Visions of History: Chance and Certainty in A. S. Pushkin’s The Bronze Horseman and Boris Godunov

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This paper advances the findings of Alexander Dolinin and Svetlana Evdokhimova relating to A. S. Pushkin’s view of history by advocating the significance of a combination of irrational with rational elements in charting history. In both Boris Godunov (1825) and The Bronze Horseman (1833), Pushkin (1799-1837) provides visions of history in which the forces of chance and certainty are key factors in determining the course of Russia’s rise to great power status. Influenced by Shakespearian tragedy and by N. M. Karamzin’s History of the Russian State (1816-26), in Boris Godunov he develops a concept of history as a dynamic, non-linear process, without a simple repetition of events. Using historicisms to link the past with the present, he recognizes the importance of narrative and the chronicler, on the one hand, and chance occurrences and historical coincidence, on the other. In The Bronze Horseman dialogue with the eighteenth-century odic tradition contributes to dual interpretations of the 1703 founding of St Petersburg. Socio-political and moral themes are reflected in the linguistic contrast of church slavonicisms with colloquial terminology. Arising from the clash between the determinedly hard elements of St Petersburg and the more anarchic, soft ones of the River Neva, the Bronze Horseman may also be perceived as, in part, a natural emblem as it bears traits of the tree of life, bringing to mind the myth of Perun, the Slavic storm-god. For Pushkin, neither the guilt-ridden Boris Godunov, nor the visionary Peter the Great, a figure of Napoleonic volition, is able to impose the certainty of reason on chance occurrences without releasing a natural backlash arising from Russia’s mythical past and the haphazard pattern inherent in historical unpredictability.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the ICCEES IX World Congress 2015
Place of PublicationMakuhari, Japan
PublisherKanda University of International Studies
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2015
EventProceedings of the ICCEES IX World Congress 2015 - Kanda University of International Studies, Makuhari, Japan, 3-8 Aug 2015
Duration: 4 Aug 2015 → …


ConferenceProceedings of the ICCEES IX World Congress 2015
Period4/08/15 → …

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