Mednyj vsadnik (Медный всадник)

  • Country in which the text is set
    Russia
  • Featured locations
    Saint Petersburg
  • Impact
    "The Bronze Horseman: A Petersburg Tale" (Russian: Медный всадник: Петербургская повесть, literally: "The Copper Horseman") is a narrative poem written by Aleksandr Pushkin in 1833 about the equestrian statue of Peter the Great in Saint Petersburg. Widely considered to be Pushkin's most successful narrative poem, "The Bronze Horseman" has had a lasting impact on Russian literature. The statue became known as the Bronze Horseman due to the great influence of the poem; Anciferov called it the "genius loci of Petersburg" in 1922.

    Pushkin wrote "The Bronze Horseman" between October 6 and October 31 1833 while he was staying on his family's estate at Boldino. Due to censorship, only the prologue was allowed to be published during the poet's lifetime. It appeared in 1834 under the title "Petersburg. An extract from a poem" ('"Петербург”. Отрывок из поэмы') in the journal Library for Reading (Библиотека для чтения).

    The poem was first published in full as "The Bronze Horseman" only posthumously in 1837. It was printed in the journal Sovremennik (Современник), which Pushkin had launched a year earlier. Even then, the censor demanded certain minor adjustments.

    Saint Petersburg, the city which provides the foundation of the poem, was in fact constructed on territory newly gained from the Swedes in the Great Northern War, and Peter himself chose the site for the founding of a major city because it provided Russia with access to the Baltic Sea, and thus to the Atlantic and Europe.

    Critics point to Pushkin's extensive use of Old Testament language and allusions when describing both the founding of St Petersburg and the flood and argue that they draw heavily on the Book of Genesis. The poem could be called a national epic, due to its idiosyncratic properties.

    One of the poem’s western critics argues that the passages recounting the creation of Saint Petersburg resemble the Greek myth of Zeus giving birth to Athena, and suggests that the flood corresponds to the frequent use of water as a metaphor for birth in many cultures. It is for this reason that imagery of Peter and the Neva River is clearly gendered: the tzar is obviously male and the river female.

    The narrative poem “The Bronze Horseman” has had an enormous influence on Russian culture. Nikolay Gogol developed the theme of an unimportant humble person in his famous “A Coat,” where Akakiy Akakiyevich Bashmachkin suffers in his struggle to exist in the big city and ultimately perishes, becoming a grotesque demon robbing passers-by of their expensive coats. Dostoevsky's The Double: A Petersburg Poem [Двойник] (1846) directly engages with "The Bronze Horseman", treating Evgenij's madness as a parody. Andrei Belyi's novel Petersburg [Петербург] (1913; 1922) uses the Bronze Horseman as a metaphor for the centre of power in the city of Petersburg, which itself functions as a living entity and the main character of Belyi's novel.

    Polina Lisovskaya

  • Balticness
    The conflict between the statue and the poor Evgenij can be seen as a conflict between an individual and the autocracy, typical for the Tsar Empire. The description of the creation of the city by the Baltic Sea which is destined to “strike terror in the Swede”, thus picturing the Other as neighbouring enemy, remains one of the most beloved and cited lines from Russian poetry of the nineteenth century.

    Polina Lisovskaya

  • Translations
    Language Year Translator
    English 1882 C. E. Turner
    English 1955 Waclaw Lednicki
    English 1982 D. M. Thomas
    English 2008 Alistair Noon
    Finnish 1999 Aarno Saleva
    German 1891 anonymous
    German 1898 A. Lupus
    German 1922 Wolfgang E. Groeger
    German 1952 Johannes von Günther
    German 1972 Manfred von der Ropp
    German 1995 Rolf-Dietrich Keil
    Polish 1843 Marcin Szymanowski
    Polish 1932 Julian Tuwim
    Swedish 1989 Hans Björkegren (abridged)
  • Year of first publication
    1837
  • Place of first publication
    Journal Sovremennik

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