Mining engineer and older brother of the composer (b. 9/21 May 1838 in Votkinsk; d. 21 November/4 December 1911 in Moscow), born Nikolay Ilyich Chaykovsky (Николай Ильич Чайковский); affectionately known to the composer as "Kolya" (Коля).
Nikolay was the oldest son of Ilya Tchaikovsky (1795–1880) and his wife Aleksandra (b. Assier, 1812–1854). Although he followed in his father's footsteps and studied at the Saint Petersburg Mining College, he did not subsequently work as a mining engineer for long, deciding to devote his skills to the booming railway industry instead. He worked for a special government commission planning the development of the railway network in Russia, helped to draw up the Railway Code in the 1880s, and wrote a number of technical books in this field.
Nikolay had a good sense of humour and was fond of music. In 1872 he married Olga Denisyeva (d. abt 1919), and in 1886 the couple adopted the illegitimate son of Nikolay's niece Tatyana Davydova, who took the name Georgy Tchaikovsky (b. 1883). In January 1887, Nikolay travelled to Moscow to attend the premiere of his brother's opera Cherevichki. It was at Nikolay's estate in Ukolovo, near Kursk, that Tchaikovsky met the poet Afanasy Fet in the summer of 1891.
It was also thanks to Nikolay that an even more important meeting in the last years of his brother's life took place. Around 1890, Nikolay seems to have started corresponding with their former governess Fanny Dürbach, who, despite her seventy years, was still active as a teacher in her native town of Montbéliard. Thus, in August 1891 Nikolay wrote to his brother: "A few days ago I received a very sweet reply from Fanny Dürbach which is full of memories and questions about you. What do you say about visiting her in Montbéliard now? I mean, after all this venerable person did play a certain role in our lives" . Tchaikovsky eventually visited "M-lle Fanny" in Montbéliard on 1 and 2 January 1893 [N.S.], and shortly afterwards he wrote a very emotional letter recounting the experience to his elder brother .
In 1887, Nikolay had retired from government service with the rank of Councillor of State, but during the 1890s he was involved in various philanthropic and educational projects in Moscow, where he had now moved with his family. At the same time he worked as manager of the S. P. Yakovlev publishing house in Moscow, helping to publish the compilation of his brother's musical-critical articles that Herman Laroche had edited . During these years he assisted Modest in collecting material for the latter's three-volume biography of their brother , obtaining, for example, an old photograph of the Tchaikovsky family's house in Votkinsk. He was also involved in the publication of Ivan Klimenko's brief biographical sketch of Tchaikovsky in 1909.
Nikolay Tchaikovsky died in Moscow in 1911, and was buried at the city's Novodevichye Cemetery.
Correspondence with Tchaikovsky
18 letters from Tchaikovsky to his brother Nikolay have survived, dating from 1871 to 1893, all of which have been translated into English on this website:
- Letter 240 – 28 September/10 October 1871, from Moscow
- Letter 2466 – 14/26 April 1884, from Kamenka
- Letter 2737 – 10/22 July 1885, from Maydanovo (jointly addressed to Nikolay and his wife Olga)
- Letter 2750 – 19/31 August 1885, from Maydanovo
- Letter 2785 – 6/18 October 1885, from Maydanovo
- Letter 2796 – 16/28 October 1885, from Maydanovo
- Letter 2804 – 30 October/11 November 1885, from Kamenka
- Letter 2814 – 19 November/1 December 1885, from Maydanovo
- Letter 3135 – 26 December 1886/7 January 1887, from Maydanovo
- Letter 3374a – 1/13 October 1887 (?), from Saint Petersburg
- Letter 4046 – 22 February/6 March 1890, from Florence
- Letter 4377 – 27 April/9 May 1891, from New York
- Letter 4387 – 29 May/10 June 1891, from Maydanovo
- Letter 4430 – 27 June/9 July 1891, from Maydanovo (jointly addressed to Olga Tchaikovskaya and Georgy Tchaikovsky)
- Letter 4718 – 30 June/12 July 1892, from Vichy (jointly addressed to Olga Tchaikovskaya and Georgy Tchaikovsky)
- Letter 4799 – 7/19 November 1892, from Saint Petersburg
- Letter 4835 – 22 December 1892/3 January 1893, from Paris
- Letter 4987 – 23 July/4 August 1893, from Klin (jointly addressed to Nikolay and his wife Olga)
- Wikipedia (Russian)