The Bronze Horseman

by Alexander Pushkin

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

"The Bronze Horseman" by Alexander Pushkin is about the weight of history and how the glories, as well as the tragedies, of the past shape the present. The first part of the narrative poem summarizes the heroism of Peter the Great. After his death, he becomes a mythical figure and the city of St. Petersburg, which he himself founded, becomes the architectural and physical embodiment of his legendary deeds.

The second part of the poem features a hapless young man, Evgeny, who is in love with a woman, Parasha, but recognizes that he is no one important in society and most likely will never be as accomplished as his ancestors. This character is the polar opposite of Peter the Great. Evgeny's depressive mood seems to mirror the drab urban sprawl of St. Petersburg.

Evgeny can't seem to catch even minor luck or fortune. When a major flood destroys large portions of the city, including his beloved's neighborhood and there is hinting of Parasha's death, he becomes mentally distraught.

His homelessness and aimless wandering is in contrast to Peter the Great's militaristic mentality of having concrete objectives in life and possessing a divine sense of purpose. Evgeny angrily threatens the bronze statue of Peter for saving him and not Parasha, as well as representing the arrogant Peter the Great who built this city of sadness.

This illustrates the feelings of many ordinary citizens about their past leaders, who sit high on their horse for establishing a town—usually through conquest and bloodshed—but cannot relate to the struggles of the common man.

When Peter's statue comes to life and chases Evgeny, this is a metaphor for the past haunting the present; no matter how controversial an ancient leader may be, they demand authoritarian-level respect from the commoners.

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