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Pushkin, Aleksandr Sergeevich
Born May 26 (June 6), 1799, in Moscow; died Jan. 29 (Feb. 10), 1837, in St. Petersburg. Russian writer; the founder of modern Russian literature.
The son of a nobleman of modest means, Pushkin was descended from an old boyar family. On his mother’s side he was a great-grandson of the Abyssinian A. P. Gannibal, a military leader during the period of Peter I the Great.
Pushkin’s first attempts at poetry, which have not been preserved, date back to early childhood. In 1811, Pushkin entered the Tsarskoe Selo Lycée, whose educational approach contained elements of Enlightenment freethinking; these elements were linked with the spread of revolutionary ideas, the surge of patriotism that arose during the Patriotic War of 1812, and the liberal tendencies of the first years of Alexander I’s reign.
The lycée years were a period of intensive creative development for Pushkin. With great skill and originality he utilized the rationalist 18th- and early 19th-century poetic canons, which demanded strict correlation of theme, style, and genre (the ode, elegy, epistle, and so on), writing poems of great perfection, including “Reminiscences at Tsarskoe Selo” (1814) and “A Small Town,” “To Licinius,” and “The Rose” (all 1815). Pushkin followed the traditions and models of the Karamzin school, French light poetry, K. N. Batiushkov, V. A. Zhukovskii, and Voltaire, but not necessarily as a disciple; he sensed their limitations and began to develop his own unique style, whose distinctive features are apparent in such poems as “The Dream,” “Desire,” and “To My Friends” (all 1816).
Pushkin attracted the attention of G. R. Derzhavin, N. M. Karamzin, Batiushkov, and Zhukovskii. While at the lycée he belonged to the Karamzinian literary society Arzamas, which opposed the ideological and aesthetic views of the conservatives, who had united in the Forum of the Lovers of the Russian Word; he also became friends with members of the freethinking gentry, including P. Ia. Chaadaev.
In 1817, Pushkin graduated from the lycée and received the rank of collegiate secretary and an appointment to the Collegium of Foreign Affairs. The poems written between 1817 and 1820 reflect the young poet’s hectic life in St. Petersburg; his membership in the Green Lamp literary circle, which was connected with the Union of Welfare; and the intensifying political atmosphere. These works combine rebelliousness and an ardent revolutionary love of freedom with a Bacchic intoxication with life; topicality with lyricism; and traditionalism with a new romantic spirit. Without rejecting the artistic achievements made by poetry during the 18th and early 19th centuries, Pushkin attempted to surmount the dictates of classical norms, to depart from strict adherence to genre and style, and to attain freedom of poetic expression; these aims are illustrated in the poems “To Krivtsov,” “To Zhukovskii,” and “To Chaadaev” (all 1818), “Dorida” and “Rebirth” (1819), and “I am familiar with battle” (1820). In the same vein is the narrative poem Ruslan and Liudmila (published 1820), whose fairy-tale plot is interspersed with the author’s lyric meditations. Depictions of the heroic olden days are permeated at times with humor and at times with romantic ardor; the conventions of the poetic fairy tale are combined with vivid characterization, richness of style, and freedom of language. The poem evoked fierce disputes and marked the beginning of a turning point in Russian poetry.
Pushkin’s epigrams and the political lyrics written between 1817 and 1820, for example “Freedom,” “To Chaadaev,” and “The Village,” circulated widely in many manuscript copies. While not a member of the Decembrist secret society, Pushkin became a spokesman for the entire generation of gentry revolutionaries. In May 1820 he was exiled to southern Russia under the guise of a civil-service transfer.
While in the Caucasus and the Crimea, Pushkin lived in Kishinev and Odessa, becoming acquainted with such Decembrists as V. F. Raevskii, P. I. Pestel’, and M. F. Orlov. The revolutionary and national-liberation movements in Europe and the peasant and soldier disturbances in Russia increased his longing for revolutionary activity, reflected in “The Dagger” and other poems of 1821. The narrative poem Gawiiliada (1821) is permeated with a spirit of atheistic freethinking. During the southern exile, Pushkin’s romanticism flowered; it is manifested most strongly in the narrative poems written here. These works firmly established Pushkin’s fame as Russia’s foremost poet because of their vivid, innovative characters and colors, virtuoso craftsmanship, and harmony with the attitudes of progressive social and literary circles. Important among the southern narrative poems was The Prisoner of the Caucasus (1820–21), which to a great extent prepared the way for Eugene Onegin; the themes of a rebellious will and the moral law were manifested in The Robber Brothers (1821–22). The juxtaposition and contrast between harmony and elemental force, meekness and passion, the angelic and the demonic were first apparent in The Fountain of Bakhchisarai (1823), in the contrast between Mariia and Zarema. In these narrative poems, Pushkin’s philosophic approach to the problems of freedom, love, and individuality became apparent.
