The Most Famous

WRITERS from Russia

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This page contains a list of the greatest Russian Writers. The pantheon dataset contains 7,302 Writers, 276 of which were born in Russia. This makes Russia the birth place of the 5th most number of Writers behind France, and Germany.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Russian Writers of all time. This list of famous Russian Writers is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Russian Writers.

Photo of Fyodor Dostoevsky

1. Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821 - 1881)

With an HPI of 87.73, Fyodor Dostoevsky is the most famous Russian Writer.  His biography has been translated into 172 different languages on wikipedia.

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky (UK: , US: ; Russian: Фёдор Михайлович Достоевский, tr. Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevskiy, IPA: [ˈfʲɵdər mʲɪˈxajləvʲɪdʑ dəstɐˈjefskʲɪj] ; 11 November 1821 – 9 February 1881), sometimes transliterated as Dostoyevsky, was a Russian novelist, short story writer, essayist and journalist. Numerous literary critics regard him as one of the greatest novelists in all of world literature, as many of his works are considered highly influential masterpieces.Dostoevsky's literary works explore the human condition in the troubled political, social, and spiritual atmospheres of 19th-century Russia, and engage with a variety of philosophical and religious themes. His most acclaimed novels include Crime and Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1869), Demons (1872), and The Brothers Karamazov (1880). His 1864 novella Notes from Underground is considered to be one of the first works of existentialist literature.Born in Moscow in 1821, Dostoevsky was introduced to literature at an early age through fairy tales and legends, and through books by Russian and foreign authors. His mother died in 1837 when he was 15, and around the same time, he left school to enter the Nikolayev Military Engineering Institute. After graduating, he worked as an engineer and briefly enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, translating books to earn extra money. In the mid-1840s he wrote his first novel, Poor Folk, which gained him entry into Saint Petersburg's literary circles. However, he was arrested in 1849 for belonging to a literary group, the Petrashevsky Circle, that discussed banned books critical of Tsarist Russia. Dostoevsky was sentenced to death but the sentence was commuted at the last moment. He spent four years in a Siberian prison camp, followed by six years of compulsory military service in exile. In the following years, Dostoevsky worked as a journalist, publishing and editing several magazines of his own and later A Writer's Diary, a collection of his writings. He began to travel around western Europe and developed a gambling addiction, which led to financial hardship. For a time, he had to beg for money, but he eventually became one of the most widely read and highly regarded Russian writers. Dostoevsky's body of work consists of thirteen novels, three novellas, seventeen short stories, and numerous other works. His writings were widely read both within and beyond his native Russia and influenced an equally great number of later writers including Russians such as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Anton Chekhov, philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Jean-Paul Sartre, and the emergence of Existentialism and Freudianism. His books have been translated into more than 170 languages, and served as the inspiration for many films.

Photo of Leo Tolstoy

2. Leo Tolstoy (1828 - 1910)

With an HPI of 86.36, Leo Tolstoy is the 2nd most famous Russian Writer.  His biography has been translated into 179 different languages.

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (; Russian: Лев Николаевич Толстой, IPA: [ˈlʲef nʲɪkɐˈla(j)ɪvʲɪtɕ tɐlˈstoj] ; 9 September [O.S. 28 August] 1828 – 20 November [O.S. 7 November] 1910), usually referred to in English as Leo Tolstoy, was a Russian writer. He is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential authors of all time. He received nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature every year from 1902 to 1906 and for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, 1902, and 1909. Born into an aristocratic family, Tolstoy's notable works include the novels War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1878), often cited as pinnacles of realist fiction, and two of the greatest books of all time. He first achieved literary acclaim in his twenties with his semi-autobiographical trilogy, Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth (1852–1856), and Sevastopol Sketches (1855), based upon his experiences in the Crimean War. His fiction includes dozens of short stories such as "After the Ball" (1911), and several novellas such as The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886), Family Happiness (1859) and Hadji Murad (1912). He also wrote plays and essays concerning philosophical, moral and religious themes. In the 1870s, Tolstoy experienced a profound moral crisis, followed by what he regarded as an equally profound spiritual awakening, as outlined in his non-fiction work Confession (1882). His literal interpretation of the ethical teachings of Jesus, centering on the Sermon on the Mount, caused him to become a fervent Christian anarchist and pacifist. His ideas on nonviolent resistance, expressed in such works as The Kingdom of God Is Within You (1894), had a profound impact on such pivotal 20th-century figures as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Ludwig Wittgenstein. He also became a dedicated advocate of Georgism, the economic philosophy of Henry George, which he incorporated into his writing, particularly in his novel Resurrection (1899). Tolstoy received praise from countless authors and critics, both during his lifetime and after. Virginia Woolf called Tolstoy "the greatest of all novelists", while Gary Saul Morson referred to War and Peace as the greatest of all novels. Tolstoy never having won a Nobel Prize during his lifetime was a major Nobel Prize controversy, and continues to remain one.

