The Most Influential Russians

Who is really the greatest Russian?

Okay, formally, the Levada survey that put Stalin in the lead asked about the “of all times and places.” However, in practice – and this isn’t just limited to Russia – most people interpret it as “who is your greatest countryman.”

In my opinion, to be considered “great,” you must be both eminent (i.e. frequently mentioned in encyclopedias and reference works) and to have positively impacted the world, or at least your own country. Few would call Hitler great, though he was almost surely the most influential/eminent Austrian (and one of the most influential Germans).

So perhaps the least controversial approach is to just tally the Great People (scientists, artists, inventors, etc).

Charles Murray’s Human Accomplishment database is not the worst place to start.

To qualify, the persons below either had to have been born in Russia, and at least either worked in Russia, or had Slavic ethnicity. (Otherwise the most influential Russian would have been Georg Cantor, whose connections to Russia were fleeting at best; his Jewish parents left Saint-Petersburg with him for Germany when he was 11 years old).

It’s morbidly funny to note that Lenin and Stalin, respectively ranked #4 and #1 by Russians, were instrumental in getting a noticeable percentage of the people on this list – e.g. Zworykin, Sikorsky, Gamow – to permanently leave Russia, and convincing Dobzhansky to stay there (a good thing for him considering the Lysenkoism of the 1930s).