During these years a crisis was developing in Pushkin’s inner life, intensified both by increasing reaction in Europe and Russia and by dramatic circumstances in the poet’s personal life and his sense of imprisonment. This crisis was reflected in poems filled with gloomy skepticism: “The Desert Sower of Freedom” and “The Demon” (1823), as well as in meditations on the secrets of human destiny and the course of history, such as “The Song of the Prophetic Oleg” (1822) and “Why were you sent” (1824). Viewing the world as a historical whole with its own objective laws, Pushkin in his poetry acknowledged both the limitations of rationalism, with its traditional concept of the world as an obedient object of human activity, and the one-sidedness of romanticism, with its contrast between the self-willed individual personality and the world’s laws.
Pushkin’s divergences from the literary and philosophic views of the Decembrists now became clearly manifested, although he and they shared ideals of political liberty and social justice. During this transitional period, Pushkin began, in May 1823, his novel in verse Eugene Onegin, which historically and socially embodied two contrasting types of consciousness: the skeptical (Onegin) and the dreamily romantic (Lenskii), while presenting the ideal of a harmonious perception of the world in the figure of Tat’iana. The individual personality and society and the borderline between individual freedom and caprice are the central themes of the narrative poem The Gypsies (1824), which reveals the emptiness of the self-willed, individualistic view of life, a view which is essentially tyrannical. As the culmination and final manifestation of Pushkin’s romantic period, The Gypsies presented the question of happiness as a tragic philosophic problem and opened the way for further exploration of Pushkin’s main theme, man and the world.
In July 1824, owing to conflicts with his superiors, Pushkin was discharged from the civil service as an unreliable person and banished to his family’s Pskov estate in the village of Mi-khailovskoe under surveillance of the local authorities. It was here, at the end of his period of crisis, that a number of masterpieces originated, including the cycle Imitations of the Koran, full of courage and faith and resounding forcefully with the theme of the poet’s prophetic mission. During this period Pushkin also wrote the central chapters (chapters 3–6) of Eugene Onegin and the satirical narrative poem Count Nulin, studied chronicles and Russian history, and wrote down folk songs and folktales. The poems “The Burnt Letter,” “The Desire for Glory,” “To ***” (“I remember a wonderful moment”), and “The Crimson Forest Sheds Its Attire” affirmed his new lyric principles: a lyric experience is not a ready-made, static object to be described but living spiritual energy, a creative force arising from the poet’s contact with reality. This force, revealing itself in the movement of the lyrical theme, creates new forms and renews traditional ones.
A decisive step in Pushkin’s creative evolution was the tragedy Boris Godunov (1825), which laid the foundation for his mature realism, national spirit, and historical method. In the tragedy’s political and historical concept, Pushkin, while not resorting to superficial allusions, essentially opposes both the Karamzinian monarchical concept of the Russian historical process and the romantic and rationalist traits of the Decembrists. The theme of Boris Godunov is history and man: the play focuses not so much on the individual characters as on the historical process itself, life with its objective laws; not on the characters’ achievements but on their destiny—”human destiny, the people’s destiny.” The characters’ actions affect their own destiny, but they cannot change the logic of life. The theme of Boris Godunov is political, but the work is also a historical, philosophic, and moral tragedy. Pushkin’s reflections on drama as he wrote Boris Godunov, which are set forth in the drafts of a foreword to the work and in the notes “On a People’s Drama” (1830), are of immense aesthetic and philosophic importance. Pushkin himself regarded his tragedy as an objective, impartial study of the laws of existence and human life. The poem “The Prophet” (1826) was a manifesto of this concept of poetic creativity.
Early in September 1826, soon after the uprising, executions, and exile of the Decembrists, a government messenger came for Pushkin “on the highest command” and escorted him to Moscow. On September 8 a meeting took place between Pushkin and the new tsar, during which Nicholas I pardoned Pushkin and said that he himself would be the poet’s only censor.
