Aleksandr Pushkin Biography

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Aleksandr Pushkin

Aleksandr Pushkin, in full Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin, (born May 26 [June 6, New Style], 1799, Moscow, Russia—died January 29 [February 10], 1837, St. Petersburg), Russian poet, novelist, dramatist, and short-story writer; he has often been considered his country’s greatest poet and the founder of modern Russian literature.


It is said Pushkin lived an undisciplined, dissolute life, carrying on affairs with several married women. Obtaining an undistinguished post at court, Pushkin in turn heard scandalous rumors of his young wife’s infidelities and lost his life in a duel over his wife’s honor. Of first rank among Russia’s poets, the scope of his influence is comparable to other pivotal national literary figures, such as William Shakespeare and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Aleksandr Pushkin was proud of his noble lineage. His father descended from one of the Russian gentry’s oldest families, tracing their history back to the thirteenth century. His mother’s grandfather was Ibrahim Petrovich Gannibal, an Abyssinian who was abducted as a child and ended up in Russia. Gannibal served Peter the Great as a military leader, rising to the rank of general. Eventually Peter conferred nobility upon Gannibal and gave him a small estate. Later Pushkin undertook to write a novel based on the life of his grandfather, The Negro of Peter the Great, but he never finished that work.

Born in Moscow, Pushkin published his first poem at the age of fifteen. By the time he finished as part of the first graduating class of the prestigious Imperial Lyceum in Tsarskoe Selo near St. Petersburg, the Russian literary scene recognized his talent widely. After finishing school, Pushkin installed himself in the vibrant and raucous intellectual youth culture of the capital, St. Petersburg. In 1820, he gained public recognition with the publication of his first long poem, Ruslan and Lyudmila, despite much controversy about its subject and style.

The 1820s were an era of social unrest that culminated in the Decembrist Uprising in 1825, the first “bourgeois” revolution against the Russian autocracy, over the succession of Tsar Alexander I. Pushkin wrote some subversive poems that angered the government, leading to his transfer from the capital. He went first to Kishinev in 1820, where he stayed until 1823. After a summer trip to the Caucasus and to Crimea, he wrote two Romantic poems in the mold of Lord Byron which brought him wide acclaim, The Captive of the Caucasus and The Fountain of Bakhchisaray.

In 1823, Pushkin moved to Odessa, where he again clashed with the government. Since his student years Pushkin had led a reckless and dissolute life, and had carried on affairs with a number of married women. His affair with the wife of the governor general of Odessa was discovered and led to his exile at his mother’s rural estate in north Russia from 1824 to 1826. While he was at his mother’s estate, the Decembrist Uprising occurred. In 1826, Tsar Nicholas I summoned him to Moscow and pardoned him, even though he confided to the tsar that had he been in St. Petersburg in 1825 he would likely have supported the Decembrist cause. Indeed, some of the insurgents in the Decembrist Uprising had kept copies of his early political poems amongst their papers, and soon Pushkin found himself under the strict control of government censors and unable to travel or publish at will. He had written what became his most famous play, Boris Godunov, while at his mother’s estate but could not gain permission to publish it until five years later.

In 1831, at the height of Pushkin’s talent and influence, he met Russia’s other great early literary giant, Nikolai Gogol. The two became good friends. After reading Gogol’s 1831-1832 volume of short stories, Evenings on a Farm near the Dikanka River, Pushkin would support him critically as well. In 1836, Pushkin began a literary magazine, The Contemporary, which featured some of Gogol’s most famous short stories. Gogol’s comedic stories greatly influenced Pushkin’s prose.

Pushkin and his wife Natalya Goncharova, whom he married in 1831, became regulars of court society. The tsar gave Pushkin the rank of Junior Chamberlain, the lowest court title. He felt that the title was conferred upon him so that his wife, who had many admirers—including the Tsar himself—could properly attend court balls. Pushkin was humiliated. In 1837, falling into greater and greater debt amidst rumors that his wife was conducting a scandalous affair, Pushkin challenged her alleged lover, Baron Georges d’Anthès, to a duel. Both men were injured, Pushkin mortally. He died two days later.

The government feared a political demonstration at his funeral, which it moved to a smaller location and made open only to close relatives and friends. His body was spirited away secretly at midnight and buried on his mother’s estate.

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The first “southern” exile

The society was excited and proud of their people because of the victory over Napoleon. At the same time, there were dangerous ideas in the minds of famous people, not just innovative but revolutionary. This freedom-loving spirit had a great impact on Pushkin, who visited one of the radical literary circles “Green Lamp”. As a result, such well-known poems as “Liberty”, “Village”, “At Arakcheeva” appeared but were not published.

The young poet fell into disgrace with the emperor and was exiled to Siberia. With the help of poet’s friends, he went to the south. On May 6, 1820, the poet went to a new place of service under the leadership of Lieutenant-General I.N. Inzov.

From 1820 to 1824, Pushkin visited different cities of the Russian Empire:

Alexander Pushkin at the Black SeaAlexander Pushkin at the Black Sea

The result of the exile was great impression and emotions that inspired the poet to create some poems. In the period of the southern exile, Pushkin wrote such poems as “The Prisoner of the Caucasus”, “The Fountain of Bakhchisaray”, “The Gypsies”, “Gavriiliada “. In Crimea, Alexander Sergeyevich for the first time came up with the idea of writing “Eugene Onegin”. He began working in Chisinau.

In Kamenka, the poet managed to meet the members of the secret society, and in Chisinau, he was even accepted into a Masonic lodge.

At the Masonic LodgeAt the Masonic Lodge

In Odessa, with its operas, restaurants, and theaters, Pushkin arrived already a famous romantic poet, who was called “the singer of the Caucasus”. However, in Odessa, Alexander Sergeyevich had not very good relations with the Count M. S. Vorontsov.

There were rumors about the poet’s relations with the Count’s wife. The man soon found a way to get Pushkin out of town. The Moscow police found Pushkin’s letter, where he admitted his interest in atheism. It was immediately reported to the emperor. In 1824, Alexander Sergeyevich was dismissed and went to his mother’s estate, to Mikhaylovskoye village.

Pushkin’s achievements

The Russian language today would be very different if it had not been for Pushkin. Using the language as it was spoken by the people he made it into a language which was simple but which could also express deep feelings. His works were a great influence on later writers like Ivan Turgenev, Ivan Goncharov and Leo Tolstoy. Yevgeny Onegin was the first Russian novel which told a story about the society of the time. His works have been translated into all the major languages

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