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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Why Pushkin Preferred the Chill of Autumn

Fall is here: osen’. This was the lyubimy sezon, the favorite season, of that velikiy russkiy poet, the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. But sometimes I wonder why he preferred this particular seasonal transition, which is often so cold, damp and rainy in this latitude, when the Earth tips relentlessly away from the sun for what can be a six- to eight-month hibernation from warmth and light.

Certainly, this fall has been relatively sukho, dry, and for the most part ochen’ solnechno, very sunny. This is especially welcome during a season when dozhd’, rain, usually turns skies gray, leading to that depressing pasmurny, or overcast, look.

Of course, osen’ is often punctuated in late September or early October by bab’ye leto, Indian summer, that reassertion of warmer weather before osen’ proper takes hold and ushers in a season of kholod, cold, that will stay here until aprel’, April, or even mai, May.

But it seemed that the leaves on the trees — list’ya na derevy’akh — turned from green to yellow, orange and red and fell off in just a couple of days this year. That’s probably because of a period of unseasonable cold in September, when the temperature fell to nearly freezing — nol’ — on several nights.

Unfortunately, this frigid state of affairs was accompanied by a lack of otopleniye, heating, in most apartment buildings, which lack of warmth was blamed, in many instances, for an outbreak of prostuda, or colds among chilled Muscovites. I kept checking the batareya, the radiator, for signs of life, but the heat was not turned on in our building until last week, when temperatures were actually much warmer than they had been in September.

But if it’s too cold at home, it’s almost better to venture outside and enjoy the chill there. Fall is a time when determined gatherers of griby find the best caches of edible fungi. Many a forest-trekking mushroom-lover will be on the lookout for the eminently edible belye griby, white mushrooms, while studiously avoiding their poisonous cousins: the pale blednaya poganka and the red mukhomor with its telltale white spots.

Certainly, for decades the onset of fall meant the mass migration of studenty and soldaty into the nation’s fields to wrest the season’s urozhai, harvest, from the earth, in trips known simply as going na kartoshku, out to pick potatoes. Marry the crispness of fall air with the proximity of dozens — if not hundreds — of strapping young bucks and tender does, and you get the kartofelny roman, or "potato romance," as it were.

Now maybe that is why Pushkin liked fall.