Photo of Anton Chekhov

3. Anton Chekhov (1860 - 1904)

With an HPI of 83.67, Anton Chekhov is the 3rd most famous Russian Writer.  His biography has been translated into 164 different languages.

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (Russian: Антон Павлович Чехов, IPA: [ɐnˈton ˈpavləvʲɪtɕ ˈtɕexəf]; 29 January 1860 – 15 July 1904) was a Russian playwright and physician who is considered to be one of the greatest writers of all time. His career as a playwright produced four classics, and his best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics. Along with Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg, Chekhov is often referred to as one of the three seminal figures in the birth of early modernism in the theatre. Chekhov was a physician by profession. "Medicine is my lawful wife", he once said, "and literature is my mistress."Chekhov renounced the theatre after the reception of The Seagull in 1896, but the play was revived to acclaim in 1898 by Konstantin Stanislavski's Moscow Art Theatre, which subsequently also produced Chekhov's Uncle Vanya and premiered his last two plays, Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard. These four works present a challenge to the acting ensemble as well as to audiences, because in place of conventional action Chekhov offers a "theatre of mood" and a "submerged life in the text". The plays that Chekhov wrote were not complex, but easy to follow, and created a somewhat haunting atmosphere for the audience.Chekhov at first wrote stories to earn money, but as his artistic ambition grew, he made formal innovations that influenced the evolution of the modern short story. He made no apologies for the difficulties this posed to readers, insisting that the role of an artist was to ask questions, not to answer them.

Photo of Alexander Pushkin

4. Alexander Pushkin (1799 - 1837)

With an HPI of 81.17, Alexander Pushkin is the 4th most famous Russian Writer.  His biography has been translated into 162 different languages.

Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (English: ; Russian: Александр Сергеевич Пушкин, IPA: [ɐlʲɪkˈsandr sʲɪrˈɡʲe(j)ɪvʲɪtɕ ˈpuʂkʲɪn] ; 6 June [O.S. 26 May] 1799 – 10 February [O.S. 29 January] 1837) was a Russian poet, playwright, and novelist of the Romantic era. He is considered by many to be the greatest Russian poet, as well as the founder of modern Russian literature.Pushkin was born into the Russian nobility in Moscow. His father, Sergey Lvovich Pushkin, belonged to an old noble family. His maternal great-grandfather was Major-General Abram Petrovich Gannibal, a nobleman of African origin who was kidnapped from his homeland by the Ottomans, then freed by the Russian Emperor and raised in the Emperor's court household as his godson. He published his first poem at the age of 15, and was widely recognized by the literary establishment by the time of his graduation from the Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum. Upon graduation from the Lycée, Pushkin recited his controversial poem "Ode to Liberty", one of several that led to his exile by Emperor Alexander I. While under strict surveillance by the Emperor's political police and unable to publish, Pushkin wrote his most famous play, Boris Godunov. His novel in verse Eugene Onegin was serialized between 1825 and 1832. Pushkin was fatally wounded in a duel with his wife's alleged lover and her sister's husband, Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d'Anthès, also known as Dantes-Gekkern, a French officer serving with the Chevalier Guard Regiment.

Photo of Ayn Rand

5. Ayn Rand (1905 - 1982)

With an HPI of 79.23, Ayn Rand is the 5th most famous Russian Writer.  Her biography has been translated into 83 different languages.

Alice O'Connor (born Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum; February 2 [O.S. January 20], 1905 – March 6, 1982), better known by her pen name Ayn Rand ( INE), was a Russian-born American author and philosopher. She is known for her fiction and for developing a philosophical system she named Objectivism. Born and educated in Russia, she moved to the United States in 1926. After two early novels that were initially unsuccessful and two Broadway plays, Rand achieved fame with her 1943 novel The Fountainhead. In 1957, she published her best-selling work, the novel Atlas Shrugged. Afterward, until her death in 1982, she turned to non-fiction to promote her philosophy, publishing her own periodicals and releasing several collections of essays. Rand advocated reason and rejected faith and religion. She supported rational and ethical egoism as opposed to altruism. In politics, she condemned the initiation of force as immoral and supported laissez-faire capitalism, which she defined as the system based on recognizing individual rights, including private property rights. Although she opposed libertarianism, which she viewed as anarchism, Rand is often associated with the modern libertarian movement in the United States. In art, she promoted romantic realism. She was sharply critical of most philosophers and philosophical traditions known to her, with a few exceptions. Rand's books have sold over 37 million copies. Her fiction received mixed reviews from literary critics, with reviews becoming more negative for her later work. Although academic interest in her ideas has grown since her death, academic philosophers have generally ignored or rejected Rand's philosophy, arguing that she has a polemical approach and that her work lacks methodological rigor. Her writings have politically influenced some right-libertarians and conservatives. The Objectivist movement circulates her ideas, both to the public and in academic settings.

