What is the complex relationship between historical context and literary language in The Bronze Horseman by Alexander Pushkin?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The Bronze Horseman by Alexander Pushkin is a long poem that takes as a title a statue of Peter the Great or Peter I of Russia (1672 – 1725). As Tsar, Peter was responsible for modernizing Russia, importing many of the ideas of the European Enlightenment, and expanding Russia by military conquest and strategic alliance. This is one element of the historical context of the poem; the other major contextual element is the great flood that inundated St. Petersburg in 1824. 

Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (1799 -1837) was a poet with reformist leanings who had an uneasy relationship with the Russian government of his period. In this poem, his ambiguous relationship with Russia's past and present is expressed using literary devices that emphasize the hybrid nature of Russian society, blending echoes of Old Church Slavonic, representing Russia's religious tradition, colloquial and formal Russian phrases, and Gallicism representing European and Enlightenment traditions and influences. 

Peter himself and his statue represent both the potential greatness of Russia and its successful blending of many different threads of influence from both west and east, but also the way in which the progress of Russia herself can sweep away individuals in her path much as the flood swept away houses. 


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