A. Vishnevsky 1941


Author: A. Vishnevsky;
Written: 1941;
First published: 1941 in Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1st edition, Vol. 49, pp. 142-154;
Source: http://crecleco.seriot.ch/recherche/NOTIONS/romantisme.html
Translated: by Anton P.

Romanticism was an ideological and artistic movement of the first half of the 19th century. It represents a historically defined stage in the development of bourgeois ideology that arose at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. after the French bourgeois revolution and reflected in all areas of scientific and artistic creativity: in philosophy, aesthetics, politics, history, sciences, literature, music and fine arts. Replacing the ideology of the Enlightenment, Romanticism as a worldview was engendered by disappointment in the historical results of the French Revolution of the 18th century, the industrial revolution in England and the whole capitalist progress in general. In Romanticism found expression not only the consciousness of the limitations of bourgeois Enlightenment ideals, but also dissatisfaction with the social order of the new historical epoch, which, as Engels says, “It turned out to be a bitterly disappointing caricature of the brilliant promises of the enlighteners.” The humanistic utopias of the enlighteners who announced the advent of the kingdom of reason and freedom were scattered “the next day” after the fall of the “old” (feudal-monarchical) order. The revolutionary practice of the Jacobins, who instilled universal equality and civic virtues according to the ancient model, cleared the ground only for the establishment of a kingdom of capitalist competition and increased poverty of the working masses.

Romanticism was a peculiar form of criticism of the bourgeois civilization which was growing along with capitalism. The progress of the opposites of labor and the people’s well-being, material accumulation and spiritual poverty, private and public interests, the demands of artistic development and the philistine inertia of life. Blinded by the contradictory course of human affairs, the Romantic could not and did not want to see in his contemporary historical reality the highest stage of social development in relation to the past. Unlike the enlighteners “with their ardent belief in the progressiveness of this social development, with their merciless enmity, wholly and exclusively directed against the remnants of antiquity,” the Romantic, falling into a reactionary illusion, commits his “typical mistake” – “the conclusion from the contradictions of capitalism to denial it contains the highest form of society” (Lenin). The consciousness of the Romantic is accessible mainly to the shadow, destructive side of the historical progress, instability and inconsistency of the position of man in the conditions of bourgeois rule.

The pathos of Romantic art lies in exposing the disharmony of the modern world, in an unaccountable striving for the integrity of human development and harmonious social relations. However, the struggle against the ugliness and philistinism of capitalist civilization takes on a reactionary-utopian character among the Romantics; it is inseparable from the idea that “the development of the entire human race must be delayed for the sake of ensuring the welfare of individual persons” (Marx). This illusion of Romanticism found its concrete expression in the idealization of the historical past, primarily the medieval social order, with its immobility and “strong” patriarchal ties. The classic representative of Romanticism in economics, the French economist Sismondi, wrote: “I was presented in political economy as an enemy of social progress, a partisan of barbaric and coercive institutions. No, I do not want what has already happened, but I want something better compared to the modern one. I cannot judge the present other than by comparing it with the past, and I am far from wanting to restore the old ruins when I prove through them the eternal needs of society.” Lenin showed that the reactionary point of view of the Romantic Sismondi lies not at all in the fact that he wanted to return to the Middle Ages, but in the fact that he “compared the present with the past,” and not with the future, “that he” proved the eternal needs of society “through” ruins “and not through the tendencies of recent development” (Lenin). Reflecting one of the sides of the revolutionary breakdown of the late 18th and early 19th centuries – the collapse and death of the “middle” class, the class of small producers, Romantic art poeticized the historically doomed conditions for the independent existence of this social stratum. Romanticism idealizes the patriarchal narrow-mindedness and “initial integrity” of a person, who “has not yet developed the completeness of his relations and has not opposed them to himself as social forces and relations independent of him” (Marx). Social relations in the Middle Ages took the form of personal dependence and direct class contrasts; they were free both from the general rule of commodity production, the world market and the division of labor, and from the perverted formalism and hypocrisy of the bourgeois-democratic orders. Lost in the process of further development, these features of the medieval social order seemed to be a definite advantage from the point of view of “a special class of capitalist society, small producers” (Lenin). In the reactionary utopia of the Romantics, the “ruins” of a social order vanquished by history acquired the appearance of a patriarchal idyll in the reactionary utopia of the romantics, which ensures the free existence of a truly integral person in its independence, that is, a separately producing person.