Photo of Maxim Gorky

6. Maxim Gorky (1868 - 1936)

With an HPI of 78.47, Maxim Gorky is the 6th most famous Russian Writer.  His biography has been translated into 109 different languages.

Alexei Maximovich Peshkov (Russian: Алексей Максимович Пешков; 28 March [O.S. 16 March] 1868 – 18 June 1936), popularly known as Maxim Gorky (Максим Горький), was a Russian and Soviet writer and socialist political thinker and proponent. He was nominated five times for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Before his success as an author, he travelled widely across the Russian Empire changing jobs frequently, experiences which would later influence his writing. Gorky's most famous works are his early short stories, written in the 1890s ("Chelkash", "Old Izergil", and "Twenty-six Men and a Girl"); plays The Philistines (1901), The Lower Depths (1902) and Children of the Sun (1905); a poem, "The Song of the Stormy Petrel" (1901); his autobiographical trilogy, My Childhood, In the World, My Universities (1913–1923); and a novel, Mother (1906). Gorky himself judged some of these works as failures, and Mother has been frequently criticized; Gorky himself thought of Mother as one of his biggest failures. However, there have been warmer appraisals of some of his lesser-known post-revolutionary works such as the novels The Artamonov Business (1925) and The Life of Klim Samgin (1925–1936); the latter is considered by some as Gorky's masterpiece and has been viewed by some critics as a modernist work. Unlike his pre-revolutionary writings (known for their "anti-psychologism") Gorky's later works differ, with an ambivalent portrayal of the Russian Revolution and "unmodern interest to human psychology" (as noted by D. S. Mirsky). He had associations with fellow Russian writers Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov, both mentioned by Gorky in his memoirs. Gorky was active in the emerging Marxist communist movement and later the Bolshevik. He publicly opposed the Tsarist regime and for a time closely associated himself with Vladimir Lenin and Alexander Bogdanov's Bolshevik wing of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. For a significant part of his life he was exiled from Russia and later the Soviet Union (USSR). In 1932 he returned to the USSR on Joseph Stalin's personal invitation and lived there until his death in June 1936. After his return he was officially declared the "founder of Socialist Realism". Despite this, Gorky's relations with the Soviet regime were rather difficult: while being Stalin's public supporter, he maintained friendships with Lev Kamenev and Nikolai Bukharin, the leaders of the opposition executed after Gorky's death; he also hoped to ease the Soviet cultural policies and made some efforts to defend the writers who disobeyed them, which resulted in him spending his last days under unannounced house arrest. Modern scholars consider his ideology of God-Building as distinct from the official Marxism–Leninism and his work fits uneasily under the "Socialist Realist" label. Gorky's work still has a controversial reputation because of his political biography, although in recent years his works have returned to European stages and have been republished.

Photo of Isaac Asimov

7. Isaac Asimov (1920 - 1992)

With an HPI of 78.18, Isaac Asimov is the 7th most famous Russian Writer.  His biography has been translated into 116 different languages.

Isaac Asimov ( AZ-ih-mov; c. January 2, 1920 – April 6, 1992) was an American writer and professor of biochemistry at Boston University. During his lifetime, Asimov was considered one of the "Big Three" science fiction writers, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke. A prolific writer, he wrote or edited more than 500 books. He also wrote an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. Best known for his hard science fiction, Asimov also wrote mysteries and fantasy, as well as popular science and other non-fiction. Asimov's most famous work is the Foundation series, the first three books of which won the one-time Hugo Award for "Best All-Time Series" in 1966. His other major series are the Galactic Empire series and the Robot series. The Galactic Empire novels are set in the much earlier history of the same fictional universe as the Foundation series. Later, with Foundation and Earth (1986), he linked this distant future to the Robot series, creating a unified "future history" for his works. He also wrote over 380 short stories, including the social science fiction novelette "Nightfall", which in 1964 was voted the best short science fiction story of all time by the Science Fiction Writers of America. Asimov wrote the Lucky Starr series of juvenile science-fiction novels using the pen name Paul French.Most of his popular science books explain concepts in a historical way, going as far back as possible to a time when the science in question was at its simplest stage. Examples include Guide to Science, the three-volume Understanding Physics, and Asimov's Chronology of Science and Discovery. He wrote on numerous other scientific and non-scientific topics, such as chemistry, astronomy, mathematics, history, biblical exegesis, and literary criticism. He was the president of the American Humanist Association. Several entities have been named in his honor, including the asteroid (5020) Asimov, a crater on Mars, a Brooklyn elementary school, Honda's humanoid robot ASIMO, and four literary awards.

