Senior Capstone 2011

Russia, a land as vast and different as the people and languages occupying it, possesses an austere history replete with continuous change. Its diverse population, made of Caucasians, Arabs, Asians, and others add to its beauty as a country and its uniqueness from other countries. Russia’s own culture is a melting pot, with customs, literatures, and languages brought in from Western Europe and even Siberia and China. Russia’s culture is not necessarily unique to its own particular area since the country of Russia is made of varying peoples, literatures, and languages from other regions. Russia, like Ancient Rome, borrowed elements from other cultures, adopting them as their own or augmenting them with a Russian twist. These elements combined to develop the history of Russia as it changed from tribal kingdoms to a powerful empire to a Communist regime and now presently to democracy. Yet within the great landscape of Russian history, there is one particular time frame wherein outside influences became heavily prevalent in the culture of Russia and the advent of such a movement possibly changed it forever.

A great majority of Russia’s history was spent as an Imperial Empire. This time period ranged from 1672 with the reign of Peter the Great and ended in 1917 under the reign of Tsar Nicholas II. Upon the coronation of Peter as Tsar over Russia, Russia was suddenly opened to the Western world through their new tsar. His primary desire was to make Russia a great power, “its state and society based on technology and an organization aimed at maximizing production[1].” Although his main desire was to reform the military and navy, Peter I, devoted his energies to “Europeanizing” Russia “by introducing the fruits of the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Age of Discovery, and the Scientific Revolution[2].” These he accomplished using printing presses, introducing Western literature (as well as Western social customs), reforming the Orthodox Church, expanding his Empire in the Orient, as well starting new ventures in science, art, and technology[3]. While these changes did help Russia reach a higher place in the sight of the western world, he was not above criticism. Peter I inevitably earned the titles “Anti-Christ, the ‘Bronze Horseman’, first Bolshevik, brutal despot, cult figure and personification of a totalitarian-style dictatorship bent on forcible expansion[4].” Despite other’s antagonisms towards his Westernization of Russia, Peter I’s reforms kicked off a steady avalanche of reforms that never really ceased. In fact, even in the days of the Bolshevik revolution, Russia was still being reformed. Soon after Peter I’s death in 1725, Russia was launched in the greatest series of Western reforms ever—the Enlightenment and eventually the period of Romanticism, which is the literary period of primary focus in this essay.

The enlightenment period essentially repeated and strengthened Peter’s reforms but they also heightened the amount of Western influence to such a point, that in 1801, with the rise of Alexander I, Russia was almost just another Western European nation. Prior to 1801, Catherine the Great brought about a huge literary influx in Russia where Western Enlightenment ideas began to creep into Russian society. Such ideas included the importance of Reason, science, a study of classical culture and philosophy; also included was the advent of the Industrial Revolution in more Western countries. With the rise of Alexander I in the early years of the nineteenth century, Russia soon found itself in a new world of thinking. Western Europe, by the time of the early 19th century, had come into the world of Romanticism. As with all philosophical, literary, and political movements, there is always a reaction (and revolution) to the previous movement. As Russia followed Western trends of culture and philosophy, Russia found its ideals of reform to be much different than the previous era.

With the advent of Romanticism inevitably came the rise of nationalism. As in other western countries, Russian romanticism turned from classical empiricism and rationalism to the importance of the emotions, the importance of the individual, the distrust of organized religion, the influence of nature, individual creativity, nationalism, and many other things. With Romanticism came the rise of the intelligentsia, a group of young intellectuals who sought to reform Russia according to their own schemes, either under the Westernizer banner or the Slavophile banner. The intellectuals were well known for their writings in philosophy, literature, and political idealism, but among these writers rises a poet named Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin. Pushkin, as Freeze states, was perhaps one of the greatest Russian poets of all time and  was their first national poet[5]. As D.S. Mirsky will say, “Russians flatly affirm that Pushkin is a greater poet –than any of these [Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats], polite people will be apt to regard the statement as an exaggerated form of otherwise highly commendable patriotic feeling[6].” Despite our Western criticism of Pushkin in the light of our own literature, Pushkin actually has a great deal of Western influence within the lines of his poetry. Scholars will most commonly state Byron as an influence in Pushkin’s poetry, but there is another writer whose influence in Pushkin’s poetry as well as Russia in general is pretty much unheard of. That man is Sir Walter Scott, a fellow native (of Byron) of that northern spit of the British Isles we call Scotland. Scott’s influence is surprisingly significant in Pushkin’s poetry and together with the force of Romanticism makes Pushkin’s poetry a new nationalistic brand of Russian poetry, one that has western influences with a Russian creative twist.

Many questions have to be asked in order to understand the poet and his Scottish influence. First of all, who was Alexander Pushkin? What was his poetry like? And who is Sir Walter Scott and what does he have to do with a Russian poet in the early 19th century? And how do both these writers fit in Romanticism for each of their respective countries? Such questions and more shall be answered.

First of all, who was Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin? Pushkin was born on June 6, 1799 in Moscow to Sergei Pushkin and Nadezhda Hannibal, the heir to mixed but incredible family history[7]. On his mother’s side, one of his grandfathers was a black Abyssinian slave who had been brought to Constantinople and stolen by the Russian envoy[8]. The grandfather Abram Petrovich Hannibal became the godson of Peter the Great and, after receiving a fine education, went into the military where he died a man full of years as a general in the engineering corps[9]. His poetic grandson, who possessed thick lips and curly hair, was proud of his heritage and called himself “a descendant of negroes”[10]. On his father’s side, his heritage was no less grand. Here is a quote from W.E.B du Bois’ monograph of the poet:

The Pushkins were among the oldest families of the Russian nobility and appeared in Russian history as early as the thirteenth century. Seven Pushkins were members of the Parliament of 1613 which called the Romanovs to the throne of Russia, and in the seventeenth century three Pushkins were boyars. In 1698 a Pushkin took part in the conspiracy of the Streltsi and was beheaded by Peter the Great[11].

