Matthew Hill received Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies and Psychology from Columbia International University. Hill also received an M.A. and Ph.D. in History from Georgia State University. He has over 10 years of teaching experience as a professor and online instructor for courses like American History, Western Civilization, Religious History of the United States, and more.
Birth of a Poet
It is ironic that Russia's most celebrated poet died in the same manner as one of the characters of his best-known novel. Although he is less known outside Russia, he is ranked in the same league as Russia's celebrated Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Alexander Pushkin was born in May 1799 in Moscow to a prominent Russian family. Almost symbolically, he was born on the same day as the granddaughter of Catherine the Great and the day was commemorated with the ringing of bells throughout Russia. Little known at the time, but later appreciated, was that Russia's greatest poet was also born on that momentous day.
Pushkin's African Great-Grandfather
An interesting fact of Pushkin's lineage was that his great-grandfather was the African prince Abraham Petrovich Gannibal. As a young boy, Gannibal was taken captive to the Turkish court in Constantinople, but later ransomed by a Russian diplomat and taken to St. Petersburg where the czar, Peter the Great, had him baptized into the Russian Orthodox faith. It was thought that Gannibal was from Ethiopia, but today, historians argue he was likely from modern northern Cameroon. He was sent to France to study in a French military school and he proved valuable to Peter for his knowledge of fortification building. Gannibal thus ran in high circles, even befriending many of the leaders of Enlightenment Europe. Pushkin was very proud of his dual heritage, and began, but never completed a biography of his great grandfather titled 'The Negro of Peter the Great.'
Education and Politics
Pushkin's parents were highly educated and frequently hosted many of Russia's leading artists, musicians, and literary talents, and so he grew up in an atmosphere that nurtured his talents. From 1811 to 1817 he studied at the elite lyceum, or school, in Tsarskoye Selo, which doubled as a popular vacation town for Russian nobility. Despite his young age, his writing career began here and he published a prodigious amount of poetry including his first book, the long narrative poem Ruslan and Lyudmila. Following graduation, he was appointed to the Collegium of Foreign Affairs in St. Petersburg. This was more an honorary position and he did little more than spend the next three years writing, drinking, and mingling with other literary figures. He also joined the short-lived Azarmas Society which was a club for writers.
Politics and Exile
Politically, Russia was rife with political turmoil and many writers and intellectuals took to publishing anti-government tracts. Pushkin increasingly wove critical political themes into his writing and soon ran afoul of the imperial government when he published two poems critical of the government titled 'Noel' and 'Ode to Freedom'. The Russian government did not appreciate his humor, and in 1820 the czar, Nicholas I, had him exiled to southern Russia under the guise of an administrative transfer. He spent the next three years in the Crimea and Caucasus region, where he penned several works such as The Captive of the Caucasus, The Brothers Robber, The Captain's Daughter, The Bandit Brothers, and Gavriliada. In 1824 he was recalled to St. Petersburg under Alexander I where he soon published his best-known play Boris Godunov to great acclaim. Notable as well is that while in exile, Pushkin had a long-running affair with the married Anna Petrovna Kern who many suspect became the subject of some of his poetry. In 1831 though, Pushkin married Natalia Goncharova with whom he had four children.
Like many artists Pushkin was dissatisfied with his work. His best known work is his extended narrative poem, Eugene Onegin, written over a series of years. The main character is a bored wealthy aristocrat named Eugene Onegin who befriends the young poet Vladimir Lensky while at his country estate. Lensky is subsequently engaged to Olga Larina. At a party hosted by Lensky, Olga's sister Tatyana falls for Onegin though he rejects her advances. Later, under false pretenses, Lensky tries to set Onegin and Tatyana up together at a party, and an infuriated Onegin flirts with Lensky's fiancée Olga. Embarrassed, Lensky challenges Onegin to a duel and Onegin regrettably kills Lensky. Years later in the story, Onegin sees Tatyana at a party and without initially recognizing her, falls for her only to discover that Tatyana is now married and though admitting she stills love him, refuses to leave her husband.
Fateful Duel and Legacy
Tragically, with Pushkin, art truly did imitate life. Pushkin was livid when he thought that the French officer Georges D'Anthes was flirting with his wife and Pushkin challenged him to a duel. Tragically, at only 37 years old, Pushkin was killed. Common for this sort of tragedy, scores of books, paintings, plays, and dramas, were written in his honor. Russia today is littered with monuments and statues in his honor and he is considered Russian's greatest poet. Oddly though, Pushkin is less known outside Russia because his prose is considered difficult to translate which limits its reach to a broader audience. Nevertheless, in an age of literary giants during the height of the Romantic era, Pushkin more than held his own among his peers.
Alexander Pushkin is Russia's most celebrated poet. He has a unique lineage, as his great-grandfather was an African who served in the court of Peter the Great. While a student in Tsarskoye Selo he published his first poems, including Ruslan and Lyudmila. Pushkin ran afoul of the imperial government due to anti-government sentiments in his writings and he was exiled for three years until recalled by Nicholas I. Pushkin used his time well, as he wrote his famous play Boris Godunov and eventually his best-known work Eugene Onegin. Tragically art imitated life too closely with Pushkin as he was killed in a duel much like the central character of Eugene Onegin. Nevertheless, Pushkin has rightfully achieved literary celebrity status in Russia.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack