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Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin

Aleksandr Pushkin by Vasily Tropinin
Born June 6, 1799(1799-06-06)
Moscow, Russian Empire
Died February 10, 1837 (aged 37)
Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
Occupation Poet, novelist, playwright

Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin (Russian: Алекса́ндр Серге́евич Пу́шкин, pronounced [ɐlʲɪˈksandr sʲɪˈrɡʲejevʲɪtɕ ˈpuʃkʲɪn]  ( listen)) (June 6 [O.S. May 26] 1799–February 10 [O.S. January 29] 1837) was a Russian author of the Romantic era[1] who is considered by many to be the greatest Russian poet[2][3][4][5] and the founder of modern Russian literature.[6][7] Pushkin pioneered the use of vernacular speech in his poems and plays, creating a style of storytelling—mixing drama, romance, and satire—associated with Russian literature ever since and greatly influencing later Russian writers. He also wrote historical fiction. His Marie: A Story of Russian Love provides insight into Russia during the reign of Catherine the Great.

Born in Moscow, Russia, Pushkin published his first poem at the age of fifteen, and was widely recognized by the literary establishment by the time of his graduation from the Imperial Lyceum in Tsarskoye Selo. Pushkin gradually became committed to social reform and emerged as a spokesman for literary radicals; in the early 1820s he clashed with the government, which sent him into exile in southern Russia. While under the strict surveillance of government censors and unable to travel or publish at will, he wrote his most famous play, the drama Boris Godunov, but could not publish it until years later. His novel in verse, Eugene Onegin, was published serially from 1825 to 1832.

Pushkin and his wife Natalya Goncharova, whom he married in 1831, later became regulars of court society. In 1837, while falling into greater and greater debt amidst rumors that his wife had started conducting a scandalous affair, Pushkin challenged her alleged lover, Georges d'Anthès, to a duel. Pushkin was mortally wounded and died two days later.

Because of his political views and influence on generations of Russian rebels, Pushkin was portrayed by Bolsheviks as an opponent to bourgeois literature and culture and a predecessor of Soviet literature and poetry.[7] In 1937, the town of Tsarskoe Selo was renamed Pushkin in his honor.

Great-Grandson[8] of Abram Petrovich Gannibal, Aleksandr Pushkin is considered by some to be the best-known and high-profiled African-Russian.



A young Pushkin, by Xavier De Maistre. Oil on metal plate. The State Pushkin Museum, Moscow

Pushkin's father Sergei Lvovich Pushkin (1767–1848) descended from a distinguished family of the Russian nobility which traced its ancestry back to the 12th century.[8][9] Pushkin's mother Nadezhda (Nadja) Ossipovna Hannibal (1775–1836) descended through her paternal grandmother from German and Scandinavian nobility.[10][11] She was the daughter of Ossip Abramovich Gannibal (1744–1807) and his wife Maria Aleksejevna Pushkina (1745 - 1818). Ossip Abramovich Gannibal's father, i.e., Pushkin's great-grandfather, was Abram Petrovich Gannibal (1696 - 1781), a page raised by Peter the Great who was born in Lagon, Ethiopia.[8][9][10][11][12] After education in France as a military engineer, Abram Gannibal became governor of Reval and eventually General-en-Chef for the building of sea forts and canals in Russia.

Born in Moscow, Pushkin published his first poem at the age of fifteen. By the time he finished as part of the first graduating class of the prestigious Imperial Lyceum in Tsarskoe Selo near Saint Petersburg, the Russian literary scene recognized his talent widely. After finishing school, Pushkin installed himself in the vibrant and raucous intellectual youth culture of the capital, Saint Petersburg. In 1820 he published his first long poem, Ruslan and Lyudmila, amidst much controversy about its subject and style.

The 16-year old Pushkin recites a poem before Gavrila Derzhavin. Painting by Ilya Repin (1911).

Pushkin gradually became committed to social reform and emerged as a spokesman for literary radicals. This angered the government, and led to his transfer from the capital (1820). He went to the Caucasus and to the Crimea, then to Kamenka and Chisinau, where he became a Freemason. Here he joined the Filiki Eteria, a secret organization whose purpose was to overthrow the Ottoman rule over Greece and establish an independent Greek state. He was inspired by the Greek Revolution and when the war against the Ottoman Turks broke out he kept a diary with the events of the great national uprising. He stayed in Chisinau until 1823 and wrote there two Romantic poems which brought him wide acclaim, The Captive of the Caucasus and The Fountain of Bakhchisaray. In 1823 Pushkin moved to Odessa, where he again clashed with the government, which sent him into exile at his mother's rural estate in Mikhailovskoe (near Pskov) from 1824 to 1826.[13] However, some of the authorities allowed him to visit Tsar Nicholas I to petition for his release, which he obtained. But some of the insurgents in the Decembrist Uprising (1825) in Saint Petersburg had kept some of his early political poems amongst their papers, and soon Pushkin found himself under the strict control of government censors and unable to travel or publish at will. He had written what became his most famous play, the drama Boris Godunov, while at his mother's estate but could not gain permission to publish it until five years later. The drama's original, uncensored version would not receive a premiere until 2007.