The reactionary utopia of the Romantic turns his criticism of capitalism into a sentimental criticism. “He is not at all interested in studying the actual process and elucidating it; he only needs morality against this process.” Not realizing that “capitalism removes those difficulties for social development that history has set in the form of various partitions, communal, tribal, territorial, national,” “the Romantic turns from concrete questions of real development to dreams” (Lenin). Illusory dreaminess and inability to sober objective study and depiction of reality are typical of Romantic art in general. These features of art show its departure from the tasks of realistic art, from the demand for artistic reflection of the real conditions of human historical activity. Due to this, the irrational and religious-mystical principle becomes an essential element of Romantic art, and sometimes even the exclusive source of its poetic pathos (Novalis, Chateaubriand, Coleridge).

The Romantic movement at the beginning of the 19th century was not a reactionary phenomenon in the narrow class self-serving sense. The contradictions of the Romantics were in historical accordance with the ideology of the broad social movements of the first quarter of the 19th century, which gave rise to the development of Romantic art in all European countries. This kind of movement was the national liberation wars against Napoleonic France. “All the wars of independence that were waged against France at that time were of a dual nature: regeneration and reaction at the same time” (Marx and Engels). The ratio of these movements in different countries was different, but all movements as a whole had a single direction and a single destiny, which Marx and Engels summarize as follows: “at the very moment when the people are ready to rush forward and start a new era, he voluntarily falls under the power of the illusions of the past.” The Romantic uprising against the degradation of the human personality under capitalism was not free from these illusions of the past, it defended and poeticized them. But precisely because of its deep connection with the historical movements of its time, Romantic art in its highest achievements is imbued with that ideological element, which Lenin called “revolutionary Romanticism” of the masses, imbued with the pathos of people’s life and the national liberation struggle. That is why it reaches the greatness of images and true nationality (Byron, Shelley, Mickiewicz, Delacroix). The contradictions of Romanticism, the clash of revolutionary and conservative trends in it, find their explanation in the same inevitable duality and inconsistency of the revolutionary liberation struggle before 1848, which determine the general weaknesses of the ideology and artistic creativity of Romantics, their disconnection between the heritage of the past and the unconscious requirements of the future. The Romantic desire for freedom was fueled by hatred and contempt for the triumphant ugliness of the capitalist system, to which the romantics blindly opposed ancient customs and art, patriarchal institutions and laws of peoples awakened by the revolution.

The artistic charm of the best examples of Romantic art is undeniable. Romantics have reached a higher level of knowledge of folk life, the hidden sources of fantasy and creativity. During this period, the greatness of the historical past of peoples, the creations of folk fantasy, myths, beliefs, legends, fairy tales, art and poetry of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, finally emerged from the age-old oblivion. Romantics restored the rights of Shakespeare, Dante, Cervantes, Calderon, the poetry of the East. This wealth of the former culture came to life in the creations of Romantic poetry and contributed to the liberation of art from the narrowness of 18th century Classicism. Knowledge of the historical past of peoples, both in scientific and artistic form, owes much to Romanticism. In this regard, an important role was played by the novels of Sir Walter Scott, the works of the French historians Guizot, Mignet, Thierry, the history of language and poetry, created by the brothers Grimm. But the historicism of the Romantics is one-sided and limited, for the most part, by an interest in the Middle Ages. “The first reaction against the French revolution,” notes Marx on this occasion, “and the enlightenment associated with it, was natural: everything took on a medieval tint, everything was presented in a Romantic form ... The second reaction, and it corresponded to the socialist trend, although these scientists do not suspect their connection with it, – it consists in looking beyond the Middle Ages into the primitive era of each people.” Thus, the historicism of the Romantics was only a step in the general course of historical knowledge.

Romanticism’s merits are inseparable from its demerits. Even among its best representatives, a revolutionary attitude to reality is associated with a straightforward and one-sided denial of modern society, an in-depth knowledge of folk life – with the idealization of national identity and exaggeration of the role of distinctive elements in national culture, comprehension of the inner wealth of human feelings – with the deification of the subjective arbitrariness of passions. In Romantic aesthetics, a renewed understanding of art is combined with a reassessment of the subjective element in artistic creation. A common feature of the diverse manifestations of Romanticism is the reduction of artistic knowledge of the world to the opposition of the objective prose of “materialized” bourgeois reality and the subjective poetic freedom of the human spirit. The absolutization of this alienation from reality often gives Romantic poetry an extremely one-sided, abstract-metaphysical character, which deprives it of artistic significance. This is associated with the weaknesses of the poetry of German Romantics with their irrational attitude to reality, many of the shortcomings of the lyrics of Vigny and Leopardi, singers of irresistible “despair,” the lifelessness of Lamartine’s sentimental elegies, the bombast of Victor Hugo’s grandiose lyric and epic designs. As the “first reaction” against the establishment of a new capitalist reality, Romanticism contained a positive, historically progressive content. It enriched the culture of European peoples with an all-embracing, although still rather vague awareness of the contradictions of the onset of the capitalist epoch and in the atom sense represents a significant step forward in the ideological and artistic development of mankind. Romanticism was a necessary step in the development of national self-awareness, in its enrichment with the fruits of its own historical life.

