The figure of Pushkin in Russia is so important that we come across him again and again.
Tsarskoye Selo, former residence of the Russian imperial family and one of the Versailles species from Saint Petersburg, was renamed after the XNUMXth anniversary of the writer's death, who studied there.
Both the Saint Petersburg and Moscow metro networks have their Pushkinskaya station.
Although writers and other renowned artists abound in the country of the Tsars, the cult of his character is multiplying in both cities and all over Russia.
Devotion has an obvious raison d'être.
Alexander Pushkin's Eccentric Ancestry
It was just under half a semester before entering the XNUMXth century when Alexander Sergeyvich Pushkin came into the world. He was the son of Major Sergei Lvovich Pushkin and Nadezhda Ossipovna Gannibal.
Ancestry on the mother's side proved to be an ethnic crossroads. It combined Germanic and Scandinavian provenance on the other, an unlikely African descent.
Pushkin's great-grandfather Abram Petrovich Gannibal (1696-1781) was a page captured in present-day Cameroon when he was seven years old and brought to the court of Ottoman Sultan Mustafa II.
After a year in Constantinople, a deputy to the then Russian ambassador rescued him and offered him to Peter the Great.
The emperor sympathized with the young man. They forged a strong complicity. He took it with him on several military campaigns. In time, Gannibal became one of his favorite generals and a member of the royal family.
It's a Life with the Background
The great-grandson Pushkin, in turn, developed into an elegant man, as was natural, with characteristics very different from the Russian male prototypes.
His hair turned out to be dark and curly and his complexion was typical of a dark, not to say… African.
Throughout life, its roots would inspire various slanders by critics. Pushkin responded with literature. On the subject, he published “The Black of Pedro the Great” in which he praised the life story of his great-grandfather. And yet “My Genealogy”.
Academic Training and the Satires that Put Him into Exile
In 1811, Pushkin entered the imperial high school in Tsarskoe Selo. It was there that he developed his aptitude for writing. And, simultaneously, by the traveling. Six years later, having already graduated, he accepted a position at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and integrated himself into the social and intellectual life of North Venice.
At the same time, he began using his pen to satirize various court figures.
This posture angered Alexander I. The emperor decreed him an exile in the form of civic service in southern Russia, initially in what is now Dniepropetrovsk, where he was to report to General Iván Inzov.
Inzov welcomed him with open arms and declined to give him tasks. From so much bathing in the cold waters of the Dniepr River, Pushkin fell ill.
Nicolay Rayevsky, another soldier, passed through the city. He went with his family on his way to the Caucasus, where his eldest son was cured in a spa. Rayevsky persuaded Pushkin to accompany them, and Inzov authorized it.
Adventures in the Caucasus and Forced Refuge in Mikhaylovskoe's Bucolic Interior
At the time, the Caucasus it was the real border with Asia. Pushkin was dazzled and inspired by the beauty of the mountains in the region and the rebelliousness of the Chechens and other peoples in the area.
Several of his poems and even novels from that time reflected realities of these places, exotic for almost all the inhabitants of Moscow or St. Petersburg. This was the case of the “Prisoner of the Caucasus” who touched on the relationship between a Russian captive and a Circassian girl.
Four years into exile later, Pushkin suffered another tolerant admonition from the emperor for more recent problematic writings.
This time, he took refuge in Mikhaylovskoe, a family property, a few hours south of St. Petersburg.
It was there that we had our first contact with the author's family retreat. We left Pskov and traveled about 120 km along small country roads.
The Delightful Journey between Pskov and Mikhaylovskoe
We crossed hamlets that grouped izbas endless, some in immaculate condition, others that time had degraded, here and there, also exemplars to which fire had caused irreparable damage.
In the more lively towns, veritable networks of raised canals in bright colors stretched out, folded and forked again and again, alley after alley. Homes depended on the blast of natural gas from Siberia that circulated through them.
We surpassed countless Soviet automobile relics: Volgas, UAZs and Kamaz, among others. Some went on in miserable states like a Lada we've seen lose a wheel and bury itself against a hedge on the opposite side of the road.
Running longer than we expected, we came to a desolate area of dreary and dense pine forests. We didn't detect a soul in the vicinity.
Discovering the Mikhaylovskoye Museum Reserve
Two indicative signs showed us a path that led to a kind of moor crowned with an elegant mansion set in a well-kept garden.
It was the housing heart of Mikhailovskoe, owned by Pushkin's maternal family since 1742. Pushkin got used to taking refuge there from the hustle and bustle of St. Petersburg.
Well out of the tourist peak season, it was almost just us and Alexey Kravchenko, the host who had been driving us since St. Petersburg by Dostoevsky, we visited it.
We did not detect any sign of the special welcome and extras that culminate on June 6th, the day on which the author's birth is celebrated and on which thousands of admirers from all over Russia meet there.