Due to this elegant and privileged heritage on both sides of the family, Pushkin grew up as a part of the Russian noble class and was therefore given an excellent education early on, learning French and literature[12]. His writing career began quite early at the age of twelve and “despite his surroundings became distinctly Russian and nationalist in sympathy”[13]. It was also at this time when his parents sent him to the lyceum of Tsarskoe Selo which had been founded by the Emperor Alexander[14]. There he spent six years studying Latin, literature, law, political economy and philosophy[15]. It was during his years of being at the Lyceum that Russia declared war on Napoleon; this became a time period of great national pride and strength in Russia. It was during these years at the Lyceum that Pushkin earned a reputation as a poet—his works being published in the school magazines—and after exiting the college at the age of eighteen, he was already recognized as a national poet[16]. He moved to St. Petersburg where he became employed at the Foreign Office, but due to his relatively slow job, he pursued his literary career and a “fast life”[17]. After publishing some very radical poems (one of which advocated political murder), he was exiled to southern Russia[18]. He spent six years in exile, exploring the Crimea and Caucasus regions and finally returned to Moscow after the death of Tsar Alexander I[19]. He only lived there four years but within those years many things happened[20]. For one thing, he continued his life of lasciviousness and still maintained his liberal ideals[21]. It was also in this time of his life where he met his future wife, Nathalie Goncharova[22]. He still remembered with longing the Caucasus region and the time he spent there while in exile so he ran away there to serve in the army[23]. While there, he still began to write poetry and after a few battles he returned to Moscow where found himself once again in disagreement and under suspicion from the government[24]. He desired to serve his Emperor abroad in Western Europe or China but was denied[25]. He finally found a job working with a friend on a literary magazine called the Literary Gazette[26]. Overall it was not successful against the army of “unscrupulous journalists who had the monopoly of publishing foreign political news”; however, the magazine still had prestige during its short life span as having a high literary standard—most of the poetry was actually Pushkin’s[27]. He finally married Nathalie in 1831 and because of pressure from her family (she was thirteen years younger than he and quite delicate), he made requests for government grants and received them; he was given an estate near Nizhni Novgorod[28]. After his marriage to Nathalie, the couple grew in favor with the court and kept a house in St. Petersburg[29]. While his wife played the social game, he was busy housekeeping and maintaining finances[30]. His favor with the Russian court kept him at odds with the left wing of the Russian literary group, led by Gogol; their remarks of his sphere of influence were most condemnatory: they called him “reactionary” and discredited all the work he had done since 1831[31]. After this condemnation, his poetry became more austere and impersonal[32]. His social life, and especially that of his wife, got the better of their marriage since Nathalie was having an affair with an Alsatian officer, d’Anthes[33]. Injured by this assault on his honor, Pushkin challenged the man to a duel in 1834 but the affair was abandoned for a few years until 1837 when Pushkin challenged the man to a duel secretly[34]. Pushkin fell mortally wounded that day, January 29, 1837[35]. His death had an incredible effect on the public and received surprisingly immense popularity[36]. He died as Russia’s greatest poet and the founder of modern Russian literature[37].

So what was Pushkin’s poetry like and what themes did it contain that would bear the influence of Sir Walter Scott? Pushkin’s poetry and his life as well have been described by Mirsky as not being like the intelligentsia[38]. His poetry embodies many differences which make him have more in common with the intelligentsia of the previous age[39]. He “was of another Russia than the literature of the intelligentsia”[40]. This was due to the political situation as well as the difference between the literatures the different groups read.

Pushkin’s generation had been bred on French, Classical and XVIIIth century literature; on Adam Smith, Bentham and Benjamin Constant; on Latin lucidity and on common sense, on rules and good taste. The next generation were bred on German idealism and English Byronism; on Schiller, Schelling, and Shakespeare in the version of Schlegel; on Teutonic obscurity and on metaphysics, on Sehnsucht and the freedom of genius[41].

This division inevitably made a great difference in his writing as opposed to the later generations and would make one have the conjecture that his poetry bore more resemblance to Enlightenment poetry. Perhaps, but one must look at his poetry and the history of his life to understand that. But where does Sir Walter Scott fit into all this? How did a Scottish author become influential in Russia? As Militsa Greene suggests, Russia became introduced to Sir Walter Scott’s novels through the French enlightenment, especially in the 1820’s and 1830’s[42]. “Russia was quite hypnotized by Sir Walter Scott”[43]. It is only fitting then for Pushkin to be influenced by such literature due to his classical French education. According to Greene, there is evidence that Pushkin became familiar with Scott in the 1820’s[44]. In 1824, the name of Scott became quite frequent in Pushkin’s letters and articles[45]. In fact, Puskin wrote that year that “Sir Walter Scott is food for the soul”[46]. Both men, who were contemporaries of each other (Scott lived 1771-1832), had the same opinion about Byron’s Don Juan, which made Pushkin feel joyous[47]. He made great efforts to collect Scott’s books and even tried to make “the whole of Sir Walter Scott” one of the things on Onegin’s reading list[48]. Other characters in his novels had similar influences with Scott. Graf Nulin, in Pushkin’s poem Count Nulin, arrives in Paris with one of Scott’s novels[49]. Pushkin, as evidenced by Greene’s article and others, was obsessed with Scott, as was Russia. Russia beheld Scotland as a dream land but the obsession of Scott didn’t last long; by the 1840’s it was over[50].  Before being influenced by Scott, Pushkin was influenced by the works of Byron. Byron was heavily influential to him as he wrote his poetry in the Caucasus region[51].  However, this affiliation with the English poet was to be short-lived, as Victor Zhirmunski writes:

While the French influences to which he was subject during his Lycee period and up until his exile to the South (1820) were absorbed for the most part passively, Pushkin’s interest in Byron during the years in the South (1820-1824) very soon developed into a wrestling match with the English poet as a result of which he succeeded in rising above the limitations of the latter’s romantic individualism. His response to the influence of Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott from the time of his exile at Mikhailovskoye onwards, took the form of creative emulation in solving literary problems similar to those with which they had been faced, connected with a realistic portrayal of life[52].