# Name Index Inventory Birth Death Birth Work Ethnos
1 Stravinsky, Igor 45.42 Music.West 1882 1971 Russia Russia Slavic
2 Tolstoy, Leo 40.53 Lit.West 1828 1910 Russia Russia Slavic
3 Dostoevsky, Fyodor 40.20 Lit.West 1821 1881 Russia Russia Slavic
4 Kandinsky, Vasily 30.62 Art.West 1866 1944 Russia Germany Slavic
5 Pushkin, Alexander 30.05 Lit.West 1799 1837 Russia Russia Slavic
6 Gogol, Nikolay 26.03 Lit.West 1809 1852 Russia Russia Slavic
7 Mendeleyev, Dmitry 25.03 Chem 1834 1907 Russia Russia Slavic
8 Turgenev, Ivan 24.30 Lit.West 1818 1853 Russia Russia Slavic
9 Chekhov, Anton 24.01 Lit.West 1860 1904 Russia Russia Slavic
10 Zworykin, Vladimir 21.79 Tech 1889 1982 Russia USA Slavic
11 Tchaikovsky, Piotr 20.48 Music.West 1840 1893 Russia Russia Slavic
12 Lobachevsky, Nikolay 19.41 Math 1792 1856 Russia Russia Slavic
13 Popov, Aleksandr 18.86 Tech 1859 1906 Russia Russia Slavic
14 Gorky, Maxim 18.82 Lit.West 1868 1936 Russia Russia Slavic
15 Ostwald, Wilhelm 18.31 Chem 1853 1932 Russia Germany Slavic
16 Sikorsky, Igor 16.89 Tech 1889 1972 Russia USA Slavic
17 Mayakovsky, Vladimir 16.29 Lit.West 1894 1930 Russia Russia Slavic
18 Mussorgsky , Modest 15.61 Music.West 1839 1881 Russia Russia Slavic
19 Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolay 15.33 Music.West 1844 1908 Russia Russia Slavic
20 Malevich, Kasimir 14.63 Art.West 1878 1935 Russia Russia Slavic
21 Lenz, Emil 14.39 Eart 1804 1865 Russia Russia Slavic
22 Tsvet, Mikhail 14.27 Biol 1872 1919 Russia Russia Slavic
23 Dobzhansky, Theodosius 13.99 Biol 1900 1975 Russia USA Slavic
24 Lomonosov, Mikhail 12.82 Astr 1711 1765 Russia Russia Slavic
25 Lermontov, Mikhail 12.48 Lit.West 1814 1841 Russia Russia Scots
26 Tatlin, Vladimir 11.94 Art.West 1885 1953 Russia Russia Slavic
27 Ivanovsky, Dmitri 11.80 Biol 1864 1920 Russia Russia Slavic
28 Pasternak, Boris 11.76 Lit.West 1890 1960 Russia Russia Jewish
29 Shostakovich, Dmitri 11.55 Music.West 1906 1975 Russia Russia Slavic
30 Prokofiev, Sergei 11.52 Music.West 1891 1953 Russia Russia Slavic
31 Blok, Aleksandr 11.31 Lit.West 1880 1921 Russia Russia Slavic
32 Korolev, Sergei 10.54 Tech 1907 1966 Russia Russia Slavic
33 Claus, Carl 10.06 Medi 1796 1864 Russia Russia Germanic
34 Tamm, Igor 9.44 Phys 1895 1971 Russia Russia Jewish
35 Tsiolkovsky, Konstantin 8.51 Tech 1857 1935 Russia Russia Slavic
36 Kovalevskaya, Sonya 8.34 Math 1850 1891 Russia Sweden Slavic
37 Borodin, Alexander 8.18 Music.West 1833 1887 Russia Russia Slavic
38 Scriabin, Alexander 8.15 Music.West 1872 1915 Russia Russia Slavic
39 Oparin, Alexander 8.05 Biol 1894 1980 Russia Russia Slavic
40 Veksler, Vladimir 7.99 Phys 1907 1966 Russia Russia Slavic
41 Glinka, Mikhail 7.96 Music.West 1804 1857 Russia Russia Slavic
42 Goncharov, Ivan 7.95 Lit.West 1812 1891 Russia Russia Slavic
43 Bely, Andrei (Bugayev) 7.70 Lit.West 1880 1934 Russia Russia Slavic
44 Frank, Ilya 7.60 Phys 1908 1990 Russia Russia Jewish
45 Friedmann, Alexander 7.54 Phys 1888 1925 Russia Russia Slavic
46 Markov, Andrei 7.33 Math 1856 1922 Russia Russia Slavic
47 Tolstoy, Alexey N. 7.30 Lit.West 1882 1945 Russia Russia Slavic
48 Leskov, Nikolay 7.30 Lit.West 1831 1895 Russia Russia Slavic
49 Cherenkov, Pavel 7.27 Phys 1904 1990 Russia Russia Slavic
50 Rachmaninov, Sergei 7.13 Music.West 1873 1943 Russia Russia Slavic
51 Gelfond, Aleksander 6.82 Math 1906 1968 Russia Russia Jewish
52 Lebedev, Pyotr 6.62 Phys 1866 1912 Russia Russia Slavic
53 Karamzin, Nikolai 6.52 Lit.West 1766 1826 Russia Russia Slavic
54 Merezhkovski, Dmitri 6.15 Lit.West 1865 1941 Russia Russia Slavic
55 Saltykov, Mikhail (N. Shchedrin) 6.12 Lit.West 1826 1892 Russia Russia Slavic
56 Nekrasov, Nikolay 5.84 Lit.West 1821 1877 Russia Russia Slavic
57 Balakirev, Mily 5.80 Music.West 1837 1910 Russia Russia Slavic
58 Herzen, Aleksandr 5.46 Lit.West 1812 1870 Russia Russia Slavic
59 Andreyev, Leonid 5.42 Lit.West 1871 1919 Russia Russia Slavic
