Radishchev Alexander Nikolayevich (1749 - 1802), writer.
He was born in a landowner's family. He spent his childhood in the village of Verkhneye Ablyazovo (nowadays Penzenskaya oblast). The first educators of the boy were serfs: nurse Praskovya Klementyevna and under-tutor Peter Mamontov taught him reading and writing. They introduced him into the world of national creativity, interest and love for which writer preserved all his life. In 1762 Radishchev entered elite educational institution - Petersburg page corps. All subjects to the pupils of the corps were taught by one French teacher, but young pages served at the palace for the empress. There Radishchev observed palace atmosphere and court customs.
After graduation Radishchev among the best pupils was sent abroad, to Leipzig, for receiving of special legal education.After graduation from university Radishchev came home, ready, in his own words, "to sacrifice life for the benefit of Motherland". He expected to take part in the big work on drawing up of the promised by Catherine new legislation. However, Radishchev had to fill the modest post of registering clerk in the Senate. There he saw the line of serfs' criminal cases: tortures by landowners of peasants, country revolts and disorders, suppressed with "small calibre gun and a cannon". Later he retired.
In those years Radishchev got acquaintances in literary circles, became close friends with N.I.Novikov. In notes to translation of the book by French philosopher- enlightener Mabli he wrote: "Autocracy is the most repugnant to human nature condition... " After this he emphasized, that "injustice of the sovereign" gives people the right to judge and punish him as the worst criminal. There he briefly expressed the idea, which later the writer would develop in the well-known ode "Liberty" (1783). There he glorified tyrants - Broot, William Tell, he extoled and summoned "terror for kings" - revolution, "voice" which should convert darkness of slavery into the light. At the same time "Liberty" by Radishchev is a hymn to people, their labour.
In 1789-1790, one by one, four works by Radishchev on different subject were published. It is "Life of Feodor Vasiliyevich Ushakov", which tells about life of Russian students in Leipzig; "A letter to a friend...', which gives historically true estimation of activity of Peter I; "Conversation on what is the real son of fatherland", where the right to be called patriot is refused to the majority of representatives of noblemen's society, and, at last, the main work and deed of Radishchev - "Travel from St. Petersburg to Moscow".
In "Travel... " Radishchev set a task to show modern to him Russian reality. After publication of "Travel", on order of Catherine II, Radishchev was placed in a casemate of Petropavlovskaya fortress. Court sentenced him to death penalty, which was later replaced by 10 years of exile in Siberia. Passing through Tobolsk he wrote:
You want to know: who am I? What am I? Where do I go?
I'm the same, as I've been and will always be:
Not an animal, not a tree, not a slave,
but a human being!..
In exile Radishchev continued to work: studied local territory and wrote a historical work devoted to Siberia.
After the death of Catherine II Radishchev was allowed to return to Central Russia. Up to the end of his life the writer lived under supervision of police in small Kaluga estate of Nemtsovo. There he continued literary work. In the unfinished poem "Songs, sung during the competitions in honour of ancient Slavic gods" the author of "Travel... " speaks about future of his fellow-countrymen:
Oh, nation, glorious nation!
Your future descendants
Will exceed you in glory...
All barrier, all strongholds
Will be broken with a strong hand,
Will vanquish... the nature even,
- And before their mighty look,
Before their faces, lit up
By glory of victories famous,
Kings and empires will perish...
On March 11, 1801 there was another palace revolution: Paul I was killed and his son Alexander I acceded to the throne. Radishchev was called to take part in work of the commission on drawing up of laws, and he got to work. But none of his project was set going. Radishchev committed suicide by drinking the fatal doze of poison.