18 Best Russian Authors You Must Read

Explore Russia’s rich, vibrant, and often tragic history and culture with these eighteen best Russian authors and their literary works.

Russian literature has a rich history dating back to the 18th century. Many influential Russian authors have inspired writers in other countries with their psychological, historical, and poetical works. These classic books and stories now have translations in many languages worldwide.

To better appreciate Russia’s contributions to modern literature, consider adding some of these books to your reading list.

Russian Authors Worth Reading

Best Russian Authors

From the classics of Tolstoy to the modern works of Tolstaya, these are the 18 Russian authors that you will want to learn more about.

Russian authors
Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1969331

1. Leo Tolstoy

One of the best-known Russian writers, Leo Tolstoy, is famous for works like Anna Karenina, War and Peace, and The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Though he never won, he received multiple nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Nobel Peace Prize. Tolstoy portrayed the culture and society of Russia in his writing, and literary critics consider his famous War and Peace to be one of the greatest novels of all time.

War and Peace (Dover Thrift Editions: Classic Novels)
  • Tolstoy, Leo (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 1152 Pages - 09/13/2017 (Publication Date) - Dover Publications (Publisher)

2. Anna Akhmatova

One of the best-known and significant Russian poets of the 20th century, Anna Akhmatova, is the pen name of Anna Adreyevna Gorenko. Her poetry spans several forms of poems, including short lyric verses and long cyclic pieces. Requiem is one of her most famous works, and it detailed the suffering of the Russians under Soviet rule.

Requiem and Poem without a Hero
  • Akhmatova, Anna (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 78 Pages - 03/26/2018 (Publication Date) - Swallow Press (Publisher)

3. Anton Chekhov

In the late 19th century, Anton Chekhov wrote plays and short stories. He won the Pushkin Prize for his work and worked as a physician when he was not writing. Some of his most famous plays include Three Sisters, The Cherry Orchard, and Uncle Vanya

Three Sisters
  • Chekhov, Anton (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 106 Pages - 05/02/2021 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

4. Nikolai Gogol

Born in Ukraine in 1809, Nikolai Gogol wrote Russian literature known for its literary realism. His satirical work, The Government Inspector, is a comedy of errors that draws attention to political corruption that was common in Russia. His work is particularly well known among Russian fiction writers because it has a distinctively Ukrainian tone of voice. 

The Government Inspector and Other Works (Wordsworth Classics)
  • WORDSWORTH EDITIONS
  • Nikolai Gogol (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 592 Pages - 09/14/2014 (Publication Date) - Wordsworth Editions Ltd (Publisher)

5. Alexander Pushkin

Pyotr Fyodorovich Sokolov, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Alexander Pushkin was a Romantic-era writer of Russian poetry, plays, and novels often called the greatest Russian poet and the founder of literature in Russia. He hailed from Moscow and also lived in Saint Petersburg. The Stone Guest, a dramatic play detailing the fall of Don Juan, and the novel in verse, Eugene Onegin, are two of his most famous works.

Eugene Onegin: A Novel in Verse (Oxford World's Classics)
  • Oxford University Press USA
  • Pushkin, Alexander (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 288 Pages - 03/25/2009 (Publication Date) - Oxford University Press (Publisher)

6. Ivan Turgenev

It was through the work of Ivan Turgenev that Russian writing gained a following in the West. His novel Father and Sons is one of the major works of 19th-century Russia. He often tackled religious and political topics in his writing. Under the rule of Tsar Nicholas I, he fled Russia and moved to Western Europe, where he continued writing and brought Russian literature to the rest of Europe.

Fathers and Sons (Translated by Constance Garnett with a Foreword by Avrahm Yarmolinsky)
  • Turgenev, Ivan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 160 Pages - 12/26/2017 (Publication Date) - Digireads.com Publishing (Publisher)

7. Mikhail Bulgakov

Mikhail Bulgakov is a prominent playwright and novelist in 20th century Russia. He started his professional life as a physician, writing about his work in A Young Doctor’s Notebook, before abandoning his medical career to pursue writing full time after a lengthy illness. Unfortunately, he ran into trouble while living under Stalin’s rule as his plays were banned due to their political bents. The Master and Margarita, which was published after his death, is his best-known satirical novel.

The Master and Margarita: 50th-Anniversary Edition (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)
  • Penguin Books
  • Bulgakov, Mikhail (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 448 Pages - 05/03/2016 (Publication Date) - Penguin Classics (Publisher)

8. Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov wrote in Russia and America, with nine Russian novels and many more in the United States. His novel Lolita earned fourth place on the Modern Library 100 Best Novels list in 2007, and he was a seven-time finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction. In addition to writing, Nabokov worked as a translator and entomologist before his death in 1977. 

