For the purposes of the average Russian, and still more for the purposes of the foreigner, Russian literature begins with the nineteenth century, that is to say with the reign of Alexander I. It was then that the literary fruits on which Russia has since fed were born. The seeds were sown, of course, centuries earlier; but the history of Russian literature up to the nineteenth century is not a history of literature, it is the history of Russia. It may well be objected that it is difficult to separate Russian literature from Russian history; that for the understanding of Russian literature an understanding of Russian history is indispensable. This is probably true; but, in a sketch of this dimension, it would be quite impossible to give even an adequate outline of all the vicissitudes in the life of the Russian people which have helped and hindered, blighted and fostered the growth of the Russian tree of letters. All that one can do is to mention some of the chief landmarks amongst the events which directly affected the growth of Russian literature until the dawn of that epoch when its fruits became palpable to Russia and to the world.