From Populism to Symbolism: Silver Age Discourse on the Nature of Russian Symbolism

Barbara Ann Brown


The goals of the Mir iskusstva were to bring about a renaissance of Russian literature and art, and to initiate a dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church. Some members of Mir iskusstva were interested only in the artistic and literary endeavors of the Symbolist movement, while other members wanted to focus on the literary, artistic and religious aspects of the proposed renaissance. Ultimately, this paper will show that the monolithic title of Mir iskusstva or even the term "Silver Age" blankets significant divisions between two major threads of discourse. Sometimes these divisions intermeshed, but they are still distinctive from one another and should be defined and discussed within the larger context of Silver Age culture. Mir iskusstva contributed to Silver Age culture throughout Russia and Western Europe long after the journal shut down publication in 1904. This paper will seek to explain the emergence of the Mir iskusstva as an important forum for the Symbolist artists and writers after the 1898 closure of the journal Severnyj vestnik forced them to establish their own, "truly Symbolist" journal. A comparison between the two distinct lines of artistic pursuit deserves exploration and discussion. Each laid the foundation for what is currently thought of as "Silver Age Culture." This technical term encompasses a very compelling time in Russian culture and history, and its components should be defined and examined in current scholarship.    


Dmitri Merezhkovskii; Zinaida Gippius; Russian Silver Age Culture; Russian Populism and Russian Symbolism

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