Valery Bryusov

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Valery Bryusov
Valery Bryusov c. 1900.jpg
Born (1873-12-13)13 December 1873
Moscow, Russian Empire
Died 9 October 1924(1924-10-09) (aged 50)
Moscow, Soviet Russia
Genre Poetry, fiction, drama, history, criticism
Notable works The Fiery Angel

Valery Yakovlevich Bryusov (Russian: Вале́рий Я́ковлевич Брю́сов; IPA: [vɐˈlʲerʲɪj ˈjakəvlʲɪvʲɪtɕ ˈbrʲusəf]; 13 December [O.S. 1 December] 1873 – 9 October 1924) was a Russian poet, prose writer, dramatist, translator, critic and historian. He was one of the principal members of the Russian Symbolist movement.[1]


Valery Bryusov was born on 13 December 1873 (recorded as 1 December, according to the old Julian calendar) into a merchant's family in Moscow. His parents had little do with his upbringing, and as a boy Bryusov was largely left to himself. He spent a great deal of time reading "everything that fell into [his] hands," including the works of Charles Darwin and Jules Verne, as well as various materialistic and scientific essays. The future poet received an excellent education, studying in two Moscow gymnasiums between 1885 and 1893.


Bryusov began his literary career in the early 1890s while still a student at Moscow State University with his translations of the poetry of the French Symbolists (Paul Verlaine, Maurice Maeterlinck, and Stéphane Mallarmé) as well at that of Edgar Allan Poe. Bryusov also began to publish his own poems, which were very much influenced by the Decadent and Symbolist movements of his contemporary Europe. During this time Bryusov came under the influence of the philosopher Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov and the scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky.[1]

At the time, Russian Symbolism was still mainly a set of theories and had few notable practitioners. Therefore, in order to represent Symbolism as a movement of formidable following, Bryusov adopted numerous pen names and published three volumes of his own verse, entitled Russian Symbolists. An Anthology (1894–95). Bryusov's mystification proved successful – several young poets were attracted to Symbolism as the latest fashion in Russian letters.

With the appearance of Tertia Vigilia in 1900, he came to be revered by other Symbolists as an authority in matters of art. In 1904 he became the editor of the influential literary magazine Vesy (The Balance), which consolidated his position in the Russian literary world. Bryusov's mature works were notable for their celebration of sensual pleasures as well as their mastery of a wide range of poetic forms, from the acrostic to the carmina figurata.

By the 1910s, Bryusov's poetry had begun to seem cold and strained to many of his contemporaries. As a result, his reputation gradually declined and, with it, his power in the Russian literary world. He was adamantly opposed to the efforts of Georgy Chulkov and Vyacheslav Ivanov to move Symbolism in the direction of Mystical Anarchism.

Though many of his fellow Symbolists fled Russia after the Russian Revolution of 1917, Bryusov remained until his death in 1924. He supported the Bolshevik government and received a position in the cultural ministry of the new Soviet state. Shortly before his death he was involved with Otto Schmidt in drawing up the proposal for the Great Soviet Encyclopedia.[2]



Bryusov most famous prose works are the historical novels The Altar of Victory (depicting life in Ancient Rome) and The Fiery Angel (depicting the psychological climate of 16th century Germany).

The latter tells the story of a scholar and his attempts to win the love of a young woman whose spiritual integrity is seriously undermined by her participation in occult practices and her dealings with unclean forces. It served as the basis for Sergei Prokofiev's opera The Fiery Angel.

Bryusov also wrote some science fiction stories, under the influence of Poe, H.G. Wells and Camille Flammarion. Several of these, including the title story, were assembled in his collection The Republic of the Southern Cross.[1][3]


As a translator, Bryusov was the first to render the works of the Belgian poet Emile Verhaeren accessible to Russian readers, and he was one of the major translators of Paul Verlaine's poetry.

His most famous translations are of Edgar Allan Poe, Romain Rolland, Maurice Maeterlinck, Victor Hugo, Jean Racine, Ausonius, Molière, Byron, and Oscar Wilde. Bryusov also translated Johann Goethe's Faust and Virgil's Aeneid.

List of major works

Valery Bryusov.
  • Juvenilia, 1894
  • Chefs d’oeuvre, 1895
  • Me eum esse, 1897
  • Tertia Vigilia, 1900
  • Urbi et Orbi, 1903
  • Stephanos, 1905
  • The Fiery Angel 1908
  • All Melodies, 1909
  • The Altar of Victory, 1913
  • Rea Silvia, 1916

Works in English Translation

  • The Republic of the Southern Cross and Other Stories, Constable, London, 1918. from Contains several science fiction stories.
  • The Fiery Angel : A Sixteenth Century Romance, Hyperion Press, 1978.
  • Diary of Valery Bryusov, University of California Press, 1980.

Interesting facts

Portrait of Valery Bryusov by Nina Niss-Goldman, plaster, 1924

In 1924 shortly before death Valery Bryusov posed for the young sculptor ru (1893-1990). Now this portrait is in the Russian Museum of St. Petersburg in a collection of the Russian avant-garde of the 1920th years.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Darko Suvin, "Bryusov,Valery" in Curtis C. Smith, Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers. Chicago, St. James, 1986. ISBN 0912289279 (pp. 840-41).
  2. "Beginning of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia issue". Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library. Retrieved 2013-02-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Gary Kern,The Republic of the Southern Cross, in Frank N. Magill, ed. Survey of Science Fiction Literature, Vol. 4. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Salem Press, 1979. (pp. 1768–1774). ISBN 0-89356-194-0

See also

  • Mark Willhardt, Alan Parker. "Briusov, Valerii Iakovlevich" in Who's Who in Twentieth Century World Poetry, Routledge, 2000, ISBN 0-415-16356-0, p. 47

External links