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Civic Fervour and Patriotism in Old Russian Literature


The mediaeval historicism of Russian literature from the eleventh to seventeenth centuries is connected with another important feature that has been preserved and developed in Russian literature right up to the present day: its civic fervour and patriotism.

Called upon to examine reality, to investigate and assess it, the Old Russian writer already by the eleventh century regarded his vocation as that of serving his native land. Old Russian literature was always distinguished by a special seriousness. It sought to answer the fundamental questions of life, urged the transforma­tion of that life, and had various, invariably high ideals. Russian literature was always highly edifying and instructive.

The deep patriotism of Old Russian literature derives not only from the authors’ pride in their native land, but also from their sorrow at the defeats and suffering inflicted on it, their attempts to make the princes and boyars see reason, and sometimes even to censure them and incite the reader’s wrath against the worst of them.

All Russian writers, in their own way, hold the writer’s vocation in great esteem. Each of them is to some extent a prophet and denouncer, and some are teachers, disseminators of knowledge, interpreters of reality and participants in the civic life of their country. During the period of feudal disunity, when the state did not exist as a single entity, literature helped to keep alive the awareness of the unity of the Russian land and of its people. It showed a high degree of civic responsibility.

This sense of the noble calling of the writer was also handed down to the literature of the modern period. Russian literature was influenced by its creators’ strong sense of civic responsibility. This has been a constant feature of Russian literature throughout its development.