and the class of the future. Yes, if you try to characterize Shchedrin’s worldview in the most general form, then you have to dwell on precisely this formula: a utopian socialist. But, firstly, M. S. Olminsky is right when he immediately adds: Of course, the failure to understand that the small producer plays a role in social evolution that is very different from the role of the proletarian of large-scale production–this misunderstanding is not the individual fault of Shchedrin or his contemporaries: it is only an ideological reflection of the insufficient development of the contradictions of the capitalist system. And secondly – and this is the main thing – we must remember how Lenin taught us to regard the heritage of the great utopian socialists. And Lenin, in one of his most remarkable articles, “Two Utopias”, wrote on this subject, as is known, as follows: We must remember the remarkable dictum of Engels: “What is false in the formal economic sense can be true in the world historical sense.” Engels said this, writes Vladimir Ilyich, about utopian socialism: this socialism was false in the formal economic sense. This socialism was false when it declared surplus value to be an injustice from the point of view of the laws of exchange. Against this socialism, the theorists of bourgeois political economy were right in the formal economic sense, because surplus value follows from the laws of exchange quite “naturally”, quite “justly”. But utopian socialism was right in the world-historical sense, for it was a symptom, a spokesman, a harbinger of that class which, generated by capitalism, has now grown by the beginning of the 20th century into a mass force capable of putting an end to capitalism and irresistibly advancing towards it (Lenin).

M. E. Saltykov was a utopian socialist. The characterization “utopian” at first glance does not fit well with Shchedrin’s stern appearance, with his knowledge of life, with his amazing knowledge of his country, with his deep, ironic mind. And yet it is so. When Shchedrin wants to show a way out, to show a new road to his country, his people, he is only one of the forerunners of that class, which by the beginning of the 20th century had grown into a mass force capable of putting an end to capitalism. What Shchedrin called the “applied part of the theory” of the utopian socialists did not provide a real way out. Shchedrin himself was aware of this. Therefore, he did not insist on this “applied” part. But he did not go–and, in view of the whole situation at that time, he could not go–beyond the general propositions of utopian socialism. “After all, Fourier was a great thinker,” he wrote in a letter dated January 2, 1881. Shchedrin hints in this letter that what he said about Fourier applies both to Chernyshevsky and to himself. It gave me a reason to set out on a more modest mission, Shchedrin continues. Remaining under the “general immortal principles” of utopian socialism, he takes on such specific topics as the family, property, and the state. I turned to the family, property and the state ... I wrote The Golovlevs on the principle of nepotism, on the principle of statehood ... The mistake of the utopians, said Shchedrin, was that they, so to speak, took into account the future, furnishing it with the smallest details ... But no matter how you rebel against the so-called utopias, without them a truly fruitful mental life is still impossible.

Yes, taken as a whole Shchedrin was only a utopian socialist. However, in the same France, he was able to see not only Fourier and Saint-Simon, but also the Parisian Communards. In one of his angry letters (in a letter to Annenkov), directed against Turgenev, whom he always interpreted as an incorrigible liberal, Shchedrin wrote: The word Turgenev invented, nihilists, is used by every dog. In France, however, there is another word: Communard, which also has a meaning! In a few words, the whole abyss that existed between Shchedrin and the people of Turgenev’s camp is opened here. Communard is also a word with meaning. This remark alone, thrown to such a writer as Turgenev, is enough to see in what direction M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin dissociated himself from the camp of the most enlightened liberals. Of course, Shchedrin could not even remotely give the analysis of the events of 1871 that humanity received from the hands of Marx in the form of the brilliant “Civil War”. This proved to be feasible even to Chernyshevsky only in a small form. But Shchedrin’s heart was with the Paris Communards. He perceived the “immortal principles” of the Paris Commune in the way that a Russian utopian socialist could perceive them.

A little earlier than this letter, at the end of 1871, i.e. on the fresh tracks of the bloody “pacification” of the Paris Communards, Shchedrin made an attempt to respond to the events of the Paris Commune in the Russian censored press. The fifth chapter of his Results was devoted to this very topic. And although Shchedrin used here all the art of Aesop, although he tried with all his might to hide the true meaning of this chapter from the censors as deeply as possible, no allegories helped. At the request of censorship, this chapter was removed from Notes of the Fatherland, and neither in the first nor in the second (significantly truncated and softened) versions could this thing see the light of day. This part of Results was first printed only in 1914, and even then not completely. Shchedrin stigmatizes in it “the verdict of a street Areopagus”, who calls “anarchy” any attempt to “touch on issues of a public nature”, and reveals the true meaning of the bourgeois, including bourgeois-liberal, cries about the anarchy of the Communards. Describing the detractors of the Commune, Shchedrin writes: One fine morning, wild-looking people with such obese necks crawled out of their holes, the idea of which even among us has been lost since the abolition of serfdom. Shchedrin takes under his protection the “terrible words” break and destroy. The harmful or useful meaning of this word (break) depends entirely on the object on which its action extends. It is wonderful, Shchedrin writes further, that imaginary anarchists, i.e. progressives, never act with such astonishing ferocity, with such terrifying irreversibility, with which the anarchists of appeasement always and everywhere act. The wild conservatives of contemporary France are a very convincing example of this. In one day they destroy more lives than the most adamant of the adherents of the Paris Commune destroyed from the very beginning of internecine strife! There is no escape from the wild guardian, and there is no reason to look for him! To seek salvation means only to acquire superfluous humiliation, superfluous preparatory cruelty for the cruelty of the latter, finally tearing out life. For the anarchy of tranquility is inventive to the point of refinement in its tortures. It loves to see the convulsions and anguish of its victim, and only when its is satisfied with the spectacle of these convulsions, only then it cuts off its hated head. The triumph of the Versaillers cuts the harvest of the future. In this form Shchedrin declares, that the future, in spite of everything, belongs to the heirs of the Parisian Communards. The golden age is not behind us, but ahead of us, said one of the best people of our time (Pierre Leroux – De l’Humanité, etc.), writes Shchedrin.

M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin refers not to Marx, but to Saint-Simonist Pierre Leroux (died during the Commune in Paris). This, of course, is characteristic of Shchedrin’s utopian socialism. But his ardent sympathy for the Communards, his hatred for the fat necks and wild conservatives of France and of the whole world are beyond doubt. Listen to Shchedrin’s attitude towards the antipodes of the Paris Communards. In a letter (dated December 2, 1875) to the same Annenkov, he says: Something else should be done about statehood and nationality, since France is the most beautiful example before our eyes. How those sons of bitches crucify her in the National Assembly! So let’s go and eat. Here is the other side, and the heart breaks over it. Where can you find such a collection of true monsters? This was written four years after the defeat of the Paris Communards. That all Shchedrin’s sympathies are on the side of these latter, there can be no doubt, we repeat, of this.

Shchedrin is also deeply devoted to the general immortal principles of the contemporary Russian revolutionary movement. He is a great Russian revolutionary democrat in roughly the same sense in which Lenin called Chernyshevsky a great Russian revolutionary democrat (see his article On the National Pride of the Great Russians). Read how Shchedrin keeps the image of Chernyshevsky in his heart, how he stigmatizes those reconciled Decembrists and Petrashevists who bought their return from exile by falling at the feet of the Tsar’s throne. I want to write the story “Lousy,” he writes in 1875. Chernyshevsky or Petrashevsky, it doesn’t matter. He sits in a murya among the snows, and past him the reconciled Decembrists and Petrashevists drive home and whistle “God save the Tsar.” But he (i.e. Chernyshevsky) remains indifferent to all abuses, and everything in him from the old work, which begun long, long ago before exile, continues. The only terrible thing is that all this work is locked up in an enchanted cage ... There is nothing but that old work, and nothing more. He can live with it, every day he thinks about this work, every day he writes it, and every day the bailiff, by order of his superiors, takes away this work.

