born Nov. 5 [Oct. 25, Old Style],
1733, Pereyaslav, Poltava province,
Ukraine, Russian Empire [now
died Oct. 9 [Sept. 27], 1807, Moscow,
epic poet, playwright, and
influential representative of Russian
classicism who was known in his own day
as the Russian Homer.
The son of a Walachian noble who had
settled in Russia, Kheraskov became
director of Moscow University in 1763.
He determined to give Russia a national
epic, then the sine qua non of an
independently important literature.
Rossiyada (1771–79; “Russian Epic”) is
based on the capture of Kazan (1552) by
Ivan the Terrible, and Vladimir
vozrozhdyonny (1785; “Vladimir Reborn”)
is concerned with St. Vladimir’s
introduction of Christianity to Russia.
Kheraskov composed 20 plays, including
tragedies and comedies, embodying
classical principles of dramaturgy. He
also edited literary magazines. His
didactic poem Plody nauk (1761; “The
Fruits of the Sciences”) was a polemic
against Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s attack
on scientific progress. Though they were
highly respected during the 18th
century, Kheraskov’s works were rejected
by the 19th century and now are read
only by specialists.