Pushkin had faith in the practicability of political and social reforms and in the possibility of collaborating with the regime in the interests of progress. In his “Stanzas” (“In hope of glory and the good,” 1826) he advised Nicholas to follow the example of the tsar-reformer Peter I and urged him to be lenient toward the exiles. At the same time, in a note entitled “On Public Education” (1826), he expressed a number of bold ideas and critical thoughts. Early in 1827 he secretly sent to Siberia an epistle to the Decembrist I. I. Pushchin (“My best friend”) and the poem “In the Depths of Siberian Mines”; in the poem “Arion” he referred allegorically to his own involvement in the liberation movement.
At this time, Pushkin was becoming increasingly interested in Peter I, Russia’s history, and the role of the individual in his country’s history. His first major prose effort, The Negro of Peter the Great (1827, unfinished), which dealt with Pushkin’s own ancestor, presented the historical past in its everyday aspect and in concrete personalities and lives. In the narrative poem Poltava (1828), the personalities and lives of the people of Peter the Great’s time are to a great extent absorbed and engulfed by the historical process.
In connection with his interest in Russia’s foreign policy, Pushkin traveled to the Caucasus in 1829, where a war with Turkey was in progress; the diary he kept during the trip (later reworked as A Journey to Arzrum), which helped formulate his principles as a prose writer, affirmed “precision and brevity” as the “foremost merits of prose.” Pushkin was drawn to the history and contemporary status of Europe, in particular to the consequences of the French Revolution and the onset of the bourgeois industrial age—themes that he had already treated obliquely in Conversation Between a Bookseller and a Poet (1824) and The Gypsies and that found vivid expression in the majestic poem “To a Magnate” (1830). In 1830 and 1831, Pushkin was active as a journalist and critic, chiefly on A. A. Del’vig’s Literaturnaia gazeta (Literary Gazette), which was suppressed in 1831. He also became increasingly interested in literary theory and contemporary literature.
Pushkin’s fame reached its summit at this time. However, his political and social views during the period of post-Decembrist reaction became increasingly complex. He was officially reprimanded for reading his unpublished Boris Godunov to a circle of friends and experienced conflicts with the “highest censor” and constraints on his freedom of movement. In 1827 a court investigation was launched concerning his poem “André Chénier,” which was regarded as a response to the sentence meted out to the Decembrists, although the poem had been written before the uprising. Another investigation was begun in 1828 concerning Pushkin’s authorship of the narrative poem Gavriiliada, which was circulating in anonymous manuscript copies; Pushkin was placed under secret surveillance. At the same time, his appeals to the tsar in “Stanzas” (1826) were regarded by liberal circles as flattery and betrayal. Pushkin answered these accusations in the poem “To My Friends” (“No, I am not a flatterer”), which again urged the tsar to be an enlightened and tolerant ruler.
As Pushkin developed inner maturity, he tired of his “hectic life” and longed for a calm atmosphere for work, a hearth and home, and a lasting love. In 1829 and 1830 he proposed twice to N. N. Goncharova and was finally accepted. In the autumn of 1830 he went to settle his affairs with the peasants at his Nizhny Novgorod estate of Boldino and was detained there because of the threat of a cholera epidemic. This Boldino Autumn was marked by unprecedented inspiration: in three months, from September 3 to November 30, Pushkin wrote approximately 50 important works in different genres. He completed most of Eugene Onegin, a novel about contemporary Russian life in its social, intellectual, and moral aspects. The plot of the work, in the distinctive genre of a novel in verse, is interwoven with the author’s meditations (digressions). Each stanza (the unique Onegin stanza), while part of the unified whole, is also a complete, independent artistic unit. The narrative about contemporary life and human destiny is both the lyric history of the author’s spirit and a philosophic study of society and the human soul.
The cycle Tales of Belkin (“The Shot,” “The Snowstorm,” “The Undertaker,” “The Stationmaster,” and “Mistress Into Maid”) combined an inner polemicism with regard to literary stereotypes, occasional concealed parody of these stereotypes, and profound symbolic and philosophic content; it was the first classic of Russian prose. Despite its brevity, it encompassed a panorama of all the social strata in Russia, for the first time presenting the contemporary daily lives of ordinary persons as a part of the nation’s history possessing universal significance. Closely related is A History of the Manor of Goriukhino, a chronicle of the impoverishment of a serf village, a work filled with bitterly ironic universal meaning. The Little Tragedies— The Covetous Knight, Mozart and Salieri, The Stone Guest, and The Feast During the Plague—based on materials from different countries and historical periods and very concise in form, explore such universal philosophic and moral problems as freedom; passion and morality; the individual, society, and history; and life, death, and immortality. Man’s self-assertiveness and willfulness are shown to be suicidal, since they distort the concepts of love, creativity, and freedom and accept relative values as absolute ones. The Little Tragedies are profound examples of philosophic and psychological drama.
