Top 10 Greatest Russian Novels of All Time


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    War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

    “War and Peace” is an epic novel by Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, first published by the Russki Vestnik publisher from 1865 to 1869. It is a work that reflects a tumultuous period of Russian society, from the nobility to the peasants, during the time of Napoleon and is considered one of Lev Tolstoy’s two main masterpieces. “War and Peace” is also regarded as one of the greatest novels in world literature.

    The novel “War and Peace” is often referred to as the “Leo” (Lev in Russian means lion) of Russian literature. The plot is built upon two historical events at the end of the 19th century: the wars of 1805 and 1812, while also portraying the peaceful life in Russia during the periods 1805-1812 and 1812-1820. The work shines with a profound desire for peace and carries a deep humanitarian message, making it truly one of the masterpieces of humanity.

    One of the remarkable features of “War and Peace” is the art of character psychology. The fates of the characters, with their subtle emotions, are intimately intertwined with the ups and downs of history. This is Lev Tolstoy’s innovation in the epic genre, creating the modern epic hero in the history of Russian and world literature.


    Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky ( Преступление и наказание )

    “Crime and Punishment” – This book is included in many lists of “Top Books to Read in Your Lifetime.” This novel, along with “The Brothers Karamazov,” are the two most famous works by Dostoevsky. The Times magazine has voted “Crime and Punishment” as one of the greatest books of all time.

    The story revolves around the young student Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov (pronounced roughly as rask-ohl-nee-kov), an intelligent but troubled young man who plans the perfect murder of a ruthless pawnbroker. However, after committing the murder, Raskolnikov becomes trapped in the torment of his own guilt, driving him to madness as his mother and sister come to visit him in St. Petersburg.

    Do not mistake this for a fast-paced mystery from the perspective of the murderer. Instead, it is a psychological examination of human nature, particularly in relation to crime. The pacing is deliberately slow and meandering, but the characters are incredibly deep and realistically unsettling. “Crime and Punishment” has a winding, almost aimless feel, as if Dostoevsky started with a premise in his head and then wrote to see where the book would take him. The plot is simple, encompassing the main story (the murder) as well as subplots involving various characters Raskolnikov encounters.

    Gentle East River ( Тихий Дон, Tikhy Don )

    “The Quiet Don” (Russian: Тихий Дон, Tikhy Don) is the greatest novel by the Russian writer Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov. With this work, Sholokhov was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1965. “The Quiet Don” is a novel often regarded as the most representative work of Russian literature, and it also brought the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature to the author.

    Within the novel “The Quiet Don” lies the tumultuous life of the main character, Grigori Melekhov, during the historical period of 1912-1922. The setting of the book is the Cossack village on the banks of the Don River. The years 1912-1922 encompass two significant historical events: World War I (1914-1918) and the Russian Civil War (1918-1922).

    Despite containing many tragedies and upheavals, “The Quiet Don” serves as the most authentic portrayal of human life during this challenging period of history. Give this novel a read to gain a deeper understanding of the darker aspects of society in the past.

    How the Steel Was Tempered – Nikolai A. Ostrovsky

    How the Steel Was Tempered” is a famous novel by writer Nikolai A. Ostrovsky. The main character of the work is Pavel Korchagin. Nowadays, when reading the work from a broader perspective, many people believe that the struggle for the liberation of humanity is also a struggle against exploitation, poverty, and disease, against ignorance and a lack of government, against oppression and injustice, against war and conflict… The novel has been translated into over 70 languages and printed in more than 80 countries.

    The novel describes the events of the era during the Civil War, the years of economic recovery in the Soviet Union, and the construction of a socialist society. Through the character of Pavel Korchagin, the author portrays the excellent qualities of young Soviet people who grew up in the revolutionary struggle: dedicating their physical and intellectual strength to the Party, love for their homeland, courage, and pure ethics. Therefore, “How the Steel Was Tempered” was once considered the bedside book of many generations of Vietnamese youth, one of the best books for everyone to read.

    Childhood” is a novel by Maxim Gorky

    Maxim Gorky (1868-1936) is a prominent Russian writer who pioneered the literary movement of socialist realism. He is also a renowned social and cultural activist worldwide.

    “Childhood” is a collection of memoirs that delves into the painful past of a young boy named Alexei. Unlike many of us, Alexei lost his father at an early age and mainly grew up with his grandparents, while his mother remained distant. The people he loved also left him one by one. These painful memories made him increasingly self-reliant and mature. Alexei’s incomplete childhood brought forth a range of emotions.

    We hope this Russian literary work will resonate with readers, allowing them to see themselves within its pages. More importantly, the author’s exquisite artistic craftsmanship will captivate readers from the very first word to the last.

    “We have never read a Russian literary work as remarkable as your ‘Childhood.’ Never have you so skillfully utilized your art as in this work.”

    Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

    The novel “Anna Karenina” by the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) was ranked first on the list of the 10 greatest literary works of all time by Time magazine in 2007, surpassing legendary works by authors like William Shakespeare and Mark Twain.

