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
- 1. Leo Tolstoy
- 2. Anna Akhmatova
- 3. Anton Chekhov
- 4. Nikolai Gogol
- 5. Alexander Pushkin
- 6. Ivan Turgenev
- 7. Mikhail Bulgakov
- 8. Vladimir Nabokov
- 9. Boris Pasternak
- 10. Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy
- 11. Fyodor Dostoevsky
- 12. Maxim Gorky
- 13. Ivan Bunin
- 14. Mikhail Lermontov
- 15. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
- 16. Lyudmila Ulitskaya
- 17. Tatyana Tolstaya
- 18. Ivan Goncharov
- FAQs About The Best Russian Authors
Russian Authors Worth Reading
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.
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. If you enjoyed learning about these authors, you might be interested in reading our guide on the best Chinese authors.
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.
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.
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.
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5. Alexander Pushkin
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.
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.
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.
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.
9. Boris Pasternak
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Denisovich, The 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
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.
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.
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. If Russian literature scratches that itch, then the jump to these dystopian novels might also be of interest to you.
FAQs About The Best Russian Authors
Who is a Russian Sci-Fi Writer?
Writer Ivan Yefremov has been affectionately named the father of Soviet science fiction. He is the author of 1957’s ‘Andromeda: A Space Age Tale’, which has been cited as the inspiration for many Sci-Fi creations, including the name Darth Vader. Other notable Russian science fiction writers include Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, Aleksey Tolstoy and Alexander Belyaev.
How did Russian Writer Alexander Pushkin Die?
Alexander Pushkin was killed in a pistol duel against French military officer George d’Anthes. It has been suggested that d’Anthes was courting Pushkin’s wife Natalia, and Pushkin responded with a highly insulting letter that forced them into a duel. They fought a ‘barrier duel’ by the Black River in St Petersburg, in which Pushkin was shot through the hip and abdomen, soon dying of peritonitis.
What Russian Writer died in 1837?
The acclaimed Russian Writer Alexander Pushkin died in 1837, due to a fatality in a pistol duel in St Petersburg. Pushkin is still considered to be Russia’s greatest poet and the founder of modern Russian Literature. He was also an accomplished novelist, with his most celebrated work including ‘Eugene Onegin’, ‘Dubrovsky’, and ‘The Queen of Spades’