See how uncompromisingly Shchedrin perceives attacks on revolutionaries coming from Turgenev or from writers around Turgenev: The other day Turgenev told me that Sologub wanted to read his comedy and asked me to arrange it so that I was among the listeners. I went to Bougival (Shchedrin lived temporarily in Paris. – G. Z.) for this reading, not without reason believing that some kind of stupidity would be read like “Trouble from a Tender Heart” and not believing that Sologub would allow himself draw me into hearing some meanness. But it turned out that Sologub had no idea what was mean and what was not mean. In comedy, the protagonist is a nihilist thief ... Something like hysteria has come over me. I don’t know what I said to Sologub, but Turgenev says that I called him a dishonorable person. And here is a review of Turgenev’s New People, immediately after Shchedrin read it. As for me, this novel seemed to me extremely disgusting and untidy ... I quite sincerely think that the person who wrote this thing has lost his mind, secondly, has lost all need for moral control over himself ... As for the so-called “new people”, their description is such that one would like to say to the author: old talker! Can’t even gray hair curb your lies? Reread the foul scenes of dressing up, burning the letter, remember how Nejdanov takes a cart and suddenly starts a revolution, how the ideal Solomin says: make a revolution, but not in my yard ... All this can be written only when you have fallen into childhood. It is known that Shchedrin spoke out against New People in the press, and when the censorship did not let this work be published in Notes of the Fatherland, it was printed abroad in Geneva (“I will clear someone else’s misfortune with my hands”).

A trifle characteristic of Shchedrin. Having visited a resort in Baden-Baden in 1875, he writes to Annenkov: The impressions left in me by this fragrant hole are far from pleasant. I have not yet seen such a perfect gathering of all-world dandies and brought out of Baden an even deeper hatred for the so-called Russian cultural layer than that which I had while living in Russia. Read Shchedrin’s response to the Nechaev trial. Remember the situation in which this case was dealt with, how the whole “patriotic” bloc howled about this , including also parts of the “progressive” press. Remember how difficult it was at that time in any form in the censored press to protect the revolutionary movement in Russia. And yet Shchedrin writes an article called The So-Called Nechaev Affair and the Attitude of Russian Journalism to It–an article in which he caustically ridiculed the “trustworthy” press, which screams about the accumulation of unreliable elements, about the spread of communism all over the face of the earth. and other harmful doctrines. And yet Shchedrin manages to ridicule the defensive press and its feuilletonists and leading compilers who attacked the Russian “nihilists” and compared our conspirators with the Parisian communards. At the same time, in the feature essay Our Storms and Bad Weather, Shchedrin ridicules the moderate liberals. In his letters, Shchedrin also responds more than once to other political processes taking place at that time. In the meantime, political processes are going on in our country, Shchedrin writes to Annenkov on March 15, 1877. The other day one ended up (probably, you know from the newspapers) in hard labor and resettlement, only three were justified, and even those were immediately sent to their places of birth. I was not at the trial, but they say there were wonderful speeches by the defendants. In particular, one peasant Alekseev and a midwife Bardina. Apparently, this is not at all about vaudeville with dressing up, as Ivan Sergeyich believes. (a hint of Turgenev’s New People). We are talking about the famous trial of the fifty, at which one of the first revolutionary workers, Pyotr Alekseev (curiously, Shchedrin calls him not a worker, but a peasant) delivered his famous speech. Shchedrin apparently guesses to a certain extent about the specific gravity of this trial.

Shchedrin’s letters are especially important because only in them can he express himself more frankly, and in them the mood of the great writer, bound hand and foot by Tsarist censorship, sometimes breaks through in an extremely vivid form. Here, for example, is the following excerpt (dated November 25, 1876): It is hard for a modern Russian person to live, and not be somewhat ashamed. However, not many are ashamed yet, and even the majority of the so-called people of culture simply live without shame. The awakening of shame is currently the most rewarding topic for literary development, and I try to touch on it as much as possible. But how difficult and humiliating it is to work the way I work, you cannot imagine. In general, my hands are somehow sinking, and I feel that soon I will completely reach a dead end. The main thing is that all desire for writing has been lost. Just think that instead of any writing, it is best to spit in one’s eye. And then sit there, come up with any form, expect that the fool would be funny, and the son of a bitch would not be completely offended.

This passage is enough for the modern reader to be at least a little transported back to the situation when Shchedrin wrote, to take into account why a lot of things poured out in him into that external form that is so characteristic of all his work, and to ponder the real meaning, the true content of his work.


Here it would be appropriate to recall that Marx and Engels were also interested in Shchedrin in their time. Marx and Engels, as is well known, read Russian and studied in the original several Russian authors whose writings they were particularly interested in. Both of them read, and Marx directly studied some of Shchedrin’s works. Works by Saltykov-Shchedrin were sent to Marx and Engels from Russia mainly by Nikolai Danielson. Marx and Engels met the latter through G. A. Lopatin. Here is how it happened. G. A. Lopatin, who met Marx and Engels in London, took up the translation of Volume I of Capital. Marx and Engels, friendly to Lopatin and highly appreciative of him, willingly handed over this matter into his hands (at that time there were no genuine Marxists in Russia yet). But Lopatin was soon arrested, and then the translation of the first volume of Capital passed into the hands of Nikolai Danielson, with whom Lopatin was personally close. Danielson performed this work satisfactorily in the conditions of that time, and among the uninitiated public for a time even had the reputation of being a Marxist. In reality, he never was, and later became one of the most prominent representatives of Russian populism. In 1893, he published the book Essays on Our Post-Reform Economy, which, together with the works of V. V. Vorontsov, served as the main economic justification for populist views.

In connection with the fact that Danielson became the translator of Capital, he began a long correspondence with Marx and Engels. Marx wrote to him under the name “Williams”, and Engels under the name “Rocher”. Danielson constantly supplied Marx and Engels with Russian materials. He also sent them quite a few books by Saltykov-Shchedrin. In connection with all this, in the correspondence of Marx and Engels with Danielson, one can find some important opinions of Marx and Engels about Russian authors.

In a letter dated November 9, 1871, Marx writes to Danielson: With the writings of Dobrolyubov I am partly already familiar. I compare him as a writer with Lessing and Diderot (I quote from the Lopatin edition of the correspondence, p. 6). In a letter dated December 12, 1872, Marx writes: The manuscript you sent (“Letters without Address” by Chernyshevsky) is still with me ... The manuscript is very interesting (ibid., p. 10). January 18, 1873: As for Chernyshevsky, I will say that a significant part of his writings is known to me (ibid., p. 12). About Kaufman, Marx writes to Danielson (April 10, 1879): My former judicious critic in the Petersburg Vestnik Evropy has turned into some kind of Pindar of the latest stock exchange swindle (ibid., p. 25). On September 10, 1882 Danielson writes to Marx: I am sure that you will read with great pleasure Engelgart’s Letters from the Village and Nekrasov’s “...poor in blood / whipped muse”. Finally, in a letter dated January 16, 1873, Danielson writes to Marx the following: I am sending you the satires of Shchedrin, the only surviving intelligent representative of Dobrolyubov’s literary circle. His types, at their very appearance, became as popular as the types of Ostrovsky, etc. No one knows better than him to notice the trivial side of our society and ridicule it with great wit. In addition to the Nechaev and Myasnikov cases, the International Statistical Congress, etc., you will find here characteristics of a type that you already know, but which has only now appeared to us and whose representatives, by the wa, are S.-Peterburgskiye Vedomosti and Vestnik Evropy, of the type of a moderate liberal (Shchedrin’s foam skimmer), V, IV, of the concessionaire type, etc. It is known from Danielson’s correspondence with Engels that this latter was also interested in Shchedrin. I am sending you twenty-three tales of the satirist Shchedrin, where you will find a discussion of some “damned” social issues. I am sure that many of these tales will give you great pleasure (for example, the fifth, “Virtues and Vices”, the second, fourth, third, etc.), wrote Danielson on January 22, 1887, and Engels answered him: I am very grateful to you for Shchedrin’s Tales and will certainly read them as soon as possible. At the present moment, a slight conjunctivitis of the left eye prevents me from reading, and the Russian font always requires me to increase the strain of vision. On June 10, 1891, Engels wrote to Danielson: We heard here with great sorrow and sympathy about the death of N. G. Chernyshevsky. But perhaps it was better for him (Engels refers to the tragedy of Chernyshevsky’s situation, which was “blocked” not only by the Tsarist autocracy, but also by liberal “public opinion”). On June 18, 1892, Engels wrote to the same addressee: I must also thank you for the books that you had the courtesy to send me, especially for Kablukov and Karyshev. And so, until the death of Engels. Danielson supplies him with Russian books, just as he had previously supplied Marx.