Therefore it is through Scott’s influence that Pushkin achieved his full creative genius, his “muse”. But as Zhirmunski states, Pushkin didn’t merely emulate Western writers; he joined them in “evolving European literature”[53]. His influence with Scott is present both in his poetry and his novels. Sir Walter Scott is quite well known as the master of the historical novel. Scott’s influence in this area of literature has been described, “in our age it is impossible for a poet not to remind one of Byron or a novelist not to remind one of Scott”[54]. In order to understand Scott’s influence in Pushkin’s works of literature, one must have a brief understanding of Scott’s ideas within his novels.

According to Zhirmunski, the overarching theme of Scott’s novels is looking at the events of the past as they are reflected in everyday life and in the lives of those ordinary people[55]. These events then become entwined with personal memoirs or a family chronicle and the imaginary heroes become the foreground of that novel[56]. However, the heroes are only shown in the background, as in Rob Roy, but do get pushed occasionally into the circle of everyday life to make them real[57]. The chief characters are often engaged in some sort of love interest, but the social background is filled with “popular, democratic types”[58]. Pushkin imitated such literature in his novels, such as Boris Godunov, and sought to create realistic historical novels that were “bound up with important and critical changes in national development”[59]. Pushkin deals with several Russian historical issues in his novels which emulate Scott’s own literary work. These are the Europeanization of Muscovite Russia during the reign of Peter the First, when “Russia came into Europe like a launched vessel amid the hammering of axes and the thunder of cannons” and the peasant revolt under the reign of Catherine the Great[60]. These events effectively challenged the rule of the established nobility and also put Russia on the track toward enlightenment and romanticism[61]. In Pushkin’s novel Dubrovsky, the issue of despotic Russian landlordism is considered where an impoverished member of an old aristocratic family becomes a victim to such tyranny[62]. Such an idea was actually inspired by watching normal Russian life and Scott uses the same muse in his novels[63]. In fact, the Bride of Lammermoor is quite similar to Dobrovsky as far as imitating similar issues of despotism in the life of ordinary people[64]. Both authors also use careful documentation when creating their novels[65]. Pushkin, in The Captain’s Daughter, parallels the “History of Pugachov” and even visited people to collect information about Pugachov which had already passed into legend[66]. He did this for most of his books since he wasn’t fond of written sources; instead, he visited the places he wrote about to experience the history for himself[67]. There are actually several differences between Scott’s historical novels and Pushkin’s which Zhirmunski explains. First Pushkin’s novels do not collapse into pure historical detail which in turn morphs into “local colour” as Scott is wont to do[68]. The historical events in Pushkin’s novels are closely tied and often intermingled with ordinary life, as in The Negro of Peter the Great and The Captain’s Daughter, which he thought essential in writing historical novels[69]. The second difference is the manner of characterization of the “heroes” in Pushkin’s novels. As Zhirmunski explains, Pushkin’s “heroes”, especially in The Captain’s Daughter, are “less a novelist’s characters than Walter Scott’s heroes. They are the obscure people in whose fortunes Pushkin took such a keen interest during the latter period of his literary development (cf. The Stationmaster) and whom he represented as genuinely human, universal types, thus to a certain extent anticipating the heroes of Gogol and Dostoevsky”[70]. Furthermore, the “extraordinary conciseness, classical lucidity, and sobriety” of Pushkin’s narrative style heavily contrast the emotional style of the British romantic novel[71]. Nevertheless, there are still more similarities between Pushkin and Scott than what Zhirmunski has briefly explained.

Within any novel or poem, there are a great number of items which occasion themselves to be essential to that form of literature or style period of literature. Within the genre of poetry, there are the characteristics of meter, rhyme, individuality (as seen in Romantic period poetry), emotionalism, naturalism, nationalism, motifs, etc. Using Mark Altshuller’s article, one can understand the various motifs between Scott’s Fair Maid of Perth and Pushkin’s poem Tazit and their similarities and differences. Pushkin wrote this particular poem between the years 1829 and 1830 just after he came back from Arzrum but it wasn’t published until after his death[72]. After coming back from the area he had previously visited some ten years before, Pushkin’s writing style had changed by then and, as mentioned before, emulated Scott more than Byron[73]. In fact the difference was so great that Belinskij said “the great difference between ‘Kavkazskij plennik’and ‘Galub’ [and that] the two poema seem to be written in different centuries by different poets.[74]” This poem focuses on the “opposition between humane Christian principles, embodied in the main hero, and the cruel mores and customs of the mountain tribe”[75]. While Belinskij stated that this poem was “one of Pushkin’s great artistic creations”[76]. However, experts couldn’t explain Pushkin’s literary genesis on this poem and therefore sought to abandon searching for literary sources[77]. However, Scott’s Fair Maid of Perth has a very important influence in this poem, overlooked until Altshuller discussed it in his article[78].  This particular Scott novel came to Russia in 1829 after having been translated from the 1828 French translation[79]. As Altshuller denotes, Pushkin would have picked this novel up on his way from Arzrum to Moscow[80]. There are many things in Scott’s novel which are imitated in Pushkin’s “Tazit”.