Not a single major artist of the first half of the 19th century is free from Romantic influences. The fight against poetry and its overcoming constitutes in this era the most important problem of realistic art, since a realist artist cannot be satisfied with a direct denial of modern prosaic reality, but must find in it itself elements of human initiative worthy of artistic depiction. Delimitation and polemics with Romanticism begin in the works of Goethe, Schiller, Pushkin and reach particular sharpness in the works of Lermontov, Heine, Balzac, Stendhal, Merimee. The realistic meaning of their art consists, among other things, in the debunking of the Romantic element inherent in their own art.

In terms of ideological and artistic continuity, Romanticism was engendered by the literature of the last phase of the Enlightenment – sentimentalism (in England), Rousseauism (in France), and “Sturm und Drang” in Germany, and represents a kind of continuation of the aesthetic and ethical rebellion of the “tempestuous geniuses” of the 18th century against feudal and bourgeois-philistine relations, which were criticized from the point of view of freedom of feeling and freedom of the human person. Romantics inherited from Rousseau and the young Goethe and Schiller the cult of nature and feeling, as well as the pathos of the indestructible strength of the individual spirit, reviving, for example, in Byronism. Pre-Romantic literature in the 18th century (Herder, Bürger, “Ossian” by MacPherson, Percy, Gray and Jung) pointed the way to the sources of folk poetry and made clear the charm of the irrational and mysterious (among other things).


Romanticism in Germany at its early stage acquired a deeply conscious – theoretical and philosophical – character. German Romanticism acted as one of the sides of the German “philosophical revolution” of the late 18th century, and because of this, over time, it was perceived in other countries as the norm and model. The initial period of Romanticism in Germany (1795-1800) was marked by the transition from the revolutionary ideal of harmonious antiquity (Hölderlin, the young Friedrich Schlegel) to self-sufficient abstractions of art divorced from reality. The realization of the impracticability of the Jacobin ideals on German soil evokes the protest of Romantics against the natural course of historical development. Romantics enter into a “struggle with Europe,” into a heated debate with the rationality and cosmopolitanism of the Enlightenment, and on this path soon come to the ideals of fantastic, religious and mystical art, to the glorification of the Middle Ages, Catholic theocracy, Christian-German feudalism and the “originality” of German national history. Around 1800, the main (so-called “Jena”) group of Romantics rallied. The leader and theorist of the trend Friedrich Schlegel followed the typical path for German Romantics from Jacobinism and Winckelmann’s enlightenment aesthetics, through the extremes of German idealism to reactionary mysticism and Catholicism. His works, for the most part, created the aesthetics of Romanticism. Friedrich Schlegel demanded a “universal” art capable of embracing nature and man in an integral spiritual unity in his striving “from the finite to the infinite.” Schlegel considered the basic principle of art to be “Romantic irony,” in which the “self-destruction” of ideals is carried out and at the same time the highest “freedom is embodied.” “Artist – his independence from the object of art, from reality. The development is Romantic. aesthetics was closely dependent on modern philosophy and its struggle with the dualism of Kant. The doctrine of “irony” had its source was subjectively idealistic. Fichte’s theory of self-awareness. Schelling’s natural philosophy, his philosophy of the “identity” of nature and spirit, and in particular his doctrine of art as an organ of the “absolute,” overcoming the opposites of the finite and the infinite, the individual and the general, the sensual and the spiritual, had a deep influence on the aesthetics of Romanticism. Schellingianism was the theoretical basis of exorbitant the artistic aspirations of Romantics, for whom art seemed to be the necessary soil and the only instrument for “overcoming” disharmonious reality. In the name of the unity and integrity of artistic synthesis, Romantic aesthetics demanded the destruction of genre boundaries and the fusion of arts, making the tragic or comic character of the image dependent on the artist’s subjective arbitrariness. The significance of the novel in contemporary art has been deeply understood by Romantics. Friedrich Schlegel even derived the term “Romantic” from the word “romance.” Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister served as a model and source of inspiration for German Romantics, but as their practice and theory developed, they increasingly opposed the “reconciliation with reality” of Goethe and Schiller of the classical period. The same Schlegel later gave a more adequate interpretation of the concept of “Romantic”: “it is precisely that Romantic that depicts sentimental content to us in a fantastic form.” Friedrich’s brother, August Wilhelm Schlegel, critic, linguist, creator (together with Ludwig Tieck) of the famous translation of Shakespeare, carries out a valuable in many respects revision of the artistic heritage of the past from the point of view of the aesthetic program of German Romanticism and develops the foundations of a general theory of literature. In his lyrics and in the novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen, Novalis creates a mysterious, fairytale, “magical” sphere of the unreal, in which poetry and religious mysticism triumph over reality. The philosophical, historical and public views of Novalis, dreaming of the revival of medieval theocracy and patriarchal antiquity, anticipate the policy of Metternich’s “Holy Alliance” and become in the future a recognized program of Romantic reaction. Ludwig Tieck and Wackenroder introduce into Romantic poetry the everyday life and the religious art of the early Renaissance and the German Middle Ages.

