No poet in Russia has more fame, readership and love of the Russian people than Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin (1799-1837). A poet, writer, playwright and the creator of the Russian literary language, Pushkin means a lot to the Russian people. People read and remember his works throughout their lives. They are turned into operas, theatrical productions, and adapted for the screen.
As is the case with Saint Petersburg, which was the Russian capital in Pushkin’s time, Moscow has many places related to Pushkin. He was born in Moscow, where he spent the early years of his childhood. In Moscow, he married the young Nataly Goncharova, who became the mother of his children. It was here that he came to rest from the rigorous splendor of Saint-Petersburg. According to the estimates of historians, about fifty places connected with Pushkin are preserved in Moscow.
THE FUTURE POET WAS BORN HERE
Alexander Pushkin was born in 1799 to a noble family. His mother, Nadezhda Osipovna, was the daughter of Abram Gannibal – Peter the Greatruled from 1682 until 1725’s foster child, who later became the main character of Pushkin’s novel The Negro of Peter the Great’sRussian: Arap Petra Velikogo or Арап Петра Великого. Pushkin’s father was a man of ancient lineage, and his family was noble but not rich. Unfortunately, the house where Pushkin was born no longer exists and even his exact birthplace is still disputed. However, most historians share the view that it was in Nemetskaya streetRussian: Nemetskaya ulitsa or Немецкая улица. School #353 occupies its place today (40, BaumanskayaRussian: Бауманская str.). The school is named after Pushkin, and there is a sculpture of the poet by E.F. Belashova in the garden square in front of it.
The house belonging to the poet’s uncle, Vasily Lvovich Pushkin, is close by. He was not only know as an active participant in literary life, but he was also a well-known biographer and amateur poet. Thanks to him, young Alexander Pushkin was able to meet famous writers and poets. Today, in the house where V. Pushkin lived most of his life, there is a museum dedicated to him (36, Staraya BasmannayaRussian: Старая Басманная). It not only has a collection of manuscripts, paintings, and arts and crafts items, but also has the atmosphere of a classical wooden mansion done in the classical style, as well as a collection of household items. A display of Alexander Pushkin’s personal possessions is on the first floor, where the poet is said to have stayed during his frequent visits to see his uncle.
The Pushkins had no house of their own in the capital and changed apartments ceaselessly, paying very high rent for the mansions. According to biographers’ estimates, Pushkin’s family changed addresses ten times during the poet’s 12 years in Moscow. The family lived in Bolshoy Kharitonievsky side-streetRussian: Bolshoy Kharitonievskiy pereulok or Большой Харитоньевский переулок, in MolchanovkaRussian: Молчановка street, PovarskayaRussian: Поварская street, and other neighbouring streets which were once part of a prestigious elite district; now only a few buildings remain from that time.
CHILDHOOD YEARS IN AN ESTATE OUTSIDE MOSCOW
Unlike his parents, who were content with a wanderer’s life, the poet’s grandmother Maria Alekseevna Gannibal felt it necessary to ingrain a sense of home in her grandchildren. For this reason, she bought an estate in the village of ZakharovoRussian: Захарово (Odintsovsky districtRussian: Odintsovskiy rayon or Одинцовский район, Zakharovo village 50 km from Moscow). Little Pushkin, alongside his his sister and brothers went there every summer from 1805 to 1810. Once, they spent a whole winter in the estate.
This estate, together with the neighbouring estate in Bolshiye VyazyomyRussian: Большие Вяземы, is occupied by the A. Pushkin State Historical and Literature Museum and ReserveRussian: Gosudarstvennyi istoriko-literaturnyi muzey-zapovednik A. S. Pushkina or Государственный историко-литературный музей-заповедник А. С. Пушкина (Bolshiye Vyazyomy village, Odintsovsky district, Moscow regionRussian: Moskovskaya oblast or Московская область). The walkways, ponds, and parks are now as they were during the early 19th century. An exhibition dedicated to the poet’s childhood is displayed in the manor house, restored to how it was during his time. The halls are furnished with period furniture and houseware. There is a children’s room with toys from the 19th century, as well. The museum also comprises the Church of Transfiguration of ChristRussian: Tserkov Preobrazheniya Gospodnya or Церковь Преображения Господня with a belfry – a monument of 16th century architecture – and many other museum valuables.
GREAT POET’S ADDRESSES IN MOSCOW
Pushkin spent his young years far from Moscow at the Imperial LyceumRussian: Tsarskoselsky litsei or Царскосельский лицей first, in Saint-Petersburg, and then in exile. In 1826, Pushkin was summonned from MikhailovskoyeRussian: Михайловское, where he had been exiled, to have a private audience with Emperor Nikolas Ithe Emperor of Russia from 1825 until 1855, who had been enthroned in Moscow. The poet and the tsar had a meeting in the Monastery of the MiracleRussian: Chudov monastyr, or Чудов монастырь of the Kremlin. The details of this tete-a-tete are not well known. However, the main thing was that Pushkin was granted the right to move without restrictions, liberalised from censorship, and certain other protections.
