Alexander Pushkin was a Russian poet, novelist, playwright of the Romantic era. One of Russia's greatest poets, he is known as the father of modern Russian literature. Pushkin combined native (vernacular) speech with foreign influences to create a modern poetic Russian that had a great influence on later Russian writers.
Lasting legacies of the great Russian author are numerous. Leaving examples of virtually every literary genre of his era (lyric poetry, narrative poetry, the novel, the short story, the drama, the critical essay, and the personal letter), Pushkin's works provided fertile ground for Russian composers. His unique style of storytelling, that mixed drama, romance and satire, was the foundation of numerous celebrated operas. Most notable include: Glinka's Ruslan and Lyudmila, Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin and The Queen of Spades, and Mussorgsky's monumental Boris Godunov. While heavily influencing opera, Pushkins works were also the basis of ballets and cantatas, as well as innumerable songs set to Pushkin's verse.
Alexander Pushkin Timeline
- 1799 - Alexander Pushkin was born on the
6th of June
- descended from a distinguished family of the Russian nobility
- Perhaps his most famous ancestor was great-grandfather Abram Gannibal (mother's side), an African page raised by Peter the Great. Educated in France as a military engineer, Abram Gannibal became governor of Reval (Tallinn, Estonia) and eventually General-en-Chef for the building of sea forts and canals in Russia
- 1811 - enters the Imperial Lyceum in Tsarskoye Selo (outskirts of St. Petersburg)
- develops an understanding of different poetic genres and language
- 1815 - publishes his first poem at the age of 15
- Pushkin publically recites "Recollections of Tsarskoye Selo", which combines the styles of Derzhavin and Batyushkov
- The poem delights Derzhavin, who happens to be visiting the school (see painting by Ilya Repin)
- 1817 - graduates from the Imperial Lyceum
- already widely recognized by the literary establishment
- established himself in the spirited intellectual youth culture of the capital, Saint Petersburg
- 1820 - publishes his first long poem Ruslan and Lyudmila
- 1820 to 1826 - Exiled to southern Russia due the the Tsar's displeasure with his poetry
- starting in the early 1820s Pushkin became more and more committed to social reform, and as a spokesman for literary radicals, he began to express his political ideas in works such as his ode to "Freedom"
- put under the strict control of government censors, Alexander Pushkin was unable to travel or publish at will
- 1822 - publishes The Fountain of Bakhchisaray
- receives 3000 rubles for it, at the time, the largest sum ever paid to a Russian writer
- 1824 - publishes The Gypsies
- 1825 - writes drama Boris Godunov
- 1829 - public romantic historical epic poem Poltava
- 1830 - marries Natalia Nikolaevna Goncharova
- due to a cholera outbreak the same year, Pushkin is trapped at his estate
- the period of "inactivity" gives him time to write some of his best works including verse novel Eugene Onegin, drama The Little Tragedies, and the prose story collection The Tales of the Late Ivan Petrovich Belkin
- 1833 - Publishes Eugene Onegin (which he wrote from 1825-1832)
- also writes The Bronze Horseman and A History of Pugachev (an historical study of Pugachev's Rebellion)
- 1836 - finishes historical novel The Captain's Daughter
- also finishes his travel sketches A Journey to Arzrum
- 1837 - Alexander Pushkin dies on the 10th of February
- mortally wounded in a duel with D'Anthès (see below)
Pushkin's Dual to the Death
Perhaps as enduring as the literary stories Pushkin left behind, is the story of his own tragic end. Already deep in debt and shamed by his appointment to the lowest court title by Tsar Alexander I, the poet was overcome with anger and jealousy amidst rumors that his wife was involved in a scandalous affair. Wife Natalya, a beautiful and flirtatious woman who had many admirers (including Tsar Alexander himself), was rumored to be romantically involved with Georges D'Anthès, a Frenchman who had joined the Tsar's army to advance his career. The whole "affair" finally came to a head when, on November 4, 1836, the author received an anonymous letter sarcastically stating that he had been elected to the "Most Serene Order of Cuckolds". The letter, which was also sent to Pushkin's friends and acquaintances, hinted unequivocally at the courting of Pushkin's wife by Nicholas I. Outraged, Pushkin angrily issued a challenge to his wife's alleged lover, D'Anthès.
The impending duel was initially delayed by a complex series of negotiations initiated by DAnthès adoptive father (Dutch ambassador Baron Heeckeren). On January 10, 1837, D'Anthès even married Natalya's sister Ekaterina Goncharova, a marriage arranged, perhaps, to contradict society gossip that he was in pursuit of Natalya. In any event, this did little but invigorate the conflict between the two new brothers-in-law. Alexander Pushkin's furious jealousy made him write an insulting letter to d'Anthès' adoptive father. Having refused to withdraw these abuses, the duel became inevitable.
On the afternoon of February 8, 1837, the two men met for their fateful duel. d'Anthès shot first, mortally wounding Pushkin in the stomach. Pushkin, who had fought several duels in the past, managed to rise and shoot at d'Anthès, grazing him in the right arm. Two days later the great Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin, had succumb to his wounds.
The grief that broke out within Russian society upon news of the poets death was unprecedented. Taking authorities by surprise and fearing political demonstration, they did their best to mitigate Pushkin's funeral, making it inaccessible to the public.
Today the site of Pushkin's fateful duel is marked with a marble monument to the poet, in Saint Petersburg. Long deceased, but unforgotten by the Russian public, his memorial is still adorned attentively with fresh cut flowers.
From Chyornaya Rechka metro station, walk down Torzhkovskaya street and turn left at the first light on Novosibirskaya street. Walk straight to the end of the road, cross the train tracks and enter the park. The monument is across the park to the left.
Pushkin's grave site is located at Svyatogorsk Monastery in Sviatye Gory, Pskov region.
Alexander Pushkin Facts
Russian Name: Александр Сергеевич Пушкин
Date of Birth: June 6, 1799
Place of Birth: Moscow, Russian Empire
Date of Death: February 10, 1837
Place of Death: Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
Famous as: Poet, Novelist, Playwright
Genre: Romanticism, Realism (historical fiction)