The Tale of the Priest and His Workman Balda initiated a cycle of folktales (1830–34), in which Pushkin for the first time made use of folklore in a new, realistic manner. The folktales embodied universal problems and presented them in a vividly national form and a naïvely enlarged aspect. Pushkin’s three major cycles, the Tales of Belkin, the Little Tragedies, and the folktales, are all interconnected. They examine life on various levels and in different manifestations but within the bounds of a single set of problems: people’s destinies and the laws that govern life. The narrative poem The Little House in Kolomna, which pointedly rejects utilitarian concepts of art, contains profound meditations about man and art. The poem, based on an incident from everyday life, is written in a deliberately unassuming manner; it combines a masterly poetic form with a whimsically free composition.
At Boldino, Pushkin wrote a number of critical and topical essays and notes and about 30 poems, including “The Demons,” “Elegy,” “My Ruddy Critic,” “Incantation,” “For the Shores of Thy Distant Fatherland,” and “Verses Composed at Night.” His lyric verse was by now fully formed as a “poetry of reality” (I. V. Kireevskii’s definition, which was accepted by Pushkin himself). Such poetry is conceived during a lyrical experience and expressed in a unique way; the creative process involves a philosophic cognition of actual, manifold, and contradictory reality viewed in the light of the highest human ideals. The spirit of Pushkin’s Boldino works is universally human and yet profoundly national; timely in the soulless atmosphere of the “iron age” and yet prophetic. The Boldino Autumn of 1830 marks the full development of Pushkin’s work as a phenomenon of worldwide importance.
On Nov. 30, 1830, Pushkin left Boldino, and on Feb. 18, 1831, he married Goncharova in Moscow. On May 15 he moved to St. Petersburg. Planning to publish a journal and study history, he again entered the civil service, gaining access to historical archives. He closely followed such events taking place in Western Europe and Russia as the July Revolution (1830) in France, the Polish Uprising of 1830–31, and revolts in the military settlements of Novgorod and Staraia Russa in 1831. Pushkin sought to influence the government and the public (including the hereditary gentry, which he saw as an opposition force) in a progressive spirit as a writer, journalist, and historian. But he did not receive permission to publish a journal, nor did he meet persons who shared his social and literary views.
As Pushkin’s work reached maturity, his solitude increased, as did his alienation from the public and the critics. This was owing to incomprehension of his social and literary viewpoints and to the profundity of his works. Moreover, his political illusions were dispelled with the increase in reaction and in arbitrary police power and with his gradual realization that the hereditary aristocracy was no longer an active political force but had yielded to the bureaucratic “new gentry.” He studied history, especially the archives from the times of Peter I and of E. Pugachev, and reexamined his former view of Peter as a model of governmental wisdom. He again turned to the historical role of social protest and became particularly interested in A. N. Radishchev, a writer who had ventured to oppose the authorities without any public support.
In 1832, Pushkin began the novel Dubrovskii, but his plan for the novel, whose central figure is a rebellious, solitary nobleman, soon ceased to satisfy him. Abandoning Dubrovskii early in 1833, he turned to the epoch of the popular uprising led by Pugachev, which was depicted in his historical novel The Captain’s Daughter. In this work, Pushkin continued the exploration of “human destiny, the people’s destiny” that he had begun in Boris Godunov. The Captain’s Daughter is narrated by an honorable and unbiased eyewitness, who sympathizes with Pugachev as an embodiment of the people’s strength and talents but who remains faithful to his own duty as a member of the gentry. At this time, Pushkin was also writing a historical work on the Pugachev rebellion, collecting documents, and studying archival materials. In August and September 1833 he visited Orenburg, Kazan, and other sites of the Pugachev period and talked with eyewitnesses. While not an advocate of the rebellion, Pushkin attempted to evoke an authentic picture of the events and to show the justness of the people’s indignation.
