1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ostrovskiy, Alexander Nikolaivich

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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 20
Ostrovskiy, Alexander Nikolaivich

OSTROVSKIY, ALEXANDER NIKOLAIVICH (1823-1886), Russian dramatic author, was born on the 12th of April 1823 in Moscow, where his father was an official of the senate. He studied law in the university of that city, which he quitted without having submitted to the final examination. He was then employed as a clerk in the office of the “Court of Conscience,” and subsequently in that of the Commercial Court at Moscow. Both tribunals were called upon to settle disputes chiefly among the Russian merchant class, from which Ostrovskiy was thus enabled to draw the chief characters for his earliest comedies. Among these are Byednaya Nivesta (“The Poor Bride”), Bycdnost ne Porok (“Poverty not a Vice”), and Ne v’svoi sani ne sadis (literally “Don't put yourself in another's sledge,” meaning " Don't put yourself in a position for which you are not suited ). Of this last Nicholas I. said, “it was not a play, but a lesson.” The uncultured, self-satisfied Moscow merchants are strikingly portrayed in Grozá (“The Tempest”) and Svoyi lyudi sochtyomsya ( Between near relatives no accounts are needed ), which was originally called " The Bankrupt." The last-mentioned comedy was prohibited for ten years, until the accession of Alexander II., and Ostrovskiy was dismissed the government service and placed under the supervision of the poUce. The Liberal tendencies of the new reign, however, soon brought relief, Ostrovskiy was one of several well-known literary men who were sent into the provinces to report on the condition of the people. Ostrovskiy’s field of inquiry lay along the upper Volga, a part of the country memorable for some of the most important events in Russian history. This mission induced him to write several historical dramas of great merit, such as Kiizma Zakharich Minin Soiikhoroiik (the full name of the famous butcher who saved Moscow from the Poles); "The False Demetrius" and " Vassily Shuisky "; Vassilisa Mclenticva (the name of a favourite court lady of Ivan the Terrible), and the comedy, Voivoda eeli Sonna Volge (“The Military Commander,” or “A dream on the Volga”). Many of his later works treat of the Russian nobility, and include Bycshani Dengi (literally “Mad Money”), Vospcdiniisa ( A Girl brought up in a Stranger's Family ), and Volki e Ovtsi ( Wolves and Sheep ); others relate to the world of actors, such as Liess (“Forest”), Bez vini vinovatiya (“Guiltlessly guilty”), and Talenli e Pokloniki (“Talents and their Admirers”). Ostrovskiy enjoyed the patronage of Alexander III., and received a pension of 3000 roubles a year. With the help of Moscow capitalists he established in that city a model theatre and school of dramatic art, of which he became the first director. He also founded the Society of Russian Dramatic Art and Opera Composers. His death took place on the 24th of June 1886, while travelling to his estate in Kostroma.