The “Heidelberg” group of Romantics, led by the poets Arnim and Brentano, rise up to defend the “spirit of the people” and national artistic traditions against the “freethinking” individualism of the “Jena” group. Arnim and Brentano, inspired by the idea of national culture, turn to the origins of folk poetry (collection of folk lyrics “The Boy’s Magic Horn,” 1805), Goerres publishes the old “Folk Books,” the brothers Grimm collect German fairy tales (1812). The defeat of Prussia in 1806 unites the Romantics in the struggle against the bourgeois democratic transformation of Germany. Supporters of the romantic Junker reaction – Arnim, Adam Müller, Kleist – defend in their journalism the nobility’s class interests and the monarchy, “fatherland and chivalry” against the revolution and rule of Napoleon. The dramas of Kleist during this period constitute the only artistically significant creation of Romanticism, but they already contain elements of the future degradation of bourgeois art: irresistible loneliness, enmity and disunity of the heroes, the reduction of the main conflict to a clash of distorted and agitated individual passions. In the short stories and stories of E. T. A. Hoffmann, fantasy and reality appear in contradictory combinations as independent spheres of reality itself. This bifurcation of the world is a form of ironic criticism of the Romantic worldview. In this sense, Hoffmann’s work is imbued with a kind of realistic tendency leading to overcoming Romanticism. The Liberation War of 1813-15 gave rise to the Teutonic patriotic-Romantic lyrics of Theodor Koerner, Arndt and Schenkendorf in Germany.

Romantic poetry in the persons of its epigones (Eichendorf, Fouqué, Lenau, Moerike, Chamisso, Rückert) occupied an important place in German literature until the mid-1840s. The flourishing of the “Swabian school” (Uhland, Julius Koerner, Schwab, Hauf) dates back to this time, combining Romantic medieval and oriental motives with the political lyrics of the bourgeois-liberal trend. The greatest German revolutionary poet of the 19th century, Heine, is also a Romantic in terms of the starting point of his poetic creativity, but his significance goes far beyond Romanticism. Heine deeply feels the passing poetry of the past and at the same time mercilessly ridicules any Romantic naivete, sentimental philistine utopia.


The older generation of English Romantics were the so-called poets of the “lake school” Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey began in the last decade of the 18th century in the typical Romantic path from the ideals of the French Revolution to a patriarchal medieval utopia and ended it in the bosom of the “Holy Alliance.” The first works of the early English Romantics were the “Lyric Ballads” of Wordsworth and Coleridge (1798). Coleridge’s fantastic, religious and mystical poetry develops under the influence of German Romanticism and German idealist philosophy. Wordsworth is predominantly a poet of an idyllic nature and religious-patriarchal affection. The poetry of nature in such a one-sided Romantic interpretation expresses the philosophy of social stagnation, for which the content of human life and history, “all real class contradictions ... are reduced to one great and eternal contradiction between those who have cognized the eternal law of nature and act in accordance with it – wise and noble, and those who misunderstand it, distort and act contrary to it – fools and swindlers” (Marx and Engels). Walter Scott developed as a Romantic poet and a great novelist-historian under the influence of a wide public interest in folk antiquity and poetry. In terms of their deep, historically truthful content, Walter Scott’s novels go beyond the boundaries of Romantic art proper and largely determine the development of a realistic novel (Balzac, Pushkin). Thomas Moore’s poetry is imbued with exotic stylization and decorative fantasy of the East, traditional for Romanticism. A well-known role in his poetry is played by themes and images of the national liberation movement in Ireland. In the work of Byron, Shelley and Keats, Romantic poetry reaches its highest expression. Alone in life and work, Keats is protected from “antipoetic” (in his own words) reality and from the humiliating struggle with it by a strict aesthetic code, according to which beauty is the truth and the end in itself of art. In this Romantic alienation, the images of Keats move, a poetic world imbued with the deep poetry of nature and the immediate joy of being.

