Lermontov’s birth anniversary
I would make any sacrifice but this; twenty times I can stake my life, even my honour, but my freedom I shall never sell. Why do I prize it so much? … What am I aiming at? Nothing, absolutely nothing.
From A Hero of Our Time (Герой Нашего Времени)
Today we celebrate Lermontov’s birth anniversary. He was sometimes called the Poet of the Caucasus, and he is considered the supreme poet of Russian literature, alongside with Pushkin.
Born into a noble family in Moscow in 1815, Mikhail Lermontov (Михаил Лермонтов) grew up in a stimulating intellectual environment, where he became acquainted with Pushkin and Byron’s poetry. However, after successful years at gymnasium, he had to leave university because of his lazy and bratty behaviour. He then started to serve as a cadet in the Russian army.
One controversial poem he wrote commemorating Pushkin’s death caused his exile to Caucasus. After his return to St. Petersburg, he wrote his only drama play, Masquerade (Маскарад), inspired by his indignant observations on the frivolous aristocratic environment. His only novel, A Hero of Our Time, is considered the founder of the tradition of the Russian psychological novel.
His passionate behaviour and his love for married women made him an easy target for duels: he survived the first, but the second one in 1841 was fatal for him: a fellow army offer felt offended by one of his jokes, and later killed him in duel.