Printer Friendly

Pushkin's "To the Slanderers of Russia": The Slavic Question, Imperial Anxieties, and Geopolitics.

Abstract: The article analyzes Pushkin's view of Polish-Russian relations and their impact on European politics, as reflected in his ode "To the Slanderers of Russia" (1831). It argues that key to Pushkin's presentation of these relations is Poland and Russia's imperial rivalry over shared borderlands in Eastern Europe, and that Pushkin's imperial swagger attempts to mask certain insecurities about Russia's imperial project there. Despite that, the ode powerfully argues that Russia should be Western Europe's sole diplomatic counterpart in East European affairs and denies East Europeans any independent voice. The article focuses on the poem's fluvial imagery (the idea of the "Slavic streams" flowing into the "Russian sea") and its discourse of kinship, which the poem has popularized as a metaphor coding Russia's relations with other Slavs. Pushkin's masterful modeling of political affect is given special attention, as it has been crucial for the poem's lasting relevance in Russian culture.

Key Words: Pushkin, "To the Slanderers of Russia" ("Klevetnikam Rossii"), Russian imperialism, Russo-Polish relations, the Slavic Question, geopolitics, Polish Uprising of 1830-31, political affect


[phrase omitted]. (1)

There is no meaningful way to address the imperial framework of Russia's historic relations with the Slavic world without recourse to these two lines of Pushkin's 1831 poem "To the Slanderers of Russia" ("Klevetnikam Rossii"). The crispness and clarity with which Pushkin posed in them the significance of the Slavic Question for the Russian Empire proved incredibly influential for the Russian history of ideas. The poem was written in response to the November Uprising in 1830-31, in which the Poles attempted to throw off Russia's imperial yoke and regain their statehood, lost at the end of the eighteenth century through territorial partitions by the Russian, Prussian, and Austro-Hungarian empires. Pushkin wrote the poem in August of 1831, when the tide of military victories was turning in Russia's favor. In it, he offers a jeering rebuke of Poland's Western European backers (the "slanderers" from the title) and a harsh rejection of the Poles' political aspirations.

"To the Slanderers of Russia" first appeared in a separate brochure, On the Taking of Warsaw (Na vziatie Varshauy), which commemorated General Paskevich's recent victory over Poland's mutinous capital. This took place on a highly symbolic date--the nineteenth anniversary of the Battle of Borodino, in which Poles fought on the French side (26 August/7 September 1812). Other poems in the brochure included Pushkin's "The Borodino Anniversary" ("Borodinskaia godovshchina"), which drew attention to the historic parallel with 1812, and Vasily Zhukovsky's "Old Song in the New Mode" ("Staraia pesnia na novyi lad"). The latter was composed to the melody of the first imperial anthem, Derzhavin's 1791 ode "Let the Thunder of Victory Resound" ("Grom pobedy razdavaisia"), which celebrated Russia's 1790 defeat of another imperial army, the Ottoman. The brochure was printed by a military press, on personal orders from the tsar, to whom Pushkin read "To the Slanderers of Russia" in Tsarskoe Selo on 5 September 1831. The printed brochure was available for purchase only nine days after this reading, on 14 September--a rather swift, if not unprecedented, timeframe, given the repressive publishing climate of Nicholas I's Russia.

As is well known, the ode, which is how the poet himself designated the poem's genre, (2) inspired sharply divided reactions in Pushkin's time. Pushkin's liberal detractors, like Petr Viazemsky and Alexander Turgenev, denounced it as a sign of "barbarism" unworthy of the great poet. Some accused Pushkin of mercenary pandering to the autocratic regime (censorship, however, kept such critiques private). Officially, the poem was welcomed as capturing the public's patriotic mood. Petr Chaadaev pronounced that it finally earned Pushkin the title of Russia's national poet--an honor that his contemporaries, for all their esteem for Pushkin's poetic genius, had been conspicuously slow to bestow. (3) Posterity by and large has treated the ode as a jingoistic aberration in the great poet's oeuure, a notion that is contradicted by other imperially themed works by Pushkin, such as Prisoner of the Caucasus (Kavkazskii plennik) or Poltava, and the poet's own unshaken pride in his poem, as late as 1836. (4) "To the Slanderers" was swept under the rug by those of Pushkin's Soviet scholars who found it too challenging to reconcile with the image of Pushkin as "a singer of freedom" (pevets svobody). Others were blocked by the authorities from publicizing the poem's existence, so contrary did it run to the Soviet myth of the Polish-Russian friendship of peoples. (5) This challenge has daunted Russia's liberal intelligentsia of times both past and present, although some nationalistically minded commentators have welcomed the poem's strident anti-Polonism and anti-Westernism as newly relevant in the context of post-Soviet Russo-Polish relations, especially after Poland joined NATO in 1999. (6) The poem's political life continues unabated to this day. In the wake of the Russian Federation's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its military support of separatists in eastern Ukraine, which led to Western sanctions, discussions and reprints of "To the Slanderers of Russia" filled the Russian blogosphere and readings of the poem, of ten public ones or by famous actors, have left a rich archive on YouTube. (7)