The heyday of creativity Byron and Shelley – the bearers of the revolutionary spirit of Romanticism – coincides with the period of the collapse of the Napoleonic Empire and the triumph of the “Holy Alliance.” The fight against reactionary forces in politics and public life and their poetic apology in the works of conservative Romantics restores all “respectable” England against Byron and Shelley and forces both poets to leave their homeland. Their rebellion against reactionary Europe is gaining support in the revolutionary liberation movement of the early 1820s (Italy, Spain, Greece). Byron’s gloomy fight against God expresses, for the most part, the tragedy of the debunked enlightenment mind (“Manfred,” “Cain”). The rebellion of the individual spirit conscious of its independence against the irrational tyrannical forces of reality, glorified by Byron, constituted the world-historical content of Byronism. Shelley’s more abstractly contemplative poetry is at the same time of a radical democratic, humanely optimistic character and is imbued with the spirit of oppression, atheism and utopian socialism, with which the pantheistic ideal of sacrificial love is contradictory. Shelley, the most revolutionary of the Romantic poets, has an all-encompassing lyrical element that is especially strong. Romantic moods and illusions persisted for a long time in England in the political program of the Tories, in the agitation of some radicals and even Chartists, in a social philanthropic novel. The epigones of Romanticism Bulwer-Lytton, Disraeli, especially Carlyle and Ruskin, played an important role in the literature of Victorian times.


Chateaubriand’s creativity was the first word of the Romantic reaction against the French Revolution of the 18th century, Enlightenment and Classicism. In The Genius of Christianity (1802), Chateaubriand initiated the idealization of religious spiritualism and medieval art. Madame de Stael introduced the French to German idealistic philosophy and aesthetics, to the poetry of “tempestuous geniuses” and Jena Romantics. In the literature of the era of the First Empire, pre-Romantic genres developed: the “scary” novel and melodrama. Sentimental – a psychological novel influenced by a Romantic reaction assimilates the pathos of disappointment and detachment from the world (Madame de Stael, Senancourt).

The Romantic literature of the era of the Restoration (1815-30) was briefly influenced by reactionary obscurantism and the clerical-monarchical ideals of Joseph de Maistre and Bonald. During this period, the first circle of Romantics “Senacle” was formed, the magazines “French Muse” (1819-22) and “Globus” appeared, which later promoted Romantic Shakespeareanism (1824-30). The evolution of the French Romantics is characterized by early disillusionment with reactionary utopias and reconciliation with the ideals of bourgeois liberalism. In the transition at the end of the 1820s, the leader is a Romantic. Victor Hugo’s movement to the camp of the liberal opposition is an indicative moment of this evolution, which took place under the conditions of the intensive and all-round bourgeois development of France. The antagonist of this liberal degeneration of Romanticism before and after 1830 was Alfred de Vigny, the lyrics are imbued with the pathos of the denial of the world and the doom of man. The religious-melancholic pathos of Lamartine’s poetry to a certain extent realizes the aesthetic ideal of Chateaubriand, however, Lamartine’s path also lies in the direction of reconciliation with bourgeois reality (suffice it to recall his political activities during the revolution of 1848). Romantic lyrics of love and rebellious feelings dominate the poems of the young Sainte-Beuve and the ironic poetry of Musset. In the early lyrics of Hugo and Musset, reflecting the influence of Byron, a colorful decorative world of the East and the Middle Ages emerges. The main requirement is Romantic movement in France and its most significant result was the renovation of the theater and the creation of a historical drama (Hugo, Alexandre Dumas-father, C. Delavigne, partly Vigny, Musset, Mérimée), which flourished in the early 1830s. Hugo’s preface to his drama Cromwell (1827) is the Aesthetic Manifesto of French Romanticism. Hugo demands the elimination of the classical three unities, the mixing of the majestic and the ugly and the observance of the color of place and time. The historical novels of Vigny (Saint-Mars), Hugo (Notre-Dame Cathedral), Mérimée (The Chronicle of Charles IX) and Dumas the father in various versions continue the artistic traditions of Walter Scott. The influence of German Romanticism, in particular Hoffmann, was reflected in the works of Nodier and the “violent school.” Georges Sand and Hugo are the central figures of late Romanticism in France. The socio-philanthropic novel they created calls for the moral improvement of society. Hugo’s rebellious Romanticism takes on exaggerated oratorical and pseudo-philosophical forms in his later lyrics and eventually gives way to the pathos of mercy and universal reconciliation. Romantic criticism in the 1820s finds an outstanding representative in the person of Sainte-Beuve, who later completely goes over to the soil of bourgeois society and opposes Romanticism from the standpoint of bourgeois reaction. The leaders of the “historical school” of the 1820s and 1830s are taking the same path (Guizot, Mignet, Thierry), in whose writings (especially in the early period) a Romantic appeal to the national past became a condition for a significant step forward in understanding the laws of social development (the idea of class struggle in history).

