Bely, Andrei (БЕЛЫЙ, АНДРЕЙ) (1880–1934) By White, Frederick H.
Andrei Bely (1880–1934) was a writer of prose, poetry, literary criticism and memoirs, as well as a leading theorist and representative of the ‘second wave’ of Russian Symbolism. Music and philosophy first interested Bely as is evident in his four prose Symphonies (1902–1908) and a collection of poetry, Gold in Azure (1904). Following the failed 1905 Revolution, Bely’s poetry became more pessimistic. The mystical enthusiasm of his early poetry was replaced by images of disillusionment in two later collections: Ashes and The Urn (both 1909). In 1910, Bely published his first novel, The Silver Dove, yet it was his second, Petersburg (1916), which is considered to be among the finest novels of the twentieth century. Bely’s remaining prose works were much less successful. At the end of his life, Bely was under increasing pressure by Soviet officials to re-remember elements of the modernist movement. As a result, Bely’s memoirs are highly unreliable, but fascinating as examples of cultural coercion in the Soviet Union. Today, Bely is remembered as one of the principal voices of Russian Symbolism at its inception—and then one of its main apologists, after the movement fell out of fashion in the Soviet Union.