Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Mikhail Evgrafovich Saltykov (15 January 1826 - 28 April 1889 OS, or 27 January 1826 - 10 May 1889 NS), better known under his penname Shchedrin, was a leading Russian satirist, whose reputation is now in decline. At one time, after the death of the poet Nekrasov, he acted as editor of the leading Russian magazine, the Contemporary.
A scion of the most ancient and noble family, Mikhail Saltykov was born on his fatherís estate in the province of Tula. His early education was completely neglected, and his youth, owing to the severity and the domestic quarrels of his parents, was full of the most melancholy experiences. Left entirely to himself, he developed a love for reading; but the only book in his fatherís house was the Bible, which he studied with deep attention.
At ten years of age he entered the Moscow Institute for the sons of the nobility, and subsequently the Lyceum at St Petersburg, where 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 Byron and Heine, and on leaving the Lyceum he obtained employment as a clerk in the Ministry of War.
In 1854 he published A Complicated Affair, which, in view of the revolutionary movements at that time in France and Germany, was the cause of his banishment to Vyatka, where 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 picture of Russian provincial officials in his Provincial Sketches.
On his return to St Petersburg he was quickly 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 leave the government service, but pecuniary difficulties soon compelled him to re-enter it, and in 1864 he was appointed president of the local boards of taxation successively at Penza, Tula and Ryazan.
In 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 One 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 Saltykov's masterpiece, is a penetrating study of overpowering greed.
His last publication was an applauded collection of satirical fables and tales. He died in St 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".
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