The work of the great realist writers Balzac and Stendhal (who in 1823 presented the principles of Romantic art in his Racine and Shakespeare, but later, unlike Balzac, becomes consciously hostile to Romanticism) comes into contact with the general movement of Romanticism, borrows from him a certain some positive elements, but overcomes the one-sidedness of the Romantic doctrine and reproduces life with its real contradictions, far from Romantic utopia. Merimee’s short stories and comedies constantly keep on the verge between submission to the artistic laws of Romanticism and the realistic overcoming of these laws. The Romantic movement in France is distinguished by a variety and breadth of interests, the all-round development of its inherent tendencies and perceived influences. Equally rich are his connections with the future of bourgeois art.


Romanticism in Italy is inseparable from the Romanticism of the national liberation struggle and inevitably shares all its illusions of a return to the “greatness of the past.” The outstanding poets of the Napoleonic era, Monti and Foscolo, still stand in general on the positions of Classicism, but in many ways they are preparing the further triumph of Romanticism. The actual Romantic movement begins in Lombardy (Milan) around 1815 (Bersche, G. Rossetti) and is associated with outbreaks of the “Carbonari revolution” of the 1820s.

At the further stage of the Romantic movement, the poeticization of patriarchal Catholic ideals and the national past comes to the fore. The leader of this trend is Manzoni, the author of religious hymns, historical tragedies and a famous historian. His novel “The Betrothed” was created under the influence of Walter Scott. To this group of Romantics belong S. Pellico, C. Porta, T. Grossi. A special place is occupied by Leopardi’s lyrics, imbued with misanthropy and despair. His poetry was born of a deep consciousness of world discord, decline and enslavement of the homeland and bitterly ridicules the weaknesses of the liberation struggle of the Italian people. The era of national revival (“Risorgimento”) and revolutionary democratic struggle “Young Italy,” which began after 1830, puts forward a new galaxy of Romantics – the historical novelists d'Azeglio and Gurazzi, playwright Niccolini, and others.


The era of the people’s liberation struggle against Napoleon (1808-15) gave rise to mainly patriotic lyricists (Quintana, Liszt, Gallego). Representatives of the Romantic movement of the 1820s and 1840s: the remarkable Byronic poet Espronsseda, Larra (lyrics), Sorrilla (lyrics, historical legends, dramas), the founders of the Romantic theater Martinez de la Rosa and Duque de Rivas, historical novelists E. Gil, the same Martinez de la Rosa, etc. – The most significant Romantic poets in Portugal – Almeida Garrett, Erculano and Castillo.

Romanticism in Poland is represented primarily by the work of Mickiewicz and Slovatsky, whose poetry was a vivid expression of modern national liberation and revolutionary democratic movements. In this sense, it opposed the conservative Romanticism of S. Krasinsky.


