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Aleksandr Kuprin
Born August 26 [O.S. September 7] 1870
Narovchat, Penza, Governorate, Russian Empire
Died August 25, 1938(1938-08-25) (aged 68)
Leningrad, Soviet Union
Occupation writer, pilot, explorer, and adventurer
Political movement Naturalism

Aleksandr Ivanovich Kuprin (Russian: Алекса́ндр Ива́нович Купри́н), (7 September [O.S. 26 August] 1870 in the village of Narovchat in the Penza Oblast[1] – August 25, 1938 in Leningrad) was a Russian writer, pilot, explorer and adventurer who is perhaps best known for his story The Duel (1905).[2] Other well-known works include Moloch (1896), Olesya (1898), Junior Captain Rybnikov (1906), Emerald (1907), and The Garnet Bracelet (1911) (which was made into a 1965 movie). Vladimir Nabokov styled him the Russian Kipling for his stories about pathetic adventure-seekers, who are often "neurotic and vulnerable."[1]

Early life

Kuprin was a son of Ivan Ivanovich Kuprin, a minor government official who died of cholera in 1871 at the age of thirty-seven years.[3] His mother, Liubov' Alekseevna Kuprina, Tatar princess (of the Kulunchakovs),[4] like many other nobles in Russia, had lost most of her wealth during the 19th century.[1] Kuprin attended the Razumovsky boarding school in 1876, and in 1880[3] finished his education in the Second Moscow Military High School (Cadet Corps) and Alexander Military School, spending a total of ten years in these elite military institutions.[1] His first short story, The Last Debut,[3] was published in 1889 in a satirical periodical.[1][4] "In February 1902, Kuprin and Maria Karlovna Davydova were married, their daughter Lidia born in 1903."[3] Kuprin's mother died in 1910.

Literary career

Kuprin left military service in 1894, after which he tried many types of job, including provincial journalism, dental care, land surveying, acting, circus performer, church singer, doctor, hunter, fisher, etc.[1] Reportedly, "all of these were subsequently reflected in his fiction."[1] His first essays were published in Kiev in two collections. Reportedly, "although he lived in an age when writers were carried away by literary experiments, Kuprin did not seek innovation and wrote only about the things he himself had experienced and his heroes are the next generation after Chekhov's pessimists."[1]

Kuprin in Gatchina (cartoon from the 1910s)

Although the 1896 short story Moloch first made his name known as a writer,[1] it was his novel The Duel (1905) which made him famous.[5] "Kuprin was highly praised by fellow writers including Anton Chekhov, Maxim Gorky, Leonid Andreyev, Nobel Prize-winning Ivan Bunin"[3] and Leo Tolstoy who acclaimed him a true successor to Chekhov. After publication of The Duel he paid less and less interest to fancy literature and began to spend time in pubs and brothels. His sensationalist novel about the lurid life of prostitutes, The Pit (1915), was accused by Russian critics of excessive Naturalism.

Although not a conservative, he did not agree with Bolshevism. While working for a brief time with Maxim Gorky at the World Literature publishing company, he criticized the Soviet regime. In spring 1919, from Gatchina near Petrograd, Kuprin left the country for France.[1] He lived in Paris for most of the next 17 years, succumbing to alcoholism. He wrote about this in much of his work.[1] He eventually returned to Moscow on May 31, 1937, just a year before his death, at the height of the Great Purge.[1] His return earned publication of his works within the Soviet Union.

Kuprin died in the spring of 1938 in Leningrad and is interred near his fellow writers at the Literaturskiye Mostki in the Volkovo Cemetery (Volkovskoye Memorial Cemetery) in Leningrad.[1] A minor planet 3618 Kuprin, discovered by Soviet astronomer Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh in 1979 is named after him.[6]

Reportedly, "even today, Alexander Kuprin remains one of the widest read classics in Russian literature", with many films based on his works, "which are also read over the radio", partly due to "his vivid stories of the lives of ordinary people and unhappy love, his descriptions of the military and brothels, making him a writer for all times and places."[1]


Alexander Ivanovich Kuprin 7.jpg
  • The Last Debut (Poslednii debiut) (1889)
  • Psikheia (1892; translated as Psyche, 1929)
  • Lunnoi noch'iu (On a Moonlit Night, 1893)
  • V pot'makh (In the Dark 1893)
  • Doznanie (The Inquiry, 1894).
  • Moloch (1896)
  • Olesja (1898)
  • At the Circus (1902)
  • The Horse Thieves (1903)
  • Poedinok (1905; translated as The Duel, 1916)
  • The River of Life (1906)
  • Yama (Yama: The Pit) (1909–1915)
  • The Garnet Bracelet (1911)
  • Iunkera (Junkers/The Cadets, written 1928–1932, published 1933) (autobiographical)


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 THE MOSCOW WINDOWS'HOME. Sergei Sossinsky. Moscow News (Russia). HISTORY; No. 6. February 17, 1999.
  2. Kuprin scholar Nicholas Luker, in his biography Alexander Kuprin, calls The Duel his "greatest masterpiece" (chapter IV) and likewise literary critic Martin Seymour-Smith calls The Duel "his finest novel" (The New Guide to Modern World Literature (pg.1051))
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 The Literature Network-Kuprin
  4. 4.0 4.1 Book
  5. Nicholas J. L. Luker (1982). An Anthology of Russian Neo-realism: The "Znanie" School of Maxim Gorky, ISBN 0-88233-421-2 - Page 137
  6. Schmadel, Lutz D. (2003). Dictionary of Minor Planet Names (5th ed.). New York: Springer Verlag. pp. 304. ISBN 3-540-00238-3. 

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