Nikolai Semyonovich Leskov (Russian: Никола́й Семёнович Леско́в; 16 February 1831 — 5 March 1895) was a Russian novelist, short story writer, playwright, and journalist who also wrote under the pseudonym M. Stebnitsky. Praised for his unique writing style and innovative experiments in form, and held in high esteem by Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov and Maxim Gorky among others, Leskov is credited with creating a comprehensive picture of contemporary Russian society using mostly short literary forms. His major works include Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (1865) (which was later made into an opera by Shostakovich), The Cathedral Clergy (1872), The Enchanted Wanderer (1873), and "The Tale of Cross-eyed Lefty from Tula and the Steel Flea" (1881).
Leskov was born at his parent's estate in Oryol Gubernia in 1831. He received his formal education at the Oryol Lyceum. In 1847 Leskov joined the Oryol criminal court office, later transferring to Kiev where he worked as a clerk, attended university lectures, mixed with local people, and took part in various student circles. In 1857 Leskov quit his job as a clerk and went to work for the private trading company Scott & Wilkins owned by Alexander Scott, his aunt's English husband. He spent several years traveling throughout Russia on company business. It was in these early years that Leskov learned local dialects and became keenly interested in the customs and ways of the different ethnic and regional groups of Russian peoples. His experiences during these travels provided him with material and inspiration for his future as a writer of fiction.
Leskov's literary career began in the early 1860s with the publication of his short story "The Extinguished Flame" (1862), and his novellas Musk-Ox (May 1863) and The Life of a Peasant Woman (September, 1863). His first novel No Way Out was published under the pseudonym M. Stebnitsky in 1864. From the mid 1860s to the mid 1880s Leskov published a wide range of works, including journalism, sketches, short stories, and novels. Leskov's major works, many of which continue to be published in modern versions, were written during this time. A number of his later works were banned because of their satirical treatment of the Russian Orthodox Church and its functionaries. In his last years Leskov suffered from angina pectoris and asthma. He died on 5 March 1895. He was interred in the Volkovo Cemetery in Saint Petersburg, in the section reserved for literary figures.
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