“In Fair Maid Scott juxtaposes a series of contrasting ethical and moral systems: cruelty vs. mercy, hate vs. forgiveness, ultimately paganism vs. true Christianity. The bearer of humanitarian ideals is fated to perish among his savage contemporaries. It is likely that this idea would have attracted Pushkin’s attention”[81]. One must understand the plot of this novel to understand this idea better. The principal hero of The Fair Maid of Perth is Conachar, the son of a Scottish chieftain, whose birth is full of strange events[82]. The clan into which Conachar is born suffers a terrible defeat and the clan has fled to safety[83]. Conachar’s mother bears him into the world in the woods where he is nursed on a white deer’s milk[84]. Shortly thereafter, Conachar and his mother return to their castle, but after hearing a distressing prophecy (the clan will fall because of a boy raised on white deer’s milk whilst being raised under a holly bush); they send the boy away to be reared in the city at a glove-maker’s shop[85]. Eventually Conachar returns home under the protection of a new prophecy that states that a young chieftain will be the only survivor of a battle between two clans[86]. As it would turn out, both prophecies become true and reminds one of ancient Greek and Latin prophecies about fate[87]. Conachar eventually becomes the chieftain of the clan after his father’s death, but due to his urban upbringing, he is inadequate to rule[88]. It is also mentioned that our hero in question holds to a stricter pacifist Christian view which is ultimately opposed to the lifestyle and culture of the Highlanders[89]. One day, Conachar’s clan and another rivaling clan meet in battle but Conachar, unwilling to engage in the combat himself out of cowardice, runs away from the battle[90]. Overcome by his shame he hurls himself off a waterfall[91].  But does Pushkin’s poem have a similar plotline and therefore be another influence of Scott in Pushkin? Altshuller summarizes it in this way:

In “Tazit” the son of the old mountaineer, Gasub, has been killed. On the day of the funeral, an old teacher returns Gasub’s younger son to him from another aul, where he has grown up. (Cf. Conachar’s growing up in the distant city.) The younger son is a dreamer, unable to adapt to the severe, cruel life of the mountain tribe. He is unable to rob a passing merchant, kill a runaway slave, or avenge the murder of his brother. Eventually his father reproaches him for his cowardice, curses him, and banishes him from the village. The father of his beloved refuses to give his daughter to a coward. At this point the work breaks off[92].

Even the outlines Pushkin made of his story correlate to the plot of Scott’s novel.

1. Funeral ceremony

2. Uzden’ and the younger son

3. 1st day-deer-mail, Georgian merchant

4. 2nd-eagle, Cossack

5. 3rd-father banishes him

6. Youth and monk

7. Love rejected

8. Battle-monk


1. Funeral

2. Three days. Circassian-Christian

3. Merchant

4. Cossack, slave

5. Murderer

6. Banishment

7. Love

8. Matchmaking

9. Rejection

10. Priest. Missionary

11. War

12. Battle

13. Death

14. Epilogue


1. Funeral

2. Circassian-Christian

3. Merchant

4. Slave

5. Murderer

6. Banishment

7. Love[93]

As one can see, these plotlines are very similar but there are still more motifs to uncover.

In each section, Pushkin starts off with a funeral and it is within these funerals that Pushkin imitates another English novel motif. As the body is being carried through on ox cart to burial, Pushkin describes the scene, “They laid him in the cart. One of the guests took the deceased’s rifle, blew the powder from the pan of the flintlock, and placed it next to him. The oxen set off cart …”[94] Here Pushkin repeats the English cultural tradition of having the hero being laid to rest beside his weapon[95]. Moreover, the description of the funeral in Pushkin’s work is actually quite similar to the funeral ceremony in Scott’s The Fair Maid of Perth[96]. Similarly, both plot’s main characters are thrust into conflict or the main action just after their father’s funerals[97].  Another similarity is the image of the deer in both stories. Altshuller writes,

A vestige of this intention may be found in the comparison of Tazit to a deer: “Tak v sakle kormlennyj olen’/ Vse v les gljadit, vse v glu?’ uxodit” (5:73). In the drafts this was: “devoj vskormlennyj olen”‘ (5:348). The unexpected comparison (deer in home, dwelling) may be taken, perhaps, as a vague allusion to Scott’s novel: where the young Conachar was nourished on deer’s milk[98].

Furthermore, the love interest episodes are the same—love rejected. Tazit tries to win the hand of a young girl and her father dismisses his plea due to his cowardice[99]. Conachar, when trying to win the hand of the Glover’s daughter, is also refused, being denied on account of cowardice[100]. Both men are also influenced by Christian leaders which indoctrinate them with ideas that inevitably get them in trouble with their tribe/clan[101]. There is also the theme of warfare in both works. In Scott’s novel there is a feud that takes place and is settled in Scottish fashion by sixty men on each side[102]. Altshuller suggests in his article that it may be possible that Pushkin was inspired by The Fair Maid of Perth in writing about the “problems of man’s relationship to his times, to civilization, and to the cultural system in which he lives”[103]. This had been a previous problem with Pushkin in 1829[104]. In 1823, he solved this problem in Cygany where he determined that “man cannot break away from the moral canons determined by environment and social status[105]. In that particular work, his principal character is incapable of turning away from egotistic norms of conduct pressured by society to become a free gypsy[106]. However in Tazit, his main character rejects rational and social traditions in the name of universal, human, Christian ideas[107]. There was a similar problem in The Fair Maid[108]. Altshuller also suggests that it may have been Scott’s overwhelming prescence and influence in this Russian work which made Pushkin stop writing it[109]. Another suggestion for Pushkin’s dropping the project could have been that Scott’s influence on the connection between human character and the history and culture of the current era no longer gave him satisfaction[110].  In any event, Tazit was left unfinished but the Scott aroma was still thickly instilled in the leaves of the poem[111].

However there are some dissimilarities as well. “Conachar is not opposed morally and ideologically to his clan as sharply as Tazit is to his fellow villagers”[112]. According to Altshuller, Scott stresses the character Conachar’s physiological cowardice as being the main cause of the tragedy[113]. Pushkin attributes Tazit’s failures to his moral principles since they are in direct conflict with the tribe’s code of conflict[114]. On the other hand, Conachar attributes his failure is due to his Christian upbringing[115]. Nonetheless, the two works of literature share an uncanny amount of similarities which would explain the influence Scott had on Pushkin.

