The Scary in Acmeist Poetry as a Marker of Modernist Artistry




Russian poetry of the early 20th century, Symbolism, Acmeism, Modernism, artistry, fear, the scary, death


In its self-affirmation in the cultural field and its defiance of the extremes of Symbolism, Acmeism insisted on the diversity of its creative possibilities, the preference of the worldly content to the otherworldly, the development of a clear and transparent artistic form, the self-identity of artistic realities, and their balance. All this testified to the tendency to classical artistry, which determines not only the form of works (language and poetic style, composition) but the content (circle of ideas, problems, themes and images, and plot). The author examines how this system comprehends the chaotic and disharmonic that are part of life within its boundaries of cosmographic properties (harmonious, bright, optimistic). Earthly life as a reality declared a priority in the Acmeist paradigm is full of hostility, threats, and danger. Also of interest are the questions of how the negative category of the scary manifests itself and whether its presence testifies to the connection of Acmeism with the non-classical artistry of modernism. Answers to these questions form and represent the problems of this article. Referring to the works of N. Gumilyov, A. Akhmatova, and O. Mandelstam, the author explores the image and artistic understanding of the scary in Acmeist poetry. The article demonstrates a variety of objects, phenomena of reality, life processes, connections, and relationships that cause unpleasant feelings and experiences in poetic perception. On the one hand, the poets’ fears are due to personal characteristics and predilections, i. e., they have an individual nature and, on the other hand, they express the general tendencies of Acmeism. For Gumilyov, the dangers are associated with his love of travel. Hence the presence of a spatial component in the adventurous topic of his poems: the characters participate in battles with the sea, evil animals – the inhabitants of the African savannah, fantastic creatures, for example, with a dragon, visit the afterlife. The fears of Akhmatova’s lyrical heroine are motivated by dramatic collisions of the interpersonal, primarily love and relationships. The terrible thing for Mandelstam lurks in the fatal illness predicted to him, the sacred depth of religious faith, and the collapse of the world of cultural values that feeds his spiritual self-sufficiency. Acmeists were not afraid to depict and comprehend death, bearing the emptiness of non-existence, promising a frightening collision with the unknown and otherworldly, and plunging into a stupor of hopelessness. The scary made it possible to expand the thematic and pictorial possibilities of the works, address sociocultural issues, and reflect the tragedy of life becoming a marker of the high standard artistry of modernism.

Author Biography

Igor Vasiliev

Dr. Hab. (Philology), Professor, Ural Federal University named after the first President of Russia B. N. Yeltsin.

19, Mira Str., 620002, Yekaterinburg, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0001-9517-5855


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How to Cite

Vasiliev, I. (2023). The Scary in Acmeist Poetry as a Marker of Modernist Artistry. Quaestio Rossica, 11(1), 118–134.



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