Born in Omsk, 1 September (although this date was later
disputed by the poet's son) to a high-ranking administrative
Father settles his family permanently in St. Petersburg
after having been transferred to Petersburg soon after Annensky's
birth. The poet's happy early childhood, (he wrote his first
poems when he was small for his father) is interrupted by
the sudden death of his parents. He moves in with the family
of his eldest brother, Nikolay Fedorovich.
Attends various Petersburg secondary schools. His early
education is marked both by obvious brilliance and interruptions
caused by his poor physical condition (he suffered from
a chronic heart ailment) and his family's poverty. Though
both his brother, publisher of the influential journal Russian
Wealth, and sister-in-law, Aleksandra Nikitchna (a popular
writer of children's books), are both relatively successful,
they have trouble making ends meet and are forced to withdraw
Innokentii Fedorovich from schools. His brother, who disapproved
of Russian public education to begin with, taught him at
home in periods when Innokentii was not enrolled.
Enrolls in St. Petersburg University and studies comparative
philology, with concentrations in the history of the Russian
language, classics, and ancient literature.
Graduates from St. Petersburg University with honors and
is appointed to a position teaching secondary school. Marries
Nadezhda Valentinovna Khmara-Barshchevskaia, a woman several
years older than the poet and already a widow and the mother
of two sons. The following year, 1780, Nadezhda Valentinovna
gives birth to Annenskii's only son, Valentin, who would
later publish poetry and a memoir of his father under the
pseudonym V. Kirich. For the next ten years, Annensky remains
in the capital, teaching and tutoring mostly for private
students and only occasionally finding time to write, and
then only writing academic articles and reviews for smaller
journals and academic collections.
Travels extensively in Italy.
Hired as director of the P. Galagan College in Kiev. There
Annenskii attempts to institute his innovative ideas about
pedagogy in a series of reforms focused on the teaching
of languages and literature. Oddly reminiscent of John Dewey's
nearly simultaneous work at the Lab School in Chicago, Annensky
stresses the importance of allowing the students to interact
both creatively and practically with the subject matter,
whether it is Pushkin's lyrics or Latin verb conjugations,
and specifically attacks and attempts to eradicate the method
of teaching and learning by rote. During this period, Annensky
begins translating Euripides and writes several articles
on Russian literature.
Both because of the school administration's antipathy to
Annensky's methods and his antipathy to their increasingly
rigid Ukrainian nationalism, the poet leaves Kiev for Petersburg,
where he is appointed head of the 8th Gymnasium where the
administration welcomes his pedagogical ideas. Begins translating
the plays of Euripides.
Publishes the first of his Euripides translations, Rhesus,
and simultaneous stages it at the gymnasium to overwhelming
success. Promoted to the directorship of the celebrated
Gymnasium at Tsarskoe Selo. Over the course of his nine-year
tenure at the school, Annensky's teaching influences many
children of influential Petersburg families and several
future poets and writers, particularly Anna
Akhmatova (then Gorenko) and Nikolay
Gumilev. The position allows Annensky to focus more
on his own writing and research, and subsequently leads
to a flowering in his academic and the beginning of his
Writes and publishes Меланиппа-Философ (Melanippa
the Philosopher) and Царь Илксион (based on a theme
upon which Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides all wrote
plays that do not survive), both tragedies in verse based
on Greek mythology.
Publishes Тихие песни (Quiet Songs), which includes
his first published poems and translations of Horace, Longfellow,
and several modern French poets l (including Baudelaire,
Verlaine, Prudhomme, Rimbaud, and Mallarme). The volume
went almost entirely unnoticed by critics most likely for
the manner in which Annensky presented it to the public,
or, more precisely, the manner in which he hid his authorship
of the book from the public. Sensitive to officialdom's
antipathy to Symbolist poetry, Annensky published under
a pseudonym up until his leaving Tsarskoe Selo in 1906.
He did this in part so as not to lose his job, but the name
under which he published , Ник. Т-o (literally "Nobody"
in Russian), also demonstrates one of the primary aspects
of Annensky's poetry-intertextuality. Readers familiar with
Homer's Odyssey recognize that "Nobody"
is the name Odysseus used with the cyclops Polyphemus. This
sort of allusion (both for its intertextuality and for its
layering of meaning) is typical of Annensky's method of
engaging his reader and was not entirely typical of the
Symbolists up that point. The association of Annensky with
Symbolism, in fact, is unfortunate because Annensky himself
disliked the mystical pretensions of poets like Blok
(who equally disliked Annensky's poetry for its "lack
of taste" and inconsistency) and Bely.
Annensky was much more interested in, and his poetry had
much more in common with, the Acmeist poets who rose from
the wake of Symbolism towards the end of his life.
Dismissed from the directorship of Tsarskoe Selo (in part
because of his indifference to the coup of 1905 and his
refusal to seriously deal with students sympathetic to the
revolutionaries and in part because he had expressed the
desire to retire and devote more time to his writing and
research) and is appointed District Educational Inspector.
Publishes the first Книга отражений (Book of Reflections),
a collection of essays on contemporary literature which
incorporate both academic analyses of, and lyric digressions
inspired by, works by Gogol', Turgenev, Dostoyevskii, and
Bal'mot, among others. Annensky is again disappointed by
the relative silence the book receives both from the official
press and the literary underground.
Loadmila, is published first (1906) in the journal Severnaia
rech' and then is revised and separately published in 1907.
Annensky's final and most successful play, Фамира-Кифаред
(Thanyras Cytharoede, completed in 1906), will not be published
until 1913, four years after his death. Similarly, the bulk
of his Euripides translations appear in two volumes published
posthumously beginning in 1916, but he does manage to publish
the first volume of translations in 1907. His new position
as Inspector does allow him more time to compose and he
begins to participate more actively in Petersburg's cultural
societies. Nikolai Gumilev returns
from abroad and frequently visits his former teacher,
Begins working relationship with the publisher of Apollon
- an influential literary journal - Sergey Makovsky. Finalizes
arrangements for Makovsky to publish a collection of poems
to be entitled The Cypress Chest (Кипарисовый ларец).
Publishes The Second Book of Reflections (Вторая
книга отражений), this time with essays on Bely,
Judaism, Shakespeare, and Ibsen and receives similar critical
indifference. Submits a final request for retirement on
grounds of failing health (his heart condition had begun
to worsen significantly a few years earlier) but was struck
dead by heart failure on the steps of the station at Tsarskoe
Selo on the very day, December 13, that the request was
granted. The following year The Cypress Chest is
published in Moscow to great acclaim. Fueled certainly by
the dramatic story of his death but equally by the remarkable
quality of the poems themselves, the volume is considered
a benchmark in the Silver Age. Almost literally ending the
reign of one generation while containing the spark of the
next, the poems in The Cypress Chest represent Annensky's
perfection of the (French) Symbolist aesthetic and his anticipation
of Acemeism's precision of language and Futurism's experimentation.
of critical works on I. F. Annensky