What of other works of literature from Scott and Pushkin? Are there further influences of Scott in Pushkin’s work? Their methods of applying history to literature are quite similar and Pushkin read so much of Scott so why wouldn’t there be similarities between their works across the board? Both writers wrote an incredible amount of literature and therefore a search through every known or translated work would unnecessarily tiresome and lengthy. With this in mind, the search for Scott influences and similarities between Pushkin and Scott must be narrowed down to a few specific areas with only a handful of works to look at. From understanding the times they lived in, whether in Scotland or Russia, both Scott and Pushkin are more or less defined as Romanticist writers since they lived during the Romanticist period and their literature bore the marks of Romanticism: abandonment or criticism of established religion, nationalism, historical fiction, heroes, emphasis on the common people, natural imagery, etc. These are the areas to investigate the influence of Scott in Pushkin’s literature as well as their similarities.

Since we’ve already seen Scott’s influence on Pushkin’s imitations of the historical novel, it will suffice to discuss a comparison of their nationalist tendencies in their literature. First: What exactly is nationalism? Nationalism as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary is “Advocacy of or support for the interests of one’s own nation, esp. to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations”[116]. Both authors are very well known for their patriotism and national pride for their country. And the people of their respective countries hold them in high regard as their national poet or novelist. As Mirsky said earlier, “Russians flatly affirm that Pushkin is a greater poet –than any of these [Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats], polite people will be apt to regard the statement as an exaggerated form of otherwise highly commendable patriotic feeling.[117]” Great literature increases national pride and makes one boast it on the rooftops that our writer is the best! Scott was also quite a nationalist. He lived in a country that had been officially subjected to English rule some 60 years before his birth, a country which despite its size, has an incredible appetite for national pride. Scott himself had a deep love for his native land. He once remarked to Washington Irving, “Hout, man, a ride in the morning, in the keen air of the Scottish hills, is warrant enough for a second breakfast”; he dearly loved his country and so wrote about just as Pushkin did for his country[118]. So how do both writers display their national pride in their literature and how are these works similar so as to show one’s influence on the other?

For Scott’s novels, one of the best of these nationalist historical novels would be Rob Roy, a story based on the adventures and nationalism of the Jacobite Scottish hero of the same name just after the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715. This novel’s main character is a Mr. Francis Osbaldistone, the son of a rich London banker who has gone to Scotland to visit his uncle[119]. During this novel, Francis meets with Rob Roy and has many adventures with him in the story, all of which are fabricated. The novel is based during the early 18th century, namely the time just after the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion. The Jacobites were very nationalistic and sought to reclaim Scotland and put a Stuart king on the throne but to no avail. Jacobean nationalism was a sticky subject in Scotland and England at this time and Rob Roy is an interesting character amongst it all. So how is the nationalism displayed in this novel? First of all, Scott sought to create a very accurate historical and cultural novel that would praise the culture and history of Scotland. One of the ways he did this was through using national Scottish dialects in the prose. Throughout the novel, Scott has certain characters such as Rob Roy and especially Bailie Jarvie whose Scots brogue is quite thickly strewn amongst the prose. Using such language in a novel helps capture the sense of Scottish reality and, if one’s Scottish, makes one proud to hear your own national dialect in a book. So it is with this novel and such Scots dialect is often combined with political sentiments for Scottish nationalism. Both Rob Roy and Jarvie do this. While Rob Roy and Francis are in a pub one evening, the discussion of politics arises. Someone in the pub says, “You are a Scotchman, sir; a gentleman of your country must stand up for hereditary right.[120]” Another quips, ““You are a Presbyterian, you cannot be a friend to arbitrary power.[121]” To this Rob Roy (at this point in the novel known as Campbell) says,

Gentlemen, said our Scotch oracle, after having gained, with some difficulty, a moment’s pause, “I havena much dubitation that King George weel deserves the predilection of his friends; and if he can haud the grip he has gotten, why, doubtless, he may made the gauger, here, a commissioner of the revenue, and confer on our friend, Mr. Quitam, the preferment of solicitor-general; and he may also grant some good deed or reward to this honest gentleman who is sitting upon his portmanteau, which he prefers to a chair:  And, questionless, King James is also a grateful person, and when he gets his hand in play, he may, if he be so minded, make this reverend gentleman archprelate of Canterbury, and Dr. Mixit chief physician to his household, and commit his royal beard to the care of my friend Latherum.  But as I doubt mickle whether any of the competing sovereigns would give Rob Campbell a tass of aquavitae, if he lacked it, I give my vote and interest to Jonathan Brown, our landlord, to be the King and Prince of Skinkers, conditionally that he fetches us another bottle as good as the last[122].

Thus Campbell’s sentiments of nationalism are not really one side or the other; a safe place to be if someone wants you for treason. Jarvie’s political standing is a little more Protestant and British than his Highland counterpart,

Ye are to understand, that the Hielands hae been keepit quiet since the year aughty-nine–that was Killiecrankie year. But how hae they been keepit quiet, think ye? By siller, Mr. Owen–by siller, Mr. Osbaldistone. King William caused Breadalbane distribute twenty thousand oude punds sterling amang them, and it’s said the auld Hieland Earl keepit a lang lug o’t in his ain sporran. And then Queen Anne, that’s dead, gae the chiefs bits o’ pensions, sae they had wherewith to support their gillies and caterans that work nae wark, as I said afore; and they lay by quiet eneugh, saying some spreagherie on the Lowlands, whilk is their use and wont, and some cutting o’ thrapples amang themsells, that nae civilised body kens or cares onything anent.–Weel, but there’s a new warld come up wi’ this King George (I say, God bless him, for ane)–there’s neither like to be siller nor pensions gaun amang them; they haena the means o’ mainteening the clans that eat them up, as ye may guess frae what I said before; their credit’s gane in the Lowlands; and a man that can whistle ye up a thousand or feifteen hundred linking lads to do his will, wad hardly get fifty punds on his band at the Cross o’ Glasgow–This canna stand lang–there will be an outbreak for the Stuarts–there will be an outbreak–they will come down on the low country like a flood, as they did in the waefu’ wars o’ Montrose, and that will be seen and heard tell o’ ere a twalmonth gangs round[123].

