Academician Dmitry Likhachev
Dmitry Likhachev was a Soviet and Russian philologist, art historian, writer, academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences (until 1991 – Academy of Sciences of the USSR). He had made a significant contribution to the study of Old Russian literature and art. Likhachev is an author of more than forty books on a wide range of problems in the theory and history of ancient literature, many of which have been translated into different languages. He has been called “a guardian of national culture” and “Russia’s conscience”.
Dmitry was born on November 28, 1906 in St. Petersburg, Russian Empire. Little Dima liked to go to the theater. Nutcracker was the first performance he watched. The little boy was impressed by the Christmas tree and the snow falling on the stage. The theater became his favorite place. There was a blue velvet curtain from Mariinsky Theatre in his office, which he bought in the 1940s.
The same year he graduated from the Leningrad University (1928), Likhachev was arrested for his speech criticizing the Bolshevik reform of Russian orthography and was sentenced to five years imprisonment in Solovki Special Purpose Camp for counterrevolutionary activities.
Likhachov returned to Leningrad unbroken, and started his spectacular scholarly career in the Pushkin House (as the Russian Literature Institute is known), which spanned more than 60 years and saw the publication of more than 500 scholarly works. Likhachov didn’t stop his work even during the Siege of Leningrad. He believed that Russia was an integral and indivisible part of European civilization, contrary to “Euroasiatic” views of Russia popular with Lev Gumilev, Boris Rybakov, and many other contemporaries.
In 1953, Likhachev was admitted into the Soviet Academy of Sciences. He defended Andrei Sakharov, Alexander Solzhenitsyn and others during their hard years. In 1986, he was elected the first President of the Russian Cultural Fund. In his 80s and 90s, he became more of a public figure, serving as an informal advisor to St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak and President Boris Yeltsin. In 1993, he became the first person to be named an Honorary Citizen of St. Petersburg. He also presided over the commission set up to prepare for Alexander Pushkin’s bicentenary. A year before his death, Likhachev became the very first recipient of the reinstated Order of St Andrew.
The Likhachev Philanthropic Fund was set up in 2001.
Dmitry Sergeevich died on September 30, 1999 in St. Petersburg, Russia.