Birth of Wilhelm Ludwig von Küchelbecker, Poet and Decembrist

21 June 1797

Wilhelm Ludwig von Küchelbecker was born on June 10 (21), 1797 in St. Petersburg, in the family of Saxon nobles.

Wilhelm Ludwig von Küchelbecker spent his childhood in the Avinurme Estate in Estland. In 1808, by the recommendation of a distant relative, famous military figure M. B. Barclay de Tolly, he was accepted to the Imperial Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum where he met A. S. Pushkin, I. I. Pushchin, A. A. Delvig, A. M. Gorchakov. In the lyceum, he took interest in poetry and began to publish his works in the magazines Amphion and Syn Otechestva (Son of the Fatherland) in 1815.

In 1817, Wilhelm Ludwig von Küchelbecker graduated from the Tsarskoye Selo Lyceym with the rank of IX class. At the graduation ceremony, he was awarded the silver medal for his accomplishments in studying. After the graduation, he was accepted to the Collegium of Foreign Affairs alongside A. S. Pushkin. That same year, he joined the secret pre-Decembrists organization Sacred Artel. He also taught Russian and Latin in the Noble Boarding School under the Main Pedagogical Institute until 1820.

In 1820, Wilhelm Ludwig von Küchelbecker resigned and left St. Petersburg to go abroad as a secretary of Chief Chamberlain A. L. Naryshkin. In March 1821, he came to Paris, where he read public lectures on Slavic language and Russian literature in the anti-monarchist society Athenaeum.

In 1821-1822, Wilhelm Ludwig von Küchelbecker worked as an official of special orders with the rank of collegiate assessor under General Yermolov in Caucasus, where he met the writer A. S. Griboyedov. After his resignation, he lived in the estate of his sister Y. K. Glinka in Zakup village of Dukhovshchinsky Uezd of Smolensk Governorate for a year. In 1823, he moved to Moscow. There, he taught at the Küster Women’s Boarding House, gave private lessons. In 1824-1825, he published the Mnemozina almanac along with Prince V. F. Odoyevsky.

In 1825, Wilhelm Ludwig von Küchelbecker started living in St. Petersburg, where he was accepted to the secret society. On December 14 (26), he actively participated in the Decembrist Revolt: he visited rebel troops, unsuccessfully tried to shoot Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich. After the suppression of the uprising, he made an attempt to flee abroad, but was arrested in Warsaw. He was convicted and sentenced to death. The punishment was later changed to hard labor for a period of 20 years. In August 1826, the sentence was reduced to 15 years. In 1827, by the Emperor’s decree, Küchelbecker was imprisoned in the Dinaburg Fortress, instead of Siberia. In 1831, he was exiled to Reval through Riga and then commuted to imprisonment in Sveaborg.

By the decree of December 14 (26), 1835, Wilhelm Ludwig von Küchelbecker was relocated to a small town of Barguzin of Irkutsk Governorate. There, he continued his literary work: he wrote poems, elegies, critical articles. He worked on the ethnographical essay Residents of Transbaikalia and Zakamenye, the historical drama The Fall of the House of Shuysky, the novel Final Column, and others. While in exile, he married Drosida Ivanovna Artyonova, the daughter of postmaster.

In 1839, by his own request, Wilhelm Ludwig von Küchelbecker was transferred to the Aksha Fortress. In 1844, he got a permission to move to Smolino village of Kurgan District of Tobolsk Governorate. In 1845, he arrived to Kurgan. In January 1846, he was allowed to leave for medical treatment to Tobolsk, where he arrived in March of the same year.

On August 11 (23), 1846, Wilhelm Ludwig von Küchelbecker died from tuberculosis in Tobolsk. He was buried on the Zavalny cemetery. Küchelbecker wasn’t properly recognized during his time. His second poetic resurgence happened thanks to Russian writer and literary critic Yury Nikolaevich Tynyanov, who skillfully depicted the poet-Decembrist in the biography Kyukhlya, as well as collected and published most of the Küchelbecker’s works written after 1825.


Lit.: Базанов В. Г. Поэты-декабристы. К. Ф. Рылеев. В. К. Кюхельбекер. А. И. Одоевский. М., 1950; Бирюков А. А. Кюхельбекер Вильгельм Карлович // Большая Тюменская энциклопедия. Т. 2: И–П. Тюмень, 2004. С. 191; Семенко И. М. Поэты пушкинской поры: Батюшков, Жуковский, Денис Давыдов, Вяземский, Кюхельбекер, Языков, Баратынский. М., 1970; Тынянов Ю. Н. Восковая персона: избранное; [вступ. ст. К. Чуковского]. СПб., 2001; Тынянов Ю. Н. Кюхля [роман о В. К. Кюхельбекере]: рассказы. М., 1986.


Based on the Presidential Library’s materials:

Смерть Байрона, / Стихотворение В. Кюхельбекера. М., 1824;

Кюхельбекер В. К. Ижорский: мистерия. М., 1908;

Одоевский В. Ф. Письмо в Москву к В. К. Кюхельбекеру. Б.м., [1825];

Дневник В. К. Кюхельбекера: материалы к истории русской литературной и общественной жизни 10-40-х годов XIX века / предисловие Ю. Н. Тынянов. [Ленинград], 1929;

Горемыкина М. В. Утопия и антиутопия в художественной прозе В. К. Кюхельбекера раннего периода творчества: автореф. дис. … канд. филол. наук. Рязань, 2015.


Based on the article of the Tyumen Region Branch of the Presidential Library