Biography of Mikhail Yurevich Lermontov

Mikhail Yurievich Lermontov was born in Moscow in 1814 to Maria and Yurii Lermontov. He lived with his parents until 1817, when his mother died and his maternal grandmother, Elizaveta Alexeevna Arsenieva, won custody of him. Lermontov received a first-class education at his grandmother's estate of Tarkhany in Penza Province. Despite his grandmother's generosity, Lermontov experienced tremendous pain in his childhood due to being isolated from his father.

Similarly to the main character in his novel, A Hero of Our TimeLermontov's life was marked by constant movement. He and his grandmother made a few trips to the Caucasus to revitalize his sickly body. In 1827, they moved to Moscow. During his time in Moscow, Lermontov spent two years at the University Pension for the Nobility, followed by two years at Moscow University. These four years were very productive for Lermontov. He produced poems such as Circassians, Prisoner of the Caucasus, and The Spaniards. In 1832, Lermontov moved again with his grandmother, this time to St. Petersburg. Lermontov's writings suffered during his four years in St. Petersburg. He spent these years pursuing a military career and engaging with high society instead of focusing on his writings.

The year 1837 marked a turning point in Lermontov's life. His poem, Death of a Poet, received widespread recognition for its celebration of Aleksandr Pushkin and its criticism of Russian institutions. The poem led to both fame and a short exile to the Caucasus -- but the exile increased Lermontov's fame, rather than diminishing it. Upon returning from his exile, Lermontov had respect from literary circles, and his work went into constant circulation. He regained the productivity he had during his years in Moscow and even ventured outside of poetry. Lermontov's only novel, A Hero of Our Time, was published in 1840. During this time, he faced a second exile to the Caucasus for his participation in a duel.

In 1841, Lermontov sought permission to leave the army to pursue his craft unencumbered by military duties. His request was denied, and he was forced to continue his duties in the Caucasus. He died a few months later -- Major Martynov, an acquaintance, killed him in a duel on July 15, 1841. Despite his short life, Lermontov is regarded as one of Russia's greatest poets. 


Study Guides on Works by Mikhail Yurevich Lermontov