Pushkin Was Here (Perhaps)

By Skopich, Yulia | Russian Life, May-June 2019 | Go to article overview

Pushkin Was Here (Perhaps)


Skopich, Yulia, Russian Life


ON JUNE 6, RUSSIA WILL CELEBRATE THE 220TH BIRTHDAY OF THE poet Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin, one of the country's most important literary icons. An icon who not only made an imprint on the country with his works of literature, but with his feet, heart, and head.

It seems as if every region of Russia strives to connect their past with the hallowed name of Alexander Sergeyevich. Since he traveled frequently and far, not all these claimed connections are necessarily tenuous. Certainly the poet traveled through and even stopped in many small villages and towns, and so current residents can align the place they live with the illustrious life of this "sun of Russian poetry."

And while there are a great number of well-known places that Pushkin slept or visited, streets that he walked down, buildings and sites that he saw during his short life, we enumerate here a few lesser-known Pushkin-places, in hopes of showing a side of the poet's life that others have missed. If such a thing is even possible 220 years on.

Kerch's Panticapaeum

In the spring of 1820, having committed the offense of penning freedom-loving poems and epigrams, Pushkin was exiled from St. Petersburg by Tsar Alexander I. Sent to Crimea, there he spent, in his own words, "the happiest times of my life."

The poet arrived in Kerch, on the peninsula that juts off the eastern side of the Crimean Peninsula, on August 15. Knowing that the city had been built on the ruins of ancient Panticapaeum (founded by the Milesians in the sixth or seventh century BC) and anticipating having a window onto its romantic past, he was greatly disappointed. Kerch was a tiny, poor town at the time, and so all the poet saw were a few streets, along with many fragments of columns and statues.

In a letter to his younger brother Lev, Pushkin wrote, "from the Taman Peninsula, of the ancient Tmutarakansky Principality (which existed from 988 to 1094, in what is today the western tip of Krasnodar Oblast and the eastern tip of Crimea), I saw the Crimean coast. We arrived in Kerch by sea. Here I thought I would see the ruins of Mithridates' grave, and traces of Panticapaeum... On a nearby mountain amid a graveyard, I saw a pile of stones, cliffs with crude carvings, and I noticed several steps, the work of human hands. Whether it was an ancient tomb or the foundation of a tower, I do not know. A few vents on we stopped on the Golden Hill. Rows of stones and a moat, about level with the ground, is all that remained of the city."

Krasnodar's Prikubansky Forest

On his way to Crimea in 1820, Pushkin passed through the city then known as Yekaterinodar (and now simply Krasnodar). It is thought that he traveled along the Stavropol Highway. Accordingly, it is conceivable that he overnighted at the post station that was located at the entrance to this, the Cossack capital, which stood not far from what is today Krasnodar's Gorky Park. At the time, it was known as the Prikubansky ("bordering the Kuban") Forest, where there were offices, small shops for comestibles, and from whence one could see the earthen ramparts of the fortress and the market square.

Whether Pushkin strolled through the city center, we cannot know for certain, since the Cossack capital sat in a depression, and even in hot weather its streets were rather dirty. Yet the oaks that even today grow in the park (then a forest), he likely saw when entering Yekaterinodar.

To his younger brother Lev, the poet wrote, "I saw the banks of the Kuban and the Cossack villages--and feasted my eyes on our Cossacks. Eternally on horseback: eternally ready to fight, at eternal readiness!"

Bakhchisaray's "Fountain of Tears"

Arriving in the city on September 7, 1820, Pushkin, despite the fact that he was sick, headed to the Khan's Palace straight away. He had already heard the legend of the Bakhchisaray Fountain and, finding himself in the city, could not fail to visit the monument. …

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