Pushkin's wife Natalya Goncharova

In 1831, highlighting the growth of Pushkin's talent and influence and the merging of two of Russia's greatest early writers, he met Nikolai Gogol. After reading Gogol's 1831–2 volume of short stories Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka, Pushkin would support him critically and later in 1836 after starting his magazine, The Contemporary, would feature some of Gogol's most famous short stories. Later, Pushkin and his wife Natalya Goncharova, whom he married in 1831, became regulars of court society. When the Tsar gave Pushkin the lowest court title, the poet became enraged: he felt this occurred not only so that his wife, who had many admirers—including the Tsar himself—could properly attend court balls, but also to humiliate him. In 1837, falling into greater and greater debt amidst rumors that his wife had started conducting a scandalous affair, Pushkin challenged her alleged lover, his brother in-law Georges d'Anthès, to a duel which left both men injured, Pushkin mortally. He died two days later. His last home is a museum now.

The government feared a political demonstration at his funeral, which it moved to a smaller location and made open only to close relatives and friends. His body was spirited away secretly at midnight and buried on his mother's estate.

Pushkin had four children from his marriage to Natalya: Maria (b. 1832, touted as a prototype of Anna Karenina), Alexander (b. 1833), Grigory (b. 1835), and Natalya (b. 1836) the last of whom married, morganatically, into the royal house of Nassau to Nikolaus Wilhelm of Nassau and became the Countess of Merenberg.

Literary legacy

Pushkin Statue in Arts Square, Saint Petersburg

Critics consider many of his works masterpieces, such as the poem The Bronze Horseman and the drama The Stone Guest, a tale of the fall of Don Juan. His poetic short drama "Mozart and Salieri" was the inspiration for Peter Shaffer's Amadeus. Pushkin himself preferred his verse novel Eugene Onegin, which he wrote over the course of his life and which, starting a tradition of great Russian novels, follows a few central characters but varies widely in tone and focus. "Onegin" is a work of such complexity that, while only about a hundred pages long, translator Vladimir Nabokov needed two full volumes of material to fully render its meaning in English. Because of this difficulty in translation, Pushkin's verse remains largely unknown to English readers. Even so, Pushkin has profoundly influenced western writers like Henry James.[14]

Pushkin's works also provided fertile ground for Russian composers. Glinka's Ruslan and Lyudmila is the earliest important Pushkin-inspired opera, and a landmark in the tradition of Russian music. Tchaikovsky's operas Eugene Onegin (1879) and The Queen of Spades (1890) became perhaps better known outside of Russia than Pushkin's own works of the same name, while Mussorgsky's monumental Boris Godunov (two versions, 1868-9 and 1871-2) ranks as one of the very finest and most original of Russian operas. Other Russian operas based on Pushkin include Dargomyzhsky's Rusalka and The Stone Guest; Rimsky-Korsakov's Mozart and Salieri, Tale of Tsar Saltan, and The Golden Cockerel; Cui's Prisoner of the Caucasus, Feast in Time of Plague, and The Captain's Daughter; Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa; Rachmaninov's one-act operas Aleko (based on The Gypsies) and The Miserly Knight; Stravinsky's Mavra, and Nápravník's Dubrovsky. This is not to mention ballets and cantatas, as well as innumerable songs set to Pushkin's verse. Suppé, Leoncavallo and Malipiero, among non-Russian composers, have based operas on his works.[15]

Increased attention has also been given to Pushkin's apparent anti-Semitism, as well as that of other nineteenth-century Russian writers, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Nikolai Gogol.[16][17][18][19][20][21]


Although Pushkin is considered the central representative of The Age of Romanticism in Russian literature, he can't be labelled unequivocally as a Romantic: Russian critics have traditionally argued that his works represent a path from neo-Classicism through Romanticism to Realism, while an alternative assessment suggests that "he had an ability to entertain contrarities which may seem Romantic in origin, but is ultimately subversive of all fixed points of view, all single outlooks, including the Romantic" and that "he is simultaneously Romantic and not Romantic".[1]

