The Captain's Daughter

by Alexander Pushkin

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*Simbirsk (sihm-BEERSK). Russian town (later renamed Ulyanovsk) on the Volga River 485 miles east of Moscow. In one of Simbirsk’s surrounding rural regions, Piotr’s father received a plot of land, probably after his career of military service. The town’s distance from the civilized cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg serves to show that his military service was, although honest, perhaps less than brilliant. This is also suggested when he reads in the “Court Calendar” that his peers are now high-ranking general officers. In a Simbirsk tavern, the young Piotr loses one-hundred rubles in a drunken gambling bout at the first stop en route to his military assignment. Through this experience, Piotr breaks free of his parents’ control and takes his first steps toward independence.

*St. Petersburg

*St. Petersburg. Capital of Russia and center of imperial power, high society, and culture. As a nobleman, young Piotr was registered here on paper, though he lived in Simbirsk, as a sergeant with the largely ceremonial Semyonovsky Guards Regiment. When his father realizes that young Piotr is learning little in Simbirsk from his expensive, foreign tutor, he decides it is time to allow life experience on Russia’s frontier to educate the young boy. Piotr’s father refuses to approve an easy capital assignment and requests that an old friend assign Piotr to service in Orenburg—a town geographically and culturally remote from St. Petersburg.


*Orenburg. Russian town in the southern Ural mountain range roughly three hundred miles to the southeast of Simbirsk. In the eighteenth century, Orenburg was the regional military and administrative center of this turbulent province on the Russian frontier. Serfs seeking freedom from horrible working conditions on European estates competed with ethnic German settlers, Yaikian people indigenous to central Asia, and Cossacks for limited arable land. This mix of influences made the region, tenuously under the control of the Russian Empire, unstable.

Bailogorsk fortress

Bailogorsk fortress. Outpost to which Piotr is assigned and where most of the story’s action occurs. It is located approximately twenty-five miles from Orenburg, the term “fortress” being a rather exaggerated description of the small, walled village. The fortress is where Piotr meets the captain’s daughter, Maria Ivanovna, a shy, but stalwart woman, representing the best qualities of the simple Russian. The fortress quickly falls to Pougatcheff’s men after widespread desertion by the local troops and a minor skirmish. It is recaptured just as easily during the suppression of the rebellion.

*Tsarskoe Selo

*Tsarskoe Selo (TSAHR-skoy-ye sih-LOH). Location of the royal summer palace, approximately twenty miles south of St. Petersburg. Translated literally, its name means “Czar’s Village.” Coincidentally, the town was later renamed “Pushkin,” in honor of the novel’s author. Alexander Pushkin often frequented Tsarskoe Selo and would have been very familiar with the gardens and palaces that he describes when Maria Ivanovna meets the empress. Although Tsarskoe Selo was the actual place where the empress would have resided, its location so close to St. Petersburg is ironic in that Piotr’s salvation comes from the very place that his father was certain would lead to his ruin.


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Bayley, John. Pushkin: A Comparative Commentary. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1971. A good introduction to Pushkin’s work, with a particularly fine analysis of the later prose tales. Integrates biographical information with analysis of basic themes and structures of the major works. Also discusses Pushkin’s works in the context of European romanticism.

Debreczeny, Paul. The Other Pushkin: A Study of Alexander Pushkin’s Prose Fiction . Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1983. The only complete survey of Pushkin’s prose...

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work. Includes a gloss of previous discussions and a thorough study ofThe Captain’s Daughter. Extensive notes on the contemporary context of the works, combined with detailed narrative analysis.

Driver, Sam. Pushkin: Literature and Social Ideas. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989. Considers the poet as an engaged social thinker rather than an alienated romantic poet. Traces the development of Pushkin’s social ideas and his involvement in contemporary politics. Devotes considerable discussion to issues of censorship and to Pushkin’s relationship with the Czar as it is revealed in his prose.

Richards, D. J., and C. R. S. Cockerell, eds. and trans. Russian Views of Pushkin. Oxford, England: Willem Meeuws, 1976. A wide-ranging collection of Russian essays about Push-kin’s verse and prose spanning the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Includes important discussions of his major works and covers contemporary social issues, narrative structure, and thematic organization.

Simmons, Ernest J. Pushkin. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1937. A solid survey of Pushkin’s life and some discussion of his major works. Also discusses Pushkin’s manuscript and includes facsimile pages. Considered the standard biography of the writer.


Critical Essays