Thus Scott discusses the national sentiments of varying types of people in Scotland. Such nationalism is combined with a fear of being called treasonous and a statement about which king they hailed as Lord of Scotland. Scott’s characters wisely didn’t suggest outright Scottish independence for that would earn Scott a one-way ticket to the Tower. But how is nationalism evident in Pushkin’s writing? Desmond MacCarthy, in his Foreword to Elton’s translation of Evgeny Onegin, affirms that Pushkin did write with national pride. “Like the work of other men of genius, Pushkin’s was, of course, steeped in the atmosphere of his own country and coloured by his own times”[124].  As Maurice Baring would say, being quoted in MacCarthy’s Foreword, “the Russian poetical temperament and its expression, Russian poetry, does not only closely cling to the solid earth, but it is based on and saturated with sound common sense, with a curious matter-of-fact quality”[125]. There are some nationalist sentiments here in Evgeny Onegin which are manifested in the retelling or even mentioning of Russian folklore in the poem, the use of national pride language (“We Russians”, etc.), and the sentimental descriptions or mentions of things distinctively Russian. In the fifth stanza of the first chapter we read a brief description of Evgeny’s speeches in social circles. But before Pushkin describes this he uses a very key phrase: “We Russians get our information”[126]. This statement is very uplifting towards one’s national esteem; it puts your nation higher than any other and would therefore be a prime example of nationalism. Another sentiment of nationalism is seen in stanza thirty one where Pushkin writes,

Oh, when, and to what desert banished,

     madman, can you forget their print?

     my little feet, where have you vanished,

     what flowers of spring display your dint?

     Nursed in the orient’s languid weakness,

     across our snows of northern bleakness

     you left no steps that could be tracked:

     you loved the opulent contact

     of rugs, and carpets’ rich refinement.

     Was it for you that I became

     long since unstirred by praise and fame

     and fatherland and grim confinement?

     The happiness of youth is dead,

     just like, on turf, your fleeting tread[127].

Here is another sentiment of pride in being Russian. Pushkin has many more as he also mentions the names of certain places in Russia with a sentimental tone[128]. Both works of literature have nationalistic tendencies; however, they are of varying degrees. Having read the political ideas in Rob Roy and the moments of national pride in Evgeny Onegin, neither are really the same so Scott’s influence in this work in this regard isn’t present. Both works are similar though since they affirm a strong national pride for king and country though they do so in differing ways.

Within Rob Roy and Evgeny Onegin there is also a common thread of the normalities of everyday life. In Rob Roy, there are many ways where Scott describes things in everyday life. For example, he accurately describes the lifestyle of an effluent young man and his cousins as well as they live in their large estate house in Scotland. Scott narrates the life of young Francis as he tries to learn the trade of bookkeeping. Scott includes entries in the records and the critical responses of Mr. Owen who doesn’t like Francis’ methods of bookkeeping[129]. He also accurately describes 18th century travel,

There was, in the days of which I write, an old-fashioned custom on the English road, which I suspect is now obsolete, or practised only by the vulgar. Journeys of length being made on horseback, and, of course, by brief stages, it was usual always to make a halt on the Sunday in some town where the traveller might attend divine service, and his horse have the benefit of the day of rest, the institution of which is as humane to our brute labourers as profitable to ourselves[130].

Scott also illustrates realistic cultural Scottish traditions and language as well. Throughout the book there is discourse after discourse of lower country folk talking in Scots, the language of Lowland Scotland. Such use of the native language was not meant in a demeaning manner to press aristocratic English culture over poorer Scottish folk, but merely to render the novel with a spirit of veracity and reality, just as Mark Twain did in his novels. Scott also includes the life of English landlords in the novel in juxtaposition to the life and speech of the common Scots. This is evidenced when Francis meets Die Vernon, his cousin, who treats him with disdain since he hasn’t read the books she’s read nor can do the rural things she can do[131]. Since this novel is written from an Englishman’s perspective, Scott portrays the character as having a natural disdain for the Scottish people; a disdain which has been in place since ancient times. Francis narrates his sentiments toward the Scots, “I looked upon the Scottish people during my childhood as a race hostile by nature to the more southern inhabitants of this realm. It was, then, with an impression of dislike that I contemplated my first Scotchman I chanced to meet in society”[132].  Here our main character is culturally and historically making himself superior to another people before really getting to know the person. This is his first impression of Mr. Campbell or Rob Roy. By the end of the book, however, his view of the Scots changes. Here Scott slips a poke at the English under the rug so to say; that is, Francis’ words, being spoken and thought from an English perspective, would not be very pleasing to a Scot though they might be more agreeable with an English audience. Here Scott actually pleases both sets of audiences by properly showing accurately what each party thinks about each other. Thus Scott displays the cultural ideas and strata in Rob Roy.

In Evgeny Onegin, Pushkin also demonstrates a realistic display of Russian culture. The first example of this is in the third stanza of the first chapter where the narrator tells us about Onegin’s upbringing and the social standards he was raised under. Pushkin writes,

After a fine career, his father

     had only debts on which to live.

     He gave three balls a year, and rather

     promptly had nothing left to give.

     Fate saved Evgeny from perdition:

     at first Madame gave him tuition,

     from her Monsieur took on the child.

     He was sweet-natured, and yet wild.

     Monsieur l’Abbé, the mediocre,

     reluctant to exhaust the boy,

     treated his lessons as a ploy.

     No moralizing from this joker;

     a mild rebuke was his worst mark,

     and then a stroll in Letny Park.

     But when the hour of youthful passion

     struck for Evgeny, with its play

     of hope and gloom, romantic-fashion,

     it was goodbye, Monsieur l’Abbé.

     Eugene was free, and as a dresser

     made London’s dandy his professor.

     His hair was fashionably curled,

     and now at last he saw the World.

     In French Onegin had perfected

     proficiency to speak and write,

     in the mazurka he was light,

     his bow was wholly unaffected.