60 Ostrovsky, Aleksandr 5.34 Lit.West 1823 1885 Russia Russia Slavic
61 Ambartsumian, Viktor 5.34 Astr 1908 1996 Russia Russia Slavic
62 Bunin, Ivan 5.01 Lit.West 1870 1953 Russia Russia Slavic
63 Ehrenberg, Ilya 5.00 Lit.West 1891 1967 Russia Russia Jewish
64 Gamow, George 4.96 Phys 1904 1968 Russia USA Slavic
65 Bryussov, Valery 4.93 Lit.West 1873 1924 Russia Russia Slavic
66 Rodchenko, Alexander 4.87 Art.West 1891 1956 Russia Russia Slavic
67 Gabo, Naum 4.82 Art.West 1890 1977 Russia Russia Slavic
68 Griboyedov, Alexander 4.82 Lit.West 1795 1829 Russia Russia Slavic
69 Kapitsa, Pyotr 4.77 Phys 1894 1984 Russia Russia Jewish
70 Akhmatova, Anna 4.73 Lit.West 1889 1966 Russia Russia Slavic
71 Goncharova, Natalia 4.72 Art.West 1881 1962 Russia Russia Slavic
72 Lenin, Vladimir 4.65 Phil.West 1870 1924 Russia Russia Slavic
73 Chernyshevsky, Nikolay 4.43 Lit.West 1828 1889 Russia Russia Slavic
74 Babel, Isaak 4.33 Lit.West 1894 1941 Russia Russia Jewish
75 Derzhavin, Gavril 4.25 Lit.West 1743 1816 Russia Russia Slavic
76 Lomonosov, Mikhail 4.19 Lit.West 1711 1765 Russia Russia Slavic
77 Szymanowski, Karol 4.14 Music.West 1882 1937 Russia Poland Slavic
78 Archipenko, Alexander 4.14 Art.West 1887 1964 Russia France Slavic
79 Zoshchenko, Mikhail 4.11 Lit.West 1895 1958 Russia Russia Slavic
80 Kolmogorov, Andrey 4.09 Math 1903 1987 Russia Russia Slavic
81 Lenz, Jakob 4.07 Lit.West 1751 1792 Russia Germany Slavic
82 Sholokhov, Mikhail 4.04 Lit.West 1905 1984 Russia Russia Slavic
83 Tchebycheff, Pafnuty 3.94 Math 1821 1894 Russia Russia Slavic
84 Krylov, Ivan 3.94 Lit.West 1768 1844 Russia Russia Slavic
85 Fedin, Konstantine 3.77 Lit.West 1892 1977 Russia Russia Slavic
86 Pfitzner, Hans 3.70 Music.West 1869 1949 Russia Germany Slavic
87 Zamyatin, Yevgeny 3.51 Lit.West 1884 1937 Russia Russia Slavic
88 Glazunov, Alexander 3.51 Music.West 1865 1936 Russia Russia Slavic
89 Larionoff, Mikhail 3.39 Art.West 1881 1964 Russia Russia Slavic
90 Tyutchev, Fedor 3.38 Lit.West 1803 1873 Russia Russia Slavic
91 Dargomïzhsky, Alexander 3.31 Music.West 1813 1869 Russia Russia Slavic
92 Markovnikov, Vladimir 3.20 Chem 1838 1904 Russia Russia Slavic
93 Sologub, Fedor 3.15 Lit.West 1863 1927 Russia Russia Slavic
94 Korolenko, Vladimir 3.15 Lit.West 1853 1921 Russia Russia Slavic
95 Fonvizin, Denis 3.09 Lit.West 1745 1792 Russia Russia Slavic
96 Butlerov, Aleksandr 3.07 Chem 1828 1886 Russia Russia Slavic
97 Cui, César 2.94 Music.West 1835 1918 Russia Russia Slavic
98 Aksakov, Sergey 2.91 Lit.West 1791 1859 Russia Russia Slavic
99 Repin, Ilya 2.88 Art.West 1844 1930 Russia Russia Slavic
100 Fet, Afanasy 2.71 Lit.West 1820 1892 Russia Russia Slavic
101 Nabokov, Vladimir 2.68 Lit.West 1899 1977 Russia USA Slavic
102 Koltsov, Alexey 2.49 Lit.West 1809 1842 Russia Russia Slavic
103 Balmont, Konstantin 2.48 Lit.West 1867 1943 Russia Russia Slavic
104 Radishchev, Alexander 2.42 Lit.West 1749 1802 Russia Russia Slavic
105 Tolstoy, Alexey K. 2.38 Lit.West 1817 1875 Russia Russia Slavic
106 Katayev, Valentin 2.31 Lit.West 1897 1986 Russia Russia Slavic
107 Mandelstam, Osip 2.29 Lit.West 1892 1938 Russia Russia Jewish
108 Pisemsky, Alexey 2.28 Lit.West 1820 1881 Russia Russia Slavic
109 Kabalevsky, Dmitry 2.27 Music.West 1904 1987 Russia Russia Slavic
110 Garshin, Vsevolod 2.01 Lit.West 1855 1888 Russia Russia Slavic
111 Baratynsky, Evgeny 1.93 Lit.West 1800 1844 Russia Russia Slavic
112 Myaskovsky, Nikolay 1.68 Music.West 1881 1950 Russia Russia Slavic
113 Olesha, Yuri 1.52 Lit.West 1899 1960 Russia Russia Slavic
114 Vogel, Wladimir 1.24 Music.West 1896 1984 Russia Germany Slavic
115 Taneyev, Sergei 1.16 Music.West 1856 1915 Russia Russia Slavic
116 Glier, Reinhold 1.06 Music.West 1875 1956 Russia Russia Jewish
117 Arensky, Anton 1.00 Music.West 1861 1906 Russia Russia Slavic
118 Bortniansky, Dmitry 1.00 Music.West 1751 1825 Russia Russia Slavic


Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Mr. Hack says

    Why were the first 7-8 comments erased from this thread?

    AK: You’re looking at the wrong thread.

  2. How is Lev Landau not on this list?

  3. I don’t actually know.

    Charles Murray stops his database at people born in 1910, but Landau was born in 1908, and he seems significant enough to have an index number a bit above 1.

  4. Well above 1.0, I would say he should be near the top of any list of physicists born in the Russian Empire/Soviet Union . Not that I’m qualified to judge, just my impression from conversations with several Russian (some Jewish) math/physics professors at the uni I attended.

  5. anonymous says

    The great Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky ranked #11??? NYET!! #4, with Tolstoy #1, Dostoevsky #2, Stravinsky #3.

  6. Mao Cheng Ji says

    Lol. Right, Igor Stravinsky made such a huge difference in so many people’s lives. Sounds like Mr Murray certainly holds a high position in the database of snobs…

  7. Mr. Hack says

    At least three of the individuals listed were actually Ukrainians, and not Russians: Alexander Archipenko, Kasimir Malevich and last but not least, Dmitry Bortniansky.

    Some of modern art’s great innovators, including Kazimir Malevich, Alexander Archipenko and Alexander Rodchenko, are usually described as Russian artists. But these painters and sculptors were actually born or raised in Ukraine, and thought of themselves as Ukrainian. Their mislabeling is a lingering result of decades of Soviet repression of Ukrainian culture. .Like Malevich, Alexandra Exter, Alexander Archipenko and other Ukrainian-born or bred artists are often lumped in with Russian artists of the time. Yet they were born or raised in Ukraine, where early in the 20th century, Kyiv, Kharkiv and other cities were centers of innovation in painting, theater, sculpture and other arts. Ukrainian artists were at the forefront of international modernist art movements such as Cubism and Futurism…That ended with Stalin. In the 1930s, Ukrainian nationalism and language were forbidden. Only “heroic realism,” propagandistic art in service to the Soviet state, was permitted. All else, including abstract art, was considered decadent, subversive.


  8. Philip Owen says

    Prokorov (lasers, Nobel prize) was old enough to be on this list. He was in his 90’s when I met him in the ’90’s.

  9. Stan Bosch says

    Kolmogorov is rated by many as one of a handful of the greatest mathematicians ever and as machine learning’s full potential is unlocked his star will only rise. He gets my vote.

  10. siberiancat says

    Is Petr Kapitsa Jewish? Really?! What’s the evidence?

