(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The Bronze Horseman is regarded as one of Pushkin’s masterpieces. Pushkin created the poem out of a complex web of personal, literary, and political themes, so that it is not surprising that interpretations of the poem have differed widely.

The poem consists of an introductory section and two parts. The title is taken from the statue of Peter the Great that stands in St. Petersburg on the banks of the Neva. Pushkin based the poem on a historical incident, namely the devastating flood that hit St. Petersburg in 1824. The introduction, however, begins many years before the flood. Peter the Great is depicted as standing on the site that was to become St. Petersburg, looking out over the desolate waters of the Baltic. He sees only swampy marshlands and dark woods but fatefully declares the founding of a great city that will “open a window onto Europe.” One hundred years have passed since Peter’s vision, and there is a prosperous city in place of the marshland. The thoughts and impressions of the narrator become enmeshed with the description of the city. He speaks of his love for the austere harmony of the city, praising Peter’s creation.

In part 1 of the poem, there is an abrupt change in tone. It is a cold, windy day in St. Petersburg as a young man named Eugene makes his way home. Once safely home, he tries to go to sleep but is kept awake by his own worries. He wants to gain his share of financial independence, even though he will have to work hard to do so. He is also kept awake by thoughts of the rising river. If the bridges are flooded, he will be separated from his betrothed, who lives on one of the islands in the Neva.

The next morning the city is flooded. Pushkin’s description of the flood is one of the most famous passages of Russian literature. The scene is one of chaos and destruction, such that even the czar is powerless. Eugene sits astride a marble lion near the statue of...

(The entire section is 793 words.)