Influence on the Russian language

Alexander Pushkin by Orest Kiprensky

Alexander Pushkin is usually credited with developing Russian literature. Not only is he seen as having originated the highly nuanced level of language which characterizes Russian literature after him, but he is also credited with substantially augmenting the Russian lexicon. Where he found gaps in the Russian vocabulary, he devised calques. His rich vocabulary and highly sensitive style are the foundation for modern Russian literature. Russian literature virtually begins with Alexander Pushkin. His talent set up new records for development of the Russian language and culture. He became the father of Russian literature in 19th century, marking the highest achievements of 18th century and the beginning of literary process of 19th century. Alexander Pushkin introduced Russia to all the European literary genres as well as a great number of West European writers. He brought natural speech and foreign influences to create modern poetic Russian. Though his life was brief, he left examples of nearly every literary genre of his day: lyric poetry, narrative poetry, the novel, the short story, the drama, the critical essay, and even the personal letter. Pushkin's work as a journalist marked the birth of the Russian magazine culture, including him devising and contributing heavily to one of the most influential literary magazines of 19th century, the Sovremennik (The Contemporary, or Современник). From him derive the folk tales and genre pieces of other authors: Esenin, Leskov and Gorky. His use of Russian language formed the basis of the style of novelists Ivan Turgenev, Ivan Goncharov, and Leo Tolstoy. Pushkin was recognized by Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol, his successor and pupil, the great Russian critic Vissarion Grigoryevich Belinsky, who produced the fullest and deepest critical study of Pushkin's work, which still retains much of its relevance. Alexander Pushkin became an inseparable part of the literary world of the Russian people. He also exerted a profound influence on other aspects of Russian culture, most notably in opera. Translated into all the major languages, his works are regarded both as expressing most completely Russian national consciousness and as transcending national barriers. Pushkin’s intelligence, sharpness of his opinion, his devotion to poetry, realistic thinking and incredible historical and political intuition make him one of the greatest Russian national geniuses.

List of works

Painting Pushkin at the beach, by Ivan Aivazovsky, 1887, Art Museum, Mykolaiv.
The famous Pushkin Monument in Moscow, opened in 1880 by Turgenev and Dostoyevsky.
Pushkin Monument in Moscow as it appears now
Six winged Seraph (after Pushkin's poem Prophet), 1905. By Mikhail Vrubel.
  • 1820 – Ruslan i Lyudmila (Руслан и Людмила); English translation: Ruslan and Ludmila
  • 1820-21 – Kavkazskiy plennik (Кавказский пленник); English translation: The Prisoner of the Caucasus
  • 1821 - Gavriiliada (Гавриилиада) ; English translation: The Gabrieliad
  • 1821–22 – Bratya razboyniki (Братья разбойники); English translation: The Robber Brothers
  • 1823 – Bakhchisaraysky fontan (Бахчисарайский фонтан); English translation: The Fountain of Bakhchisaray
  • 1824 – Tsygany (Цыганы); English translation: The Gypsies
  • 1825 – Graf Nulin (Граф Нулин); English translation: Count Nulin
  • 1829 – Poltava (Полтава); English translation: Poltava
  • 1830 – Domik v Kolomne (Домик в Коломне); English translation: The Little House in Kolomna
  • 1833 - Andjelo (Анджело); English translation: Angelo
  • 1833 – Medny vsadnik (Медный всадник); English translation: The Bronze Horseman
Verse novel
  • 1825-32 – Yevgeny Onegin (Евгений Онегин); English translation: Eugene Onegin
  • 1825 – Boris Godunov (Борис Годунов); English translation: Boris Godunov
  • 1830 – Malenkie tragedii (Маленькие трагедии); English translation: The Little Tragedies
    • Kamenny gost (Каменный гость); English translation: The Stone Guest
    • Motsart i Salyeri (Моцарт и Сальери); English translation: Mozart and Salieri
    • Skupoy rytsar (Скупой рыцарь); English translations: The Miserly Knight, The Covetous Knight
    • Pir vo vremya chumy (Пир во время чумы); English translation: A Feast in Time of Plague
  • 1831 – Povesti pokoynogo Ivana Petrovicha Belkina (Повести покойного Ивана Петровича Белкина); English translation: The Tales of the Late Ivan Petrovich Belkin
    • Vystrel (Выстрел); English translation: The Shot, short story
    • Metel (Метель); English translation: The Blizzard, short story
    • Grobovschik (Гробовщик); English translation: The Undertaker, short story
    • Stanzionny smotritel (Станционный смотритель); English translation: The Stationmaster, short story
    • Baryshnya-krestyanka (Барышня-крестьянка); English translation: The Squire's Daughter, short story
  • 1834 - Pikovaya dama (Пиковая дама); English translation: The Queen of Spades, short story
  • 1834 - Kirdzhali (Кирджали); English translation: Kirdzhali, short story
  • 1834 - Istoriya Pugacheva (История Пугачева); English translation: A History of Pugachev, study of the Pugachev's Rebellion
  • 1836 - Kapitanskaya dochka (Капитанская дочка); English translation: The Captain's Daughter, novel
  • 1836 - Puteshestvie v Arzrum (Путешествие в Арзрум); English translation: A Journey to Arzrum, travel sketches
  • 1836 - Roslavlev (Рославлев); English translation: Roslavlev, unfinished novel
  • 1837 - Arap Petra Velikogo (Арап Петра Великого); English translation: Peter the Great's Negro, unfinished novel
  • 1837 - Istoriya sela Goryuhina (История села Горюхина); English translation: The Story of the Village of Goryukhino, unfinished short story
  • 1837 - Yegipetskie nochi (Египетские ночи); English translation: Egyptian Nights, unfinished short story
  • 1841 - Dubrovsky (Дубровский); English translation: Dubrovsky, unfinished novel
Tales in verse

Awards and honors

A memorial of Alexander Pushkin in Burgas, Bulgaria

A minor planet, 2208 Pushkin, discovered in 1977 by Soviet astronomer Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh is named after him.[22]

A crater, Pushkin, on Mercury is also named in his honor.

