Pushkin, Aleksandr (1799-1837)

The greatest Russian poet of the 19th century. He introduced the use of the common Russian language to write -- much like the English poets Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley -- setting new standards in poetry and novels and openning up the Romantic period to Russian writers. Preferred subjects from history or Russian-folklore. Pushkin was particularly affected by Byron, whose style he emulated in poems like "The Prisoner of the Caucasus", "The Robber Brothers", and "Eugene Onegin". In Onegin, though, the hero has been changed into a tragic figure (the unsympathetic young socialite disdains the love of a provincial girl, only to fall in love with her later when she later becomes part of high-society).

Born in Moscow to aristocrats, Pushkin studied at the Lyceum in the town of Tsarskoye Selo, (later renamed Pushkin), and after graduating worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Saint Petersburg. Pushkin was a socialite of the highest order during these early years, but later grew disguisted with the lifestyle and would satire it in his works like "Eugene Onegin". He became a spokesman for the new literary radicals, prophetically advocating the abolition of serfdom in "Wasteland Sower of True Freedom" to avert revolution. As a result of his ideas he was exiled to Kishinev, then Odessa, then his mother's rural estate.

In 1826 he was allowed to return to Moscow, and four years later he married an abitious socialite named Natalia Goncharova. Her ambitions for herself and her husband put him into debt, and eventually killed him when in 1837 he was forced to fight a duel to defend Natalia's reputation and was mortally wounded.

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