Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Born Today June 6: Alexander Pushkin


1799-1837

Russian writer Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin was born on this day in Moscow, in what was then the Russian Empire.  On his father's side of the family he was descended from a noble Russian line that could be traced back to the 12th century and his mother was the descendant of German and Scandinavian nobility.  It is known that by the age of 15 Pushkin had written his first poem.  By the time he had finished his extensive education given to nobility, he was already gaining serious fame in Russian literary circles.  By 1820 he had published his first long poem--the poem caused a minor sensation, not just for content, but also for style.  After a rather wild and rowdy youth, Pushkin emerged as a social reformer and became a spokesman for some literary radical writers.  This, of course, did not sit well with the Emperor.  He basically put himself into exile, traveling to the Caucasus, through to Crimea and other Ukrainian parts, it was at this time that he became a Freemason.  He then joined a secret organization that's sole purpose was to overthrow Ottoman rule in Greece.  In 1823 he relocated to Odessa, where all of these ideals that he had been collecting caused him to clash again with the government.  This time, he was sent into actual exile on his mother's rural estate.  He spent his time there writing very lengthy poems, and began to write plays.  In 1825 he was allowed to petition the Tsar for his release, which he was granted; however several of his earlier political poems were still being used by revolutionary writers and helped inspire the Decembrist Revolt, through no direct action on Pushkin's part.  This caused him to be placed under strict restriction by the government in regards to censorship and freedom of movement.  He was not allowed to publish at will and he could not travel without permissions.  Also in 1825, he penned what is probably his most famous work, the play Boris Godunov.  And it is this work that was first used as source material for film.  Two films of the work were produced in 1907, the first of which was a Russian short directed by on I. Shuvalov; the second--also a Russian short--is a lost film.  After 1825, Pushkin's career and renown began to rise rapidly.  He eventually married and had children, all the while continuing to write and publish.  By 1836, his troubles with debt began; he was also having to deal with a persistent scandalous rumor that his wife had an affair.  He went so far as to demand a duel over the rumor--challenging one Georges d'Anthés--a man pursuing Pushkin's sister and spreading gossip.  Eventually the duel was cancelled but d'Anthés kept up his public pursuit of the sister, with the scandal grew out of control.  Eventually Pushkin sent a very insulting letter to d'Anthés' step-father, knowing full well that it would provoke a renewed duel challenge--which it did.  The duel itself did not kill Pushkin out right, but a musket ball wound through his abdomen did, two days later.  Pushkin died on the 10th of February (Roman calendar) in St. Petersburg in 1837 from an acute case of peritonitis at the age of 37.  He was eventually buried on the grounds of a monastery in Svyatagorsk Pskov province.  In regards to film in the silent era, quite a wide range of his work was used for films from 1907 through 1928; the vast majority of them being Russian productions.  The first sound film made from his work came in 1934 with the French produced Volga In Flames.  The most recent film utilizing his writing came last year with the Russian produced Queen Of Spades.  




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