     The World found this enough to treat

     Eugene as clever, and quite sweet[133].

So Evgeny was raised in a proper Russian noble family with the proper Western upbringing, actually quite similar to Pushkin’s education. In this passage Pushkin describes various social structures like dancing and education which are normal to Russian noble life. Throughout the first chapter, he describes the noble Russian society complete with balls, ballets, and even clothing. In one particular section, Pushkin rants against the vanity of Evgeny in his attire:

A man who’s active and incisive

     can yet keep nail-care much in mind:

     why fight what’s known to be decisive?

     custom is despot of mankind.

     Dressed like Chadayev duly dreading

     the barbs that envy’s always spreading,

     Eugene’s a pedant in his dress,

     in fact a thorough fop, no less.

     Three whole hours, at the least accounting,

     he’ll spend before the looking-glass,

     then from his cabinet he’ll pass

     giddy as Venus when she’s mounting

     a masculine disguise to aid

     her progress at the masquerade[134].

Here Pushkin pokes fun at the vain dress of the nobility much in the same condescending way Scott’s Francis thought of the rough Scottish folk[135]. It seems that very nearly every stanza has some sort of cultural significance. Dinner parties are discussed, dances are also described, and even a duel are discussed all very accurately in poetic verse. This work of Pushkin’s is quite unlike Tazit, since Tazit focuses more on ordinary people than upper class people. Nonetheless, this work by Pushkin shows a cultural description of Russian life that flows in a beautiful poetic fashion. Such cultural descriptions and nationalist sentiments are very similar to Scott’s Rob Roy since it employs an outlook on Russian life as a whole and declares the glory of his native country through literature. Both works also utilize the language of the common people to make it more understandable and realistic. This is an idea espoused by William Wordsworth in his Preface to Lyrical Ballads which he stated was “to choose incidents and situations from common life, and to relate or describe them, throughout as far as possible, in a selection of language really used by men”[136]. This is especially evident in Scott and in even in Pushkin’s work, especially his short stories such as The Undertaker.

As far as The Undertaker is concerned, it closely follows Scott’s style of describing ordinary life however, Pushkin, out of sincerity, plainly states that Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott “represented their gravediggers as merry and facetious individuals, in order that the contrast might more forcibly strike our imagination. Out of respect for the truth, we cannot follow their example, and we are compelled to confess that the disposition of our undertaker was in perfect harmony with his gloomy métier”[137]. In reading even the first few pages one realizes it has the same Scott-like narrative style; it has commentary from the narrator which is doesn’t really flow properly with the plot narrative. Pushkin, in a true Scott fashion, also utilizes the common speech/dialect theme in this work as well as adding a nationalist tone: “…said he in that Russian dialect which to this day we cannot hear without a smile”[138]. Pushkin continues this story with a steady description of ordinary social life. Such descriptions include alcoholic binges, talk about business, and other cultural ideas of Russian life[139]. These themes can be paralleled very well with themes or events in Scott’s novels. This work by Pushkin, unlike his other work Evgeny Onegin, bears a significant amount of influence by Scott. Not only is he mentioned in the story, but the story actually has a very similar style and set of themes which are exhibit in Rob Roy and other novels. Furthermore, this short story was written during the climax of Scott’s influence in Russia and in Pushkin’s life. Evgeny Onegin was written during the early part of Scott’s influence in Russia and since Scott wasn’t a predominant poet; it makes sense that those works of literature are only similar and one influencing the other. This is how Pushkin’s literature bears the influence of Scott.

Pushkin’s literature bears a striking amount of similarities which give reason to the idea that Scott influenced Pushkin. This idea is backed by Pushkin’s own words about Scott and the fact that various critics have seen this fact and analyzed his literature accordingly. While Scott had an amazing effect on Pushkin, Scott doesn’t seem to have been influenced by Pushkin although there is reason to believe that he was aware of Pushkin’s work. Gleb Struve remarks that the Russian author Turgenev often visited Abbotsford and therefore “he must also have spoken about the progress of literature in Russia-this Turgenev regarded as a special mission of his”[140]. Another Russian visited Abbotsford and could have also told Scott about Pushkin, but there is no real evidence this could be true, as Scott never wrote about Pushkin in his personal writings[141]. Still one can only hope that they did know about each other’s literature. These two authors, both very nationalist and very romantic in their ideals, demonstrate the true beauty of literature in its ties to ordinary culture and history. One cannot divide a country’s literature from any other part of its identity—Literature definitely augments it and gives it a spirit that can be held in the hands of its people. It is certainly amazing to see how two completely different authors wrote about the same things—one being influenced by the other—and both managed to become the national poet and novelist of their respective countries.


Altshuller, Mark. “Motifs in Sir Walter Scott’s The Fair Maid of Perth in Aleksandr Puškin’s “Tazit””. The Slavic and East European Journal. Vol. 32, No. 1 (Spring, 1988).

Canning, Albert S. G. “Rob Roy”, History in Scott’s Novels: A Literary Sketch. London: T.Fisher Unwin Paternoster Square. 1905. 267.

Du Bois, W. E. B. Phylon (1940-1956), Vol. 1, No. 3 (3rd Qtr., 1940). Atlanta: Clark Atlanta University Press.

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History, third edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) 95.

Greene, Militsa. “Pushkin and Sir Walter Scott”. Forum Mod Lang Stud (1965) I(3).

—Alexander Pushkin Quoted in Ibid.

MacCarthy, Desmond. “Foreword”. Evgeny Onegin. Translated by Oliver Elton. London: The Pushkin Press. 1946.

—Alexander Pushkin. Evgeny Onegin. Ibid.

—Maurice Baring.  Landmarks in Russian Literature. Quoted in MacCarthy. Ibid.

Mirsky, D.S. “Pushkin”. The Slavonic Review, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Jun., 1923), London: University College London, School of Slavonic and East European Studies.

“Nationalism, n.”. OED Online. March 2011. Oxford University Press. (accessed May 03, 2011).

