Alexander Pushkin was born on May 26 (June 6), 1799, to a noble family of modest means. Pushkin, like many nobles of his time, was educated at home. His parents brought in teachers and tutors from various European countries to instruct him. However, despite his keen intellect, the rising luminary of Russian poetry could not be called a diligent student; teachers and relatives noted a lack of zealousness in him. Nonetheless, the boy eventually became engrossed in reading.
Pushkin's talent began to flourish when he was seven years old. Having read Moliere, Lafontaine and Voltaire, he composed small comedies and fables in French, and even tried to write a poem.
In 1811, when the Lyceum in Tsarskoye Selo was established, the 12-year-old Pushkin was enrolled as one of its students. The rigorous standards of education and expectations set for students at the lyceum provided the young poet with what he had not been able to receive from the private teachers and tutors at his home. However, some sciences were still difficult for him to comprehend, particularly mathematics and logic. Pushkin devoted his spare time to literature. In 1814, he first published his verse epistle “To My Friend, the Poet” in Vestnik Evropy (“The Messenger of Europe”). A year later, the talent of literary genius was recognized by the famous poet and statesman Gavriil Romanovich Derzhavin, to whom the young Pushkin read his poem “Memories in Tsarskoe Selo”. The eminent man was truly delighted, so the poem was published in the magazine “Rossiysky Museum” (“Russian Museum”). During the Lyceum period, Alexander met and became friends with Anton Delvig, Ivan Pushchin, and Wilhelm Ludwig von Küchelbecker, with whom he stayed in touch all his life.
After graduating from the Lyceum in Tsarskoye Selo, Alexander Pushkin was enrolled in the College of Foreign Affairs as a tenth-class official. Despite opportunities in civil service, Alexander was more drawn to secular life, particularly the literary circles and St. Petersburg writers' society, where he gained significant popularity.
In the South
In 1819, following his admission into the literary society “Green Lamp”, which was affiliated with the Decembrists, Alexander's writing and perspective became increasingly influenced by political matters. His new friends discussed and advocated for ideas rooted in the concept of liberty. During this period of his oeuvre, Pushkin wrote the Ode to Liberty and poems “To Chaadaev” and “The Village”, which did not go unnoticed by the authorities. If it had not been for Nikolay Karamzin's intercession with the emperor, Alexander Pushkin could have been exiled to Siberia. Nonetheless, he was just transferred to the South for service. But before moving to the South, the young genius finished the poem “Ruslan and Lyudmila”. After reading the poem, Vasily Zhukovsky signed his portrait with the inscription “To the victorious pupil from the defeated master” and presented it as a gift to Pushkin.
In 1820, on the way to Kishinev, Pushkin stayed in the Caucasus for some time and then went to the Crimea to improve his health. This period will soon afterwards be reflected in his poetry, in such works as “The Prisoner of the Caucasus” and “The Fountain of Bakhchisarai”. Left to himself in Kishinev, Alexander composed “The Song of Wise Oleg” and also started writing the verse novel “Eugene Onegin”. Meanwhile, the poet's works were first published in St. Petersburg, so he became popular as a poet and writer.
In 1823, following approval to transfer to the office of Count Vorontsov, Alexander Pushkin relocated to Odessa. Unfortunately, he was unable to establish a rapport with his superiors, and soon thereafter, the poet tendered his resignation. Shortly before that, the police in Moscow opened Pushkin's letter to his lyceum friend, Küchelbecker, and deemed its contents unacceptable to such an extent that Pushkin was compelled to resign and subsequently exiled. For the next two years, the poet stayed in the family estate in Mikhailovskoye village, the Pskov Region, under supervision and without pay.
In Mikhailovskoye, Pushkin lived alone as his relatives had left the estate. The only one who brightened up his loneliness was nanny Arina Rodionovna. The nanny's tales and folk songs greatly influenced the works of Alexander, and her literary persona appeared in some of his pieces. During this period, Pushkin wrote the tragedy “Boris Godunov”, which became a new stage in his oeuvre.
Following the death of Alexander the First at the end of 1825, Pushkin held out hope for clemency from the new emperor, but his previous connections with the Decembrist who arranged the uprising ultimately precluded him from such an outcome. However, after his first collection, “Poems of Alexander Pushkin”, was published in 1826 and the poet gained nationwide love, Nikolay the First invited him to an audience in St. Petersburg. The emperor planned that Pushkin would become a court poet but, eventually, they had no agreement because Alexander kept being free-thinking, which did not suit the conservative authorities. The authorities set supervision over Pushkin and restricted his movements.
In 1829, the poet met Natalia Goncharova at a dance ball and fell in love with a 16-year-old girl at once. A few months later he proposed to her but Natalia's parents did not approve of the wedding. Frustrated Pushkin went to his brother in the Caucasus. Having returned from the Caucasus, Alexander asked in marriage again and received approval this time. All he needed before the wedding was to resolve the issue with his property. Pushkin went to another family estate in Boldino, the Nizhny Novgorod Province, where the poet's father allotted him a part of the estate and two hundred peasants. However, he had to stay in Boldino for the entire autumn because of the cholera epidemic and the quarantine that followed. Here, Alexander finished “Eugene Onegin” and wrote many other works in a short time. In December 1830, Pushkin returned to Moscow and soon married his beloved.
In 1831, the poet was hired to write the History of Peter. However, he quickly became fascinated by the image of the peasant uprising leader, Yemelyan Pugachev, and even went on a small expedition to the places of the uprising to collect material for his novel.
Afterwards, in the autumn of 1833, Pushkin went to Boldino again where he finished his scientific work, “The History of Pugachev”, wrote “The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish”, “The Tale of the Dead Princess and the Seven Knights”, poem “The Bronze Horseman” that was banned for publication, and began working on “The Queen of Spades”.
After returning to St. Petersburg, Pushkin tried to leave the service or at least get a long vacation but the proposed conditions did not suit him, so he remained in the capital. Those years were characterized by a stagnation in the poet's work since some works were banned from publication and others came out with difficulty and did not receive wide recognition. Furthermore, Pushkin experimented a lot, and those changes did not find a response from the reader.
In 1836, Pushkin received permission to publish an almanack called “Sovremennik” (“The Contemporary”) where his works and other works of eminent poets and writers, such as Nikolay Gogol, Ivan Turgenev, Vasily Zhukovsky, were published. However, the title turned out to be unprofitable, and Pushkin decided to publish his novel, “The Captain's Daughter”, there in order to raise the number of subscribers. The work on the magazine took all the time of the poet.
In November of 1836, dirty rumours and anonymous libels about the courtship of cavalry guard Georges d'Anthès for Natalia Goncharova began to spread. Pushkin challenged d’Anthès to a duel, which was postponed and then cancelled due to the marriage between the Frenchman and Natalia Goncharova's sister Catherine. However, the marriage did not change the behaviour of d’Anthès, and all sorts of rumours with offensive allusions to Natalia remained. On January 26 (February 7), 1837, Pushkin sent an insulting letter to Louis Heckern, the offender's adoptive father who served as the Holland ambassador in Russia, which resulted in a challenge to a duel. The diplomat could not be a party in a duel, so d’Anthès represented him. The duel took place the next day on the Black River. Pushkin was wounded in the stomach, which was considered fatal at that time. Alexander died a day later, on January 29 (February 10). Half of the population of St. Petersburg came to the funeral of the great Russian poet. Pushkin's body was buried on the territory of the Assumption Monastery of Svyatogorsk of the Pskov Province, near his mother's grave.