It is a birthday of Alexander Pushkin, the greatest of all Russian writers, the father of modern Russian literature. He was born in 1799 in a Russian noble family in Moscow.
His matrilineal great grandfather Abram Gannibal was an African kidnapped and brought to Russia as a gift for the tsar Peter the Great and had grown up and risen to become an aristocrat.
Alexander Pushkin published his first poem at the age of fifteen, and was widely recognized by the literary establishment by the time of his graduation from the Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum.
While under the strict surveillance of the Tsar’s political police and unable to publish, Pushkin wrote his most famous play, the drama Boris Godunov. His novel in verse, Eugene Onegin, was serialized between 1825 and 1832.
Notoriously touchy about his honor, Pushkin fought as many as twenty-nine duels, and was fatally wounded in such an encounter with Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d’Anthes. Pushkin had accused D’Anthes, a French officer serving with the Chevalier Guard Regiment of attempting to seduce the poet’s wife, Natalya Pushkina
Critics consider many of his works masterpieces, such as the poem “The Bronze Horseman” and the drama “The Stone Guest, a tale of the fall of Don Juan”.
His poetic short drama “Mozart and Salieri” (from the same work as “The Stone Guest”, “Little Tragedies”) was the inspiration for Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus as well as providing the libretto (almost verbatim) to Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Mozart and Salieri.
Pushkin himself preferred his verse novel Eugene Onegin, which he wrote over the course of his life and which, starting a tradition of great Russian novels, follows a few central characters but varies widely in tone and focus.
Pushkin’s works also provided fertile ground for Russian composers. Glinka’s Ruslan and Lyudmila is the earliest important Pushkin-inspired opera, and a landmark in the tradition of Russian music. Tchaikovsky’s operas “Eugene Onegin” (1879) and “The Queen of Spades” (1890) became, perhaps, better known outside of Russia than Pushkin’s own works of the same name.
Mussorgsky’s monumental “Boris Godunov” ranks as one of the very finest and most original of Russian operas. Other Russian operas based on Pushkin include Dargomyzhsky’s “Rusalka” and “The Stone Guest”; Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Mozart and Salieri”, “Tale of Tsar Saltan”, a”nd The Golden Cockerel”; “Cui’s Prisoner of the Caucasus”, “Feast in Time of Plague”, and “The Captain’s Daughter”; Tchaikovsky’s “Mazeppa”; Rachmaninov’s one-act operas “Aleko”(based on The “Gypsies”) and “The Miserly Knight”; Stravinsky’s “Mavra”, and Napravnik’s “Dubrovsky”.
Additionally, ballets and cantatas, as well as innumerable songs have been set to Pushkin’s verse (including even his French-language poems, in Isabelle Aboulker’s song cycle “Caprice etrange”). Suppe, Leoncavallo and Malipiero, have also based operas on his works.
Alexander Pushkin is considered by many to be the central representative of Romanticism in Russian literature; however, he cannot be labelled unequivocally as a Romantic. Russian critics have traditionally argued that his works represent a path from neo-Classicism through Romanticism to Realism.