Pushkin, Alexander. “The Undertaker”. A Treasury of Great Russian Short Stories. Edited by Avrahm Yarmolinsky. New York: MacMillan. 1944.

Scott, Sir Walter. Rob Roy. London: A.& C. Black. 1929.

Scott, Sir Walter quoted in “Sir Walter Scott”. The Illustrated Magazine of Art, Vol. 4, No. 19 (1854). 2.

Struve, Gleb. “Puskin in Early English Criticism (1821-1838)”. American Slavic and East European Review, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Dec., 1949).

Wordsworth, William. “Preface”. Lyrical Ballads. The Norton Anthology English Literature: The Major Authors. Edited by Stephen Greenblatt. 8th edition. Vol. B. New York: Norton. 1497.

Zhirmunski, Victor. “Pushkin and Western Literature”. Pushkin: A Collection of articles and essays on the Great Russian Poet A. S. Pushkin. The U.S.S.R Society for Cultural Relations. (Moscow 1939).

—Alexander Pushkin. quoted in Ibid.

—Pyotr Vyazemsky. Quoted in Ibid.

—Vissarion Belinskij quoted in Ibid.

[1] Gregory L. Freeze. Russia: A History, third edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) 95.

[2] Ibid. 101.

[3] Ibid. 102-3.

[4] Ibid., 88.

[5] Freeze. 162.

[6] D.S. Mirsky. “Pushkin”. The Slavonic Review, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Jun., 1923), London: University College London, School of Slavonic and East European Studies. 73.

[7] W. E. B. Du Bois. Phylon (1940-1956), Vol. 1, No. 3 (3rd Qtr., 1940). Atlanta: Clark Atlanta University Press. 265.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid. 266.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid. 267.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Mirsky. 72.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Mirsky. 73.

[42] Militsa Greene. “Pushkin and Sir Walter Scott”. Forum Mod Lang Stud (1965) I(3). 207.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Alexander Pushkin Quoted in Ibid.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Mark Altshuller. “Motifs in Sir Walter Scott’s The Fair Maid of Perth in Aleksandr Puškin’s “Tazit””. The Slavic and East European Journal. Vol. 32, No. 1 (Spring, 1988). 41.

[52] Victor Zhirmunski. “Pushkin and Western Literature”. Pushkin: A Collection of articles and essays on the Great Russian Poet A. S. Pushkin. The U.S.S.R Society for Cultural Relations. (Moscow 1939). 155.

[53] Ibid.

[54] Pyotr Vyazemsky. Quoted in Ibid.

[55] Ibid. 168.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Ibid.

[59] Ibid. 168-9.

[60] Ibid. 169.

[61] Ibid.

[62] Ibid.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Ibid.

[65] Ibid.

[66] Ibid.

[67] Ibid.

[68] Ibid.

[69] Ibid.

[70] Ibid. 170.

[71] Ibid.

[72] Altshuller. 41.

[73] Ibid.

[74] Belinskij quoted in Ibid.

[75] Ibid. 41-42.

[76] Belinskij quoted in Ibid. 41.

[77] Altshuller 42.

[78] Ibid.

[79] Ibid.

[80] Ibid.

[81] Ibid. 43.

[82] Ibid.

[83] Ibid.

[84] Ibid.

[85] Ibid.

[86] Ibid.

[87] Ibid.

[88] Ibid.

[89] Ibid.

[90] Ibid.

[91] Ibid.

[92] Ibid. 44.

[93] Ibid.

[94] Alexander Pushkin. Quoted in Ibid. 45.

[95] Altshuller. 45.

[96] Ibid.

[97] Ibid.

[98] Ibid. 47.

[99] Ibid. 48.

[100] Ibid.

[101] Ibid. 49.

[102] Ibid.

[103] Ibid. 51.

[104] Ibid.

[105] Ibid.

[106] Ibid.

[107] Ibid.

[108] Ibid.

[109] Ibid.

[110] Ibid.

[111] Ibid.

[112] Ibid.  46.

[113] Ibid.

[114] Ibid. 47.

[115] Ibid.

[116] “nationalism, n.”. OED Online. March 2011. Oxford University Press. (accessed May 03, 2011).

[117] Mirsky. 73.

[118] Sir Walter Scott. “Sir Walter Scott”. The Illustrated Magazine of Art, Vol. 4, No. 19 (1854). 2.

[119] Albert S. G. Canning. “Rob Roy”, History in Scott’s Novels: A Literary Sketch. London: T.Fisher Unwin Paternoster Square. 1905. 267.

[120] Sir Walter Scott. Rob Roy. London: A.& C. Black. 1929. 35.

[121] Ibid.

[122] Ibid.

[123] Ibid. 246.

[124] Desmond MacCarthy. “Foreword”. Evgeny Onegin. Translated by Oliver Elton. London: The Pushkin Press. 1946. x.

[125] Maurice Baring.  Landmarks in Russian Literature. Quoted in MacCarthy. Ibid. xi.

[126] Alexander Pushkin. Evgeny Onegin. Ibid. 6.

[127] Ibid. 19.

[128] Ibid. 28-9.

[129] Scott. 13.

[130] Ibid. 29.

[131] Ibid. 50-1.

[132] Ibid. 32-3.

[133] Pushkin. 4-5.

[134] Ibid. 16.

[135] Scott. 32-3.

[136] William Wordsworth. “Preface”. Lyrical Ballads. The Norton Anthology English Literature: The Major Authors. Edited by Stephen Greenblatt. 8th edition. Vol. B. New York: Norton. 1497.

[137] Alexander Pushkin. “The Undertaker”. A Treasury of Great Russian Short Stories. Edited by Avrahm Yarmolinsky. New York: MacMillan. 1944. 3.

[138] Ibid.

[139] Ibid. 4-5.

[140] Gleb Struve. “Puskin in Early English Criticism (1821-1838)”. American Slavic and East European Review, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Dec., 1949),. 296-7.

[141] Ibid.


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