Alexander Pushkin Biography

(The Greatest Russian Poet and the Founder of Modern Russian Literature)

Birthday: May 26, 1799 (Gemini)

Born In: Moscow, Russia

Alexander Pushkin was a 19th-century Russian poet, novelist, dramatist, and short-story writer. He is remembered as the founder of modern Russian literature, and his works have been adapted into operas by several Russian composers. Raised in a neglected environment, Pushkin began his literary pursuits at an early age. However, he eventually became rebellious in his compositions. His works began reflecting political humor and infuriated the ruling government. As a result, Pushkin was sent into exile. While in exile, he explored various literary circles and became an integral part of them. He also indulged in gambling and drinking. After almost 6 years of exile, Pushkin was finally released from deportation, but the tsar applied censorship to his writings. Pushkin had a tumultuous marriage and suspected his wife of infidelity. His hatred for his wife's admirers ultimately caused his death. Some of Pushkin's notable works are 'Ruslan and Ludmila,' 'Eugene Onegin,' and 'Boris Godunov.'

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin

Died At Age: 37


Spouse/Ex-: Natalia Pushkina (m. 1831)

father: Sergei Lvovich Pushkin

mother: Nadezhda Ossipovna Gannibal

siblings: Lev Sergeyevich Pushkin, Mikhail Pushkin, Nikolai Pushkin, Olga Pavlishcheva, Pavel Pushkin, Platon Pushkin, Sofia Pushkina

children: Alexander Fremke, Grigory, Maria, Natalia

Born Country: Russia

Poets Novelists

Died on: January 29, 1837

place of death: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Cause of Death: Firearm

