Alexander Blok was born in St Petersburg, Russia on 16th November, 1880. His father was Professor of Law at the University of Warsaw.
Blok studied philology at the University of Petersburg. While a student he began writing poetry and his first collection, Verses About the Lady Beautiful, was published in 1904. This was followed by The City (1906) and Mask of Snow (1907). In his poems Blok argued that Russia's "individualistic civilization, devoid of wholeness, had collapsed together with humanism and its ethical values".
As a student Blok had taken part in the 1905 Revolution and he also welcomed the October Revolution. This was reflected in his poem about the Red Guards, The Twelve (1918), which many critics believe to be his most important literary work.
Victor Serge argued that: "Blok was a gentlemanly Westerner, rather like an Englishman, blue-eyed and with a long, serious face that hardly ever smiled. He was was restrained in his gestures, with a fine dignity about him. Ever since the rise of Symbolism, fifteen years ago, he had been the foremost Russian poet."
Blok worked closely with Maxim Gorky and Anatoli Lunacharsky, the People's Commissar for Education and Enlightenment, after the revolution. Alexander Blok died on 7th August, 1921. Victor Serge claimed that Blok's death was brought about by the food shortages in Russia during the Civil War.
In Blok's view, our individualistic civilization, devoid of wholeness, had collapsed together with humanism and its ethical values. It would be replaced by barbaric masses, untouched by "civilization", who had preserved the "spirit of music" and would bring a new culture with them.
Block's undoubted masterpiece is The Twelve (1918), a poem on the October Revolution. The work opens with a series of images of the defeated old order: a fat bourgeois with his face muffled in his collar, a priest, a tattered sign proclaiming "All power for the Constituent Assembly!" and, towards the end, a mangy mongrel dog. The heroes, twelve Red guardsmen, march along, quarrelling and shooting. They kill a prostitute who passes by, the faithless mistress of one of their group. As they march on through the frost and blinding snow, Christ appears at their head, as if to lead them.
Apparently Christ serves to consecrate the revolutionary activity of the Red guardsmen (whose number - twelve - recalls Christ's disciples). Christ may also symbolize the victory of the Revolution over the Russian Empire, in which Blok saw the heir of the Roman Empire, in which Blok saw the heir of the Roman Empire, in its own day conquered by the revolutionary force of Christianity. Blok embraced the 1917 Revolution because he believed that it would purify Russia through suffering and give her a new spiritual birth.
In 1921 another of our greatest poets was dying of debility, which was the same thing as starvation: Alexander Blok, at the age of forty-one. I knew him only slightly, but admired him boundlessly. Together with Andrei Bely and Sergy Yesenin he had inspired the mystical vision of the Revolution: "the Christ crowned with roses" who, "invisible and silent", walks in the snow-storm before the Twelve Red Guards, soldiers in peak-caps whose rifles are aimed at the city's shadows.
Blok was a gentlemanly Westerner, rather like an Englishman, blue-eyed and with a long, serious face that hardly ever smiled. He was was restrained in his gestures, with a fine dignity about him. Ever since the rise of Symbolism, fifteen years ago, he had been the foremost Russian poet.