On Oct. 1, 1833, on his way back from the Urals, Pushkin again visited Boldino. The month and a half of this second Boldino Autumn witnessed a new surge of creativity. Pushkin finished the History of Pugachev and wrote the narrative poem Angelo, a number of the Songs of the Western Slavs, The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish, and The Tale of the Dead Tsarevna, as well as such supreme works as the narrative poem The Bronze Horseman, the novella The Queen of Spades, and the poem “Autumn.” The works written during the Boldino Autumn of 1833 explore the tragic contradictions of life in the light of the objective laws of existence. From this viewpoint the author examines philosophic and ethical themes and contemporary problems, particularly the law and clemency, the individual and the state, and the distortions of the bourgeois consciousness and of bourgeois social relations.
The Bronze Horseman elevates to universal significance the themes of the state and the individual, history and individual destiny, and the relationship between man and his world. On the symbolic level of the eternally tragic clashes between man and his world, the theme of madness takes on a profound philosophic meaning, as seen in The Bronze Horseman, The Queen of Spades, and the poem “God Keep Me From Going Mad.” Nevertheless, Pushkin treated the tragic not as a gloomy impasse but as a dynamic quality of life itself; the tragic central theme of dying in “Autumn” reveals a link between the creative human spirit and the undying forces of nature and the universe.
The years 1833 and 1834 initiated the final period of Pushkin’s life, a period of exceptional difficulties. He remained the foremost Russian poet, but this preeminence was only an echo of the fame he had won as a romantic writer during the 1820’s. Indeed, his most profound achievements as a mature artist were regarded by the public, the critics, and even some friends as indicative of decline. Only a few persons, including N. V. Gogol, understood the importance of these works. Despite Nicholas I’s promise to be Pushkin’s only censor, censorship of his works was gradually taken over by the official censors at different levels. Social obligations as well as a growing family demanded large expenditures, and loans from the state treasury placed Pushkin in a demeaning dependence on the authorities. His request for retirement from the service and for permission to go to the countryside for a while to settle some matters on his estate was answered by the tsar with a threat of disfavor and of prohibition of access to the archives.
Late in 1833, Pushkin was given the rank of Kammerjunker, an appointment that was insulting to a person of his age and social position and that reinforced his status as a petty courtier. Pushkin soon discovered that his letters were being intercepted and read. His reputation as a freethinker and his scorn for the “new gentry” evoked the hostility of “high society” and the bureaucratic elite, while his independent views and refusal to play at a sort of cheap opposition to the authorities were attacked by the liberals. Beginning in the early 1830’s he was under continual attack by the reactionary press, headed by F. V. Bulgarin.
During this tragic period, Pushkin’s attention was as before centered on the historical destiny and contemporary problems of Russia and its people and society; the future of the national culture; and his own efforts to comprehend life and history. He prepared materials for A History of Peter the Great, reflected on the French Revolution and the history of Russian literature, studied the masterpiece of Old Russian literature The Tale of Igor’s Campaign, attempted to influence public consciousness, and often referred in various ways to the fate of the exiled Decembrists.
In 1836, Pushkin began publishing the journal Sovremennik (The Contemporary), which continued on a new level the traditions of progressive Russian journalism. He gathered around him the best literary talents and published a number of his own critical and publicist works, advocating in the face of reaction a progressive social and moral role for literature and attacking outmoded and reactionary aesthetic views and the reactionary press.
In the last years of his life, Pushkin’s output of poetry and fiction decreased, giving way to critical, publicist, theoretical, and historical works; poetry was largely replaced by prose. He wrote the philosophic novella Egyptian Nights (1835), whose historical theme is linked with the issue of the essence of poetic creativity. He planned prose works and prepared a number of drafts; many of the latter, for example “We spent an evening at the dacha” and “Caesar was on a journey,” were notable for their inner perfection, profundity, terseness, and anticipation of future Russian prose. Pushkin completed The Captain’s Daughter (1836), which explores Russia’s history, national spirit, and government, as well as the moral problem of human behavior during complex historical circumstances and the philosophic problem of destiny. The link between destiny and human behavior is the theme of the philosophic grotesque The Tale of the Golden Cockerel, Pushkin’s last folktale and the only poetic work to emerge from the third Boldino Autumn (1834).