It is possible that Marx and Engels mined Shchedrin’s works in addition to Danielson. In any case, it is absolutely certain that Marx studied a number of Shchedrin’s works very carefully. The works of B. Nikolaevsky and F. Ginzburg describe in detail the surviving Russian books in the libraries of Marx and Engels, i.e. underlining on these books, extracts, translation attempts, marginal notes. Among these books (some of them are stored – or rather were stored, for it is not known what the fascist gentlemen did now with these books – in the party archive of the German Social Democracy in Berlin), along with Chernyshevsky, was Saltykov-Shchedrin. Among the works of the latter, as it is clear from the descriptions mentioned, Marx was in possession of: 1) Gentlemen of Tashkent, 2) Diary of a provincial in St. Petersburg, 3) Mon Repos Refuge and 4) Abroad. It is possible that Marx studied other books of Shchedrin, in addition to those that have been discovered so far. After Marx’s death, his books passed to Engels. Engels and Eleanor Marx decided to transfer the bulk of the Russian section of the Marx Library to P. L. Lavrov, then the most authoritative of the representatives of the Russian revolutionary emigration. From Lavrov, most of these books (a strict inventory was not made) passed into general use to the Turgenev Library in Paris. Another part of Marx’s Russian books, after the death of Engels, ended up in the archives of the German Social Democracy; there, these books were treated rather casually, as with the entire legacy of Marx and Engels. A number of Russian books that were in the hands of Marx and Engels have disappeared. Among them, the Tales were not found, which were undoubtedly in the hands of Engels.

Marks on the found copies of Russian books testify that Marx, in any case, read – and with great attention and thoroughness – Gentlemen of Tashkent, The Diary of a Provincial and Mon Repos. In addition to many underlinings, one remark by Marx about Shchedrin has been preserved in its entirety, and traces of another remark have been found, which could not be read (the binder cut the edges excessively). It is clear from Marx’s emphasis that he read Shchedrin not out of mere aesthetic interest, but with deep political interest, clearly aware that this writer will find a lot of valuable materials for judging the class binding in Russia, the mood in the countryside, the “aspirations” of the liberals, the position at the “top” among the high-ranking bureaucracy, the maturation of revolutionary sentiments at the bottom. If we take the book of Saltykov, which was in the hands of Marx, and read it not in its entirety, but only the passages underlined by him, then it turns out, as one of those Russian observers who had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with these copies of Shchedrin’s books (Ginzburg), writes, the impression as if the entire quintessence of the book had been squeezed into these pencil-marked places. Marx is especially interested in the descriptions of the relationship between the peasant and the landowner in Shchedrin’s books, the psychology of the penitent intellectual, the anxiety at the “top”, the duality of the moods of the liberals, and so on. Indeed, from the cited texts, which are crossed out by Marx, it is clear that this is exactly the case. Marx really “squeezed out” all the political quintessence from the works of Shchedrin he read. Marx does not miss a single phrase expressing protest against the Tsarist reaction, and especially expressing hope (or even only a shadow of hope) for the upcoming revolution in Russia. All the passages that in one way or another express the idea of the gradual maturation of the revolution, that only “stuffed heads” the revolution in Russia can seem “sudden”, Marx emphasized especially sharply.

In a word, Marx read Shchedrin’s writings in the same way that he read the most important sources for him about Russia, in which he was known to be so deeply interested. Shchedrin’s language was not easy for a person for whom Russian is not native. Nevertheless, Marx, sparing no effort and time, overcame these difficulties. The not very ordinary, intricate words that come across to him from Shchedrin, he carefully deciphers for himself, looking for equivalent words in German and French. Every stroke in Shchedrin, one way or another reproducing the class struggle in the Russian countryside (and even in the city), Marx carefully notes. Each phrase characterizing the backwardness, forced obedience, intimidation and downtroddenness of the population is noted. But even more carefully, as we have already said, every thought in Shchedrin, which, even in passing, expresses hope for an impending revolution, is noted.

Marx’s only surviving precisely worded review of the works of Shchedrin he had read refers to “The Refuge of Mon Repos”, to its last chapter “Warning”. But this remark is extremely valuable. The named chapter of Mon Repos – as the reader who knows Shchedrin remembers – is dedicated to tavern attendants, money changers, contractors, railway workers (that is, of course, not railway workers, but railway sharks and predators, bigwigs, speculators, etc. – G. Z.) and other world-eating affairs to the masters. It is at this point that Shchedrin proclaims: The grubby one is coming! There is also the question, what is truth? Firmly and rigorously answer: drinking and takeaway! Marx carefully notes all these passages about the “grimy” and all other passages that emphasize the emergence in Russia of a numerous new layer of the rural and urban bourgeoisie. These places are of great interest to Marx. But in the “Warning” (at the end of it), unlike Shchedrin’s other works, there are passages that contain, as it were, a moment of “positive” preaching. Having revealed the social meaning of the birth of the “grimy” and outlining the meaning of this fact, Shchedrin tries to influence, as it were, the best part of the “new” bourgeoisie. Be moderate and remember that the title of the conducting class entails not only rights, but also obligations, produce, not broker, writes Shchedrin. Marx immediately caught the notes of a utopian socialist trying to “exhort” the representatives of the propertied class, and so on. And this is where Marx makes his remark (on p. 211 of the mentioned book by Shchedrin). Marx writes: “La dernière partie de la Warning est très faible: généralement l’auteur n’est pas fort heureux dans ses conclusions positives”, i.e. Marx says: “The last part of Warning is very weak. In general, the author is not too happy in his positive conclusions.” This is a very small note. It is not expanded. But it is clear from it that Marx did not approve (and could not approve) of the elements of utopianism in Shchedrin’s “positive” conclusions and at the same time greatly appreciated his negative characterization of Tsarism, the landlord class, the bourgeoisie, and “grimy”. By noting the weakness of only the last part of Warning, Marx thus expressed that the previous parts did not seem weak to him at all. Yes, this can be seen from a number of underlinings made by him when reading.

If Marx had developed his “review” in more detail, he would undoubtedly have said so: the “positive” program of this writer is weak, because he does not stand on the point of view of the proletariat. But his criticism of the ruling class in Tsarist Russia, his superb concentrated hatred of the landowner, the capitalist, the kulak, the bourgeois “progressive”, his love for working people makes him our ally. His angry satire, castigating Russian Tsarism, the stronghold of world bourgeois reaction, is extremely useful for our cause. His foreboding of the revolutionary storm, expressed in places with invincible force, is one of the symptoms that the purifying storm is really at hand. His ingenious pen as a satirist works against the worst enemy of the entire world proletariat, and this is enough to also see that Russian tsarism is the main enemy of the world liberation movement headed by the proletariat; Marx and Engels then proceeded from this basic assessment of the international situation. Saltykov-Shchedrin, they must have told themselves, hates Russian Tsarism and the internal and external forces that support it with a real internal hatred. Shchedrin has only a certain type of weapon in his hands against Tsarism. But he uses this kind of weapon brilliantly and inflicts serious blows on the common enemy. Such an enemy of our enemy is our valuable ally. Of course, we will not support the utopian weaknesses of his “positive” program. And we welcome his work as a great writer, beating the strongholds of Tsarism. In this way, and only in this way, is it possible to decipher the above remark of Marx.


The artistic works of M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin were so monumental that in Russia they were used by N. G. Chernyshevsky and some of the most prominent founders of Russian Marxism, for example, Nikolai Evgrafovich Fedoseev, for the most serious research, for a number of sociological generalizations, at the dawn of the Marxist era in the Russian revolutionary movement. Let us recall that N. G. Chernyshevsky devoted a large work to Shchedrin’s Provincial Essays in which he compared this work of Shchedrin’s pen with The Government Inspector and Dead Souls. Chernyshevsky wrote: For a long time there have been no stories in Russian literature that would arouse such general interest as Shchedrin’s Provincial Essays published by Mr. Saltykov. The main reason for the enormous success of these stories is obvious to everyone. There is a lot of truth in them, truth that is very alive and very important. The spirit of truth enlivens Shchedrin’s essays. None of the writers who preceded Shchedrin painted pictures of our life in darker colors. No one (to use loud expressions) punished our social vices with a word more bitter, did not expose our social ulcers to us with greater ruthlessness. We consider Provincial Essays not only a wonderful literary phenomenon: this book belongs to the number of historical facts of Russian life.

