Rational and irrational elements in A. S. Puskin's view of historical conflict in Boris Godunov and Mednyj Vsadnik

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N. M. Karamzin’s Istoriya gosudarstva Rossiiskogo (1816-26) served as a great inspiration for A. S. Pushkin’s Boris Godunov (1825). However, the latter does not simply recreate the Russian past of his predecessor’s Istoriya but, flawing the ideas of the Enlightenment and the Romantic Movement, adds a new dimension to historical conflict by revealing a clash between rational ideas and principles in history, on the one hand, and the forces of the irrational (i.e. historical chance and coincidence), on the other. The Russian populace, with its belief in miracles, is seen as a symbol of the irrational nature of the folk mind in contrast to having a Europeanized consciousness. Mednyi vsadnik (1833) acts both as a dialogue with the eighteenth-century Russian odic tradition and as a synthesis of the past and present through causal analysis. It reflects the two main contradictory traditions of interpretation of the founding of St Petersburg in 1703. This produces a state of conflict between the unnaturally rational frame of mind of Peter the Great and Evgenii’s irrationally natural rebellion, hallucinations, and consequent madness. Boris Godunov and Peter the Great are unable to impose order and reason on a world of disorder without unleashing those unpredictable, irrational elemental forces which they are attempting to quell.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 1989
EventHumanities Conference - Faculty of Education, University of Szeged, Hungary, 20 April 1989
Duration: 20 Apr 1989 → …


ConferenceHumanities Conference
Period20/04/89 → …


  • Pushkin
  • historical conflict
  • Boris Godunov
  • Mednyi vsadnik
  • The Bronze Horseman
  • St Petersburg
  • Peter the Great
  • Karamzin
  • Istoriya gosudarstva Rossiiskogo
  • History of the Russian State
  • The Enlightenment
  • The Romantic Movement
  • eighteenth-century Russian odic tradition
  • nineteenth-century Russian literature
  • Russian history
  • Russian historical linguistics.


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