The poems written during these years are meditative lyrics of a new kind: they have a narrative tone and their philosophic meditations are devoid of poetic ornamentation. These poems express profound sadness, the loneliness of a man not understood by others, a longing for “peace and freedom,” and thoughts of death; examples are “It’s time, my friend, it’s time!” (1834), “The General,” “The Wanderer” (1835), “From Pinde-monte,” and “When outside the city” (1836). However, even during this period there was no pessimism or egotistic despondency in Pushkin’s verse. The poem “Again I have visited” (1835) and an 1836 philosophic cycle of lyrics that echoes themes from Imitations of the Koran and ends with the prophetic poem “I have erected a monument to myself”— Pushkin’s poetic credo and testament—are permeated with firm sobriety, exactingness toward himself, lofty meditation, a surmounting of life’s misfortunes, and a striving for a higher meaning of existence.
In November 1836, Pushkin and some of his acquaintances received in the mail an anonymous libel that insulted the honor of Pushkin’s wife and of Pushkin himself. As a result of a premeditated and insidious society intrigue, a duel took place between Pushkin and an admirer of his wife, the French émigré G. D’Anthès, on Jan. 27 (Feb. 8), 1837, on the outskirts of St. Petersburg by the Chernaia River. Pushkin was wounded in the abdomen and died after stoically bearing extreme pain for two days. His apartment on the Moika River embankment was visited by crowds of people from all classes. The people’s perception of Pushkin’s death as a national tragedy found expression in poetry by M. Iu. Lermontov, F. I. Tiutchev, and A. V. Kol’tsov. Fearing disturbances, the government placed strict controls on the press; the place announced for the funeral service was deliberately changed, and the poet’s body was then taken away secretly at night and hastily interred at the Sviatogorsk Monastery (now in the village of Pushkinskie Gory, Pskov Ob-last).
The importance of Pushkin’s work and the scope of his genius place him among the supreme figures of world culture. During the quarter century of his literary career, Pushkin assimilated the achievements of Russian and world culture and the traditions of his own country’s literary predecessors and its folk literature. He then progressed through several literary periods, from the conventional literary hierarchies of the 18th century to a well-developed realism that re-creates life in its inexhaustible diversity. Pushkin’s literary language, which combines bookish forms with living conversational ones, remains to this day the basis of the Russian literary language. His literary innovations defined and anticipated much in later Russian literature (in the works of Gogol, Lermontov, Nekrasov, Saltykov-Shchedrin, L. N. Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky) and in almost every field of Russian art and intellectual life of the 19th and 20th centuries.
As a supreme lyricist, Pushkin created a “poetry of actuality,” addressed to the diversity of life. The lyrical subject during the course of his own experiences contemplates the world and arrives at an understanding of the world in its totality and of himself within the world. In Pushkin’s lyrics, in Eugene Onegin, and in the narrative poems, content, plot, and the characters’ inner lives, while historically and socially concrete, are always within a large historical framework; the general movement of human existence finds expression in them. While it is the summit of Russian poetry, Eugene Onegin at the same time laid the foundations of the Russian classical novel and made a unique contribution to its development.
Pushkin wrote prose with its own aims, literary laws, and language as an independent genre of Russian literature. His prose works are set in an atmosphere of empirical life in order to discern and reveal traits of historical life. He established almost all the modern prose genres, from travel notes and the sketch to the historical novel and philosophic novella. In his works, plans, and drafts he indicated the direction that prose should follow.
Pushkin’s dramas have had little success on the stage, but in their philosophic intensity and psychological depth they have had an influence on Russian literature transcending the limits of the theater. His views on drama and the theater contributed to the establishment of the Russian school of realism on the stage. Pushkin’s importance in the history of progressive Russian journalism, publicist writings, and literary criticism is immense. In particular, he was the first to regard literary criticism as a branch of learning and to advocate analysis of literary works in their entirety. Pushkin made a great contribution to the establishment of a truly scholarly historiography, one that relies on objective analysis of facts and their intelligibility in the light of the general laws of the historical process. The thoughts and opinions in Pushkin’s fictional and other works are of permanent philosophic, aesthetic, and moral importance.
Pushkin’s chief innovation was his realistic method: the study of the objective laws of existence in operation, that is, in concrete historical, national, and individual manifestations. Pushkin defined this study as a “profound, conscientious investigation of the truth” and the analysis of the “eternal contradictions of existence” that are the motivating forces of the life process. This method, which examines concrete phenomena from the viewpoint of the universal laws of life, endows Pushkin’s words with a comprehensiveness exemplified by a wide variety of contextual links. The method makes his works “eternally modern” and gives them a profound multiplicity of meanings that is embodied in a literary form of unparalleled harmony, perfection, conciseness, and beauty.