This assessment of Chernyshevsky is even more important if we recall that in an intimate letter to Nekrasov, Chernyshevsky speaks with restraint about the outward merits of the Provincial Essays, but says about the content that it is “remarkable”. His (i.e., Shchedrin’s) essays had a terrible effect on the public–that’s true, he writes in another letter to Nekrasov.

From the memoirs of L. F. Panteleev it is known that personal relations between Chernyshevsky and Shchedrin were strained for a long time. The reason is the following, writes M. S. Olminsky in a review of Panteleev’s book, In 1861, Saltykov, being vice-governor in Tver, received the proclamation “Velikoruss” and presented it to his superiors – by mistake, along with an envelope. This envelope, as they said then, served as the first evidence against V. A. Obruchev. Obruchev himself ascribes his arrest to the fact that he was recognized by the cab driver who delivered the letters. There was indignation against Saltykov in literary circles; attempts to explain themselves did not dispel Chernyshevsky’s prejudice against Saltykov, and this left a seal on their attitude towards each other for the rest of their lives. Yu. M. Steklov in his valuable work on Chernyshevsky cites this extract from M. S. Olminsky, supplying the words “by mistake” with an exclamation point and making it clear that he does not believe that this was only Shchedrin’s mistake. But Yu. M. Steklov decisively does not confirm his conjecture in any way. In the newly published memoirs of E. P. Eliseeva (wife of G. Z. Eliseev) about the incident with the envelope is described in detail: I remember the noise about this, bewilderment and irritation. It seems that he [Shchedrin] had a message from the editorial office about those unfavorable rumors, and he arrived. But I heard that Chernyshevsky was satisfied with the explanation given by him, after which all complaints ceased. Many years later, when Otech[estvennye] za[piski] flourished under the editorship of Nekrasov, Eliseev and Saltykov, i.e. in the 1870s, more than once I had to clarify this fact to the indignant generation and satisfy their inquisitiveness with the same indestructible proof that Chernyshevsky did not stand against him. Such is the testimony of Eliseeva, who, generally speaking, is far from being friendly towards Shchedrin. Indeed, how Chernyshevsky could not be against if he did not believe Shchedrin, Yu. M. Steklov did not think about this.

In the latter’s work on Chernyshevsky, in general, many unfounded attacks against Shchedrin are scattered, connected with Steklov’s deeply incorrect general assessment of this great writer. We’ll talk more about this below. If Chernyshevsky had a personal prejudice against Shchedrin, Chernyshevsky never made his general assessments of this or that writer dependent on this or that feature of the personal weakness of this writer (V. I. Lenin did the same, in parentheses, which can be seen at least from the above assessment of Nekrasov). In Chernyshevsky, this can be verified by his attitude towards the same Nekrasov. It is known how many personal weaknesses (and not only personal, but also political) Nekrasov had. Chernyshevsky, better than anyone else, knew these weaknesses of Nekrasov. He was tormented by the wrong sounds that Nekrasov sometimes spewed from his lyre. He wrote that Nekrasov’s card game to him personally, Chernyshevsky, was “hateful” (letter to Pypin dated February 25, 1878). And Chernyshevsky’s general assessment of Nekrasov? Here it is: If, when you receive my letter. Nekrasov will still continue to breathe, tell him that I passionately loved him as a person, that I thank him for his good disposition towards me, that I kiss him, that I am convinced that his glory will be immortal, that Russia’s love for him is eternal, the most brilliant and noblest of all Russian poets. I weep for him. Chernyshevsky wrote this to the same Pypin, having learned that Nekrasov was dying.

That this assessment was not just a lyrical attitude to the remarkable poet is evident from Chernyshevsky’s further letter to the same Pypin: I sobbed about Nekrasov, I just sobbed for hours every day for a whole month after I wrote to you about him. But my love for it has no share in my opinion of its historical significance. This meaning is a fact of history. And I, with my personal inclinations, have nothing to interfere in the assessment of the facts. This is a matter of science, not the personal tastes of a scientist.

Here are the criteria with which Chernyshevsky approaches the writers he evaluates. He takes great writers as a “fact of history”, disregarding personal inclinations. That is how Chernyshevsky, of course, approached Shchedrin’s significance. And when, in general assessments of Shchedrin’s activities, we are told that he had weaknesses and “failures”, we answer: read and reread the assessment given by such an implacable revolutionary as Chernyshevsky to such a very vulnerable writer in many respects as Nekrasov! Shchedrin was not in practical life the ideal of civic virtue, writes Yu. M. Steklov. Let us assume that this is so. But this could not and did not change Chernyshevsky’s overall assessment of Shchedrin. And to the very end of his life, N. G. Chernyshevsky remained true to his high assessment of Shchedrin as a writer. In conversations with Reingart in Astrakhan (June 1886), Chernyshevsky sharply criticized the weaknesses in the literary activity of G. I. Uspensky (who constantly discovered some unknown countries and some wild people) and stated that he highly appreciates Shchedrin, who was distinguished, according to him, by an extensive education. Yes, this man of broad political development, not like the others, said Nikolai Gavrilovich. Chernyshevsky knew the personal weaknesses of both Nekrasov and Shchedrin. But he knew how much great things were given to Russian literature by both. Whoever wants to know Chernyshevsky’s real assessment of Shchedrin, let him read and reread Chernyshevsky’s work on the Provincial Essays.

Above we mentioned N. E. Fedoseev. V. I. Lenin writes that Fedoseev was one of the first to begin to proclaim his belonging to the Marxist trend, that in any case, for the Volga region and for some areas of central Russia, the role played by Fedoseev was at that time remarkably high, and the public of that time, in its turn towards Marxism, undoubtedly experienced the influence of this extraordinarily talented and extraordinarily dedicated revolutionary on a very, very large scale. N. E. Fedoseev worked for a long time and conscientiously on the history of the fall of serfdom in Russia. He wrote a large work on this subject, which, according to the testimony of all who read it (the manuscript apparently perished in the police department), was of great value. About this work, Martov, who read Fedoseev’s manuscript in exile, writes that it was dedicated to explaining individual moments of the epoch of great reforms, that the manuscript testified to the solidity of the work undertaken by Fedoseev and promised to enrich literature with valuable Marxist work And here is one of the most important chapters of this study by Fedoseev – the chapter that examined the final period of the serf economy – was entirely built on Poshekhonsky Antiquity, The Golovlev Family and other works of Shchedrin. One of Fedoseev’s contemporaries, M. I. Semenov (Blanc), says that this work by Fedoseev, examining the contents of Saltykov-Shchedrin’s Poshekhonsky Antiquity from the point of view of a Marxist understanding of the economic reasons for the fall of serfdom, was read by Sklyarenko and me and then handed over to Vladimir Ilyich. N. Sergievsky confirms the same.

