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Author Information: Alexander Pushkin

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Alexander Pushkin was born on 26 May 1799 in Moscow. On his father’s side he was descended from an old boyar family which had sunk into obscurity; on his mother’s, he was the great-grandson of an African prince’s son adopted by Peter the Great, Abram Petrovich Gannibal, who attained eminence as a military engineer. He was educated at Tsar Alexander I’s newly founded Lycée at Tsarskoye Selo, where he excelled in Russian and French literature and little else, acquired his characteristic ease and fluency in writing verse, and wrote nearly one-sixth of his entire lyric output. His reckless political verses and lampoons earned him exile in southern Russia, and an imprudently revealed interest in atheism a further two years on his mother’s estate near the north-west frontier town of Pskov, where he wrote a number of celebrated works including Boris Godunov, some chapters of Eugene Onegin, and most of “The Gypsies”. Recalled from exile in 1826 by the new tsar, Nicholas I, after the abortive Decembrist uprising of the previous year, he was obliged to make a show of toeing the line for the rest of his life. In 1828 he met a sixteen-year-old impecunious beauty, Natalya Goncharova, and married her in 1831. She caught the tsar’s eye and he gave Pushkin a minor post in order to secure her attendance at court balls. Her flirtation with a French guards officer in Russian service provoked a duel in which Pushkin was shot in the stomach, dying two days later on 29 January 1837. Pushkin and Natalya had four children; two of their grandchildren, a brother and a sister, married grandchildren of Nicholas I.

Pushkin’s extensive oeuvre laid the ground for Russian literature of the rest of the century and was inspirational to Russian writers of the next. His completed work comprises over eight hundred lyric poems, some dozen narrative poems, six verse plays, five verse folk-tales, a novel in verse, a novel in prose, six short prose tales, a work of history, and sundry prose, diaries and reminiscences.





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