Alexander Ostrovsky : biography
Alexander Nikolayevich Ostrovsky ( 31 March (12 April) 1823, Moscow, Russian Empire2 June (14 June) 1886, Shchelykovo, Kostroma, Russian Empire) was a Russian playwright, generally considered the greatest representative of the Russian realistic period. The author of 47 original plays, Ostrovsky (according to Encyclopedia Britannica) "almost single-handedly created a Russian national repertoire." His dramas are among the most widely read and frequently performed stage pieces in Russia.
Alexander Nikolayevich Ostrovsky was born on April 12, 1823, in the Zamoskvorechye region of Moscow, one of four children in the family of Nikolai Fyodorovich Ostrovsky, a lawyer who received religious education. Apparently, the latter’s ancestors have come from the village called Ostrov in Nerekhta region of Kostroma governorate, hence the surname.A.I.Revyakin. A.N.Ostrovsky. Life and Works. Мoscow, 1949, p. 7.According to another theory Ostrovskys’ had Polish and Belorussian origins. In the late 19th century all Kostroma archives have perished in fires and this question remained unsettled. Later Nikolai Ostrovsky became a high-ranked state official and as such in 1839 received the nobility title and the corresponding privileges. His first wife and Alexander’s mother Lyubov Ivanovna Savvina came from a clergyman’s family. For some time the family lived in a rented flat in Zamoskvorechye, in the house of deacon Maksimov. Then Nikolai Fyodorovich bought himself a plot of land in Monetchiki and built a house on it. In the early 1826 the family moved there.A.I.Revyakin. A.N.Ostrovsky. Life and Works. Мoscow, 1949, p. 10-15.
Lyubov Ivanovna was giving birth to a child almost every year. Their first two children died, Alexander was the third (and the first one to survive), and after him there were six more, of whom three survived: sister Natalya, and brothers Mikhail and Sergey.The Complete A.N. Ostrovsky in 12 Volumes. Moscow. Iskusstvo Publishers. 1973-1980. Vol. 11, p 399. Alexander played mostly with Natalya and her girl friends who taught him such unmanly things as sewing and knitting. Nanny Avdotya Kutuzova certainly had a role in his upbringing. Ostrovsky insisted it was the fairy tales she told him that formed the foundation for the play Snegurochka.Y.D.Lvov. Quarter of Century Ago. Rampa y Zhizn, 1910, N 42, p. 701. His first tutor was Sergey Gilyarov, a distant relative who appeared in their house in 1829.N. P. Gilyarov-Platonov. From My Life Experience (Iz perezhitogo), p. 153. In 1831 when Ostrovsky was eight his mother died in labour and his father had to bring his children up alone. He saw little of them, spending most of his time in the offices, but on the other hand the family’s wealth grew. In 1834 he sold the house in Monetchiki and bought two new houses on Zhitnaya street.I.A.Ivanov. A.N.Ostrovsky. Спб., 1900, p. 10.
In 1836 Nikolai Fyodorovich married Baroness Emilia Andreyevna von Tessin, a noble woman of Russian and Swedish descent.Emilia von Tessin’s grand-grandfather Karl Gustaf Tessin (1695-1770) was a Swedish politician, diplomat and the King’s Chancellery’s head, best known for his book Letters to Prince Albert. His son, accused of links with freemasons escaped to Russia and settled in Moscow. In the early 19th century on the Yauza bank there appeared which is still there. She totally rearranged the patriarchal ways of their Zamoskvorechye house, making it look more like a nobleman’s mansion. She also did a lot to provide her stepchildren with high quality education. Emilia Andreyevna had four children of her own (four more died), one of whom, Pyotr Ostrovsky, later became a friend of Alexander. She played piano, knew several European languages and was trying to teach all of this to her children. It was due to her that Ostrovsky learned to read music and developed a good ear, which later helped him a lot when he proved able to write down folk songs he heard while travelling and send them to the composers Tchaikovsky, Kashperov and Serov.Kholodov, E. Biography of A. N. Ostrovsky. Plays by A. N. Ostrovsky. Detskaya literatura. 1969. Pp. 230-255