Biography of Alexander Pushkin

Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin was a Russian poet, short-story writer, novelist, and dramatist commonly considered as Russia's greatest poet and the founder of modern Russian literature. Born into an aristocratic family, Pushkin attended school at the prestigious Imperial Lyceum at Tsarskoye Selo from 1811-1817, where, at age 15, he published his first poem and impressed the renowned poet Gavrila Derzhavin.

He followed the traditional aristocratic career path by taking a post in the foreign service office in St. Petersburg after his graduation, but in 1820, the year his narrative poem "Ruslan and Lyudmila" was published, he was exiled from the capital due to some of his politically subversive poems. Pushkin headed south to what is now Ukraine, the northern Caucasus, and the Crimea, and from these experiences he composed his so-called "southern cycle" of poems. Also, in 1823 Pushkin began writing his novel-in-verse Eugene Onegin.

Due to an intercepted letter, Pushkin was exiled to Mikhailovskoe, his mother's estate, where he would spend the years 1824-1826. There he wrote the provincial chapters of Eugene Onegin and his historical tragedy Boris Godunov, which was not published until 1831. The year after the 1825 Decembrist Revolt, in which several of Pushkin's friends were involved, Pushkin was pardoned by Tsar Nicholas I and allowed to return to Moscow.

Over the course of the incredibly productive autumn of 1830 spent at the family estate of Bordino at Nizhny Novgorod, Pushkin completed several works including The Tales of Belkin, a short-story collection. The following year he married the celebrated beauty Natalya Goncharova, received a lowly court position, and reentered the government service.

Despite the pressures of his social and professional lives, Pushkin continued his artistic productivity, finishing Eugene Onegin in 1831; writing "The Queen of Spades," his most famous short-story, and "The Bronze Horseman," one of his most famous poems, in 1833; and The Captain's Daughter, a prose novel, in 1836. Distressed by tight censorship of his work, mounting debts, and personal attacks, in 1837 Pushkin fought a duel with Georges d'Anthès, his wife's alleged lover, and died of his wounds.

Pushkin's paramount position in the history of Russian literature is owed to his rejuvenation of the Russian language and literary forms. From a wide, international reading and an intimacy with traditional Russian culture, Pushkin produced a distinctly new idiom which, as twentieth-century novelist Vladimir Nabokov wrote, combined the profundity of Church Slavonic (the classical Russian language), the flavor of the French so popular among the Russian aristocracy, and the realism of the colloquial speech from all rungs of Russian society.

Moreover, by opening the quotidian topic of contemporary society to literary endeavor, he paved the path for the legendary nineteenth-century Russian realist novel. Such legendary authors as Leo Tolstoy, Ivan Turgenev, and Fyodor Dostoevsky have acknowledged their inheritance from Pushkin, who, as Maksim Gorky wrote, was for Russian literature "the beginning of beginnings."


Study Guides on Works by Alexander Pushkin

Pushkin, already an established poet, began writing Eugene Onegin in 1823 while exiled from the capital to southern Russia. He published parts of each chapter in serialization as he wrote them before printing each complete chapter in booklet form....

This historic story sets the stage in St. Petersburg, Russia on the Gulf of Finland in the winters of early 1830s. St. Petersburg was a major city in the Republic of Russia, for it was the capital from 1712 to 1918. The story’s flashbacks of the...

Prose series "Tales of Belkin" was written by Pushkin during the famous "Boldin Autumn" in 1830 and then published anonymously. These series consist of a preface ("From the Publisher") and five novels: "The Shot", "The Blizzard", "The Undertaker",...