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Pushkin the Radical: The Dystopian Vision of his Masterpiece, The Bronze Horseman

Like many of his contemporaries, Pushkin’s attitude to Tsarism was ambivalent. As he saw it, those periods of Russian history which had seen the most progress had been achieved at the initiative of individual rulers - but often at a heavy cost. Perhaps the most outstanding example of this had been the reign of Peter the Great. Regarded as the ‘miracle-working’ Tsar, he had defeated the Swedish Empire and, against all the odds, founded the entirely new city of St Petersburg on the remote and inhospitable banks of the River Neva. Peter’s determination to open up a ‘Window on the West’ had, however, only been achieved at the expense of thousands of lives and his new capital had been built in a place which was liable to catastrophic flooding when winter storms blew in from the Baltic. Both Peter’s great achievements and the dire consequences of his actions provide the setting for what many regard and Pushkin’s greatest masterpiece, The Bronze Horseman. 

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Praise for the book:

'I know of no other study of Pushkin's masterpiece, The Bronze Horseman, so well-researched, so enthusiastic and so lucidly written. The poem may seem to be easily accessible as it is, but it has hidden depths and complications, which Jack Robertson not only translates, but explores and explains masterfully.' Donald Rayfield


'This is a tour de force. Jack Robertson's knowledge and deep understanding of Russian history and literature provides the critical setting for the works of Alexander Pushkin. Robertson reveals to us a Pushkin who was much more than a poet and a playwright - he was also a serious historian who gave voice to the radicals and oppositionists throughout the story of Russia. The Man Who Shook his Fist at the Tsar is a superb work of political and literary biography, beautifully written.' Murray Armstrong

'This is an important and timely book. It's wonderful to see Pushkin translated into modern accessible English so that English-speakers can appreciate a great Russian poet. Jack Robertson lays out the politics of the times and of the poem.' Michael Rosen


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Born in Edinburgh in 1949, Jack Robertson is a retired journalist. He is a lifelong socialist, anti-racist activist and militant trade unionist. In the 1980s he wrote a weekly column for the Socialist Worker under the pen name Birdy, and in the 1990s, a monthly column for the magazineSocialist Review, this time as The Walrus. He studied Russian Language, Literature and History as a mature student, between 1992 and 1996 at QMW and SSEES. He has lived in East London for most of his adult life and is married to an East End GP. They have two daughters and two grand-daughters.



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Clem Cecil is a Russian-speaking specialist in language, literature and architectural preservation, with many years’ experience working in, and with, Russia, initially as correspondent for The Times, then as co-founder of the Moscow Architecture Preservation Society.  She has co-edited four books on Moscow, St Petersburg and Samara. From 2012 to 2016 she was the director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage and SAVE Europe’s Heritage. Clem is the Executive Director of Pushkin House.