The beginning of the Romantic movement in Russia is associated with the literary struggle of the 1810s between supporters of Classicism, reactionary-nationalist participants in the “Conversation of lovers of the Russian word” headed by Shishkov, and a group of writers who identified themselves as the Karamzin school (Zhukovsky, Batyushkov, Vyazemsky, young Pushkin) and united for some time in the Arzamas circle (1815-18). The banner of early Romanticism was the work of Zhukovsky. Zhukovsky as an artist stood mainly on the basis of sentimentalism – the poetry of beautiful-hearted despondency and religious affection, in which a ghostly world, alien to reality, was revealed. In this spirit, Zhukovsky reworked the figurative element of German and English Romantic lyrics and elements of folk fantasy that enriched Western poetry. Zhukovsky’s significance as a poet and translator is that he transferred this renewed content of the poetry of Western peoples to the soil of Russian literature, and also developed elements of Russian folk antiquity and folklore in his work. Between 1820 and 1824, Pushkin wrote his “southern” poems, which marked a new – Byronic – stage in the development of Russian poetry, which was already consciously opposed to the direction of Karamzin and, in part, Zhukovsky. Unlike the latter, Pushkin and the poets of his circle (Vyazemsky, Griboyedov, Katenin, Yazykov, leaders of secret societies – Ryleev, A. Bestuzhev, Kyukhelbecker, V. Raevsky, A. Odoevsky) were free from irreconcilable hostility to Classicism, to the rational and the atheistic nature of the Enlightenment. Byronism, the legacy of the 18th century, interest in the life and poetry of the people appeared in their work as moments of the revolutionary rise of national consciousness after 1812. Romantic poetry in the Byronic genus became widespread in almanacs and journals from 1820-25 (The Polar Star by Ryleev and Bestuzhev, Mnemosyne, Son of the Fatherland, Competitor of Enlightenment, etc.) and gave rise to many epigones and imitators (the most significant including I. Kozlov). The utopia of the coming unity and harmony of political and spiritual freedom, which was the basis of the political program and poetry of the Decembrists, determined both the priestly nature of their service to the civic ideal of “public good” and the Romantic disregard for the “prose of life,” which provoked protest from Pushkin. In the 1820s Baratynsky was close to Pushkin, who also strove for the poetic overcoming of Romantic alienation from reality (“Eda”), however, later he did not find a way out of the circle of Romantic poetry. Speaking in his social and literary struggle on the side of “Romantic” art, Pushkin understood it as an appeal to the traditions of Shakespearean realism (“folk laws of Shakespearean drama”) and as an assertion of “modern” poetry, imbued with the consciousness of its historical tasks. Approaching in his development to realism and “historical fidelity” of the depiction of reality, Pushkin frees himself from the Romantic illusions and appears in the late 1820s and early 1830s against new Romantic currents of the post-December 1825 period.

The idealistic metaphysics and Schellingian aesthetics of German Romanticism found a response among the Moscow “wisdom” (Venevitinov, V.F. (1827-28) and “European” (1832). The artistic heights of this trend were Venevitinov’s lyric poetry and the philosophical and fantastic stories of V. Odoevsky (Russian Nights). The forms of philosophical criticism (Venevitinov, Kireevsky) arose in the journalism of the “wisdom,” and the first shoots of the future mystical-protective ideology of Slavophilism sprang up. The greatest Russian Romantic lyricist, Tyutchev, was indirectly associated with “love of wisdom,” who in his work came into contact with both German Romanticism and later Slavophilism. Pushkin, who generally had a sharply negative attitude to “German metaphysics” and “wisdom,” spoke in alliance with representatives of this trend (Venevitinov, V. Odoevsky, etc.) against the bourgeois-liberal wing of the post-December 1825 Romantic movement headed by N. Polevoy, publisher of the Moscow Telegraph (1825-34). In his struggle for the civil dignity of art, Polevoy opposed the “aristocratic” party of the 1830s, the head of which he considered Pushkin. Denying the Romanticism of Byronism, as a stage already passed by Russian poetry, Polevoy turned to the promotion of French Romantic literature (primarily the work of Hugo), which drew sharp criticism from Pushkin. The most radical positions in the spirit of Schellingism and Romantic Westernism were taken by Nadezhdin’s Telescope and Rumor (1831-1836), in which a multilateral struggle was waged against the “wisdom,” the Field and vulgar Romanticism of the reactionary philistinism (“Northern Bee” by Bulgarin, “Son of the Fatherland” by Grech). Nadezhdin’s magazines sympathetically met the direction of “Young Germany” and the work of Balzac. Here articles of Chaadaev, Bakunin, Belinsky were first published in the press (for the publication of Belinsky’s “Philosophical Letter” “Telescope” was closed). The movement towards realism is especially clear in the narrative genres of the 1830s. (the real-fantastic story of Gogol, Veltman, Pogorelsky, the moral-descriptive fiction of Dahl, N. Pavlov, Polevoy, Pogodin, etc.), preparing a natural school and a physiological sketch of the 1840s. Romantic epigones of the 1830-40s. presented by the adventurous historical stories of A. Bestuzhev (Marlinsky), the poetry of Benediktov, the historical dramas of Kukolnik and others. These writers are characterized by an obsessive pathos of style and a vulgar-Romantic interpretation of Romanticism’s artistic traditions, which satisfies the ideal of state nationalism.