The Pushkin Trust was established in 1987 by the Duchess of Abercorn to commemorate the creative legacy and spirit of her ancestor Alexander Pushkin and to release the creativity and imagination of the children of Ireland by providing them with opportunities to communicate their thoughts, feelings and experiences.

Many authorities claim that Alexander Pushkin is the greatest poet of Russia.[2][3]

Hoaxes and other attributed works

In 1986, a book entitled Secret Journal 1836–1837 was published by a Minneapolis publishing house (M.I.P. Company), claiming to be the decoded content of an encrypted private journal kept by Pushkin. Promoted with few details about its contents, and touted for many years as being 'banned in Russia', it was an erotic novel narrated from Pushkin's perspective. Some mail-order publishers still carry the work under its fictional description. In 2001 it was first published in Moscow by Ladomir Publishing House which created a scandal. In 2006 a bilingual Russian-English edition was published in Russia by Retro Publishing House. Now published in 24 countries. Staged in Paris in 2006. See

Pushkin's self-portrait on a one ruble coin, 1999

See also


  1. ^ a b Basker, Michael. Pushkin and Romanticism. In Ferber, Michael, ed., A Companion to European Romanticism. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.
  2. ^ a b Short biography from University of Virginia, retrieved on 24 November 2006.
  3. ^ a b Allan Reid, "Russia's Greatest Poet/Scoundrel", retrieved on 2 September 2006.
  4. ^ BBC News, 5 June 1999, "Pushkin fever sweeps Russia". Retrieved 1 September 2006.
  5. ^ BBC News, 10 June 2003, "Biographer wins rich book price". Retrieved 1 September 2006.
  6. ^ Biography of Pushkin at the Russian Literary Institute "Pushkin House". Retrieved 1 September 2006.
  7. ^ a b Maxim Gorky, "Pushkin, An Appraisal". Retrieved 1 September 2006.
  8. ^ a b c "Aleksander Sergeevich Pushkin's descendants at". Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  9. ^ a b Н. К. Телетова [N. K. Teletova] (2007).
  10. ^ a b Лихауг [Lihaug], Э. Г. [E. G.] (November 2006). "Предки А. С. Пушкина в Германии и Скандинавии: происхождение Христины Регины Шёберг (Ганнибал) от Клауса фон Грабо из Грабо [Ancestors of A. S. Pushkin in Germany and Scandinavia: Descent of Christina Regina Siöberg (Hannibal) from Claus von Grabow zu Grabow]". Генеалогический вестник [Genealogical Herald].–Санкт-Петербург [Saint Petersburg] 27: 31–38. 
  11. ^ a b Lihaug, Elin Galtung (2007). "Aus Brandenburg nach Skandinavien, dem Baltikum und Rußland. Eine Abstammungslinie von Claus von Grabow bis Alexander Sergejewitsch Puschkin 1581–1837". Archiv für Familiengeschichtsforschung 11: 32–46. 
  12. ^ Dieudonné Gnammankou, Abraham Hanibal — l’aïeul noir de Pouchkine, Présence Africaine Éditions, Paris 1996. ISBN 2-7087-0609-8.
  13. ^ Images of Pushkin in the works of the black "pilgrims". Ahern, Kathleen M. The Mississippi Quarterly. Pg. 75(11) Vol. 55 No. 1 ISSN: 0026-637X. December 22, 2001.
  14. ^ Joseph S. O'Leary, Pushkin in 'The Aspern Papers' , the Henry James E-Journal Number 2, March 2000, retrieved on 24 November 2006.
  15. ^ Taruskin R. Pushkin in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. London & New York, Macmillan, 1997.
  16. ^ Russian Urges Quotas on Jews; Communists Begin to Split Over Comrade's Antisemitism. David Hoffman. The Washington Post, A Section; Pg. A28. November 12, 1998.
  17. ^ Taking Penguins to the Movies: Ethnic Humor in Russia By Emil Draitser. P. 112. Google Book Citation
  18. ^ "Negative Images of Jews in Recent Russian Literature. Pereira, N G O". 2009-06-02. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  19. ^ The Development of Russian Verse: Meter and Its Meanings By Michael Wachtel. p. 26. Google Book Citation
  20. ^ Puskin's "Black Shawl" poem.
  21. ^ One Less Hope: Essays on Twentieth-century Russian Poets By Constantin V. Ponomareff."The Avarious Knight" poem. p. 161. Google Book Citation
  22. ^ Schmadel, Lutz D. (2003). Dictionary of Minor Planet Names (5th ed.). New York: Springer Verlag. p. 179. ISBN 3540002383. 


