Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin was born on the 6th of June in 1799 and is considered by many as the greatest Russian poet ever, and the founder of modern Russian literature.
Ask anyone to name a famous Russian, and they’ll very likely come up with Pushkin. Having published his first poem at the age of fifteen, he was widely recognised by the literary circles by the time he graduated from the Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum.
He’s famous not just for his literature, but also for being extremely touchy about his honour, and fought 29 duels in his lifetime, and was even killed in his last duel by Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d’Anthes.
After school, Pushkin lived in St Petersburg and enjoyed the vibrant and intellectual lifestyle and published his first long poem in 1820, Ruslan and Lyudmila, amid much controversy about its style.
Puskin gradually became committed to social reform and emerged as a spokesman for literary radicals, which angered the government and led to his transfer from St Petersburg in 1820. He went to the Caucasus, Crimea, Kamenka and Chişinău, where he became a Freemason.
He stayed in Chişinău until 1823 and wrote two very famous poems while there: The Captive of the Caucasus and The Fountain of Bakhchisaray.
Pushkin moved to Odessa, where he again had issues with the government, who sent him into exile, where he wrote nostalgic love poems and continued work on his novel, Eugene Onegin.
Pushkin was eventually released but found himself until strict control, unable to travel or publish. In 1825 he wrote his most famous play Boris Godunov, but could not gain permission to publish it until 1830.
He met Natalya Goncharova in 1828 and after a two year courtship, married in 1831. However, it was not to be a happy marriage, and by 1837, Pushkin was in serious debt and facing scandalous rumours that his wife was having an affair. In response, he challenged his wife’s alleged lover, Georges d’Anthes to a duel, in which he received a fatal shot to the spleen.
Pushkin’s novel Onegin is a work of such complexity that, although it’s only about 100 pages longer, needed two full volumes in order to fully render its meaning into English. As it’s so difficult to get across in English, Pushkin’s stories remain largely unknown to English readers but even so Pushkin has had a profound effect on western literature.
Pushkin is usually credited with developing Russian literature, and despite a short life, he left examples of nearly every literary genre of his day and brought natural speech and foreign influences to create modern poetic Russian.
Pushkin had such an influence on Russia that in his memory various things have been dedicated to him. In 1937, the town of Tsarskoye Selo, where Pushkin attended school, was renamed Pushkin in his honour and there is a crater on Mercury named after him, as well as a minor planet!