Notable Alumni: Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum

Ancestry: Swedish Russian

City: Moscow, Russia

More Facts

education: Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum

Childhood & Early Life
Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin was born on May 26, 1799, in Moscow, Russia, to Sergei, a retired Russian major from an old boyar family, and Nadezhda Pushkin, the granddaughter of a nobleman of African origin named Abram Hannibal. The family eventually lost its influence, and they were demoted to the status of minor nobility.
Pushkin and his siblings grew up in the care of their maternal grandmother, Alekseyevna and their old nanny, Arina Rodionovna Yakovleva. Their dominating father never cared for them, and their mother was mostly busy with her own life.
Pushkin grew up listening to Russian folktales narrated by Yakovleva. Even though he was not academically brilliant, he loved reading and spent a lot of time in his father's library.
In 1811, Pushkin attended the newly established 'Imperial Lyceum' at ‘Tsarskoye Selo,’ where he began his literary pursuits and published them. He excelled in French and Russian literature and eventually became an unofficial but prominent laureate of the ‘Lyceum.’
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Early Works
In his freshman year, Pushkin published his first verse epistle, 'To My Friend, the Poet.' In 1814, his work was published in the journal 'The Messenger of Europe.'
His early compositions were influenced by his older contemporaries and the 17th- and 18th-century French poets.
Pushkin composed around 130 poems while he was still in school. However, after graduating, he started living an adulterated and unruly life.
Major Works
In 1817, Pushkin began working at a foreign office in St. Petersburg and became a member of exclusive literary circles such as 'Arzamás' and 'Green Lamp.'
His newly found prominence in the literary circles made Pushkin carefree, and he began living only for pleasure.
Around the same time, his compositions reflected the ideas of public freedom and political reasoning, which the conventional intellectuals considered inappropriate. Hence, many of his works composed between 1817 and 1820 went unpublished.
In 1820, Pushkin's first significant work, the romantic poem 'Ruslan i Ludmila,' was published. The poetic composition, being opposite to the contemporary tradition, stirred controversy.
He was a proponent of social reformation and supported literary rebels. This infuriated the government. To save himself from the wrath of the higher officials, Pushkin went into exile in May 1820, even before 'Ruslan i Ludmila' was published. His exile lasted for about 6 years.
From St. Petersburg, Pushkin moved to Ekaterinoslave. Between 1820 and 1823, he lived in several regions in southern Russia, such as the Caucasus and Crimea.
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Pushkin was initially fine with the exile but eventually could not cope with the small-town lifestyle. He spent a lot of time gambling and drinking.
Pushkin somehow earned a government job, but his income was meager. His family refused to support him. He also tried to earn through his poetic works, but his earnings were not enough to support his desired lavish lifestyle.
While living in Moldavia, he enjoyed an amorous life, he but also devoted much of his time to his poetic works. By then, he had also become a ‘Freemason.’ Inspired by the Greek Revolution, he joined the secret organization 'Filiki Eteria' to show his opposition to the Ottoman rule in Greece.
In Moldavia, Pushkin wrote his first few Byronic poems, 'The Captive of the Caucasus' (1822) and 'The Fountain of Bakhchisaray' (1823), and earned a lot of praises.
In 1823, while he was in Odessa, Pushkin’s compositions stirred controversy again and he had to be exiled to Mikhailovskoye (near Pskov), where he lived at his mother's property, from 1824 to 1826.
In Mikhailovskoye, after being abandoned by his family, Pushkin found solace in Russian historical tales, folklore, and songs, which his family nurse recited to him.
Around the same time, he began writing his poetic novel 'Eugene Onegin' (1833) and composed his acclaimed play 'Boris Godunov,' which was not allowed to be published. Pushkin dedicated his romantic poems to Elizaveta Vorontsova, wife of Count Vorontsov, the general-governor of the province. He was in love with Elizaveta.
Though Pushkin did not participate in the Decembrist Uprising of 1825, he was still implicated. Authorities found the rebels of the uprising carrying his composition 'Ode to Liberty.' He was thus immediately summoned to Moscow.
In 1826, he pleaded with Tsar Nicholas I (1796–1855) to set him free from exile. The authorities investigated and found that the poet had displayed discipline. The tsar forgave Pushkin for his previous blasphemous writings. However, the tsar also censored his writings and made him promise not to publish anything against the government. The agreement eventually became a burden for Pushkin.
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Later Life & Death
Pushkin soon found out that the royal censorship applied not only to his compositions but also to his travels, literary participation, and other such pursuits.
Pushkin decided to marry and thus started his bride hunt. His search ended when he met Natalia Goncharova in 1828. She was considered the most beautiful Russian woman back then.
After a lot of persuasion, Goncharova accepted Pushkin's proposal. She did agree to marry him but on the condition that he would resolve his ambiguous issues with the tsar.
Agreeing to the condition, Pushkin urged the royalty to lift the censorship. The tsar allowed his drama 'Boris Godunov' to be published, a gesture Pushkin accepted as a wedding gift.
Pushkin and Goncharova, now a regular guest in the court, got engaged on May 6, 1830. Unfortunately, a cholera epidemic delayed their marriage. They finally exchanged wedding vows on February 18, 1831 (Old Style) at the 'Great Ascension Church,' Moscow.
The tsar presented the lowest court title, “Gentleman of the Chamber,” to Pushkin, as a wedding gift. Pushkin interpreted this as an act of humiliation. He believed that the title was given to him not because of his literary skills but to make Goncharova a permanent visitor at the court. Her beauty had made Pushkin highly suspicious of her. He believed that the tsar was one of her many secret admirers.
The marriage turned out to be a tumultuous one. Pushkin and Goncharova had four children: Maria, Alexander, Grigory, and Natalia. His literary works and financial status both went downhill.
On January 26, 1837, Pushkin, out of rage, challenged one of his wife's admirers, Georges d'Anthès, who had publicly persuaded Goncharova, for a duel in the court. The fight was held the following day, at the Black River. D'Anthès fired first and severely injured Pushkin.
Pushkin died of peritonitis on January 29. His coffin was later transferred from the ‘Konyushennaya Church’ to the ‘Svyatogorsky Monastery,’ near Pskov, and buried beside his mother's grave there.
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