  11. Dmitriev says

    Kapitsa wasn’t Jewish, he was basically a Polish/Ukrainian mix, maybe some Russian in there as well. Tamm wasn’t Jewish either – he was a German/Russian mix. Frank was half Jewish, half Russian. Ambartsumian was Armenian.

    Kolmogorov should be way higher. If Popov is on the list, Oleg Losev should be too. Larionov, but no Bilibin? On the authors – no Bulgakov, no Harms, no Shalamov, no Platonov? Seriously though, fuck this list.

  12. syonredux says

    On the authors – no Bulgakov, no Harms, no Shalamov, no Platonov? Seriously though, fuck this list.

    RE: Authors,

    Should be borne in mind that they are evaluated according to how highly they are ranked outside of their own languages. E.g., Anglophone writers are ranked according to what non-Anglophone critics think. This was done in order to avoid intra-linguistic bias (German critics over-ranking German writers, French critics over-ranking French writers, etc). However, it also means that writers who have had little influence outside of their home-languages get really low rankings.Among American writers, for example, Hemingway and Faulkner outrank Fitzgerald by massive margins, and this is quite understandable once you bear in mind that Hemingway and Faulkner have had a massive impact on non-Anglophone lit, whereas Fitzgerald’s impact on non-Anglo lit has been rather small.

  13. georgesdelatour says

    Stravinsky is easily the most important classical composer of the 20th century; as important to music as Picasso is to painting.

    He massively influenced Messiaen, Boulez, Copland, Bernstein, Steve Reich, Miles Davis & Quincy Jones. He’s also the composer (at least since Wagner) with the greatest cultural reach beyond music. His librettists include Jean Cocteau, Andre Gide & W.H. Auden; Pablo Picasso painted the sets for his ballet Pulcinella; T.S. Eliot & James Joyce both created modernist literary masterpieces inspired by the rhythmic dislocations of the Rite Of Spring.

    The strange thing is, Stravinsky has had a much smaller influence on Russian music than Shostakovich – even though Shostakovich is nowhere near as important a composer, and his music rarely sounds as overtly Russian. This is partly because of the Bolshevik Revolution. After 1917 Stravinsky stayed away from the USSR/Russia, making only one visit home in 1962. Shostakovich endured Stalinism & Socialist Realism & somehow managed to make memorable music under its restrictions.

    BTW I think the list should include Andrei Tarkovsky in the Top Five. His work has been massively influential on other film directors. Alejandro Iñárritu’s “The Revenant” includes many overt quotations from the films of Tarkovsky, for instance.

  14. For what it’s worth, in Hungary Bulgakov is considered among the very greatest Russian writers. Perhaps because he was promoted in the 1970s and 1980s as a great example of quality “Soviet” literature. He was quality; and he was Soviet in the sense of having a Soviet passport. (Actually, not having a Soviet passport. I doubt he was ever allowed abroad.) As to his political message, it served two purposes: first, to show how free and liberal the communist regime in Hungary was, and second, to show how free and liberal the USSR was. His criticism of communism was also interpreted as criticism of what was then called “the excesses of Stalinism”. Once communism fell, he could be revered simply for being anti-communist.

  15. I am pretty sure Bulgakov meets the requirement on how highly a writer is ranked outside of his own language. He is probably the best known Russian novelist of the 20th Century alongside Pasternak, and The Master and Margarita holds a towering international reputation. At any rate he would be better known to Western intellectuals than Ivan Goncharov, and that is not meant to knock the latter. Bulgakov’s absence from this list is baffling.

    There is no mention of Yesenin, who traveled to the Western countries in the 20’s and made a sensation in literary circles. I will admit I never read him, but he seems to be only second to Mayakovsky from that generation.

    In the field of science, Pavlov is missing as well. Considering how proverbial “Pavlov’s dog” is, this is another major oversight. And Mechnikov is another outstanding figure in the history of Medicine left out. I think Ilya Ivanov counts as well, as his ideas on cross-species mating and breeding showed up a lot in Western Sci-Fi until at least the 1960’s.

