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.
With an HPI of 88.66, Fyodor Dostoevsky is the most famous Russian Writer. His biography has been translated into 166 different languages on wikipedia.
Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky (UK: , US: ; Russian: Фёдор Михайлович Достоевский, tr. Fyódor Mikháylovich Dostoyévskiy, IPA: [ˈfʲɵdər mʲɪˈxajləvʲɪdʑ dəstɐˈjefskʲɪj] (listen); 11 November 1821 – 9 February 1881), sometimes transliterated as Dostoyevsky, was a Russian novelist, short story writer, essayist and journalist. 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. 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.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.
With an HPI of 86.31, Leo Tolstoy is the 2nd most famous Russian Writer. His biography has been translated into 172 different languages.
Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (; Russian: Лев Николаевич Толстой, IPA: [ˈlʲef nʲɪkɐˈla(j)ɪvʲɪtɕ tɐlˈstoj] (listen); 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 who is regarded as one of the greatest 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; the fact that he never won is a major controversy.Born to an aristocratic Russian family in 1828, Tolstoy's notable works include the novels War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1878), often cited as pinnacles of realist fiction. 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 and several novellas such as The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886), Family Happiness (1859), "After the Ball" (1911), and Hadji Murad (1912). He also wrote plays and numerous philosophical essays. 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 A 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 and Martin Luther King Jr. He also became a dedicated advocate of Georgism, the economic philosophy of Henry George, which he incorporated into his writing, particularly Resurrection (1899).
With an HPI of 83.77, Anton Chekhov is the 3rd most famous Russian Writer. His biography has been translated into 157 different languages.
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (Russian: Антон Павлович Чехов, IPA: [ɐnˈton ˈpavləvʲɪtɕ ˈtɕexəf]; 29 January 1860 – 15 July 1904) was a Russian playwright and short-story writer 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.
With an HPI of 81.46, Alexander Pushkin is the 4th most famous Russian Writer. His biography has been translated into 157 different languages.
Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (English: ; Russian: Александр Сергеевич Пушкин, tr. Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin, IPA: [ɐlʲɪkˈsandr sʲɪrˈɡʲe(j)ɪvʲɪtɕ ˈpuʂkʲɪn] (listen); 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 and 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 Cameroonian origin who was kidnapped from his homeland 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 Tsar Alexander I. While under the strict surveillance of the Tsar's political police and unable to publish, Pushkin wrote his most famous play, the drama 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.
With an HPI of 78.68, Isaac Asimov is the 5th most famous Russian Writer. His biography has been translated into 114 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 much nonfiction. 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 stories, creating a unified "future history" for his stories. 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 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.
With an HPI of 78.45, Ayn Rand is the 6th most famous Russian Writer. Her biography has been translated into 76 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 (), was a Russian-born American writer 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, she achieved fame with her 1943 novel, The Fountainhead. In 1957, Rand published her best-known 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 as the only means of acquiring knowledge; she rejected faith and religion. She supported rational and ethical egoism and rejected altruism. In politics, she condemned the initiation of force as immoral and opposed collectivism, statism, and anarchism. Instead, she supported laissez-faire capitalism, which she defined as the system based on recognizing individual rights, including private property rights. Although Rand opposed libertarianism, which she viewed as anarchism, she is often associated with the modern libertarian movement in the United States. In art, Rand promoted romantic realism. She was sharply critical of most philosophers and philosophical traditions known to her, except for Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and classical liberals. Rand's books have sold over 37 million copies as of 2020. Her fiction received mixed reviews from literary critics. Although academic interest in her ideas has grown since her death, academic philosophers have generally ignored or rejected her philosophy because of her polemical approach and lack of methodological rigor. Her writings have politically influenced some right-libertarians and conservatives. The Objectivist movement attempts to spread her ideas, both to the public and in academic settings.
With an HPI of 77.55, Maxim Gorky is the 7th most famous Russian Writer. His biography has been translated into 106 different languages.
Alexei Maximovich Peshkov (Russian: Алексе́й Макси́мович Пешко́в 28 March [O.S. 16 March] 1868 – 18 June 1936), popularly known as Maxim Gorky (Russian: Макси́м Го́рький), was a Russian 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, and Gorky himself thought of Mother as one of his biggest failures. However, there have been warmer judgements of some less-known post-revolutionary works such as the novels The Artamonov Business (1925) and The Life of Klim Samgin (1925–1936); the latter is considered Gorky's masterpiece and has sometimes been viewed by critics as a modernist work. Unlike his pre-revolutionary writings (known for their "anti-psychologism") Gorky's late 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 and later in the Bolshevik movement. 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 his official reputation, Gorky's relations with the Soviet regime were rather difficult. 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 the last years his works are returning to European stages and being republished.
With an HPI of 76.67, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is the 8th most famous Russian Writer. His biography has been translated into 110 different languages.
Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (11 December 1918 – 3 August 2008) was a Russian novelist. One of the most famous Soviet dissidents, Solzhenitsyn was an outspoken critic of communism and helped to raise global awareness of political repression in the Soviet Union, in particular the Gulag 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. While still young, Solzhenitsyn lost his faith in Christianity, became an atheist, and embraced Marxist–Leninism. While serving as a captain in the Red Army during World War II, Solzhenitsyn was arrested by the 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 repressions 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 the Soviet authorities. In 1974 Solzhenitsyn lost his Soviet citizenship and was 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.
With an HPI of 76.24, Boris Pasternak is the 9th most famous Russian Writer. His biography has been translated into 101 different languages.
Boris Leonidovich Pasternak (; Russian: Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к, IPA: [bɐˈrʲis lʲɪɐˈnʲidəvʲɪtɕ pəstʲɪrˈnak]; 10 February [O.S. 29 January] 1890 – 30 May 1960) was a Russian poet, novelist, composer and literary translator. Composed in 1917, Pasternak's first book of poems, My Sister, Life, was published in Berlin in 1922 and soon became an important collection in the Russian language. Pasternak's translations of stage plays by Goethe, Schiller, Calderón de la Barca and Shakespeare remain very popular with Russian audiences. Pasternak is the author of Doctor Zhivago (1957), a novel that takes place between the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the Second World War. Doctor Zhivago was rejected for publication in the USSR, but the manuscript was smuggled to Italy to do so. Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1958, an event that enraged the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which forced him to decline the prize. In 1989, Pasternak's son Yevgeny finally accepted the award on his father's behalf. Doctor Zhivago has been part of the main Russian school curriculum since 2003.
With an HPI of 76.00, Vladimir Nabokov is the 10th most famous Russian Writer. His biography has been translated into 111 different languages.
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov (Russian: Владимир Владимирович Набоков [vlɐˈdʲimʲɪr vlɐˈdʲimʲɪrəvʲɪtɕ nɐˈbokəf] (listen); 22 April [O.S. 10 April] 1899 – 2 July 1977), also known by the pen name Vladimir Sirin (Владимир Сирин), was a 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.Nabokov's 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 20th-century works of literature. Nabokov's Pale Fire, published in 1962, was 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.
Pantheon has 277 people classified as writers born between 1528 and 1989. Of these 277, 31 (11.19%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living writers include Lyudmila Ulitskaya, Viktor Suvorov, and Vladimir Sorokin. The most famous deceased writers include Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, and Anton Chekhov. As of April 2022, 26 new writers have been added to Pantheon including Nikolay Kostomarov, Marko Vovchok, and Zacharias Werner.
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Which Writers were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Writers since 1700.