Novikov, Nikolai Ivanovich

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Novikov, Nikolai Ivanovich (1744-1818): Russian Writer.

Nikolai Ivanovich Novikov was one of Russia’s most important shapers of Enlightenment thought and culture in areas that included publishing, Freemasonry lodges, and literary salons. Novikov was born to an old noble family in the village of Avdotino outside Moscow. He was sent to Moscow University’s gymnasium in 1757. He served as an army officer in the capital of St. Petersburg in the 1760s, then as a secretary for Catherine II, the Great’s Legislative Commission. In the late 1760s through the 1770s, he was the editor of several satirical journals, including The Drone, The Tattler, and The Painter, which were modeled after the British journals of Steele, Richard and Addison, Joseph. Novikov’s The Drone engaged in an unprecedented public debate over morals and reforms with the newspaper All Sorts and Sundries, which was sponsored by Catherine herself. Novikov also wrote an Attempt at a Historical Dictionary of Russian Writers (1772), the first of its kind for his country. He was arrested in 1792 largely because of Catherine’s suspicions of subversiveness in his Masonic activities. The emperor Paul I released him from confinement in 1796, and he spent the final years of his life on the Avdotino estate, outside the literary realm.

Novikov was responsible for the greatest propagation of Enlightenment and Masonic thought throughout Russia during his time. Through his work on the satirical journals and his prodigious publishing activity, which included the leadership of the Moscow University Press and numerous other typographical enterprises, he brought hundreds of new and translated titles into print and particularly emphasized the works and themes of Russian Freemasons, which included issues of freedom, charity, and moral improvement. He also played an important role in developing literature for children.

Further Reading:

W. Gareth Jones, Nikolay Novikov: Enlightener of Russia, 1984.

Alisa Gayle Mayor