Prisoner of Russia: Alexander Pushkin and the Political Issues of Nationalism

By Popoff, Alexandra | Canadian Slavonic Papers, September 2000 | Go to article overview

Prisoner of Russia: Alexander Pushkin and the Political Issues of Nationalism


Popoff, Alexandra, Canadian Slavonic Papers


Yuri Druzhnikov. Prisoner of Russia: Alexander Pushkin and the Political Issues of Nationalism. Translated by Thomas Moore and Ilya Druzhnikov. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1999. 454 pp., $61.95, cloth.

The eminent Russian historian Vasilii Kliuchevskii once observed that "one always wants to say too much about Pushkin, and one always ends up saying many extraneous things, leaving out the important ones" (p. xii). The image of Pushkin, a dominant figure in Russian culture, a genius whose works expressed Russia's whole destiny, weighs heavily upon scholars and biographers.

In the foreword to Prisoner of Russia, the author, a fiction writer and scholar, remarks that a century-and-a-half of research has yielded more about Pushkin than the poet ever knew about himself. Scholars have "exhaustingly explored" his views on literature, philosophy, religion, and economics; they have calculated "the range of every pistol shot he ever fired" and discovered "how long his fingernails were" (p. vii). However, Druzhnikov maintains, the voluminous research has not revealed certain mysteries about Pushkin.

Though filled with biographical and documentary detail, this book is neither a comprehensive biography, nor a critical survey of Pushkin's works. In the author's words, it represents a search for "a new approach towards Pushkin" (p. ix) and a skeptical inquiry into the life and works of Russia's foremost poet and writer. Druzhnikov finds that, since the nineteenth century and throughout the Soviet period, Pushkin has been turned into "an icon of worship insulated from the doubts and inquiries of skeptics" (p. xi). As Druzhnikov acknowledges, his goal is not to undermine Pushkin's significance but rather to purge the past of deception (p. xii).

Applying Soviet cliches to the reign of Nicholas I, Druzhnikov calls Pushkin, who had been banned from experiencing the world beyond his country's borders, "the first recognized 'refusenik' in Russia" (p. 354). A non-exiter, Pushkin was also an internal exile; he could not travel in his own country without government authorization. This theme is only too familiar to Druzhnikov, a dissident writer under the Soviet regime, who views Pushkin's exile through the prism of his own experiences.

The book focuses on twelve years in Pushkin's life, from 1817, the year when the poet graduated from the Western-oriented Lyceum in Tsarskoe Selo, until "one of the most mysterious episodes" (p. 417) in his life, the journey to Arzrum, on the Turkish border, where Pushkin escaped in 1829. Druzhnikov finds that Pushkin's life and works "can neither be understood, nor interpreted irrespective his desire to see the West" (p. xi).

Sixty-four years ago Ernest Simmons discussed the manner in which Tsar Nicholas I had formulated Pushkin's status for the rest of his life in a letter written to the exiled poet on September 1826: "Mr. Pushkin may travel in his own equipage at freedom, not in the position of a prisoner, and under the escort of the courier only..." (Simmons, Pushkin [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1937] p. 248). The American scholar succinctly summarized the tragedy of the poet who lived not under arrest, but neither as a free person, and revealed the poet's efforts to escape from Russia (Simmons, pp. 236-48).l Subsequently, other biographers also dealt with Pushkin's attempts to go abroad.2 For this reason, Druzhnikov's remark that-apart from an article published by Mstislav Tsiavlovskii in 1916 (p. xii)-the poet's exit file "has not been studied at all" (p. xi) comes as a surprise.

Druzhnikov goes beyond the idea that Pushkin was Russia's prisoner and suggests that the poet collaborated with the secret police in return for his freedom to travel abroad: "He was openly being prepared for a career of informing" (p. 379). The writer views the high society of Moscow and Petersburg as "one extended family-dissidents and informers" (p. 320), and suggests that the hopelessness of Russian existence made Pushkin into a fugitive. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Prisoner of Russia: Alexander Pushkin and the Political Issues of Nationalism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.