    As for figures who do not quite have an “international” stature, I think Vavilov deserves mention because a lot of his work presaged the Green Revolution of the 1960’s. Presuming he had not been persecuted by Stalin, he would have been far better known outside of the former USSR. You also have geographers and geologists like Semyonov-Tyan-Shansky, Vernadsky, and Fersman, all very accomplished by any standard. Fock and Ioffe were similarly big names in physics.

    Mikhail Yangel, father of the Soviet Ballistic Missile program only gets looked over because he was born in 1911.

    Not a single representative of the Struve family seems to be present, and it was one of the most successful dynasties of Great Thinkers in the past 500 years.

    Since I could probably cite another hundred or so names I will cut it short here. But I do have to finish with a shout out to Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov; he is more or less the intellectual Godfather to all modern Transhumanists, as our host Anatoly would most certainly agree.

  16. Mao Cheng Ji says

    Stravinsky is easily the most important classical composer of the 20th century

    Says you. Any ordinary person would’ve probably named something like Gershwin, Ellington, or, for that matter, Khachaturian. And should they be forced to listen to anything by Stravinsky for 3 minutes, he’d be the leading candidate for the top spot in the database of excruciatingly boring.

    Anyhow, I would’ve at least swapped Stravinsky for Nabokov. That guy, aside from being genius and producing esoteric shit nobody in the world gives a fuck about, at least wrote Lolita…

  17. The list testifies to the large Polish diaspora
    that found itself in the Russian Empire after the last
    partition of Poland in 1795, i.e., annexation of the eastern
    territories of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
    by this German woman, Catherine.

    Stravinsky (Strawiński) was descended from old Polish
    nobility, was proud of the fact, spoke some Polish, and visited
    Poland with documentation several times in the 1920s in order
    to obtain Polish citizenship. His house-museum in Ustilug, where
    he composed The Rite of Spring, is in today’s Ukraine right
    across the border from Poland. In Paris Stravinsky worked
    with the legendary Polish ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky (Wacław
    Niżyński) and his sister Bronislava who both danced for Ballets
    Russes. In fact, Nijinsky choreographed the Rite of Spring at 24
    in 1913. His sister Bronia outlived him and died in Pacific Palisades, CA
    in 1972.

    Lobachevsky, Tsiolkovsky (Ciołkowski), Glinka, and Shostakovich
    all had Polish ancestry. Malevich (Malewicz) was Polish on both sides,
    and the film director Tarkovsky (Tarkowski) had one grandfather who
    was a Polish nobleman.

    What this shows is that despite the extreme policy of Russification in the
    Polish lands in the 19th century, the Polish were able to reach the highest
    levels of achievement in art and science (they were prohibited from
    holding political offices). Nijinsky, for example, was mercilessly teased
    by his Russian schoolmates in St. Petersburg, but then he showed them
    what a great fighter and overall athlete he was, and was grudgingly accepted.
    Russia in this sense has a better record than Germany which annexed
    Poland’s western territories. Other than von Clausewitz or the physicist Kaluza
    I can’t think of any famous Polish Germans in the 19th century. Of course,
    there is Nietzsche but that’s controversial.

  18. Speaking of Stravinsky and Ballets Russes, there is
    a controversial movie coming out in Russia this fall,
    unless it’s banned! It depicts the affair between the
    future tsar Nicholas II and the Polish ballerina Matylda
    Krzesińska (1872-1971). Don’t ask me how to spell her
    name in Russian – I only know it ends in -skaya. The name
    of the movie is Matylda. The role of the ballerina is
    played by the Polish actress Michalina Olszańska and
    the role of the tsar by Lars Eidinger (which makes sense
    because the tsar was about 13/16 German).

  19. Pavlov actually was on Murray’s database, but his index number was missing (perhaps because it added up to less than 1), so I decided to leave him out.

    Some omissions do probably reflect a certain degree of Western disregard for Russian innovations, in part, surely, because of the hostility with and lack of contacts with the USSR.

