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Alexander Pushkin

Updated on June 24, 2011

Alexander Pushkin

Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837) is considered Russia's greatest poet. Pushkin is best known for his long narrative po­ems, but he also wrote many beautiful short lyric poems, plays in verse, and prose short stories. Several of his works inspired ballets and operas by some of Russia's greatest composers.

Pushkin's most famous poem is «Eugene Onegin» (1825- 1832), a novel in verse. The title character is intelligent, good-hearted, and liberal, but he lacks moral discipline and a serious occupation or purpose in life. As a result, he destroys himself and those around him. Much of the poem deals with Onegin's romantic relationship with a beautiful country girl named Tatyana ana. These two figures, the weak Eugene and the sincere and devoted Tatyana, served as models for many characters in Russian literature.

Pushkin's drama «Boris Godunov» (1825), written in blank verse, introduced Shakespearean historical tragedy to the Russian stage. The play tells the story of a czar who is haunted by guilt over a murder he committed in order to reach the throne. Pushkin wrote many lyric poems about love, the fear of mad­ ness, and the obligation of the poet to lead society to the truth. The most popular of Pushkin's prose stories is «The Queen of Spades»(1834).

Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin was born in Moscow. One of his great-grand-fathers was a black Abyssinian courtier to the Russian ruler Peter the Great. He began to write poetry at the age of 12, about the time he started school. After graduating in 1817, Pushkin took a job in the civil service but spent most of his time participating in the social life of St. Petersburg.

The czar's secret police began to watch Pushkin after he wrote several poems that criticized important government officials. In 1820, Pushkin was exiled to southern Russia because of his poems. In 1826, the new czar, Nicholas I, summoned Pushkin to Moscow and gave him a personal pardon. By this time, he had become known as Russia's leading poet. For the rest of his life, Pushkin combined writing with historical re­search. In 1836, he founded a literary journal called «The Con­temporary »

In 1831, Pushkin married Natalya Goncharova, a famous beauty. His wife acquired a number of male admirers, which made Pushkin intensely jealous. He particularly resented Bar­on Georges d'Anthes, a Frenchman living in Russia . Pushkin challenged the baron to a duel. The poet was wounded in the duel and died two days later.

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