    “Dostoevsky’s last work, ‘The Brothers Karamazov,’ is his greatest masterpiece, created after over forty years of dedicated literary labor. Through his genius pen, Dostoevsky reflected the societal chaos in Russia during the latter half of the 19th century through the disintegration and tragedies within the Karamazov family. Alongside this, he explored the ‘search for the meaning of existence’ among individuals from past, present, and future generations of Russia. It delves into boundless suffering and the potential paths towards social harmony.

    For most people, reading Dostoevsky is like traversing a concise history of the most common tragedies of humanity, ascending the peaks of thought, and sometimes delving into the deepest recesses of the human psyche, rarely illuminated before him. Therefore, whether it’s a mental adventure of youth or a moment of introspection while reading and reflecting on life’s rich experiences, it is believed that this book will leave us with some lasting impressions.”

    The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky

    “The Brothers Karamazov” – Fyodor Dostoevsky

    Surely, book enthusiasts, especially those fond of novels, are no strangers to “Crime and Punishment” and its author, Dostoyevsky. However, not many are familiar with “The Brothers Karamazov,” despite it being considered a famous work by the author, on par with “Crime and Punishment.”

    “The Brothers Karamazov,” Dostoevsky’s final work, is indeed his greatest masterpiece, which he left for posterity after over four decades of dedicated literary work. With his brilliant pen, Dostoevsky depicted the chaotic social conditions of Russia in the latter half of the 19th century through the disintegration and tragedies within the Karamazov family. Alongside this, the novel explores the “search for the meaning of existence” in individuals spanning different generations of Russian society, addressing boundless suffering and potential paths to achieve societal harmony.

    For most readers, delving into Dostoevsky’s works means embarking on a concise journey through the common tragedies of humanity, ascending to the heights of philosophical thought, and sometimes delving into the deepest layers of the human psyche, rarely illuminated before his time. Therefore, whether it’s a mental adventure of youth or a moment of introspection while reading and reflecting on the rich tapestry of life, this book is sure to offer a unique and lasting flavor to all of us.

    The Scarlet Sails by Alexander Grin

    “The Scarlet Sails” (tiếng Nga: Алые паруса; Alye parusa) is a romantic story for young adults by the Russian writer Alexander Grin. The work was written over six years, from 1916 to 1922, and was later adapted into a film by Mosfilm in 1961.

    The story revolves around a girl named Assol (Ассоль/ Assol), who lives with her retired sailor father, Longren, after her mother, Mary, passed away. Her father makes toys with images related to the life of a sailor to sell and make a living. One day, while carrying toys through the woods to sell, Assol encounters an old man named Egon (Эгль). He tells her about life beyond the sea and assures her that a prince with scarlet sails will come to marry her when she grows up. Assol believes his words.

    The “prince” in the story is Arthur Gray, the son of a wealthy family. He dreams of becoming a sailor and, as he grows older, he joins the crew of the ship Anselm. Initially, Captain Hop is skeptical that the privileged young boy can withstand the hardships of life at sea, but Gray earns his respect during a long sea voyage together. Later, Gray leaves the Anselm to buy his own ship, the “Secret.” One day, while passing by the village of Kaperna (where Assol lives), Gray decides to stop and fish. Near a clump of grass by the forest, he finds Assol sleeping and immediately falls in love with her. He takes a ring from his hand and gently places it on her finger. Assol continues to sleep, unaware of what has happened. Gray then enters the village to learn more about the girl he just met and discovers the story of the ship with scarlet sails. He prepares his ship to resemble the tale and comes to take Assol, leaving the villagers in astonishment, as they had always mocked her and her father.

    White Nights – Fyodor Dostoevsky

    “White Nights” is a novel by the renowned Russian writer Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky (a prominent figure in 19th-century Russian literature) that tells a story of a pure and elevated romantic love, unfolding during the dreamy white nights on the banks of the Neva River in the city of St. Petersburg.

    “White Nights” recounts the encounter between a 26-year-old dreamy man and a 17-year-old, even more dreamy girl named Naxtenca. They accidentally meet and, together, escape from their own shells, their solitary worlds, to share and love together.

    The first time the man sees Naxtenca is when she is standing by the road, crying alone due to some sadness as the night has fallen. There is something special about this girl that piques his curiosity. He rescues her from a harasser. They become acquainted and engage in conversation for four white nights…

    The Amphibian by Alexander Belyaev ( Человек-амфибия )

    “The Amphibian” (Russian: Человек-амфибия) is the title of a science fiction novel by the writer Alexander Romanovich Belyaev, which tells the story of a young man with the ability to live underwater. It was first published in 1927.

    The story revolves around the Argentine doctor Salvator, a scientist and surgeon without a license, who performs a life-saving transplant on his son, Ichthyander (Russian: Ихтиандр, Ichtiandr), giving him a set of shark gills. The experiment is successful, but it limits the young boy’s ability to interact with the outside world, as he must spend most of his time underwater. A local pearl diver named Pedro Surita discovers Ichthyander’s unique ability and seeks to exploit him.

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