Just for fun I’ve compiled a list of ‘Names of Russia’ which did not make it into the final twelve. It is, I appreciate, rather heavy on literary figures. I’d be interested in readers’ comments or suggestions.
1. Leo Tolstoy – Literary giant, whose realist novels, in tandem with Dostoevsky’s works, defined Russian literature’s golden age. His political and religious convictions both reflected and shaped many of the prevailing political and reformist trends in late nineteenth century Russia.
2. Mikhail Gorbachev – Communist General Secretary whose project of evolutionary reform for the USSR sadly was unable to prevail when faced with centrifugal forces and nationalism unleashed by Boris Yeltsin and others.
3. Ilya Repin – Ukrainian born artist whose realist paintings informed Socialist Realism, but far exceeded the merits of that genre. Produced startling and varied canvasses often said to reflect the latent political power of the Russian people.
4. Nikolai Gogol – The father of Russian prose. Dostoevsky believed his generation of novelists had emerged from beneath ‘Gogol’s Overcoat’. His satirical style and almost surreal, slightly grotesque characters informed Dostoevsky’s own novels as well as those of later novelists such as Bulgakov.
5. Rurik – Varangian Prince whose dynasty would rule Kievan Rus and the Russian proto state.
6. Marshall Zhukov – The military commander, born in Belarus, who led the liberation of the Soviet Union from Nazi occupation during the Great Patriotic War. His troops would eventually reach Berlin.
7. Mikhail Lomonsov – scientist, writer, poet, Lomonsov’s peasant background did not prevent him making a huge contribution to the standardising of the Russian literary language. His experiments in heat and light played a role in shaping modern science.
8. Ivan Turgenev – With Tolstoy and Dostoevsky formed the great triumvirate of ‘golden age’ Russian novelists. A westerniser by sensibility, his finest work was ‘Fathers and Sons’.
9. Yuri Gagarin – The first man in space deserves a mention.
10. Anton Chekhov – Master of the short story, his clear eyed narrative style has been hugely influential in modern literature. Pioneered the ‘stream of consciousness’ device before Joyce.