In 1828, Alexander met 16-year old Nataliya Goncharova, one of the most beautiful young ladies in Moscow. They fell in love, but it was only in 1830 that he received Nataliya’s parents’ approval. They were apprehensive of their daughter’s marriage to a middle-aged (well, he was considered middle-aged at the time) and not particularly well-off poet, who was believed to be a free thinker. Pushkin had a reputation of being a changeable sort of person.
The wedding took place on 18 February 1831 (2 March N.S.) in the Church of the Ascension of Christ in Storozhi by Nikitskiye Gate, or the Greater AscensionRussian: Tserkov Vozneseniya Gospodnya v Storozhakh u Nikitskikh vorot, Bolshoye Voznesenie or Церковь Вознесения Господня в Сторожах у Никитских ворот или «Большое Вознесение» (36, Bolshaya Nikitskaya strRussian: ulitsa Bolshaya Nikitskaya or улица Большая Никитская.). The church is a landmark of the Moscow classicist epoch. It was erected after the fire of 1812during the war between the Russian Empire and Napoleonic France on the territory of Russia in 1812 and still exists today. It was located not far from the Goncharovys’ house on the intersection of NikitskayaRussian: Никитская street and Skaryatinsky side streetRussian: Skaryatinskiy pereulok or Скарятинский переулок (50/8 Bolshaya Nikitskaya street, it houses the Spanish Embassy at present).
Pushkin was 31 and Nataly was 18 at the time of their wedding. Alarming rumours spread about the event in Moscow. Pushkin allegedly stumbled during the sacrament and dropped the cross from the analogian, then could not hold the bride’s ring while putting it on her finger. All these signs were considered to be omens of misfortune and boded ill of their upcoming lives together. At least, this is what the witnesses’ memoirs claim, and it is also what guides say to tourists about the event.
Today, the Greater Ascension Church is usually referred to as “the church where Pushkin’s wedding took place”. Offices for Alexander Pushkin are held here annually. Beside the church there is the small garden with a fountain and a summer house with a statue in the centre depicting Alexander Pushkin and Natalia Goncharova (by M. Dronov). Half-hidden by the columns, Natalia and Alexander are focused on each other and the marriage they had just entered into, which would bring them both happiness and tragedy.
After the wedding, the newlyweds lived at 53, ArbatRussian: Арбат street for some time. The house still exists. The Pushkins rented the Khitrovo family’s five-room apartment on the first floor of the building and lived there for less than six months. It houses the Pushkin Memorial Flat in ArbatRussian: Memorialnaya kvartira Pushkina na Arbate or Мемориальная квартира Пушкина на Арбате at present. The museum display boasts authentic 19th century objects, sculptural and graphical images of Pushkin, period watercolours and engravings. There is also Nataliya Goncharova’s handiwork table and Alexander Pushkin’s writing cabinet sent from the Pushkin All-Russia MuseumRussian: Vserossiyskiy muzey Pushkina or Всероссийский музей Пушкина in Saint-Petersburg, and his children’s and grand-children’s possessions. The museum holds poetry events, conferences, concerts, festivals, and other events related to Pushkin’s life and work.
Another monument to the Pushkin couple (by sculptors A.N. and I.A. Burganovy) was installed on the opposite side of the street. Done in bronze, elegant and lightweight, bewinged with love, the couple seem as if they are taking the first steps towards their forthcoming life and immortality.
A number of streets in Moscow keep the memories of Alexander Pushkin and the poet’s invisible footprints. It mostly applies to TverskayaRussian: Тверская street and the neighbourhood around it. Basically, all these places are Pushkin sites as that was where his life in Moscow centered during his youth: there were his friends and acquaintances’ mansions as well as the best shops. The poet frequented this area. In those days 21, Tverskaya street housed the English ClubRussian: Angliyskiy klub or Английский клуб, which Pushkin undoubtedly visited. Today the Central Museum of Contemporary History of RussiaRussian: Tsentralnyi muzey sovremennoy istorii Rossii or Центральный музей современной истории России is situated in this building.
14, Tverskaya street became Maria Volkonskaya’s last shelter before she left for Siberia to follow her husband, one of the ‘DecembristsRussian revolutionaries who led an unsuccessful uprising on Dec. 14 1825’ . Here, at her farewell party, Pushkin gave her his now famous poem “Deep in Siberian Mines…” to pass on to his friends who were in exile. Now the building houses what remains of the famous and formerly luxurious Eliseevskiy grocery store №1Russian: «Eliseevskiy» Gastronom #1 or «Елисеевский» Гастроном №1.