    Of the Struves, I am most familiar with Peter Struve. He was primarily a political economist, and later political economists aren’t on the list (e.g. Marx isn’t).

    Yesenin is famous in Russia, but far less so in the West. I can see him not making a 1 relative to Shakespeare’s 100. However, you are certainly correct about Bulgakov, especially considering he is quite prominent in the West as well. His absence is truly the strangest one.

  20. Shalamov certainly should be in the list.

  21. Sviridov?

  22. Any ordinary person would’ve probably named something like Gershwin, Ellington, or, for that matter, Khachaturian. And should they be forced to listen to anything by Stravinsky for 3 minutes, he’d be the leading candidate for the top spot in the database of excruciatingly boring

    Early Stravinsky is not boring

    But for most important classical composer of the 20th century Prokofiev is better suited . Here, for example: battle song of the Teutonic knights

  23. Sviridov?

    A good composer, but among the Russian composers, there are dozens of better composers

  24. Zenarchy says

    Nabokov, possibly the best master of English prose ever (as a Russian!!) is 101?

    And no Platonov at all, one of top 5 or 6 Russian writers of the 20th century?

    And especially – no Bulgakov, whose Master and Margerita regularly tops lists of best books of the 20th century?

    From artistic point of view this list is garbage.

  25. Mao Cheng Ji says

    A good composer, but among the Russian composers, there are dozens of better composers

    very nice waltz, though.

  26. Anonymous says

    In long-lasting impact, Landau tops most every physicist listed.

  27. Anonymous says

    Sviridov illustrates Murray list’s major flaw – it’s a list of what English-speaking academics and journalists are aware of. In this case, Sviridov is a flaming Bolshie who wrote “Время, вперед!” – a magnificent piece a fragment from which they frequently heard while watching Soviet TV. (it’s the same sort of idea as Ravel’s Bolero)

    Sviridov was an excellent composer who ought to make Top 100 ever but if not for his “Time, forward!”, he would not be known in the West at all.

  28. Anonymous says

    Next to Mendeleev, Pavlov is the most famous Russian scientist. His index would be comparable, too. On any credible list, he is in Top 20.

  29. Anonymous says

    Another gripe: Akhmatova is there but Tsvetaeva is not? As far as poets go, that’s inexcusable.

    Cherenkov is there but his boss and co-Nobel laureate S. Vavilov is not? His younger brother Nikolai Vavilov was very influential back in the day, too.

  30. syonredux says

    For the curious, here are Murray’s sources for the Western Lit category:

    In the following lists, sources used to identify significant figures have a Q (for qualifying source) after their entry. Sources used to compute index scores have an I (for index source) after their entry.

    Literature sources specific to the West W. R. Benét, ed. The Reader’s Encyclopedia. 2nd edition. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell. (I) H. Bloom. 1994. The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company. (Q) A. Burgio. 1963. Storia della Litteratura. 2 vols. Milan: Vallerdi. (QI) O. M. Carpeaux. 1982. História da Literatura Ocidental. 8 vols. Rio de Janeiro: Ediçöes o Cruzeiro. (QI) G. Díaz-Plaja. 1965. La Litteratura Universal. Barcelona: Editiones Danae. (I) A. Eggebrecht. 1964. Epochen der Weltliteratur. Gütersloh: C. Bertelsmann Verlag. (Q) E. Laaths. 1953. Geschichte der Weltliteratur: Deutscher Bucherbund. (QI) J. Paxton and S. Fairfield. 1980. Calendar of Creative Man. New York: Facts on File. (Q) G. Wilpert. 1963. Lexikon der Weltliteratur. 2 vols. Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner Verlag.(QI)

  31. Just a correction, Nikolai was the elder brother. I mentioned him in my earlier post, and yes I agree he is a scientist worthy of further attention. N.I. Vavilov was a pioneer in breeding disease-resistant crops, alongside I.V. Michurin who focused on fruits and vegetables. Their work could be seen as part of the greater movement in developed countries in the first half of the 20th century that culminated in the Green Revolution of the 1960’s which is often credited to Norman Borlaug. Because it involved many scientists from across Europe and the Americas, you cannot single out the Russian participants as exceptional contributors, but they did do some amazing work in light of their persecution by Stalin due to their opposition to Lysenkoism.