A. P. Sklyarenko was the closest associate and comrade of Lenin during the Samara period of Vladimir Ilyich (1889-1893). The third in their circle was I. Kh. Lalayants. This latter writes: I read this manuscript in full, with all the remarks made by Vladimir Ilyich in pencil right there on the margins of the manuscript ... Vladimir Ilyich reacted very favorably to it, as the first serious attempt to reveal the main reasons for the abolition of serfdom from a Marxist point of view. Vladimir Ilyich’s remarks, in general, as I remember it, boiled down to individual particulars, to individual places, not fully covered by Fedoseev. The conclusions that he (Fedoseev) had already suggested as a result of work on archival data or statistical studies received a special salience and were formulated more quickly due to the fact that he also relied on the monumental works of Shchedrin – this is how his close friend Sergievsky understands the process of Fedoseev’s work: N.E. used Shchedrin himself–or rather, his description of the exploitation of serf labor–on the same basis. I point to the article on Shchedrin as an initial draft of his work. N. E. Fedoseev was one of the first Russian Marxists (in all his personal connections he was also close to Lenin), who not only studied and evaluated the writings of Shchedrin, but also used them as a guide in elucidating the peasant question in Russia. Fedoseyev’s work on Shchedrin did not see the light of the day and has not reached us. But in a letter to N. K. Mikhailovsky dated March 19, 1894 (published only in 1933 in Nos. 7-8 of Literary Heritage), we find the following deeply interesting passage: You say that we are trampling on paternal ideals. This is not and cannot be. On our part, one must be cretins and moral quasi-modos in order to trample the ideals of Belinsky, Dobrolyubov, Chernyshevsky, Saltykov, N.K. Mikhailovsky. We ourselves learned from the literary works of these writers ... We cherish these names as the best, most precious asset of Russian thought ... But what are we to do when the fathers either stepped back, or do not want to know anything new, do not want understand the new life and its painful demands, but only thunder and lightning hurl against those who had to take a step forward, forced to do so by the changed conditions of life itself? ... Although we call you and those like you “utopians”, this does not in the least prevent us from considering your direction as the closest to us. And this is not only due to the importance for us of the critical element of your works, but also because those “utopians” who, together with Saltykov, are convinced that forms of government are not at all indifferent and that the opposite opinion that all of them lead to the fattening of the already corpulent bourgeois–a sad and unfounded certainty–are close to us in terms of the commonality of our immediate aspirations. And this conviction must be placed at the forefront when evaluating the role of our utopians; it puts them immeasurably higher than the German or true socialists and the French and English epigones of the great utopians. These utopians of ours are closer to us in this last respect than the doctrinaires of liberalism.

N. E. Fedoseev’s arguments about utopian socialists and doctrinaires of liberalism come very close to V. I. Lenin’s thoughts on these issues known to us. These arguments of Fedoseev explain to us why he was close to Shchedrin and interesting to him already in the early 1890s, why he “involved” Shchedrin in scientific work on the economic roots of serfdom in Russia. Isn’t it wonderful? Isn’t it typical for the attitude of the first Russian Marxists of the Leninist generation to Shchedrin that in such research works they also relied on Shchedrin? Isn’t it interesting that the young Lenin also considered such a literary device in Marxist research to be completely legitimate? And is it not remarkable at the same time that Lenin, both in the earliest period of his literary activity and in 1917, more than once in his most brilliant publicistic speeches resorted to Shchedrin? In 1907, arguing against the Mensheviks, Lenin recalled: Shchedrin once classically ridiculed France, which shot the Communards, France, which kowtowed before the Russian tyrants and bankers, as a republic without republicans. In You Will Hear the Judgment of a Fool, Lenin writes: But ... Shchedrin has long been translating this liberal Russian “but” into a commonly understood language: the ears do not grow above the forehead, they do not grow. In the article Triumphant Vulgarity, or Cadet Social Revolutionaries, Lenin wrote in 1907: It is a pity that Shchedrin did not live to see the “great” Russian revolution. He would probably add a new chapter to the Golovlevs, he would depict Judas, who calms the flogged, beaten, hungry, enslaved peasant. And in April 1917, in the article On the Proletarian Militia, Lenin again recalls Shchedrin. He writes: The bourgeois and landowner republicans–who became republicans after they were convinced of the impossibility of otherwise commanding the people–are trying to establish a republic as monarchical as possible: something like the French one, which Shchedrin called a republic without republicans.

Almost always, when Lenin quotes Shchedrin, he takes him as an ally against bourgeois liberalism, against the Menshevik “socialists”, against the Cadets and the Socialist-Revolutionaries, against the “republican” executioners of the Commune, against the “democratic” bankers who grovel before Tsarism, against a republic without republicans, etc., he takes him as a writer who has done much great precisely against the liberal bourgeoisie, against the bourgeois “republicans”, against the supposedly socialist henchmen of the bourgeoisie. It is precisely this assessment that follows from all the remarks made by V. I. Lenin to Saltykov-Shchedrin.

It does not at all imply that Shchedrin was a forerunner of Bolshevism, that he was almost a Marxist. Such a conclusion would be completely wrong. But another view of Shchedrin, proceeding from the fact that Shchedrin was an ordinary bourgeois democrat or even a liberal, absolutely does not fit with the truth. We encounter such a strikingly incorrect assessment of Shchedrin by Yu. M. Steklov, who writes as follows: Strictly speaking, Saltykov has always been completely alien to any (!) revolution and socialism. A bourgeois liberal or (!) democrat, and above all a satirist (!), he was ready not to spare the trends close to him for the sake of a red word. And further, Yu. M. Steklov speaks of the pointless scoffing inherent in Shchedrin at times. Here we are most likely dealing with Yu. M. Steklov’s sometimes inherent simplification of the issue. A bourgeois liberal or (!) a democrat! And above all – a satirist! It cannot be said that this qualification above all was distinguished by excessive political clarity. Liberal or Democrat Saltykov-Shchedrin? This is a pretty significant difference. V. I. Lenin, as we have seen, in no case agrees to give away Shchedrin not only to liberals, but also to stereotyped “democrats”. And Yu. M. Steklov apparently agrees to both. First of all, a satirist! Yes, but what is the subject of his satire? It is not indifferent. Shchedrin has been accused more than once of pointless scoffing from the right. And N. G. Chernyshevsky called the accusatory trend, which came into fashion with the heavy hand of Mr. Shchedrin, beautiful, truly efficient and expressed “full sympathy” to him. Yu. M. Steklov “swings” at Shchedrin, allegedly from the “left”, but falls into the company of Shchedrin’s right-wing critics. No, such an assessment of Shchedrin is fundamentally wrong. The Bolsheviks instead follow those estimates of Shchedrin, from which N. G. Chernyshevsky, N. E. Fedoseev and, above all, V. I. Lenin proceeded.


It would certainly be a mistake to interpret Saltykov-Shchedrin (and even Chernyshevsky) as the forerunners of Bolshevism. It is not right. It is more than angular. But there is no doubt that these “lighthouse people” lit the way for our country in a direction to a certain extent akin to the one in which Bolshevism subsequently led it. There is no doubt that the founder of Bolshevism, V. I. Lenin, more than once turned with gratitude to the bright key of their thought and their talent. The fact that Shchedrin had a great influence on Lenin’s very language is, of course, not accidental. All the great Russian writers naturally had an influence on the language of V. I. Lenin. But hardly any of them had such a great literary influence on Vladimir Ilyich as N.G. Chernyshevsky and M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin. And this is explained, of course, not only by the mighty strength of the literary talent of these two giants. This is due primarily to the political consonance that these colossi had with the future liberation mission of the Russian proletariat.

The Bolsheviks had a lot in common with Shchedrin, which explains the fact that even in prison, in exile, in emigration they always kept Shchedrin’s works among the most beloved and most needed authors. This explains the fact that few of them, in their oral agitation among the workers, soldiers, and peasants, did not use Shchedrin’s images, did not speak in Shchedrin’s prose. This explains the fact that the political orators of Bolshevism even now willingly use the images of Shchedrin in their most responsible political speeches. Just remember the speeches at the 17th Party Congress. But the Bolsheviks were most attracted to Shchedrin by the fact that 1) Shchedrin, at the culminating period of his work, so beautifully portrayed the glaring inequalities in the Russian village, so caustically ridiculed the “solid” look at it, illuminated the figure of a kulak as “world-eater”, “grimy” with such a strong spotlight, painted the Kolupaevs, Razuvaevs and Derunovs with such a bright brush; 2) Shchedrin treated the liberal bourgeoisie with such caustic, irreconcilable criticism that he hated the moderate “progressive” with a holy, wholehearted hatred. The future “Cadet-eating” of the Bolsheviks, about which the opponents of Bolshevism buzzed all ears in their time, indeed in many respects resembled Shchedrin’s “liberal-eating”. 3) Shchedrin hated the Tsarist autocracy, the “wild landowner”, the Tsarist bureaucracy, the official, the “gloomy-grumbling pompadour”, the “Tashkent”, the entire apparatus of the Tsarist landowner dictatorship so deeply, firmly, selflessly, irreconcilably that he expressed this hatred with such spontaneous, ineradicable force and, in this regard, reinforced the proletarian revolutionaries who entered the arena of Russian and world history at a stage when their next task, their minimum program was to overthrow the Tsarist autocracy and not leave in its “proud” building stone upon stone.