  • Elaine Feinstein (ed.): After Pushkin: versions of the poems of Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin by contemporary poets. Manchester: Carcanet Press; London: Folio Society, 1999 ISBN 1-85754-444-7
  • Serena Vitale: Pushkin's button; transl. from the Italian by Ann Goldstein. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998 ISBN 1-85702-937-2
  • Markus Wolf: Freemasonry in life and literature. With an introduction to the history of Russian Freemasonry (German). Munich: Otto Sagner publishers, 1998 ISBN 3-87690-692-X
  • T. J. Binyon has written an English biography: Pushkin: A Biography (London: HarperCollins, 2002) (ISBN 0-00-215084-0; US edition: New York: Knopf, 2003; ISBN 1-4000-4110-4).
  • Yuri Druzhnikov, Prisoner of Russia: Alexander Pushkin and the Political Uses of Nationalism, Transaction Publishers, 1998, ISBN 1-56000-390-1
  • Н. К. Телетова [N. K. Teletova], Забытые родственные связи А.С. Пушкина [The forgotten family connections of A. S. Pushkin], Спб.: Дорн [Saint Petersburg: Dorn], 2007. OCLC 214284063
  • Pogadaev, Victor. Penyair Agung Rusia Pushkin dan Dunia Timur (The Great Russian Poet Pushkin and the Oriental World). Monograph Series. Centre For Civilisational Dialogue. University Malaya. N 6, 2003, ISBN 983-3070-06-X

External links


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From Wikiquote

Aleksandr Pushkin, Russian poet and author

Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin; Алекса́ндр Серге́евич Пу́шкин (6 June (26 May, O.S.), 1799 - 10 February (29 January, O.S.), 1837) Russian poet and author.



  • The illusion which exalts us is dearer to us than ten thousand truths.
  • Upon the brink of the wild stream
    He stood, and dreamt a mighty dream.
  • And thus He mused: "From here, indeed
    Shall we strike terror in the Swede?
    And here a city by our labor
    Founded, shall gall our haughty neighbor;
    "Here cut" - so Nature gives command -
    Your window through on Europe; stand
    Firm-footed by the sea, unchanging!
    • The Bronze Horseman (1833)
  • ‘Tis time, my friend, ‘tis time!
    For rest the heart is aching;
    Days follow days in flight, and every day is taking
    Fragments of being, while together you and I
    Make plans to live. Look, all is dust, and we shall die.
    • 'Tis Time, My Friend, l. 1-5 (1834)
  • When the loud day for men who sow and reap
    Grows still, and on the silence of the town
    The insubstantial veils of night and sleep,
    The meed of the day's labour, settle down,
    Then for me in the stillness of the night
    The wasting, watchful hours drag on their course,
    And in the idle darkness comes the bite
    Of all the burning serpents of remorse;
    Dreams seethe; and fretful infelicities
    Are swarming in my over-burdened soul,
    And Memory before my wakeful eyes
    With noiseless hand unwinds her lengthy scroll.
    Then, as with loathing I peruse the years,
    I tremble, and I curse my natal day,
    Wail bitterly, and bitterly shed tears,
    But cannot wash the woeful script away.
    • Remembrance

Eugene Onegin (1823)

  • But, as it is, this pied collection
    begs your indulgence — it's been spun
    from threads both sad and humoristic,
    themes popular or idealistic,
    products of carefree hours, of fun,
    of sleeplessness, faint inspirations,
    of powers unripe, or on the wane,
    of reason's icy intimations,
    and records of a heart in pain.
    • Dedication
  • There yet remains but one concluding tale,
    And then this chronicle of mine is ended—
    Fulfilled, the duty God ordained to me,
    A sinner. Not without purpose did the Lord
    Put me to witness much for many years
    And educate me in the love of books.
    One day some indefatigable monk
    Will find my conscientious, unsigned work;
    Like me, he will light up his ikon-lamp
    And, shaking from the scroll the age-old dust,
    He will transcribe these tales in all their truth.
    • Prologue, sec. 5, l. 18-28
  • Unforced, as conversation passed,
    he had the talent of saluting
    felicitously every theme,
    of listening like a judge-supreme
    while serious topics were disputing,
    or, with an epigram-surprise,
    of kindling smiles in ladies' eyes.
    • Ch. 1, st. 5
  • Always contented with his life,
    and with his dinner, and his wife.
    • Ch. 1, st. 12
  • A man who's active and incisive
    can yet keep nail-care much in mind:
    why fight what's known to be decisive?
    custom is despot of mankind.
    • Ch. 1, st. 25
  • The illness with which he'd been smitten
    should have been analysed when caught,
    something like spleen, that scourge of Britain,
    or Russia's chondria, for short.
    • Ch. 1, st. 38
  • Love passed, the Muse appeared, the weather
    of mind got clarity new-found;
    now free, I once more weave together
    emotion, thought, and magic sound.
    • Ch. 1, st. 59
  • Habit is Heaven's own redress:
    it takes the place of happiness.
    • Ch. 2, st. 31
  • The less we show our love to a woman,
    Or please her less, and neglect our duty,
    The more we trap and ruin her surely
    In the flattering toils of philandery.
    • Ch. 4, st. 1
  • The clock of doom had struck as fated;
    the poet, without a sound,
    let fall his pistol on the ground.
    • Ch. 6, st. 30
  • Moscow... how many strains are fusing
    in that one sound, for Russian hearts!
    what store of riches it imparts!
    • Ch. 7, st. 36
  • Sad that our finest aspiration
    Our freshest dreams and meditations,
    In swift succession should decay,
    Like Autumn leaves that rot away.
    • Ch. 8, st. 10