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Lolita
  • Great product!
  • Nabokov, Vladimir (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 317 Pages - 03/13/1989 (Publication Date) - Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (Publisher)

9. Boris Pasternak

Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Boris Pasternack is best known for his 1957 novel Doctor Zhivago. This book takes place between the Russian Revolution and World War II, and while it was not published in Russia due to censorship, it was published in Italy. This work earned Pasternak the Nobel Prize for Literature, which the Communist Party of the Soviet Union forced him to decline. However, his family accepted on his behalf after his death. 

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Doctor Zhivago (Vintage International)
  • Vintage Books
  • Pasternak, Boris (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 704 Pages - 10/04/2011 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

10. Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy

Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy was a science fiction and historical fiction writer who wrote in the early 1900s. His work glorified Stalin and thus was not subject to censorship, and his trilogy, The Road to Calvary, won the Stalin Prize in 1943. Though his later works were heavily pro-Stalin, his early works, like the novel Aelita, were some of the first examples of science fiction writing in the Russian language. 

Aelita
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Tolstoy, Alexei (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 280 Pages - 07/01/2001 (Publication Date) - Fredonia Books (NL) (Publisher)

11. Fyodor Dostoevsky

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s work is known for its deep look at the darkest parts of the human condition. A Raw Youth and Crime and Punishment are two of his more influential works. His works seemed to prophesy on how Russia’s revolutionaries would act if they came to power, and some literary critics call Dostoevsky the greatest psychologist in literary history.

Crime and Punishment
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Dostoevsky, Fyodor (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 376 Pages - 06/12/2010 (Publication Date) - Cricket House Books LLC (Publisher)

12. Maxim Gorky

Maxim Gorky was the pen name of writer and political activist Alexei Maximovich Peshkov. An active Marxist and someone who spoke out against the Tsars, Gorky was eventually exiled from Russia, only to be invited back under Stalin. He wrote novels, novellas, plays, poetry, short stories, and autobiographical non-fiction, with The Mother being one of his most famous novels.

The Mother
  • Gorky, Maxim (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 384 Pages - 02/09/2021 (Publication Date) - Alma Classics (Publisher)

13. Ivan Bunin

Ivan Bunin was controversial during his lifetime, as his works gave an honest view of life in Russia, and that view was not always positive. The Village is one of his most famous works, and it earned him The Nobel Prize in Literature in 1933. In addition to a handful of novels, Bunin wrote several short stories and poetry collections.

The Village (Alma Classics Limited)
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Bunin, Ivan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 176 Pages - 02/01/2013 (Publication Date) - Alma Classics (Publisher)

14. Mikhail Lermontov

A Romantic writer, poet, and painter, Mikhail Lermontov was the greatest literary figure of his time period, and he founded the tradition of the Russian psychological novel. A Hero of Our Time is his only novel and his most influential work, which he wrote in the 1830s. Unfortunately, in typical romantic fashion, Lermontov died in a duel with a former friend.

A Hero of Our Time (Penguin Classics)
  • Lermontov, Mikhail (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 156 Pages - 10/01/2001 (Publication Date) - Penguin Classics (Publisher)

15. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn 

One of the more modern novelists who lived into the 21st century, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, wrote One Day in the Life of Ivan DenisovichThe Gulag Archipelago and Two Hundred Years Together. Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970 and the State Prize of the Russian Federation in 2007, he has numerous awards to his name. Many of his works took on the challenges faced by the Soviets head-on. The Gulag Archipelago alone has sold tens of millions of copies. 

16. Lyudmila Ulitskaya

Евгения Давыдова, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Modern Russian novelist and short-story writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya is following in the footsteps of some of these historic writers. She has several Russian Booker Prizes and finalist titles to her name, earning one for The Kukotsky Case and Daniel Stein, Interpreter. Today, she lives in Moscow.

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Daniel Stein, Interpreter: A Novel
  • Hardcover Book
  • Ulitskaya, Ludmila (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 416 Pages - 03/31/2011 (Publication Date) - The Overlook Press (Publisher)

17. Tatyana Tolstaya

Moscow resident Tatyana Tolstaya is a Russian talk-show host who also writes novels. The Slynx and White Walls are two of her works with English translations. She often writes dystopian, science fiction works. 

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The Slynx (New York Review Books Classics)
  • New York Review of Books
  • Tolstaya, Tatyana (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages - 04/17/2007 (Publication Date) - NYRB Classics (Publisher)

18. Ivan Goncharov  

Ivan Goncharov is an interesting Russian author because not only does he have several novels to his name, including The Same Old Story and Oblomov, but he also worked as the censor, eliminating the work of dissidents in the mid-1800s. When he was not writing or working as the censor, he enjoyed traveling, and a logbook of his travels eventually became the basis for another novel, Pallada

Sale
The Same Old Story
  • Ivan Goncharov (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 350 Pages - 03/30/2017 (Publication Date) - Bunim & Bannigan Ltd. (Publisher)

Further Reading

If you liked these authors, check out this list of self-published authors you should read. 

If Russian literature scratches that itch, then the jump to these dystopian novels might also be of interest to you. 

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