Pronounced: Vee-sar-YOHN Gree-GORE-yeh-veech Be-LIN-skee
b. 1811, d. 1848
Belinsky was a prominent Russian literary critic in the first half of the 19th century, credited with pushing many authors to the forefront, including Gogol and Dostoyevsky.
In The Overcoat, by Gogol, Belinsky saw an author who would fight the status quo, a reformer. Gogol produced more masterpieces: The Nose, The Inspector General, Dead Souls. In all these, Gogol had mocked the Orthodox church, the Czar -- all that resisted reform. In Passages from a Correspondence with Friends, however, Belinsky saw no merit.
As a critic, Belinsky proceeded to do what he did best: attack. In in open letter to Gogol, Belinsky berated him first of all for attempting to be a thinker, rather than a writer (this vague dichotomy plagued Gogol throughout his career). Moreover, he debunked the book. The letter accused Gogol of betraying God by advocating the exploitive Orthodox church, and of betraying the cause of the powerless serfs. Thus sabotaging both the ideological and literary status of the book, Belinsky managed to gain attention; the Czar promptly banned the letter.
At the time of the letter's distribution, Belinsky's other star, Dostoyevsky, was a member of the Petrashevsky Circle, a literary salon meeting weekly to discuss politics, the world. Dostoyevsky was caught reading the letter to the group and was eventually sent to Siberia for the crime. After he returned, Dostoyevsky, too, had turned about, coming to distrust the Western reforms he so embraced earlier.
By this time, Belinsky had died of tuberculosis at age 37, the same age as Lermontov. (Lermontov died in a duel in the Caucasus)