Boris Bugaev was born in Moscow, into a prominent intellectual family. His father, Nikolai Bugaev, was a leading mathematician who is regarded as a founder of the Moscow school of mathematics. His mother was not only highly intelligent but a famous society beauty, and the focus of considerable gossip. Young Boris was a polymath whose interests included mathematics, music, philosophy, and literature. He would go on to take part in both the Symbolist movement and the Russian school of neo-Kantianism.Nikolai Bugaev was well known for his influential philosophical essays, in which he decried geometry and probability and trumpeted the virtues of hard analysis. Despite—or because of—his father's mathematical tastes, Boris Bugaev was fascinated by probability and particularly by entropy, a notion to which he frequently refers in works such as Kotik Letaev.Bely's creative works notably influenced—and were influenced by—several literary schools, especially symbolism. They feature a striking mysticism and a sort of moody musicality. The far-reaching influence of his literary voice on Russian writers (and even musicians) has frequently been compared to the impact of James Joyce in the English-speaking world. The novelty of his sonic effects has also been compared to the innovative music of Charles Ives.As a young man, Bely was strongly influenced by his acquaintance with the family of philosopher Vladimir Solovyov, especially Vladimir's younger brother Mikhail, described in his long autobiographical poem The First Encounter (1921); the title is a reflection of Vladimir Solovyov's Three Encounters.Bely's symbolist novel Petersburg (1916; 1922) is generally considered to be his masterpiece. The book employs a striking prose method in which sounds often evoke colors. The novel is set in the somewhat hysterical atmosphere of turn-of-the-century Petersburg and the Russian Revolution of 1905. To the extent that the book can be said to possess a plot, this can be summarized as the story of the hapless Nikolai Apollonovich, a ne'er-do-well who is caught up in revolutionary politics and assigned the task of assassinating a certain government official—his own father. At one point, Nikolai is pursued through the Petersburg mists by the ringing hooves of the famous bronze statue of Peter the Great.In his later years Bely was influenced by Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy and became a personal friend of Steiner's. He died, aged 53, in Moscow.Bely was one of the major influences on the theater of Vsevolod Meyerhold.The Andrei Bely Prize (Russian: Премия Андрея Белого), one of the most important prizes in Russian literature, was named after him. His poems were set on music and frequently performed by Russian singer-songwriters.