Fyodor Sologub was a Russian Symbolist poet, novelist, playwright and essayist. He was the first writer to introduce the morbid, pessimistic elements characteristic of European fin de siècle literature and philosophy into Russian prose.
Sologub was born in St. Petersburg into the family of a poor tailor, Kuzma Afanasyevich Teternikov, who had been a serf in Poltava guberniya, the illegitimate son of a local landowner. His father died of tuberculosis in 1867, and his illiterate mother was forced to become a servant in the home of the aristocratic Agapov family, where Sologub and his younger sister Olga grew up. Seeing how difficult his mother's life was, Sologub was determined to rescue her from it, and after graduating from the St. Petersburg Teachers' Institute in 1882 he took his mother and sister with him to his first teaching post in Kresttsy, where he began his literary career with the 1884 publication in a children's magazine of his poem "The Fox and the Hedgehog" under the name Te-rnikov.
Sologub continued writing as he relocated to new jobs in Velikiye Luki (1885) and Vytegra (1889), but felt that he was completely isolated from the literary world and longed to be able to live in the capital again; nevertheless, his decade-long experience with the "frightful world" of backwoods provincial life served him well when he came to write The Petty Demon. (He said later that in writing the novel he had softened the facts: "things happened that no one would believe if I were to describe them.") He felt sympathetic with the writers associated with the journal Severnyi vestnik (Northern Herald), including Nikolai Minsky, Zinaida Gippius, and Dmitry Merezhkovsky, who were beginning to create what would be known as the Symbolist movement, and in 1891 he visited Petersburg hoping to see Minsky and Merezhkovsky, but met only the first.
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