The traditions of Walter Scott appear in a vulgarized form in the historical fiction by Zagoskin. The depiction of the past in Lazhechnikov’s novels rises above the level of simple epigonism.

At the turn of the 1830-40s, the process of overcoming Romanticism is completed in the work of Gogol and reaches particular tension in Lermontov, constituting the ideological and artistic basis of their realistic conquests. Belinsky defines the mature Lermontov as an artist whose art “grows on the soil of a merciless reason and proudly denies tradition.” Belinsky’s own transition from Schellingism to Hegel is one of the moments of the movement from Romanticism to realism in Russian literature.

In the development of social thought in the 1840-50s an important role belonged to the Romantic trend of Slavophilism (Khomyakov, brothers Kireevsky, K. and I. Aksakov). Religious-mystical, messianic elements of the worldview and the patriarchal-protective utopia of Russian “originality” were in Slavophilism a form of Romantic denial of capitalist progress and the rapid development of the class struggle in the West. The objective connection of these views with the interests of serfdom and autocracy manifested itself in the activities of the publishers of Moskvityanin (1841-56), Pogodin and Shevyrev, representatives of the theory of “official nationality.” The Romantic utopia of the Slavophiles was largely accepted by the Narodnik revolutionaries (populists) and their epigones of the 1890s. “The economic doctrine of the populists-Narodniks is only a Russian variety of general European Romanticism” (Lenin).


1) Marx and Engels, Collected Works, Vol. XV, p. 511)

2) K. Marx and F. Engels, On Art, collection ed. Mikhail Lifshits, Moscow-Leningrad., 1938 (pp. 265 – 296 etc.)

3) Lenin on culture and art, collection of works. articles and excerpts, comp. M. Lifshits, [Moscow], 1938 (pp. 32-33, 79-88, etc.)

4) V. I. Lenin, On the Characterization of Economic Romanticism, Collected Works, 3rd ed., Vol. II

5) Brandes G., Main trends in the literature of the 19th century, 3 vols., Kiev, [1903]

6) Shakhov A., Essays on the literary movement in the first half of the 19th century, 4th ed., St. Petersburg, 1913

7) Rudolf Haym, Die romantische Schule, Moscow, 1891

8) Walzel O., Deutsche Romantik, 2 Bde, 5 Aufl., Leipzig, 1923-26

9) Richter H., Geschichte der englischen Romantik, 2 Bde, Halle, 1911-16

10) Rozanov MN, Essay on the history of English literature of the 19th century, part 1 – The era of Byron, Moscow, 1922

11) Souriau M., Histoire du romantisme en France, 2 vols, Paris. 1927-31

12) Maigron L., Le roman historique à l'époque romantique, Paris, 1898;

13) Veselovsky A. N., “V. A. Zhukovsky.” Poetry of Feelings and “Heart Imagination,” St. Petersburg, 1904;

14) Zhirmunsky V., Byron and Pushkin. From the history of a Romantic poem, Leningrad, 1924

15) Sakulin P., From the history of Russian idealism. Book. V. Odoevsky. The Thinker-Writer, vol. I, p. 1-2, Moscow, 1913;

16) Meilakh B. S., Pushkin and Russian Romanticism, Moscow-Leningrad, 1937

17) Farinelli A., Il romanticismo in Germania, 2nd ed., Bari, 1923

18) Farinelli A., Il romanticismo nel mundo latino, 3 vls, Torino, 1927

19) Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. II, pp. 324 and 73

20) Marx, cited in Lenin, Collected Works, vol. II, p. 69

21) Lenin, Collected Works, vol. II, pp. 96-97

22) K. Marx – F . Engels on Art, 1938, p. 114

23) Lenin, Collected Works, vol. II, p. 102

24) Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. II, pp. 35, 34 and 113

25) Marx and Engels, Collected Works, Vol. X, p. 726

26) ibid., p. 689

27) Marx, Letter to Engels dated 25/3/1868, in the book: Marx and Engels, Collected Works, vol. XXIV, page 34

28) Marx and Engels, Collected Works, vol. VIII, p. 287

29) Lenin, Collected Works, vol. II, p. 103