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Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi (1837 - 1887)   Portrait of the writer Mikhail Evgrafovich Saltykov-Shchedrin  Oil on canvas, 1879  88 x 68 cm  The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia
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Title: Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin
Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi (1837 - 1887) 
Portrait of the writer Mikhail Evgrafovich Saltykov-Shchedrin
Oil on canvas, 1879
88 x 68 cm
The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia

Mikhail Yevgrafovich Saltykov-Shchedrin (Russian: Ìèõàèë Åâãðàôîâè÷ Ñàëòûêîâ-Ùåäðèí; 27 January [O.S. 15 January] 1826 in Spas-Ugol village, Tver guverniya — 10 May [O.S. 28 April] 1889 in Saint Petersburg), better known by his publication name Shchedrin (Ùåäðèí), was a major Russian satirist of the 19th century. At one time, after the death of the poet Nikolai Nekrasov, he acted as editor of the well-known Russian magazine, the Otechestvenniye Zapiski, until it was banned by the government in 1884.
A scion of the ancient Saltykov family, Mikhail Saltykov was born on his father’s estate in the province of Tula. His early education was neglected, and his youth, owing to the severity and the domestic quarrels of his parents, had many melancholy experiences. Largely neglected, he developed a love for reading, though the only book in his father’s house was the Bible, which he studied attentively.

At ten years of age he entered the Moscow Institute for sons of the nobility, and subsequently the Lyceum at Saint Petersburg, Prince Lobanov-Rostovsky, afterwards minister for foreign affairs, was one of his schoolfellows. While there he published poetry, and translations of some of the works of Lord Byron and Heinrich Heine, and on graduating the Lyceum he obtained employment as a clerk for the Ministry of War.

During 1854 he published A Complicated Affair, which, because of the revolutionary activity at that time in France and Germany, was the cause of his banishment to Vyatka, he spent eight years as a minor government official. This experience enabled him to study the life and habits of civil servants in the interior, and to give a clever description of Russian provincial officials in his Provincial Sketches.

On his return to Saint Petersburg he was soon promoted to administrative posts of considerable importance. After making a report on the condition of the Russian police, he was appointed deputy governor, first of Ryazan and then of Tver. His predilection for literary work induced him to end his government service, but pecuniary difficulties soon compelled him to re-enter it, and during 1864 he was appointed president of the local boards of taxation successively at Penza, Tula and Ryazan.

During 1868 he finally quit the civil service. Subsequently he wrote his principal works, namely, The Old Times of Poshekhonye, which possesses a certain autobiographical interest, The History of a Town, a satirical allegory of Russian history, Messieurs et Mesdames Pompadours; and his only novel, The Golovlyov Family (also translated as House of Greed). The latter book, often considered his masterpiece, is a study of overpowering greed.

Saltykov's last publication was a collection of satirical fables and tales. He died in Saint Petersburg and was interred in the Literary Cemetery. "The sole object of my literary work," wrote Saltykov-Shchedrin, "was unfailingly to protest against greed, hypocrisy, falsehood, theft, treachery, stupidity of modern Russians".

The greater part of Saltykov's work is a rather nondescript kind of satirical journalism, generally with little or no narrative structure, and intermediate in form between the classical "character" and the contemporary feuilleton. Greatly popular though it was in its own time, it has since lost much of its appeal simply because it satirizes social conditions that have long ceased to exist and much of it has become unintelligible without commentary.

During 1869-70 he published The History of a Town, which sums up the achievement of Saltykov's first period. It is a sort of parody of Russian history, concentrated in the microcosm of a provincial town, whose successive governors are transparent caricatures of Russian sovereigns and ministers, and whose very name is representative of its qualities — Glupov (literally, Sillytown).

Most works of Saltykov's later period are written in a language that the satirist himself called Aesopic. It is one continuous circumlocution because of censorship and requires a constant reading commentary. The style, moreover, is based on the bad journalistic style of the period, which originated largely with Osip Senkovsky, and which today invariably produces an impression of painfully elaborate vulgarity.[1]

The Golovlyov Family was decried by D.S. Mirsky as the gloomiest book in all Russian literature — all the more gloomy because the effect is attained by the simplest means without any theatrical, melodramatic, or atmospheric effects. The most remarkable character of this novel is Porfiry Golovlev, nicknamed 'Little Judas', the empty and mechanical hypocrite who cannot stop talking unctuous and meaningless humbug, not for any inner need or outer profit, but because his tongue is in need of constant exercise.

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Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi (1837 - 1887)   Reading. Portrait of Sophia Nikolaevna Kramskaya, wife of the artist  Oil on canvas, 1866–1869  64 x 56 cm   The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, RussiaIvan Nikolaevich Kramskoi (1837 - 1887)   Portrait of the writer Mikhail Evgrafovich Saltykov-Shchedrin  Oil on canvas, 1879  88 x 68 cm  The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, RussiaIvan Nikolaevich Kramskoi (1837 - 1887)   Portrait of the artist and photographer Mikhail Borisovich Tulinov  Oil on canvas, 1868  116õ81 cm  The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia
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