Virtual Talk: "Pushkin the Historian and Russia's Many Schisms" with Robert Chandler — Pushkin House


  • Tuesday, 7 June 2022
  • 7:30 pm -  8:30 pm London Time / 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm CST
  • 5a Bloomsbury Square London WC1A 2TA United Kingdom (map)
  • Buy tickets to receive virtual access.

Visit this page for more information.

The Pushkin Club invites you to a talk by Robert Chandler in celebration of Pushkin’s birthday on 6 June and by way of introduction to his recently published selection of Pushkin’s prose, Peter the Great’s African.

God spare us from Russian revolt, senseless merciless Russian revolt.
Pushkin, The Captain’s Daughter.

Pushkin was acutely aware of the many schisms that Russia has suffered over the centuries: between the Orthodox Church and the Old Believers; between Slavophiles and Westerners; between liberals and authoritarians. He attached ever more importance to his work as a historian and, above all, to his study of Peter the Great. His unfinished novel Peter the Great’s African is his first attempt at representing the man he saw as the most important of all Russian tsars.  Here he presents him from the perspective of his own maternal great-grandfather, a former African slave whom Peter the Great educated and made into one of his closest confidants; Pushkin’s central concern here is the success or failure of Peter’s attempt to refashion his vast, archaic empire and turn it into an integral part of Europe.  

“The History of the Village of Goriukhino” — one of Pushkin’s wittiest works — shows him grappling, through parody and self-parody, with the question of what it means to write history; it points the way towards the serious, archivally-based historical works to which Pushkin dedicated several of his last years.  And the unfinished “Dubrovsky” is both a gripping adventure story and a vivid picture of provincial Russia in the late eighteenth century, with its simmering class conflicts ready to explode in violence.  


Robert Chandler will also speak briefly about Pushkin’s one completed novel, The Captain’s Daughter, set against the background of the most serious Russian rebellion before the 1917 Revolution.

“I shall not go into the details of our campaign and the final stages of the war. I will say only that the misery of it all was extreme. We passed through villages pillaged by the rebels and had no choice but to take from the inhabitants what little they had managed to save. Law and order broke down; landowners hid in the forests. Groups of brigands plundered far and wide; officers in command of independent military detachments punished both guilty and innocent as the whim took them. The conflagration covered a vast area; throughout it conditions were terrible. God spare us from Russian revolt, senseless merciless Russian revolt.” (Excerpt from The Captain’s Daughter)



Robert Chandler’s translations from Russian, mostly for NYRB Classics, include works by Alexander Pushkin and Nikolay Leskov; several collections of stories and memoirs by Teffi; and novels and stories by Vasily Grossman, Andrey Platonov and Hamid Ismailov. He is the editor and main translator of Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida and Russian Magic Tales from Pushkin to Platonov. Together with Boris Dralyuk and Irina Mashinski, he has co-edited The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry. He has also translated selections of Sappho and Apollinaire. He runs regular translation workshops in London and teaches for an annual literary translation summer school, currently titled BRISTOL TRANSLATES. His most recent publication is Pushkin’s Peter the Great’s African and his next will be Vasily Grossman’s The People Immortal, both co-translated with his wife Elizabeth.