Photo of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

8. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918 - 2008)

With an HPI of 77.66, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is the 8th most famous Russian Writer.  His biography has been translated into 117 different languages.

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (11 December 1918 – 3 August 2008) was a Russian writer and prominent Soviet dissident who helped to raise global awareness of political repression in the Soviet Union, especially the Gulag prison system. Solzhenitsyn was born into a family that defied the Soviet anti-religious campaign in the 1920s and remained devout members of the Russian Orthodox Church. However, Solzhenitsyn initially lost his faith in Christianity, became an atheist, and embraced Marxism–Leninism. While serving as a captain in the Red Army during World War II, Solzhenitsyn was arrested by SMERSH and sentenced to eight years in the Gulag and then internal exile for criticizing Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in a private letter. As a result of his experience in prison and the camps, he gradually became a philosophically minded Eastern Orthodox Christian. As a result of the Khrushchev Thaw, Solzhenitsyn was released and exonerated. He pursued writing novels about repression in the Soviet Union and his experiences. He published his first novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich in 1962, with approval from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, which was an account of Stalinist repressions. Solzhenitsyn's last work to be published in the Soviet Union was Matryona's Place in 1963. Following the removal of Khrushchev from power, the Soviet authorities attempted to discourage Solzhenitsyn from continuing to write. He continued to work on further novels and their publication in other countries including Cancer Ward in 1966, In the First Circle in 1968, August 1914 in 1971, and The Gulag Archipelago in 1973, the publication of which outraged Soviet authorities. In 1974, Solzhenitsyn was stripped of his Soviet citizenship and flown to West Germany. In 1976, he moved with his family to the United States, where he continued to write. In 1990, shortly before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, his citizenship was restored, and four years later he returned to Russia, where he remained until his death in 2008. He was awarded the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature "for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature", and The Gulag Archipelago was a highly influential work that "amounted to a head-on challenge to the Soviet state", and sold tens of millions of copies.

Photo of E. T. A. Hoffmann

9. E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776 - 1822)

With an HPI of 76.35, E. T. A. Hoffmann is the 9th most famous Russian Writer.  His biography has been translated into 65 different languages.

Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann (born Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann; 24 January 1776 – 25 June 1822) was a German Romantic author of fantasy and Gothic horror, a jurist, composer, music critic and artist. His stories form the basis of Jacques Offenbach's opera The Tales of Hoffmann, in which Hoffmann appears (heavily fictionalized) as the hero. He is also the author of the novella The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, on which Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker is based. The ballet Coppélia is based on two other stories that Hoffmann wrote, while Schumann's Kreisleriana is based on Hoffmann's character Johannes Kreisler. Hoffmann's stories highly influenced 19th-century literature, and he is one of the major authors of the Romantic movement.

Photo of Vladimir Nabokov

10. Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

With an HPI of 75.90, Vladimir Nabokov is the 10th most famous Russian Writer.  His biography has been translated into 113 different languages.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov (Russian: Владимир Владимирович Набоков [vlɐˈdʲimʲɪr vlɐˈdʲimʲɪrəvʲɪtɕ nɐˈbokəf] ; 22 April [O.S. 10 April] 1899 – 2 July 1977), also known by the pen name Vladimir Sirin (Владимир Сирин), was an expatriate Russian and Russian-American novelist, poet, translator, and entomologist. Born in Imperial Russia in 1899, Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian (1926–1938) while living in Berlin, where he met his wife. He achieved international acclaim and prominence after moving to the United States, where he began writing in English. Nabokov became an American citizen in 1945 and lived mostly on the East Coast before returning to Europe in 1961, where he settled in Montreux, Switzerland. From 1948 to 1959, Nabokov was a professor of Russian literature at Cornell University. His 1955 novel Lolita ranked fourth on Modern Library's list of the 100 best 20th-century novels in 2007 and is considered one of the greatest works of 20th-century literature. Nabokov's Pale Fire, published in 1962, ranked 53rd on the same list. His memoir, Speak, Memory, published in 1951, is considered among the greatest nonfiction works of the 20th century, placing eighth on Random House's ranking of 20th-century works. Nabokov was a seven-time finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction. He also was an expert lepidopterist and composer of chess problems.

People

Pantheon has 296 people classified as Russian writers born between 1465 and 1989. Of these 296, 36 (12.16%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living Russian writers include Lyudmila Ulitskaya, Viktor Suvorov, and Andrey Kurkov. The most famous deceased Russian writers include Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, and Anton Chekhov. As of April 2024, 20 new Russian writers have been added to Pantheon including Eeva Kilpi, Lev Rubinstein, and Philotheus of Pskov.

Living Russian Writers

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Deceased Russian Writers

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Newly Added Russian Writers (2024)

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Overlapping Lives

Which Writers were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Writers since 1700.