Some of the houses which Pushkin visited are marked with memorial tablets. For example, Pushkin’s friends, poets Vorotynsky and Vyazemsky, who he often came over to, lived in Voznesensky side streetRussian: Voznesenskiy pereulok or Вознесенский переулок (at #7 and #9). The Venevitinov HouseRussian: dom Venevitinova or дом Веневитинова, which belonged to a friend Pushkin’s, is particularly interesting (4, bldg.1, Krivokolenny side streetRussian: Krivokolennyi pereulok or Кривоколенный переулок ). The house is an 18th century architectural landmark. It was here at a poetry evening in 1826 that Alexander Pushkin read his drama ‘Boris GodunovRussian: Борис Годунов’, unpublished at that time.
13, Tverskaya street, now housing the City Hall, used to be Governor D. Golitsyn’s ‘kingdom’ in Pushkin’s time – the Governor threw splendid balls for the nobility of Moscow, which the poet could not miss. Nearby at 1, Bolshaya DmitrovkaRussian: Большая Дмитровка str. there were also balls, held at the Nobility Assemblya self-governing body of the sosloviye (estate) of the Russian nobility in Imperial Russia during 1766-1917 twice a week.
MEMORY FOR CENTURIES AHEAD
Right where Tverskoy BoulevardRussian: Tverskoy bulvar or Тверской бульвар starts and where the poet loved to walk, you will find one of the best-known monuments to Alexander Pushkin by A. Opekushin (2, Pushkinskaya SquareRussian: Pushkinskaya ploschad or Пушкинская площадь). The sculptor successfully rendered portrait likeness and revealed the poet’s inner world. Made of bronze, the monument to Pushkin blends perfectly into the cityscape, although it was meant to be installed on a smaller square on the other side of the street. Every year on Pushkin’s birthday admirers of the poet’s talent gather by the monument. People of different ages, fascinated by his genius, make up a spontaneous concert of tribute to their favourite poet – they recite poems, sing songs and share their admiration for Pushkin’s great talent. The square by the monument has become a traditional meeting place for couples in love and young people.
Apart from that, a number of Pushkin places not directly related to the poet’s biography have come to life in Moscow. They emerged after his death as a tribute to the poet. The most significant of them is the A. Pushkin State MuseumRussian: Gosudarstvennyi muzey A.S. Pushkina or Государственный музей А.С. Пушкина in PrechistenkaRussian: Пречистенка street (12, bldg. 2). The mansion of the first half of the 19th century (the former estate of the Khrushchyovs-Seleznevsa textbook example of residential architecture of Moscow Classicism) houses permanent displays dedicated to the poet’s life and creative work “Pushkin and His EpochRussian: Pushkin i ego epokha or Пушкин и его эпоха” and “Pushkin’s TalesRussian: Skazki Pushkina or Сказки Пушкина”. There are manuscripts, published books, a collection of paintings, porcelain, engravings, and furniture in them. Besides, the museum arranges regular temporary exhibitions. The A. Pushkin State Museum is not to be confused with the Pushkin State Museum of Fine ArtsRussian: Gosudarstvennyi muzey izobrazitelnykh iskusstv imeni A.S. Pushkina or Государственный музей изобразительных искусств имени А.С. Пушкина with its collection of works of fine art. It was given this name in 1937 to mark the 100th anniversary of the poet’s death.
Some other sights related to Pushkin are a few famous portraits of the poet kept in the State Tretyakov GalleryRussian: Gosudarstvennaya Tretyakovskaya galereya
or Государственная Третьяковская галерея. Two of them – by O. Kiprensky and M. TropininRussian famous painters – have gained the most recognition. Both Pushkin and his contemporaries admitted amazing likeness in Kiprensky’s portrait. In this painting the poet is depicted as a creator with a bit of self-absorption – the work is close to being called a full-dress portrait. More “chamber”-like and homely is Pushkin’s image in Tropinin’s painting. The poet is shown wearing his home clothes, as if sitting at the same table with the viewer.
Moscow was the first city in the great poet’s life he was bound with by unbreakable ties of kinship: “How often would I fall to musing/ Of Moscow in the mournful days/ Of absence on my wandering ways!/ Moscow… how many strains are fusing/ In that one sound, for Russian hearts!/ What store of riches it imparts! ,” this is how sincerely Pushkin expressed his feelings in the novel in verse “Eugene OneginRussian: Евгений Онегин“. The Russian capital, with the incomprehensible memory of an ancient city’s streets, houses, and objects, preserves the footsteps of its best children, revealing them especially generously to those willing to see, know and remember. This is why it is extremely easy to “meet” Pushkin in Moscow – he is around. Forever.
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