We took a look at the yellow interior of the house, with its classic furniture, a wooden piano and a desk still filled with manuscripts gilded by the passage of time.
Back outside, we advanced to the back and discovered the best attribute of the residence. Its threshold overlooked a long grassy slope.
The Flooded Countryside Scenes around
Below, a river – the Sorot – meandered and gave way to a kind of marsh that was part of Lake Kuchane that fed it.
We went down a path that crossed the grass to the nearest bank. There we finally found a sign of life. A fisherman in military camouflage repeated line throws.
We soon realized that he was as determined not to be disturbed as he was to fill the fishing bucket.
Accordingly, we proceeded along the riverbank and inspected an old wooden mill isolated in the landscape, accompanied by a young couple who had just arrived.
Pushkin went much further every day. Alexei Wulf, one of his best friends, lived in Trigorskoe, one of the closest villages. Wulf even claimed that he himself was the inspiration for Vladimir Lenskiy, one of the main characters in Pushkin's famous verse novel Eugene Onegin.
Until 1861, slavery remained legitimate in Russia.
Alexander Pushkin's Social Integration among Mikhaylovskoe's People
The resident peasants were servants to the family, something Pushkin always saw in his own way. Instead of assuming himself as an overbearing sovereign, he enjoyed contact with the people of the countryside.
He was aware of their lives and concerned about their well-being. He was revolted when he discovered that many of the peasants he knew did not have enough firewood to keep the ovens burning through the winter, nor could they buy glass for their windows. He was also interested in the folklore of the peasants.
He collected fables, songs and sagas that he later used as inspiration for his works.
From May to August, it is customary for the most committed visitors to learn about rural life there in Pushkin's time. Investigate the old houses in the area, barns, corrals, mills etc.
They even make peasants and thresh maize, or weave on centuries-old looms. None of these or other hypotheses were valid when we were there.
Lost in Mikhaylovskoe's “Unknown” but Fueled by Apples
On the way back to the car, Alexei suggested we take a shortcut. We've completely lost it. We walked for several kilometers without being able to find the path again.
We ended up walking on unfamiliar roads and asking for paid help from residents of izbas tents erected at the edge of the forest to be taken to the car.
After making sure we were heading in the right direction, we stopped to buy a big bag of apples from Zina, a babuska who sold them, red and by the bucket, at the door of his house.
We quenched thirst and hunger. Almost two and a half hours and more than ten kilometers later, arriving from a direction opposite to the one from which we had started, we found our car again.
Pilgrimage to Svyatogororsky Monastery and Alexander Pushkin Mausoleum
Once recovered, we still pointed to the Svyatogororsky monastery, where we checked in just before a relentless rain.
Pushkin once made this monastery a regular stopover.
There he visited the tombs of his ancestors, enjoyed the religious pilgrimages and the fairs where he loved to live with real characters who came to inspire those of “Boris Godunov”.
Today, that's where he lies, next to his mother's grave. It was Pushkin himself who precipitated his move to that ultimate abode.
The Cordel Romance That Led Alexander Pushkin to His Death
In 1828, Pushkin met Natalia Goncharova, one of Moscow's most beloved beauties, then just 16 years old.
After careful consideration, and after making sure that Pushkin would not again be persecuted by the tsarist government, the young woman and her mother accepted the writer's proposal of marriage.
They married in 1831. Six years later, Pushkin had accumulated large debts. As if that wasn't enough, he received an anonymous letter that gave him the title of “Deputy Grand Director and Historiographer of the Order of Cornudos".
For some time now, Puskin and his young wife had met Georges-Charles d'Anthés, a French soldier who had enlisted in the Russian army to advance his career. D'Anthés began courting the seductive Natalia in 1835.
When he realized that she was rejecting him, D'Anthés and his adoptive father sent several copies of that satire to Pushkin and some of his best friends. Pushkin – who was often involved in crushes and extramarital harassment – didn't need much to discover the authors.
Even without having investigated whether his wife – who was said to also provoke Tsar Nicolas and be harassed by him – had been unfaithful to him or not, she challenged D'Anthés to a duel. Despite negotiations carried out by the adoptive father of the Frenchman, the duel even took place on a frigid afternoon of January 27, 1837.
d'Anthes fired first. He seriously wounded Pushkin in the stomach.
Pushkin, who had previously spawned and fought several duels, still managed to fight back but only slightly injured his rival in the arm.
He died two days later at his house in St. Petersburg.
As was to be expected, his old home was also sanctified.
It is now one of the city's must-see museums and memorials, visited by large tours of Russian students and by battalions of tourists from all over.
Before leaving Peter, dazzled by the eccentricity of his life, work and death, we still made a point of unraveling it.