Select language:

One Hundred Best Books for Russia

 /  / Russkiy Mir Foundation / Publications / One Hundred Best Books for Russia

One Hundred Best Books for Russia


Good news for those who are not indifferent to Russian literature and school education: the internet voting has just started to choose “100 best books” for Russian schoolchildren. All those willing to participate and once again reflect on their own artistic predilections (without ignoring the requisite benefit for youth) should better hurry up, since the voting will last only one week until August 7.

The initiative to form such a list for extracurricular reading was taken by Vladimir Putin. In one of his articles during the presidential election campaign the current president suggested that a national list of 100 books be formed for each Russian school graduate to read. According to Putin, this is not part of “bureaucratic ideology”, but rather a nation building initiative.

Public officials quickly caught up the call of the then presidential candidate – laudable corner-cutting for our bureaucratic system!

Already this spring surveys were made in all Russian regions and on their basis regional “100-book” lists were compiled. In turn, these served as the basis for a universal national list drawn by experts. They included the books most often referred to in the regional recommendations and not included in the compulsory school program.

Now 213 books have been proposed for discussion – apart from prose and poetry, these also include journalism, philosophy and history. The “long eclectic list” will meet any taste. Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky are placed alongside Natalia Narochnitskaya (Russia and Russians in the World History) and Alexander Archangelsky (Alexander I), poems by Vladimir Vysotsky, The Heart of Parma by Aleksey Ivanov and Alice’s Adventures by Kir Bulychev.

It’s understandable that not all of the books will be included in the final list. Judging by the number of voters, such works as The Dawns Here Are Quite by Boris Vasilyev, The Garnet Bracelet by Kuprin, both novels by Ilf and Petrov as well as the works of Bulgakov, Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Gaydar and Kaverin, Alexander Belyaev and brothers Strugatsky, the poetry of Vladimir Vysotsky and many other good books will also land in the list. Nevertheless direct democracy is hardly appropriate in this matter; neither is “the dictate of the rating.”

The voting was organized by St. Petersburg University upon request of the Science and Education Ministry. It began only last Tuesday on the specifically created “100 books” site.

It should be noted that well-known academics (not only philologists), officials from the RF Ministry of Culture as well as religious figures representing the Russian Orthodox Church and the Moslem community of Russia are members of the work group led by former rector and now President of Saint Petersburg University (and also Head of the Board of Trustees of the Russkiy Mir Foundation), Ludmila Verbitskaya.

The proposed “long list” has caused many questions and this is normal, especially when we are talking about our favorite books. Above all, these questions regard the personalities of the authors and specific works included therein. By the way, all volunteers may participate in the discussion on the “100 books” site where a special forum is envisaged for these purposes. In our opinion, the proposed list is quite representative, especially if one remembers that this is a complement to the main school program. And hundred books that will remain in the list are quite enough for our youth who read less with each passing year.

One more question naturally suggests itself: why were only works by Russian authors included in the list? “Is it possible to be a well-round personality without reading foreign authors?” one of the discussants reasonably asks at the forum.

The main point that remains unclear is how to motivate schoolchildren to read more. The Ministry of Education is silent to this effect. In the work group they take shelter in evasive statements that “100 books” is a program of self-education for youth. Perhaps it should be reminded that in his article Vladimir Putin proposed to add a composition on the topics covered by these complementary books to the program of graduation exams, or hold Olympiads and contests on these subjects.

Alexander Ryazantsev


New publications

What is the future of Russian language in Central Asia? This question is still open and the prospects are rather unclear. According to the 1989 census, 80% of the inhabitants of Soviet Union spoke Russian. In 2019, everything changed dramatically. More than half of residents throughout Central Asia (except Kazakhstan) do not speak Russian.
Tatiana Leskova is a great-granddaughter of Nikolai Leskov and the only direct descendant of the great Russian writer. A native of Paris, she has been living in Rio de Janeiro for over 70 years. Tatyana Leskova, an outstanding ballerina and choreographer, stood at the origins of South American ballet; and you can find names of Balanchine, Massine, Fokin, Baronova, Lepeshinskaya and other prominent figures of world ballet on the pages of her memoirs.
The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine** started reviewing the controversial bill On ensuring functioning of Ukrainian as the state language in the second reading. Its authors believe that development of Ukrainian language as original language of the titular nation to be the main task in effort to strengthen national identity of the Ukrainians and preserve national culture, traditions, customs, and historical memory of the Ukrainian nation. It sounds nicely, but what's there behind the façade?
This year marks 65th anniversary since Russia joined UNESCO. Before her official visit to Russia, Audrey Azoulay, the Director General of the UNESCO, spoke about priority activities and future of this largest international organization.
For a great while Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy used to praise family happiness, as well as love between husband and wife in his books. The writer believed that a family was the core social unit. It should be the top priority followed by church and the state. Surprisingly enough, the literary geniuss happiness in his family life did not last long. Upon completion of its initial stage, the marriage with Sophia Andreevna shifted to endless quarrels and mutual resentments, which lasted for decades. Nevertheless, they had 13 children; 8 of them lived to see adulthood and left their mark in history. It is the children of Leo Nikolaevich that we want to tell about.
About a thousand of foreign fans and tens of thousands of residents of Russian regions have come to the 29th Winter Universiade 2019 in Krasnoyarsk. The first week of student games, which start on March 2, will coincide with Maslenitsa festival (or the Crepe week). While in Krasnoyarsk, guests will be able to see and experience things that can rarely be combined within one tour - a sports festival, Siberian winter and the Russian Crepe Week. And female fans from faraway countries (Krasnoyarsk has welcomed guests from all over the world) will probably be surprised to receive a bouquet of flowers on March 8 the International Women's Day, which also comes during the Universiade.
Yumi, a Japanese woman, learned Russian, moved to Russia and traveled all over the Urals, because in childhood she used to listen to her mother reading tales by Pavel Bazhov, a Russian writer, in Japanese. They contain the whole world of malachite craftsmen, emerald lizards and mountain wizards, and its charm is not lost when the tales are translated into hieroglyphs or Arabic script. Every year guests from many countries of the world come to the Memorial house-museum of Pavel Bazhov  in Yekaterinburg. I personally know five people who moved to the Urals because of Bazhov and his tales, Ekaterina Kislova, the museum director, told the Russkiy Mir reporter.
"The wise statesmen of Russia always know how to choose their foreign envoys, one of American newspapers wrote about Alexander Bodisko, the Russian ambassador to the United States, in 1851. His tenure lasted for 17 years, the record term. He was respected so much that the American Congress paused its work for the day of his funeral, which was the unprecedented event.