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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 296

"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.

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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.

The Poem

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 675

Peter the Great, astride his bronze horse, stands on the desolate Baltic shore on the northwest borders of his domain and gazes off into the distance. The very landscape around him seems unformed, unclear: the land soft and marshy, the sun shrouded in mist, the Finnish huts flimsy and temporary. Peter’s design, however, is quite clear. Here, on the delta of the river Neva, out of nothing, he will build St. Petersburg, a fortress against the powerful Swedes, a new capital, a magnet to ships of all nations, a “window into Europe.”

One hundred years passed, according to the narrator, and the city grew into a busy port, into a strategic fortress, and into a network of granite-faced rivers and canals lined with palaces, parks, and gardens, a metropolis whose power and elegance put dowdy old Moscow, the “dowager” capital, decidedly in the shade. It is all Peter’s creation: the majesty of the architecture, the vast expanses of the city lit by the “white nights” of early summer, the sounds of winter—of sleighs and lavish balls—the sights and sounds of imperial troops on parade. Let the city flaunt its beauty, and let Peter’s eternal sleep go undisturbed, says the narrator. However, there is a certain, terrible time and a sad story to be told.

On a dark November evening in 1824, a young man named Evgeny lies in his rented rooms in an unfashionable suburban quarter and listens to the rain and wind. He cannot sleep, and he thinks idly that it would be nice to have more brains and money or at least to have someone else’s better luck. However, he does not bother mourning his more illustrious ancestors or envying them, either. Instead, his thoughts turn to his beloved Parasha, whom he hopes to marry one day. They will find a little place to live, and they will have children; a peaceful, humdrum life will go on until those children’s children will, one day, bury him and faithful Parasha....

(The entire section contains 1644 words.)

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Critical Essays