Shchedrin worked in Notes of the Fatherland and was close to the populists, although, as his now published correspondence shows, he more than once sharply criticized and even ridiculed such pillars of populism as Yuzhakov and Krivenko (see Letters, 1845-1889), disagreed with N.K. Mikhailovsky in many respects (see letters to Mikhailovsky), systematically criticized P.L. Lavrov, corrected G.I. Uspensky in a certain direction, etc. But working with the Narodniks, on the main central question of the Narodnik world outlook – on the question of the countryside – he always followed his own paths from beginning to end.

To a certain extent, this also happened to such a writer as G. I. Uspensky, who, however, much more than Shchedrin, allowed the literary leaders of populism to influence his work and guide his writings. Describing the countryside of his day, G. I. Uspensky, unwittingly, very often gave the Marxists factual material against the Narodniks, because in the rural reality he described, there was least room for the ideal community, for original socialism, for a united peasantry. That is why the first Russian Marxists in the 1880s and early 1890s often used against the philosophy of Narodism those descriptions of the countryside given by the Narodnik G. I. Uspensky.

If in the work of G.I. Uspensky such passages were obtained against his will, then with M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin it was a strictly thought-out line of behavior. The harsh truth is that such was the whole style of Shchedrin’s work. First of all, he adhered to this harsh truth in his assessment of the Russian countryside, and this harsh truth could not help but strike in the face of the sugary Narodism, the sweet (Lenin) tales of the Narodniks about the united peasantry. Shchedrin knew the Russian countryside like very few Russian writers: I grew up in the bosom of serfdom, was fed with the milk of a serf nurse, brought up by serf mothers, and finally taught to read and write by a serf literate. I saw all the horrors of this age-old bondage in their nakedness. (Shchedrin, Little Things in Life). Shchedrin did not succumb to the leafy idealization of the community by the populists. As if directly objecting to the Narodniks, he wrote: They say: there can be no proletariat in Russia, because in our country every poor person is a member of the community and is endowed with a plot of land. But they forget that there is an enormous mass of city-dwellers, and that with the abolition of serfdom, a whole mass of yard people have joined the city-dwellers. And besides, they also forget that Kolupaev jumped out next to each “provided allotment”, holding the banner of blood-drinking high and already quite frankly speaking about the peasant that it will only be useful in him, if if he is from morning to night on work to kill. This struck not at the eyebrow, but at the eye of the populist idealizers of the community. Yes, there is no proletariat, but look into our villages, even near the capital, and you will see solid masses of people for whom, for example, the question of an extra half-kopeck per pound of salt is the subject of the most painful thoughts and for whom there is not even a question of material comforts. You will find thousands of homeless beanies, whose entire annual budget is fifteen or twenty rubles, which are worked out with difficulty by winding paper.

The processes of social stratification of the Russian countryside have always interested Shchedrin in the highest degree. One of the first – if not the first – he brought the kulak to the pages of Russian literature, brought it out to show him in all his glory, to depict his greed and “blood drinking”, in order to make this figure hated by all the working people. In terms of the strength and passion of the scourging of the kulak (or the “grimy” one, as Shchedrin often expresses it), in terms of the depth of hatred for this “spider”, Shchedrin’s qualifications can stand next to Lenin’s. It is not for nothing that in this area too, Lenin most often uses Shchedrin’s terminology, introduces Shchedrin’s catchphrases into the midst of the masses, makes them common nouns, transfers them to scientific literature (for example, The Development of Capitalism): The grubby one has invaded the very heart of the village and is pursuing the peasant both on the village street and beyond the outskirts ... He measures, weighs, shortchanges, brings the peasant’s food to a minimum ... The field of the village kulak does not need hired workers: the peasants will work it not for money, but for a percentage or in gratitude for a “favor”. Here it is, the house of the fist! Here it rises with a plank roof over the blackened huts of fellow villagers, from afar you can see where the spider has hidden ... The grubby one goes to show where the crayfish hibernate. He is impudent, with tenacious hands, with an unsatisfied womb. His coming is already being welcomed by guardians and publicists ... The world-eating period has not yet exhausted its content. It seems that we will have to go through the era of the Chumazov triumph, etc. These and similar passages from Shchedrin come very close to the statements of the young Lenin at the time when he had to wage an uninterrupted battle against populism. Just as realistic and just as essentially far from populism were Shchedrin’s characterizations of the economic peasant (Shchedrin’s term, which also became a household word), an image that Lenin also used many times.

The history of all three of our revolutions has unshakably proved that the only party that has always steered its course towards the socialist reorganization of the countryside, and precisely for this reason has not made any concessions to the grimy one, had no illusions about the grubby one, was (and remains) the Bolshevik Party. And precisely because the Bolsheviks clearly saw the classes in the countryside, they have now brought the country right to the abolition of classes. Precisely because they, alone, saw the social role of the grimy to the end, they were now able – under the leadership of Stalin, continuing the work of Lenin – to organize the liquidation of the grimy as a class. Really listen to what Shchedrin was saying about the stratification of the Russian countryside, about the role of the grimy in it, truly carry this hatred of the grimy to the masses, give this hatred a class expression, give it its due place in the overall strategy and the tactics of the working class – only the Bolsheviks were able to do this. Even if M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin had only this attitude to the grimy in his assets, even that would be enough for the Bolsheviks not to refuse Shchedrin’s heritage, to love and respect this heritage.

But in his asset there is also his irreconcilable attitude towards the liberals, an attitude that, by its other features, directly begs comparison with the Bolshevik “Cadet-eating”. Of course, Lenin’s and the Bolsheviks’ consistent and relentless struggle against the Cadets (Consitutional Democrats) is an integral part of the general strategy and tactics of the proletarian party, it is a link in the whole system of Marxism-Leninism, i.e. something fundamentally different, higher, more complete and perfect than Shchedrin’s struggle against Russian liberalism. But if we remember that the environment in which Shchedrin lived and acted was much less politically differentiated; if we remember that Shchedrin was not a party man (in the modern sense of the word), that he invaded life only with a pen, then we must admit that here, too, he differed extremely favorably from the majority of the Narodniks.

Russian Marxists rightly said about many populist terrorists that in reality they are just liberals with a bomb. Shchedrin had no bombs in his hands, except for his satire, who blew up the Tsarist autocracy better than any other bomb. But he had that magnificent, ardent and passionate hatred for liberalism, which Lenin so loved and valued in Chernyshevsky, and even in Shchedrin.

Who hasn’t cursed the Bolsheviks in their time for “Cadet-eating”! In this very word cadet-eating there is already a pharisaic condemnation – a condemnation of the worker because he does not want to put up with even polished capitalism, even with a European-educated liberal capitalist. The entire educated liberal “society”, all the “European Marxists” led by Plekhanov, the entire “revolutionary democracy”, i.e. all the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, all the “luminaries” of the Second International. What did all these condemnations mean? They meant: do not dare to seriously raise the question of the proletarian, of the socialist revolution in such a “backward” country as Russia! Only shout “Down with the autocracy of the Tsar”, then we are even ready to applaud you, for “the workers are very important for the revolution”, i.e. for the bourgeois revolution. But do not dare to proclaim: “Down with the autocracy of capital!” How can you not understand that this is simply tactless in such a backward country as Russia? This is what the whole struggle of the indicated camp against the adet-eating of the Bolsheviks boiled down to. Who does not now see that, say, Plekhanov’s notorious anti-Bolshevik pamphlets On Tactics and Tactlessness essentially amounted to this?

And again, we hasten to make a reservation: it is admissible to compare Shchedrin’s struggle against the liberals with the anti-Cadet struggle of the Bolsheviks only, so to speak, as a first approximation. Shchedrin labored in the arena of Russian literature at a time when there was neither a mass working-class movement nor a proletarian party in our country. His struggle against the liberals, of course, was not conceived by him as a link in a whole chain of struggle for the hegemony of the proletariat in the Russian revolution, and even more so for the dictatorship of the proletariat. And yet it is one of Shchedrin’s greatest merits that he raised the question of the liberals in literature precisely “in Shchedrin’s way.” For this shows that he was not an ordinary bourgeois democrat, that even here he differed extremely favorably even from the most left-wing Narodniks.