Boris Godunov (1825)

  • Pimen [writing in front of a sacred lamp]:
    One more, the final record, and my annals
    Are ended, and fulfilled the duty laid
    By God on me a sinner. Not in vain
    Hath God appointed me for many years
    A witness, teaching me the art of letters;
    A day will come when some laborious monk
    Will bring to light my zealous, nameless toil,
    Kindle, as I, his lamp, and from the parchment
    Shaking the dust of ages will transcribe
    My true narrations.
  • Like some magistrate grown gray in office,
    Calmly he contemplates alike the just
    And unjust, with indifference he notes
    Evil and good, and knows not wrath nor pity.
  • Ah! heavy art thou, crown of Monomakh!
  • Mosalsky: Good folk! Maria Godunov and her son Feodor have poisoned themselves. We have seen their dead bodies. [The People are silent with horror.] Why are ye silent? Cry, Long live the Tsar Dimitry Ivanovich! [The People are speechless.]

The Queen of Spades (1890)

  • "The bread of the stranger is bitter," says Dante, "and his staircase hard to climb." But who can know what the bitterness of dependence is so well as the poor companion of an old lady of quality?
    • II
  • "I have come to you against my wish," she said in a firm voice: "but I have been ordered to grant your request. Three, seven, ace, will win for you if played in succession, but only on these conditions: that you do not play more than one card in twenty-four hours, and that you never play again during the rest of your life. I forgive you my death, on condition that you marry my companion, Lizaveta Ivanovna."
    • V
  • Two fixed ideas can no more exist together in the moral world than two bodies can occupy one and the same place in the physical world.
    • VI
  • "Ace has won!" cried Hermann, showing his card.
    "Your queen has lost," said Chekalinsky, politely.
    Hermann started; instead of an ace, there lay before him the queen of spades! He could not believe his eyes, nor could he understand how he had made such a mistake.
    At that moment it seemed to him that the queen of spades smiled ironically and winked her eye at him. He was struck by her remarkable resemblance...
    "The old Countess!" he exclaimed, seized with terror.
    • VI
  • Hermann went out of his mind, and is now confined in room Number 17 of the Obukhov Hospital. He never answers any questions, but he constantly mutters with unusual rapidity: "Three, seven, ace!" "Three, seven, queen!"
    • VI


  • Ecstasy is a glassful of tea and a piece of sugar in the mouth.

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From LoveToKnow 1911

ALEXANDER PUSHKIN (1799-1837), Russian poet, was born at Moscow, on the 7th of June 1799. He belonged to an ancient family of boyars; his maternal great-grandfather, a favourite negro ennobled by Peter the Great, bequeathed to him curly hair and a somewhat darker complexion than falls to the lot of the ordinary Russian. In 1811 the future poet entered the newly founded lyceum of Tsarskoe Selo, situated near St Petersburg. On quitting the lyceum in 1817 he was attached to the ministry of foreign affairs, and in this year he began the composition of his Ruslan and Ly'udmila, a poem which was completed in 1820. Meanwhile Pushkin mixed in all the gayest society of the capital, and it seemed as if he would turn out a mere man of fashion instead of a poet. But a very daring Ode to Liberty written by him had been circulated in manuscript in St Petersburg. This production having been brought to the notice of the governor, the young author only escaped a journey to Siberia by accepting an official position at Kishinev in Bessarabia, in southern Russia. If we follow the chronological order of his poems, we can trace the enthusiasm with which he greeted the ever-changing prospects of the sea and the regions oT the Danube and the Crimea.

