Mikhail Lermontov Biography

Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov (October 15 1814 – July 27 1841), a Russian Romantic writer, poet and painter, sometimes called "the poet of the Caucasus", became the most important Russian poet after Alexander Pushkin's death in 1837. Lermontov is considered the supreme poet of Russian literature alongside Pushkin and the greatest figure in Russian Romanticism. His influence on later Russian literature is still felt in modern times, not only through his poetry, but also through his prose, which founded the tradition of the Russian psychological novel.

Lermontov was born in Moscow into a respectable noble family of the Tula guberniya, and grew up on the Tarkhany estate in the village of Tarkhany (now Lermontovo in Penza Oblast). According to legend, his paternal family is descended from the Scottish Earls of Learmont, one of whom settled in Russia in the early 17th century, during the reign of Mikhail Fedorovich Romanov. The legendary Scottish poet Thomas the Rhymer (Thomas Learmonth) is thus claimed as a relative of Lermontov. The only ascertainable genealogical information states that the poet was descended from Yuri (George) Learmont, a Scottish officer in the Polish service who settled in Russia in the middle of 17th century.

Lermontov's father, Yuri Lermontov, like his father before him, was a military man. Having moved up the ranks to captain, he married the sixteen-year-old Maria Arsenyeva, to the great dismay of her mother, Yelizaveta Alekseyevna. A year after the marriage, on the night of October 3 (Old Style), 1814, Maria gave birth to Mikhail Lermontov. According to tradition, soon after his birth some discord between Lermontov's father and grandmother erupted, and unable to bear it, Maria fell ill and died in 1817. After her daughter's death, Yelizaveta Alekseyevna devoted all her love to her grandson, constantly afraid that his father might move away with him. Either because of this pampering or continuing family tension or both,the young Lermontov developed a fearful and arrogant temper, which he took out on the servants, and in vandalising his grandmother's garden.

As a small boy Lermontov listened to stories about the outlaws of the Volga region, about their great bravery and wild country life. When he was ten, Mikhail fell sick, and Yelizaveta Alekseyevna took him to the Caucasus because of its better climate. That was the beginning of his love for this region.