In one of his masterpiece articles, in one of his most brilliant works of the period of the fifth year, in the article In Memory of Count Heyden, Vladimir Ilyich said the following about this struggle of Shchedrin against the liberals: Even Nekrasov and Saltykov taught Russian society to distinguish under the smoothed and pomaded appearance of the education of a feudal landowner, his predatory interests, taught to hate the hypocrisy and heartlessness of such types. It is clear that this part of the legacy of Nekrasov and Saltykov-Shchedrin, Bolshevism, through the mouth of V. I. Lenin, rightfully “pronounces” in its favor. And of course, it does not keep this legacy as archivists keep old paper. It also multiplies this part of the heritage. It develops the struggle against liberalism further, it places it at the service of the revolutionary class itself, which cannot emancipate itself without emancipating the whole world, he makes it an integral part of Marxism-Leninism.

With the same and even higher assessment, V. I. Lenin approached the corresponding part of the legacy of N. G. Chernyshevsky, who called the liberals of the 60s talkers, braggarts and fools. When Plekhanov was still a Marxist, in his first famous articles on Chernyshevsky, he also emphasized this side of Chernyshevsky’s work with warm praise. When Plekhanov went over to the camp of Menshevism, when republishing these works of his, he carefully crossed out precisely this part of Chernyshevsky’s assessments. We vividly remember how Vladimir Ilyich was indignant about this, with what sarcasms he showered Plekhanov for this, finding at the same time that it was quite in the order of things, that since a person turned from a Marxist into a Menshevik, it is logical for him to cut down their old work in this direction.

M. S. Olminsky is quite right when he writes that towards the end of his life, Shchedrin freed himself more and more from the bonds of populism, while the populists, led by Mikhailovsky, quickly slipped into the liberals. And is it not for this reason that Lenin never raised his hand against Shchedrin? Moreover, in Friends of the People, Lenin directly contrasts Shchedrin on this point with Mikhailovsky. Vladimir Ilyich polemicizes with the “thesis” of Yuzhakov that the 80s lightened the burden of the people and thereby saved the people from final ruin, and says the following on this subject: This is also a phrase, classical in its lackey shamelessness, which can only be put side by side with Mr. Mikhailovsky’s above-quoted statement that we still need to create a proletariat. It is impossible not to recall on this occasion the history of the evolution of the Russian liberal so aptly described by Shchedrin. This liberal begins by asking the authorities for reforms “if possible”; continues by begging for “well, at least something”; and ends with an eternal and unshakable position “in relation to meanness”. We will not cite here Shchedrin’s classic Tales in this regard, because they would have to be rewritten almost entirely. It suffices to recall only some of Shchedrin’s epigrammatic characteristics of liberals (or, in those days, progressives). In Cultured People (Chapter I), Shchedrin puts the following words into the mouth of a liberal and enlightened landowner: I was sitting at home and, as usual, did not know what to do with myself. I wanted something: either a constitution, or stellate sturgeon with horseradish, or to skin someone. To peel off first – flashed through my head; rip off – and even to the side ... And then, having proven himself well-intentioned, you can dream about constitutions at your leisure.. It is known that this characterization of the liberals has largely passed into everyday political use, and most of all into the vocabulary of the Bolsheviks.

Or elsewhere (Results) in the mid-70s, Shchedrin wrote about the same plot: These people are very mysterious, combining with the sensitivity of the soul and tearfulness in their voices an irresistible passion for a piece (Results, ch. I). These liberals begin endless insinuations about unreliable elements. The activities of the progressives never went beyond the quiet cooing of well-bred capons (Results, ch. IV). It is clear that these characteristics of Russian liberalism could not help but flow in a certain stream into the political inventory of Bolshevism. Bolshevism melted them into a higher quality alloy. It assimilated and reworked them in its own way, as befits the ideology of the proletarian revolution. It didn’t keep them like archivists keep old paper. That is why we say that this part of Shchedrin’s legacy belongs to us, and only to us.

It will soon be fifty years since Shchedrin died. Russia has gone through three revolutions during this time and has changed beyond recognition. And yet we ask: where is now in our country (or abroad – among the white émigré “Russia No. 2”) that party or group that will proudly say that it is they who claim Shchedrin’s legacy, that they, in particular, continues and will continue the anti-liberal tradition of Shchedrin? Such a party, apart from the Bolshevik party, does not exist in nature. “Eminent” fragments of populist groups and parties live abroad. But is it possible for oneself even for a moment to imagine that, say, the Avksentievs, the Bunakovs, the Kerenskys and Co. now honor the traditions of Shchedrin and, in particular, would like to continue his struggle against bourgeois liberalism? Of course not! They, rubbing against the imperialists and waiting for “salvation” in a new war against the USSR, cannot be inspired by the legacy of such writers as Shchedrin. They have no time for the glorious Russian past, for the simple reason that they have no – except the most inglorious – future.

Shchedrin’s attitude to the old Russian countryside and to the forces fighting in it and Shchedrin’s attitude to old Russian liberalism are linked with each other. His appraisal of the grimy and his appraisal of the liberal form one organic whole. This is what distinguishes Shchedrin from the “ordinary” Narodniks, what makes him related to the figures of the Chernyshevsky type, and what makes him dear to Bolshevism.

Hence his special approach to assessing the Tsarist autocracy, the Tsarist bureaucracy, the noble landlords (including, again, liberal ones). Let us recall his satire To the Reader, where noble dreams are cruelly ridiculed, combining in the same head side by side such concepts as self-governement and la libre initiative des pomèshiks. There is no doubt that Shchedrin did not have any excessive respect for the institution of “free” bourgeois parliamentarism either – let us recall his comment on the sons of bitches who were crucifying France in the National Assembly after 1871.

Of course, Shchedrin did not approach the question of the bourgeois revolution in Russia in the same way as Lenin approached it. Bolshevism was also a tactic of the proletariat in the bourgeois revolution. Of course, this cannot be said about Shchedrin’s work, or even about Chernyshevsky’s work. But Menshevism and Narodism (“revolutionary democracy”) were the tactics of the bourgeoisie in the proletarian revolution as well.. Again, neither Shchedrin nor, of course, Chernyshevsky can be attributed to this camp. With all his best traits, all those traits that made Shchedrin one of the greatest writers in Russia, a threat to the Tsarist bureaucracy, a threat to the ideologists of the grimy, a threat to bourgeois liberalism, Shchedrin belonged and belongs to us. All the most valuable of Shchedrin’s richest legacy we can now carry – and, of course, we will carry – to the truly multimillion-strong masses of working people for whom this great writer lived and worked.


In the light of all that has been said, VN Figner’s review of Shchedrin’s role (see page 488) is open to controversy. She writes: He [Shchedrin] ridiculed particular cases, the dark sides of Russian life, while we perceived and assimilated criticism of the foundations of the existing system, the economic and political system, which existed not only in Russia, but in all countries of the cultured world. One cannot agree with this at all. No, it’s not! Neither the first nor the second part of this statement is true. Shchedrin ridiculed far from “private” cases, only cases of “Russian life”. And the Narodnaya Volya people did not assimilate all the criticism of the foundations of the economic and political system in all countries of the cultured world. Criticism of the foundations of the economic and political system, given by Marx, i.e. the most important, the most valuable, the most important thing, they just did not assimilate and could not assimilate.

In a remarkably penetrating speech delivered on January 24, 1924 at the Congress of Soviets of the USSR, N. K. Krupskaya said: During these days, when I stood at the coffin of Vladimir Ilyich, I thought about his whole life, and now I want to tell you. His heart beat with ardent love for all the oppressed. He never said this himself, and I probably would not have said it at another, less solemn moment. I say this because he inherited this feeling from the Russian heroic revolutionary movement. The words we have underlined express what really was one of the most characteristic intimate features of Lenin. This is how Lenin perceived and felt the legacy of the heroic period of the Russian pre-proletarian revolutionary movement. That is how he taught to relate to the images of the heroic revolutionary predecessors of the Russian labor movement.

The best of the traditions of Narodnaya Volya were always highly valued by Lenin and his disciples. And since V. N. Figner embodies these traditions, since she sings of the heroic images of Narodnaya Volya in The Imprinted Labor and in her other works, she will always meet attentive readers and ardent admirers in the Bolsheviks. But in evaluating the role of Shchedrin, V. N. Figner makes a mistake, and moreover, the mistake is not accidental.