At this time Pushkin was, or affected to be, overpowered by the Byronic "Weltschmerz." Having visited the baths of the Caucasus for the re-establishment of his health in 1822, he felt the inspiration of its magnificent scenery, and composed The Prisoner of the Caucasus, narrating the story of the love of a Circassian girl for a youthful Russian officer. This was followed by the Fountain of Bakhchisarai, which tells of the detention of a young Polish captive, a Countess Potocka, in the palace of the khans of the Crimea. About the same time he composed some interesting lines on Ovid, whose place of banishment, Tomi, was not far distant. To this period belongs also the Ode to Napoleon, which is inferior to the fine poems of Byron and Manzoni, or indeed of Lermontov, on the same subject. In the Lay concerning the Wise Oleg we see how the influence of Karamzin's History had led the Russians to take a greater interest in the early records of their country. The next long poem was the Gipsies (Tzuigani), an Oriental tale of love and vengeance, in which Pushkin has admirably delineated these nomads, whose strange mode of life fascinated him. During his stay in southern Russia he allowed himself to get mixed up with the secret societies then rife throughout the country. He also became embroiled with his chief, Count Vorontzov, who sent him to report upon the damages which had been committed by locusts in the southern part of Bessarabia. Pushkin took this as a premeditated insult, and sent in his resignation; and Count Vorontzov in his official report requested the government to remove the poet, "as he was surrounded by a society of political and literary fanatics, whose praises might turn his head and make him believe that he was a great writer, whereas he was only a feeble imitator of Lord Byron, an original not much to be commended." The poet quitted Odessa in 1824, and on leaving wrote a fine Ode to the Sea. Before the close of the year he had returned to his father's seat at Mikhailovskoe, near Pskov, where he soon involved himself in trouble on all sides. In his retirement he devoted a great deal of time to the study of the old Russian popular poetry, the builinas, of which he became a great admirer. Recollections of Byron and Andre Chenier gave the inspiration to some fine lines consecrated to the latter, in which Pushkin appeared more conservative than was his wont, and wrote in a spirit antagonistic to the French Revolution. In 1825 he published his tragedy Boris Godunov, a bold effort. to imitate the style of Shakespeare. Up to this time the traditions of the Russian stage, such as it was, had been French.

In 1825 the conspiracy of the Dekabrists broke out. Many of the conspirators were personal friends of Pushkin, especially Kiichelbecker and Pustchin. The poet himself was to a certain extent compromised, but he succeeded in getting to his house at Mikhailovskoe and burning all the papers which might have been prejudicial to him. Through influential friends he succeeded in making his peace with the emperor, to whom he was presented at Moscow soon after his coronation. The story goes that Nicholas said to Count Bludov on the same evening, "I have just been conversing with the most witty man in Russia." In 1828 appeared Poltava, a spirited narrative poem, in which the expedition of Charles against Peter and the treachery of the hetman Mazeppa were described. In 1829 Pushkin. again visited the Caucasus, on this occasion accompanying the expedition of Prince Paskevich. He wrote a pleasing account of the tour; many of the short lyrical pieces suggested by the scenery and 'associations of his visit are delightful, especially the lines on the Don and the Caucasus. In 1831 Pushkin married Natalia Goncharov, and in the following year was again attached to the ministry of foreign affairs, with a salary of 500o roubles. He now busied himself with an historical account of the revolt of the Cossack Pugachev, who almost overthrew the empire of Catherine and was executed at Moscow in the latter part of the t8th century. While engaged upon this he wrote The Captain's Daughter, one of the best of his prose works. In 1832 was completed the poem Eugene Onyegin, in which the author modelled his style upon the lighter sketches of Byron in the Italian manner. Yet no one can accuse Pushkin of want of nationalism in this poem: it is Russian in every fibre.

In 1837 the poet, who had been long growing in literary reputation, fell mortally wounded in a duel with Baron George Heckeren d'Anthes, the adopted son of the Dutch minister then resident at the court of St Petersburg. D'Anthes, a vain and frivolous young man, had married a sister of the poet's wife. Notwithstanding this he aroused Pushkin's jealousy by some attentions which he paid Natalia; but the grounds for the poet's anger, it must be confessed, do not appear very great. Pushkin died, after two days' suffering, on the afternoon of Friday the 10th of February. D'Anthes was tried by court-martial and expelled the country. In 1880 a statue of the poet was erected at the Tver Barrier at Moscow, and fetes were held in his honour, on which occasion many interesting memorials of him were exhibited to his admiring countrymen and a few foreigners who had congregated for the festivities. Pushkin left four children; his widow was afterwards married to an officer in the army, named Lanskoi; she died in 1863.

Pushkin's poetical tales are spirited and full of dramatic power. The influence of Byron is undoubtedly seen in them, but they are not imitations, still less is anything in them plagiarized. Boris Godunov is a fine tragedy; on the whole Eugene Onyegin must be considered Pushkin's masterpiece. Here we have a great variety of styles - satire, pathos and humour mixed together. The character-painting is good, and the descriptions of scenery introduced faithful to nature. The poem in many places reminds us of Byron, who himself in his mixture of the pathetic and the humorous was a disciple of the Italian school. Pushl`in also wrote a great many lyrical pieces. Interspersed among the poet's minor works will be found many epigrams, but some of the best composed by him were not so fortunate as to pass the censorship, and must be read in a supplementary volume published at Berlin. As a prose writer Pushkin has considerable merits. Besides his History of the Revolt of Pugachev, which is perhaps too much of a compilation, he published a small volume of tales under the nom de plume of Ivan Byelkin. These all show considerable dramatic power: the best are The Captain's Daughter, a tale of the times of Catherine II.; The Undertaker, a very ghostly story, which will remind the English reader of some of the tales of Edgar Poe; The Pistol Shot; and The Queen of Spades. The academy of St Petersburg has recently issued a complete edition of the works of Pushkin, including his letters. See the bibliography in the editions of Gennadi (7 vols., St Petersburg, 1861) and Annenkov (6 vols., St Petersburg, 1855). (W. R. M.)