    Some other important Russian scientists: Dmitry Chernov in metallurgy, Sergey Lebedev in the development of synthetic rubber, Yakov Frenkel in physics, and Vladimir Barmin in the engineering of rocket launch facilities (he designed Baikonur among others). Borodin, who is on Murray’s list for his contributions to music was also a noted chemist.

    For Math, Sergei Sobolev, Mikhail Ostrogradsky, and Moses Schönfinkel were all important names who discoveries had international implications and applications.

    And one last point, if Stravinsky is the most influential Russian, than why is Nicholas Roerich not on the list in some capacity? His artwork and costumes were used to bring Rite of Spring to life, and he was hugely successful as both an artist and archeologist.

  32. I agree it’s very strange that Andrei Tarkovsky is not listed at all. Not only that, but there seems to be not a single film director. Was film even a category?

    Tarkovsky is certainly in the top 3 of internationally-influential Russian/Soviet film directors of the 20th century. Other names that come to mind are Sergei Eisenstein, Sergei Parajanov (well, although he wasn’t Russian) and Dziga Vertov.

    In animated films, the top “internationally recognized” names would probably be Ivan Ivanov-Vano (the “Russian Walt Disney”, whose films were translated into many other languages as well — his “Snow Queen” was played every Christmas on many US TV channels, with the Russian credits replaced by English ones so that American audiences wouldn’t suspect), Yuriy Norshteyn (whose short films usually make international “best animated films of all time” lists at festivals) and Aleksandr Petrov (who won an Oscar a decade ago. His films are animated with paint on glass plates and look like moving paintings). If we looked at Russian opinion as well, Fyodor Khitruk, Garri Bardin, the Brumberg sisters, Eduard Nazarov and Aleksandr Tatarsky would also surely be added to the list.

    As far as the Western influence of Russian musical composers goes, the list looks about right (although in my music theory classes and textbooks in Canada, they really gave a disproportionate amount of weight to Scriabin). Tchaikovsky and especially Rimsky-Korsakov are held in higher esteem in Russia than they are in the West, and would surely be higher in the ranking if Russian opinions were included.

    Is Khachaturian missing because he’s Armenian?

    I also agree with those who mentioned Sviridov – a really brilliant composer with very memorable music, but one who is practically unknown outside the USSR, hence his lack of presence here. His “Time, Forward!” is pretty much the unofficial musical anthem of the Soviet Union, so perfectly does it capture the SPIRIT of the utopian aspirations of the USSR — the beacon of modernity and science always somewhere on the horizon, the building of rocket ships and giant factories. It is a vision both brilliant and terrifying.

    His “Snowstorm suite” is also very good, for example this waltz from it:

    Interesting that Sergey Taneyev is listed — a composer noteworthy mainly for church music and music theory (his monumental mathematical analysis of J.S.Bach’a counterpoint, “Convertible Counterpoint in the Strict Style” is especially well-known among music scholars, which may be why he made the cut)

  33. Film wasn’t a category. Though I suspect Americans would completely dominate any such category anyway.

    Khachaturian and Sviridov – I like both of them, they are well known in Russia, but very little known in the West.

  34. I think Khachaturian’s name is much more likely to be recognized in the West than Sviridov’s, though. His “Sabre Dance” is somewhat well-known even here.

    Sviridov, on the other hand, only got some limited public awareness here a decade ago when someone realized that the Metal Gear Solid theme music was plagiarized from one of his works.

    As for film, I think Americans would make up a good chunk of the list, but less than half. It all depends on how it’s measured. Living in North America, the rest of the world’s film industry except for Japan’s is almost invisible, but it still exists and has been influential.