I take this opportunity to say to our deeply respected V. N. Figner what has long been asked to be penned: we revolutionary Marxists, we Bolshevik-Leninists, understood the position of such old revolutionaries and representatives of the pre-Marxist generation as V. N. Figner; but we are very sorry that they do not want (or cannot) understand the revolutionaries of a new generation, i.e. proletarian revolutionaries. This is a special topic, about which someday we will talk separately. Now we are talking about this only because the mistake of V. N. Figner in the question of Shchedrin is connected, as it seems to us, with the above general circumstance. Apparently, there is a certain regularity here: those of the Russian revolutionaries of the old pre-Marxist generation who fail to understand the role of the proletarian revolutionaries who entered the arena of Russian history after them often find themselves unable to fully understand the role of their predecessors (and other contemporaries). We are very afraid that this very last thing happened to VN Figner when she assessed the role of Saltykov-Shchedrin.

Involuntarily, two views on the role of Shchedrin are compared: V. N. Figner’s and M. S. Olminsky’s. The late Olminsky also belonged in his time to the Narodnaya Volya and, of course, treated his Narodnaya Volya past with full respect, like all Bolsheviks. But precisely because he went forward from Narodnaya Volya to Marxism, he was able to properly treat the heritage, including the heritage of Shchedrin. VN Figner raises the question of how Shchedrin treated the Narodnaya Volya during the period of their most acute struggle against the autocracy. The question is legitimate and interesting. V.N. answers in this way: None of us had relations with him [Shchedrin], he was too cautious for this. Probably (!), he looked at the active revolutionaries, as another editor of Otechestvennye Zapiski, the old populist writer G. Z. Eliseev, looked. And regarding this latter, V.N. Figner reports: Grigory Zakharovich [Eliseev] at the end of 1880 told me: “Well, what are you doing? You hit your head against a stone wall ... you will only break your own heads. And what are you looking for? Now they flog outside the law ... and then they will flog according to the law.” He said so, but he himself had nothing to offer. Why does VN Figner consider it possible to equate the political sentiments of Shchedrin and Eliseev? It is completely unknown! Is it really only because both were editors of Otechestvennye Zapiski? But Mikhailovsky, too, was a prominent contributor to this journal! Does this mean that he, too, treated the “active revolutionaries” in the same way as Eliseev did in the above passage? Of course it does not! And VN Figner will never say this about Mikhailovsky.

But, by the way, it was Mikhailovsky, speaking of the figures of that time, who called Shchedrin and Shelgunov “lighthouse people” and by no means included Eliseev, whom he personally respected very much, with whom he was friends, etc. Saltykov and Shelgunov were such lighthouse people, writes Mikhailovsky, who at the same time immediately notes the difference in size between Saltykov and Shelgunov: Saltykov was a first-class writer, Shelgunov was a modest magazine worker. And in his long article, dedicated specifically to the memory of G. Z. Eliseev, Mikhailovsky speaks of Saltykov as a recognized great man, placing him next to Belinsky. Lighthouse Man! This is said very well about Saltykov-Shchedrin. But could Mikhailovsky have said anything similar about Eliseev? Of course not!

Shchedrin is far from the same as Eliseev (in terms of political direction and political mood). Never and nowhere did Shchedrin identify his position with that of Eliseev. There was never such a closeness between Shchedrin and Eliseev that it could be assumed that since Eliseev said so, Shchedrin thought so too. On the contrary, it is known that Shchedrin once directly described Eliseev as a cunning, unfriendly old man. Shchedrin in his letters sometimes expressed himself deliberately harshly, this is true. But still, this review does not in any way indicate complete solidarity with Eliseev. G. Z. Eliseev belonged to the most moderate of the Narodniks and was obviously alien to the revolutionary aspirations of their left wing. Eliseev could never have written about the liberals what Shchedrin wrote about them. That touch of political philistinism, which was characteristic of Eliseev, is in no way characteristic of Saltykov-Shchedrin. Mikhailovsky admits (see his Literary Memoirs) that Eliseev was much closer to him personally than Shchedrin. And so it was. Meanwhile, in his review of Shchedrin, V. N. Figner distributes light and shadows between Shchedrin-Mikhailovsky-Eliseev in a completely different way.

That is why we are obliged to rebuff VN Figner’s incorrect assessment of Shchedrin. As for Shchedrin, there was no special corner in my soul for him, writes V. N. Figner. But the Bolsheviks had and still have a “special corner” for Shchedrin! The former Narodnaya Volya member M. S. Olminsky had and still has a “special corner”! A number of former Narodnaya Volya members who managed to go further and come to the camp of proletarian revolutionaries had and still have this special corner!

How did Shchedrin feel about the revolutionary underground? Take, for example, Shchedrin’s article Our Social Life (published for the first time in this collection of Literary Heritage). In it, Shchedrin speaks directly in defense of the revolutionary organization and sings of the self-sacrifice of the revolutionary leaders: We must have an organization, we must have unskilled workers whose devotion reaches the point that it does not even give us a chance to run into conflict with our dear convictions. We do not live in Arcadia or Icaria ... If, under certain conditions, life is presented in the form of war, then no one is spared the necessity of waging it. The feat of these people is not only remarkable in the highest degree, but in general is of such a nature that the reminder of it, and, moreover, unceasing, uninterrupted reminder, is the subject of an essential and urgent need. When in 1881 the famous “Sacred Squad” arose, which set itself the goal of fighting the revolutionaries, Shchedrin in his third letter to his aunt passionately denounced these gentlemen, depicting them under the name “society of agitated loafers.” And at the same time, Shchedrin is in touch with the revolutionary emigration and is taking other measures to expose this counter-revolutionary “squad”. This fact from Shchedrin’s biography should not be forgotten either. And he “weighed” in those conditions, when Shchedrin truly lived under a glass jar, very much.

If V. N. Figner thinks that Saltykov-Shchedrin could have said to the Narodnaya Volya in 1880: Well, what are you doing? You hit your head against a stone wall ... As soon as you break your own heads, she naturally gets the impression in hindsight: As for Shchedrin, there was no special corner in my soul for him. But the fact of the matter is that Shchedrin did not and could not say this. M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin treated the revolutionary underground with great respect – no less than N. K. Mikhailovsky, about whom V. I. Lenin wrote that we “honor him for his respect for the underground”.

If VN Figner had only said that Shchedrin himself did not personally participate in conspiratorial revolutionary organizations and circles contemporary to him, she would be right. Based on everything that is known so far about Shchedrin’s biography, we can conclude that he really was not a member of the active revolutionary organizations. What is not, is not. But stating this fact by no means exhausts the question of Shchedrin’s actual influence on “active revolutionaries” and even on a whole series of revolutionary generations. Yes, Saltykov-Shchedrin was only a writer. But the relationship between him and his readers did not at all fit into the formula he ridiculed “the writer pees, the reader reads.” He had an undeniable influence on the growth of revolutionary sentiment in our country. His work undermined the foundations of Tsarism more truly than any other organization of the then active revolutionaries. Not without reason, in the early 1880s, Shchedrin began to be systematically interpreted in the English “Daily News” as the leader of a party operating in Russia, especially cunningly conducting its business, so that Shchedrin even had to write a “refutation” in the named newspaper. The founder of the Emancipation of Labor group, young Plekhanov, was very happy and proud when one of his first legal articles was published in Notes of the Fatherland next to Shchedrin. The most serious of the “active revolutionaries” of that time were well aware of what a strong ally of the revolutionary movement Shchedrin was, despite the fact that he was not part of a conspiratorial organization. We are sure that at that time V. N. Figner understood this very well.

No, Vera Nikolayevna Figner is wrong and unfair in her review of the role of Shchedrin! Those of the former Narodnaya Volya who, to the inquiry of the editors of the Literary Heritage, gave completely different answers, are right. The former Narodnaya Volya member Mikhail Stepanovich Olminsky is right.

By the way, the literary legacy of M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin will stand up for itself best of all. It is only necessary to fully make it even more accessible to the modern generation of young wrestlers and builders.