The name of this sculptor is widely known both in our country and abroad. Stepan Dmitrievich Nefedov (this is his real name), Mordvin by birth, has chosen the name of an ethnographical Mordvinian group, Erzya, as his pseudonym. It is not only paying the tribute to the people, who have given him birth, but also admission, that the routes of his talent, the source of inexhaustible vital power of his works lie in their native originality and their unique national character.
The sculptor to-be was born in a peasant’s family in the village of Baevo, the Alatyrsky district, the Symbirskaya province. Since childhood he was surrounded by magnificent nature of his native place. The basis of his unique artistic gift was formed by all those wonderful peculiarities and traits, which are typical of Mordvinian art since time immemorial.
Brilliant natural abilities of young Stepan Nefedov were successfully developed in the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture under the guidance of Sergey Volnukhin, and afterwards in the studios of sculptors in Europe (1907-1914). The Mordvinian artist spent 7 years in France and Italy.
Having returned to Moscow, Stepan Erzya went on developing his main subject lines, which appeared in his works before, during the Italian-French period: women images, expressing intense inner feelings; portraits; symbolic pictures. Stepan Erzya was one of the first Russian sculptors of XX century to show dignity and beauty of a woman, who belongs to “small nation”, for he created images full of poetry and deep, sincere feeling like “Mongolka” (“The Mongol woman”), “The Erzya woman”, “The head of the Mordvinian woman”
In 1927 S. Erzya moved to Argentina and returned to the Soviet Union only in 1950. He succeeded in keeping and bringing to his native soil his works, the result of intensive many years' work.
Stepan Erzya died on the 27th of November, 1959. He was buried in Saransk, and though his ashes forever belong to his native Mordvinian land, his eternal art will forever belong to the humankind.