Saint Petersburg Literary Salons and the Turn of the Century

Rosina Neginsky, University of Illinois, Springfield

In this paper I would like to introduce the audience to the literary and artistic milieu of Saint Petersburg of the turn of the century. It was one of the most creative and most inventive periods in Russian culture. Like their Western fellow artists, poets and writers, Russian artists revolted against dead academism in art, lack of creativity in poetry and the ideology of civic writers. They wanted to create a new art and a new society. For them, art and literature did not imitate life, but were life itself. They were the expression of the inner world of the artist, which in its turn was a divine particle, exercising the theurgical action, the creation of the divine world on earth through art. To generate the ideas, to share their works, the artists, writers and poets of Saint Petersburg had many meeting places. Some meetings took place at private houses, some at the societies such as Shakespeare Circle or Women's Society. Some met in the cafes.

In this paper I would like to discuss and create a brief history of different forms of literary and artistic salons that existed in Saint Petersburg at the turn of the century, how they influenced the generation of ideas through the exchange between different representatives of the artistic and literary milieu of Saint Petersburg, and how they impacted the overall Russian culture of the earlier part of the twentieth century. I will discuss the "literary and artistic salon" at some literary societies that often were the foundation for the creation of the private literary salons. I will introduce you to the salons at some private homes, such as salon at the poetess Mirra Loxvickaja, and will talk about the important role of publishing houses as a meeting place. I will particularly focus on the influence of the thick journals — The World of God and The Northern Herald; on the salon at the publishing house of The World of Art; and on the Religious and Philosophical Gatherings, organized by Gippius and Merezhkovskij. I will talk about the salon of Baroness Ixkul and at Viacheslav Ivanov's tower and their role in the lives of intellectuals of the turn of the century.