Poets of Hope and Despair

The Russian Symbolists in War and Revolution, 1914-1918

Author: Ben Hellman
Now available in Open Access thanks to the support of the University of Helsinki. In Poets of Hope and Despair: The Russian Symbolists in War and Revolution (1914-1918), Ben Hellman examines the artistic responses and the philosophical and political attitudes of eight major Russian poets to the First World War and the revolutions of 1917. The historical cataclysms gave rise to apocalyptic premonitions and a thirst for a total spiritual metamorphosis. A major topic of discussion was the role of Russia in this process. Other issues raised were modern Germany, the future of a divided Poland, the occupation of Belgium, and the dilemma of the Russian Jews. In the wake of the military setbacks, hopes were mixed with feelings of fear and despair, all expressed in fictional as well as in nonfictional form.
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Ben Hellman, Ph.D. (1996), University of Helsinki, is a Senior Lecturer Emeritus in the field of Russian Literature. His numerous publications include Fairy Tales and True Stories: The History of Russian Literature for Children and Young People (1574-2010) (Brill 2013) and Hemma hos Tolstoj: Nordiska möten i liv och dikt (Stockholm 2017).

Preface to the First Edition
Preface to the Second Edition


1 Symbolism Before the War
The Birth of Symbolism. Two Generations
The Symbolists and Politics

2 The War: Act I (1914-1915)
First Reactions
Realities of the War
The Burning Questions
The Neo-Slavophiles
Patriotic Fiction
The Critics of Nationalism
The Outsiders
Facing Adversity

3 The War: Act II (1915-1917)
Defeats and Deadlock: Occasional Verse
Viacheslav Ivanov: Behind the German Threat - China!
Fedor Sologub: ``Our Children Will Save Russia...''
Valerii Briusov: The Duty to Remember
Konstantin Bal'mont: Betrayed
Zinaida Gippius: Waiting for Revolution
Dmitrii Merezhkovskii: Waiting for the Apocalypse
Andrei Belyi: The Revolt of the Machines
Aleksandr Blok: Demoralization on all Sides
Valerii Briusov: After Thirty Months of War

4 The War: Act III (1917-1918)
The February Revolution of the Spirit
Who Is for the War? Who Is Against?
Russia in Deep Crisis
The October Revolution: The End or the Beginning?

5 The Symbolist Experience 1914-1918

All interested in Russian modernism, especially Symbolism, and Russian history of the war years 1914-1918 and the revolutions of 1917.