Top 10 High-Quality Russian Classics That Will Change Your Life and Mindset

Tags: #AnnaKarenina ,   #TheMasterandMargarita ,   #RussianClassics ,   #Dostoevsky

Scarlett Goldstein

Scarlett Goldstein

Last updated:  2021-11-22 09:41:45

Some books make you think in a whole different way, and some of them change your life permanently. Sometimes we read to kill our time only, but several novels and plays are so influential that you'll be a different person when you finish them. The perfect examples of that are Russian classics since they cover some central philosophical themes. Hence, dive into the world of these ten books, and learn something that will be life-changing!

10. "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy

It's a big deal to read this, but you'll be thankful afterward

Some people joke that reading "War and Peace" requires commitment, just like a relationship. Well, that's not really a false statement since this highly-acclaimed novel has a total of 1,225 pages! You might need more than a week, or at least ten days, to read this book, but you obviously won't be the same the day you finish it!

Luckily, all the time you'll dedicate to "War and Peace" will teach you something, especially about the war times, history, and even romance! Even though the "war" parts might be somewhat dull and the "peace" ones very entertaining, the characters of "War and Peace" are intriguing in every moment of this book. You shouldn't skip anything!

9. “The Seagull” by Anton Chekhov

You'll laugh and cry while watching this marvelous movie based on Chekhov's play

Admit it or not, we'd all like to live freely like the seagulls – to feel the summer air on our skin and fly without limits. That's what the main character of this excellent play by Chekhov dreams about when she meets a famous writer, who is her ideal role model. But what about her love? Is success worth hurting someone who has genuine feelings?

Moreover, the best plays are those that, without any boundaries, merge both tragedy and comedy. Even though several parts will make you cry, you won't resist laughing at many points. Russia never had a more influential playwright than Chekhov, which says enough about this work and his other plays!

8. "Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoevsky

A very informative video without any spoilers!

Crime, psychology, and philosophy are the top trends of our century, so it's not a surprise that the new generations find "Crime and Punishment" by Dostoevsky fascinating and life-changing. These six parts, ending with an epilogue, aren't too long and challenging to read. Still, you might enjoy this book even more if you come back to it when you're older.

Believe it or not, Dostoevsky actually has many haters, thanks to this novel and his other iconic work, "The Idiot." This book is often called "a soap opera" rather than a philosophical novel characteristic of this writer. Still, that's why novels like these are incredibly influential – they either change your life positively, or you wish you'd never read them!

7. “Dead Souls” by Nicolai Gogol

This book won't only change you – it changed the whole Russian literature's flow

Humor, irony, and clever remarks are some of the best traits that Nicolai Gogol delivered in every work he ever published. "Dead Souls" made Russian literature controversial, glorious, and mind-blowing again. As a picaresque novel, it was very revolutionary for its time, since Russia didn't have these works then!

In all the good things we got, the saddest part is that Gogol actually planned to make his own "Divine Comedy." Hence "Dead Souls" originally had two more sequels. Unfortunately, Gogol decided to throw them into the fire, so no one ever got a chance to read it. We guess you'll never forgive him after you get through the first and only part we have!

6. "Fathers and Sons" by Ivan Turgenev

It's one of the most touching Russian novels ever

"The nihilists" (the sons) and "the liberals" (the fathers) have never found a connection as authentic as in Turgenev's best novel, "Fathers and Sons." Only the best writers could create this fine line between society and politics and still keep love as a central theme – love in all of its forms, not only the romantic one!

Even if we paid attention to one character only, we'd consider this novel a masterpiece – Turgenev's portrait of Yevgeny Vassilievitch Bazarov is a work of art itself. Socially and politically, he's a symbol of education that wins over aristocracy, and the way Turgenev made him a nihilist is such a crucial point for common Russian themes!

5. “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov

Is this novel too weird for you as well?

Some novels are even more beloved in the 21st century than when they got released – it's not about passing the test of time, but fitting into the new generations' concept. Truth be told, Vladimir Nabokov gained international fame overnight, only three years after releasing "Lolita." Still, the book is a central topic even more today!

The sultry and sinful "Lolita" is so attractive that you'll feel it's wrong. However, you'll still keep turning pages – this work is unputdownable. It's shocking, from his inspiration to write a work like this, to the whole journey of publishing something as controversial as this book. Nabokov won't seduce only a 12-year old; he will steal your heart, subconsciously!

4. "Eugene Onegin" by Alexander Pushkin

The thumbnail says enough – you just have to read this at least once!

Dive into Russian Romanticism, even though it also has some characteristics of realism – "Eugene Onegin" is the most delicate line between these two genres. It's a novel, but with the perfect "Pushkin's sonnet," the structure you'll initially find in this book. "Eugene Onegin" will awaken all the emotions you never knew you had!

About this novel's glorious fame says enough the fact that it has various adaptations today, ranging from opera to the movies. Furthermore, the protagonist is so influential that he seems to be a role model for further Russian literary works and the whole of Europe.

3. “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The evil" is a recurring theme in literature even today

If you were asked which topics are actually life-changing and which ones really alter your perspective, religion would top the list. "The Brothers Karamazov" made religion and philosophy merge more than ever before, and Dostoevsky's characters from this work might make you question their decisions forever.

Even though we mentioned before that Dostoevsky has many haters, almost everyone agrees that "The Brothers Karamazov" is his magnum opus. Imagine having a murder storyline, philosophical topics, family issues, and romance, all at once. If you ever think Dostoevsky is overrated, come back to this novel!

2. "The Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov

Watch this informative video to dive deeper into this brilliant novel's analysis

Even if we mention magical realism once on this list, we know you'll already be obsessed. This genre is so captivating that you don't need any further explanations. "The Master and Margarita" is magic in Moscow, with a lot of humor, love, and a style that's actually easy to comprehend. It's one of the few on this list that you can follow easily and is an excellent choice for ending your reader's block.

In fact, this is the most unique Russian read you'll ever have, and it's one of the most original novels of its time in general. We've basically never seen any bad reviews, even though the books that cover such severe themes as "the good" and "the evil" usually get mixed opinions. Bulgakov's impact is insane!

1. "Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy

Watch the trailer for one of the best movie adaptations of this masterpiece

We've already had Tolstoy kicking off the list. Still, this writer didn't have one but two masterpieces that changed not only people but the whole history of literature. Yet, this is much more than one of the best non-English works.

When asked which novel is the greatest of all time, the influential writers and poets usually answer with "Anna Karenina." Hence, don't skip it – read it more than once in a lifetime!

Moreover, Tolstoy himself loved this idea so much that he put a part of his own personality into the plot since Levin is a character that resembles his own thoughts. Anna herself is a woman aware of her flaws and her urge to feel alive – to live the life she's given. The sin, desire, and the consequences, all together in this brilliant read that will haunt you forever!

Even after reading a bit about these works, you're probably intrigued, and you'd like to read them all. Many characters, plot twists, and several topics that these novels (and a play) cover are the best reasons to go to the closest library!

What's your favorite Russian novel ever? Did any of them change you completely?

Photo: Ekaterina Novitskaya on Unsplash


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