Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin was born in Moscow, Russia, on June 6, 1799. His mother, Nadezhda Osipovna, née Hannibal, was a descendant of the Abyssinian (Ethiopian) godson of Peter the Great. Sergei Lvovich Pushkin, his father, was the son of an old noble family; his ancestor Afanasy Pushkin makes an appearance in Boris Godunov. Although close to his older sister, Pushkin never developed a warm relationship with his parents. French was the language of the household, and the family belonged to a society of aristocrats who lived beyond their means and engaged in an endless round of social activities, including theatricals and contact with the poets of the day. Pushkin is said to have done his first writing in French.
When Pushkin was twelve, his parents sent him to the newly opened lycée at Tsarskoe Selo. It was there that he received his six years of formal education, doing his best work in Russian and French literature. The friendships he formed at the lycée, especially with his fellow poet, Baron Anton Delvig, were the closest of his entire life. He was graduated in 1817 and entered into an undemanding position in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in St. Petersburg. Pushkin immediately plunged into a life of the theater and ballet, drinking and women, spending his less frenetic hours on discussions of subversive liberal ideas with his friends. His liberal sympathies found their way into his verse, and he was sent to the Caucasus, to a...
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