Pushkin’s method also permitted him poetically to re-create any epoch or culture, thus demonstrating a “universal sensitivity” (in the words of Dostoevsky) unprecedented in history. Pushkin’s method was also the basis of his concept of the individual as a person with full rights, forming part of the stream of history, possessing free will, and responsible for his actions. This is the basis of Pushkin’s humanism, his sense of civic responsibility, and his moral loftiness and of the realism, national spirit, historicism, and love of truth that permeate his work. Moreover, it is these qualities that have established Russian literature as the “conscience of society” and that have made it one of the world’s great literatures.
Pushkin’s works have been translated into most of the world’s languages. Pushkin studies are a fundamental branch of Russian literary scholarship. The Institute of Russian Literature (Pushkin House) of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR houses the poet’s manuscripts, issues the serial publication Pushkin: Studies and Materials (vols. 1–6, 1956–69), and conducts all-Union Pushkin Conferences. Within the Division of Literature and Language of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR there is a permanent Pushkin Commission that publishes its own Annals (Pushkin: Annals of the Pushkin Commission, vols. 1–6, 1936–41; Annals of the Pushkin Commission, fascs. 1–9, 1963–73).
Pushkin museums include the A. S. Pushkin All-Union Museum in the city of Pushkin (formerly Tsarskoe Selo), which is located in a wing of the Ekaterininskii Palace and houses an exhibition of literary monographs; the memorial Lycée Museum; and the memorial Dacha Museum in the Kitaeva house. Leningrad has the memorial A. S. Pushkin Museum Apartment on the Moika Embankment. Other museums are the A. S. Pushkin State Museum in Moscow, the A. S. Pushkin State Museum-Preserve in Pskov Oblast, the Pushkin Preserve in the village of Bol’shoe Boldino (Gorky Oblast), the A. S. Pushkin House-Museum in Kishinev, the Pushkin Section of the Odessa State Museum of History and Local Lore, the A. S. Pushkin and P. I. Tchaikovsky Literary Memorial Museum in Kamenka (Cherkassy Oblast), and the A. S. Pushkin museums in the village of Bernovo and the city of Torzhok in Kalinin Oblast.
Numerous places are associated with Pushkin’s life. Moscow is the poet’s birthplace and the city where he spent his childhood (1799–1811); it was here that he returned in 1826 after his exile, He often came to Moscow in later years, his last visit taking place in May 1836. In Tsarskoe Selo (now the city of Pushkin) he studied at the Lycée (1811–17) and after his marriage spent the summer of 1831 at the Kitaeva dacha. After graduating from the lycée, he lived in St. Petersburg (1817–20) until his exile. He visited the city from time to time between 1827 and 1830, settling there permanently in 1831.
The sites of Pushkin’s southern exile are Kishinev (1820–23) and Odessa (1823–24). He stayed in the village of Mikhail-ovskoe (Pskov Province) during the summers of 1817 and 1819 and was in exile there from 1824 to 1826, later returning on several occasions. The poet is buried in Sviatye Gory (now the village of Pushkinskie Gory). Pushkin spent three autumns (1830, 1833, and 1834) at his Nizhny Novgorod estate of Boldino. He also stayed at Polotnianyi Zavod (Kaluga Province) and Iaro-polets (Moscow Province), the estates of the Goncharovs, N. N. Pushkina’s parents. Also notable are the sites of Pushkin’s travels in the Crimea and the Caucasus, in the Pskov region, on the route between Moscow and St. Petersburg, and in the Urals and the Volga Region.
WORKSSoch., vols. 1–7. St. Petersburg, 1855–57.
[Sobr. soch.], vols. 1–6. Edited by S. A. Vengerov. St. Petersburg, 1907–15.
Poln. sobr. soch., vols. 1–17. Moscow-Leningrad, 1937–59.
Poln. sobr. soch., 3rd ed., vols. 1–10. Moscow, 1962–66.
Pis’ma, vols. 1–3. Moscow-Leningrad, 1926–35.
Pis’ma poslednikh let: 1834–1837. Leningrad, 1969.
Rukoiu Pushkina. Moscow-Leningrad, 1935.
Pushkin-kritik. Moscow, 1950.
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V. S. NEPOMNIASHCHII