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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Exhibit Explores Poetic Friendship




The most cherished poets of Russia and Poland -- Alexander Pushkin and Adam Mickiewicz -- were united not only by time, Slavic heritage and a common circle of acquaintances, but by a strong national spirit that overwhelmed the Western influences in their poetry.


"Pushkin and Mickiewicz," an exhibit currently running at the Alexander Pushkin Museum on Ulitsa Prechistenka, illustrates their commonalities through a combination of portraits, manuscripts and personal belongings from the collections of the Pushkin Museum and the Mickiewicz Literary Museum in Warsaw.


Pushkin and Mickiewicz were products of the same era. December 24 will be the 200th anniversary of Mickiewicz's birth, while Russia will celebrate Pushkin's 200th anniversary June 6, 1999. Both poets were educated in Western literature -- Voltaire, Byron, Shakespeare and Goethe -- but their Western sophistication was dwarfed by their national pride.


The two geniuses met in Russia. Mickiewicz was exiled for spreading Polish nationalism and arrived in St. Petersburg in 1824. At that time, Pushkin was still in exile in the village of Mikhailovskoye.


Mickiewicz became acquainted with Pushkin's friends -- the poets Ruleyev, Bestuzhev and Odoyevsky. Mickiewicz was already well aware of Pushkin's poetry. His writings reveal a great admiration for the Russian poet: "A voice came that opened a new era in Russian history -- the voice of Alexander Pushkin. Pushkin's name is becoming a rallying cry for all of the discontented."


In 1825, Mickiewicz went to the Crimea and wrote his "Sonnets from the Crimea," which echo the images in Pushkin's "The Fountain of Bakchisarai." At the end of 1825, Mickiewicz arrived in Moscow, where he finally met Pushkin in 1826. He wrote: "I knew the Russian poet quite closely for quite a long time. He was hypersensitive, but always sincere, ingenious and open."


Mickiewicz became one of Pushkin's favorite poets, and Pushkin translated two ballads by Mickiewicz and the beginning of "Konrad Wallenrod." Conversations between the two poets in 1828, especially one in St. Petersburg near the statue of Peter the Great, served as the basis for Mickiewicz's poem "The Monument of Peter the Great" and was reflected in Pushkin's poem "The Bronze Horseman."


Forced out of his homeland, Mickiewicz was received by literary Russia with open arms, and his sonnets were published in the leading journals of the time. Even in the albums of young Russian noblewomen -- one of which is displayed in the exhibit -- Mickiewicz's poems rub shoulders with verses of Pushkin, Zhukovsky and Vyazemsky. As Mickiewicz prepared to leave Russia, the poet Ivan Kozlov declared to his Polish friends, "You gave him to us strong, we give him back to you great."


When Pushkin met his end in a duel, Mickiewicz wrote, "The bullet that struck Pushkin delivered a terrible blow to intellectual Russia."


Geography united Pushkin and Mickiewicz as well. Pushkin's sister Olga lived in Warsaw, and Pushkin's father served in Warsaw in 1814. In 1819, Pushkin's friend Pyotr Vyazemsky, one of Mickiewicz's closest Russian friends and the translator of his sonnets, also served in Warsaw. It was in Moscow where both Pushkin and Mickiewicz met their future wives -- Natalya Goncharova and Celina Szymanowska. From 1827 to 1829, Mickiewicz served in the office of Moscow Governor Dmitry Vladimirovich Golitsyn, who created the Boulevard Ring, built the Bolshoi Theater and many other important sites in Moscow after the conflagration of the war with Napoleon in 1812.


At the end of his life, Pushkin wrote of Mickiewicz: "He used to live amongst us ..."


The current exhibit was shown in Warsaw this spring before coming to Moscow.


The first room displays materials referring to the romantic ideals of that epoch: etchings, portraits and writings of Voltaire, Goethe, Schiller.


The second room tells the visitors about Pushkin's and Mickiewicz's lives in the context of European politics.


The third room deals with Pushkin's exile and Mickiewicz's exile, the Moscow period of both the poets (1826-1829) and their meeting in Moscow in the fall of 1826.


The exhibit ends with the period when the poets lived in St. Petersburg, including the Decembrist uprising in 1825 and the Polish revolt and its heroes.


Especially precious are the poets' manuscripts, one of which is an unfinished Pushkin poem dating back to 1834 and dedicated to Mickiewicz:


"... He would often


Talk about future times


When the people, forgetting their strife,


Would unite in one great family."


"Pushkin and Mickiewicz" runs until Sunday at the Alexander Pushkin Museum at 12/2 Ulitsa Prechistenka. Tel. 202-4354, 201-5674. Open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Nearest metro: Kropotkinskaya.