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Simple English

[[File:|right|thumb|Aleksandr Pushkin by Vasily Tropinin ]] Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (born May 26 (June 6, New Style) 1799, Moscow; died January 29 (February 10 New Style), St Petersburg) was a Russian poet, novelist, dramatist and writer of short stories. People think he was the greatest Russian poet. He started the great tradition of Russian literature. Pushkin wrote in a way that no other Russian had done: he used the Russian language in the way it was spoken instead of writing in a style based on old church books. His influence on other Russian writers was enormous and many Russian composers set his stories and poems to music. Not so many people outside Russia read Pushkin’s poems. This is because his poetry is very hard to translate well into other languages because the words are full of special meanings in Russian culture. Pushkin was killed in a duel in 1837 at the age of 37.


Early years

Pushkin’s father came from an old aristocratic family. On his mother’s side Pushkin had African ancestors. His great-grandfather Abram Gannibal was an Abyssinian who was living in a palace of the Turkish sultan in Istanbul. The Russian ambassador bought him as a present for Peter the Great, the tsar of Russia. Gannibal became a favourite of Peter the Great and he was sent to Paris to study. He became very rich. Pushkin was proud of his great-grandfather and wrote about him in a novel called The Negro of Peter the Great.

In 19th century Russia all aristocratic families learned to speak French, so Pushkin and his brother and sister spoke and wrote in French more than in Russian. The children were cared for by a nurse, Arina Rodionovna Yakovleva. It was the nurse who taught them to love the Russian language. She told the children Russian folktales. Pushkin also spoke Russian to the peasants and he read many books in his father’s library.

When he was 12 he went to a new school called the Imperial Lyceum at Tsarskoye Selo. Years later this school was renamed Pushkin after their famous pupil. He soon started writing romantic poems in Russian using Russian tales of heroes and adventures. Ruslan and Ludmila was a poem that was later to be made into an opera by Glinka.


In 1817 Pushkin got a job in the foreign office at St. Petersburg. He soon became interested in politics and supported the Decembrist revolt of 1825 when a group of noblemen and army officers tried to put another tsar in power and make him less powerful. Pushkin wrote some political poems. The result was that he was told he had to leave St. Petersburg. He had to spend six years in exile in the south of the country: in the Caucasus and the Crimea. He wrote about his experiences in the south in several romantic narrative poems (long poems which tell a story). He started work on a novel in verse called Yevgeny Onegin (or Eugene Onegin). He did not finish it until 1833. This was to be his most famous work. It was used by many musicians including Tchaikovsky who made it into an opera. The poem shows typical Russian people in the society of his day.

Pushkin was angry that he was still in exile and he wrote many letters to his friends. Many of these letters were later published. He spent a lot of time drinking, gaming and fighting with swords. He fell in love with the daughter of a Count for whom he was working. The Count managed to get Pushkin exiled to his mother’s estate near Pskov at the other end of Russia. Pushkin spent two years here. He was lonely, but he studied Russian history and talked to the peasants. The poems he wrote were full of ideas from Russian culture. He wrote one of his major works: Boris Godunov, a drama about a story from Russian history. The composer Mussorgsky later made an opera from it. Boris Godunov was a cruel tsar in the 17th century. Pushkin’s play shows that the ordinary people had a lot of power. This made it difficult for Pushkin to get it published.

Return from exile

After the revolt in 1825 the new tsar Nicholas I realized that Pushkin was by now very famous. He also realized that he had not taken part in the revolt, so he allowed him to return. The tsar said that he himself would censor Pushkin’s works before they were allowed to be published. He said that he was going to be a good tsar and help the poor people (the serfs) to become free. Pushkin was in a difficult position, because he could not write anything that the tsar would not like. He had to be very careful not to say bad things about the rulers of the country. The police watched him very carefully. Yet at this time Pushkin wrote a large number of great works, almost each one of them being the first of their kind in Russian literature. One example is the short story The Queen of Spades which Tchaikovsky made into an opera and which was to be a great influence on the novels of Dostoyevsky.

Last years

In his last years Pushkin was again in government service in St. Petersburg. He married in 1831 and had to spend a lot of time in society at court. He wrote more and more prose. He wrote a history of Peter the Great and a historical novel The Captain’s Daughter. He kept asking the tsar to let him resign from his job and go to the country to spend his time writing. The tsar would not allow that. In 1837 Pushkin was killed in a duel. He had been forced to fight the duel in order to defend his wife’s honour.

Pushkin’s achievements

The Russian language today would be very different if it had not been for Pushkin. Using the language as it was spoken by the people he made it into a language which was simple but which could also express deep feelings. His works were a great influence on later writers like Turgenev, Goncharov and Leo Tolstoy. Yevgeny Onegin was the first Russian novel which told a story about the society of the time. His works have been translated into all the major languages

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