The reticence of most professional readers seems to rest on an aesthetic judgment that "To the Slanderers of Russia" is a bad poem. Its real roots, however, appear to be a distaste for the poem's political sentiment: its advocacy of Russia's imperial resolve in crushing the Polish Uprising. This has contributed to the poem's sidelining from the Pushkin canon, especially in university syllabi; some of Pushkin's unpublished fragments are more likely to be taught than this widely publicized poem. While the question of the poem's aesthetic merit is not one this article proposes to settle, it should be possible to appreciate the poem as a brilliant example of Russian political poetry, which I think it is, while disagreeing with its political ideas. The features that make the poem effective include a skillful deployment of poetic devices toward the goal of political persuasion, the intricacy of its historical and rhetorical frames of reference, and its emotional force. That Pushkin himself considered it his important contribution to public debate means that without this poem, any assessment of Pushkin's politics, especially imperial politics, is incomplete. Moreover, to rescue the poem from the neglected margins of Pushkin's canon and to restore it to the core of his civic-oriented oeuvre--which is where, by the poet's own estimation, it belongs--would contribute to the ongoing re-visioning of Pushkin as a social thinker that aims to account for the conservative leanings of his mature period more accurately than has been done in the Soviet period.

Despite the poem's troubled fate in Pushkin scholarship and criticism, its politics have since generated insightful commentary by an international community of scholars. (8) Their work tends to examine the Russo-Polish clash captured in the ode predominantly as an antagonism between two national projects, although the poem's imperial dimension has also been acknowledged and probed especially well in the work of Katya Hokanson. This article explores further the theme of empire in Pushkin's ode, proposing new points of inflection and, along the way, some corrections to standard readings. First, while the insurgent nation rising against the empire is certainly one vector of imperial problematics in the poem, Pushkin also explores this conflict as one between two rival imperial ideologies--Polish and Russian--over claims to their shared borderland in Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine. This has not been sufficiently appreciated in the poem's interpretations, but it is central to understanding Pushkin's vision of the region's historic power struggle. Pushkin poses the Slavic Question not only by asserting Russia's suzerainty over Poland, but also by extinguishing the Poles' historic claims to the Eastern European lands between Poland and Russia. This territorial dispute, furthermore, is a proxy for confronting the larger question of the rivalry between Russia and Poland for primacy in the Slavic world. As Megan Dixon put it, "Pushkin encounters Poland as a stubborn force resistant to Russia's historical role as the leader of the Slavic nations." (9) Although the poem does not confront this matter overtly--for to do so would mean according the Poles more importance than they deserved, if we follow the poem's sentiments--this is the poem's underlying political core.

In exploring this dynamic, I pay particular attention to the political stakes of Pushkin's fluvial imagery of "Slavic streams" and "Russian sea" and to his trope of kinship, employed in his definition of the Poles' uprising against Russia as "a quarrel of Slavs among one another" (spor slavian mezhdu soboiu). Yet in addition to considering these poetic tropes as strident projections of Russian hegemony, and articulating the imperial goals they ultimately serve, I also ask what political anxieties might be underlying them. Paying attention to the poem's psychological layer thus leads me to pose a broader question of the poem's affect, which has not yet received attention. I examine the poem's emotional register to argue that "To the Slanderers of Russia" aims to persuade not only through political arguments, but also by modeling a certain affective pose. To read the poem closely in this vein means to uncover the vulnerabilities of Russia's imperial project in Eastern Europe that Pushkin attempts to conceal with his imperialistic swagger. (10)

The Slavic Streams and the Imperial Sea

Before delving into the poem, it is worth noting that the question of Pushkin and empire, in its broadest contours, has been summed up quite well in a 1937 article, "The Singer of Empire and Freedom" ("Pevets imperii i svobody"), by an emigre Russian scholar, Georgii Fedotov. Fedotov confronts two tantalizing questions. How can a poet as protean as Pushkin be pinned down to any ideological position? How can a poet so committed to the celebration of freedom at the same time support a repressive empire? Fedotov shows these impulses to be not as contradictory as they might seem at first glance. He argues that Pushkin's notion of freedom evolved over time from a more revolutionary, political sense, through a growing distrust of the people as the bearer of freedom, to an overriding concern with the idea of personal independence rather than democracy. The concept of empire was for the poet connected to the idea of an ordered political universe and consistent with the high role he envisaged for Russia in world affairs. Fedotov finds that although Pushkin changed many of his political ideas, support for the empire was a striking constant of his ideology, that no liberalism ever shook his steadfast imperialism. This assessment is both accurate and honest. (11)

Keeping Fedotov's insight in mind, let us return to the crux of the poem:

[phrase omitted]

Oleg Proskurin convincingly locates the genesis of this metaphor in Pushkin's polemic with Adam Mickiewicz, in whose narrative poem Konrad Wallenrod (1828) the mighty "river" of the medieval empire of Lithuania becomes reduced to a trickle. (12) The poem, which Mickiewicz came to dislike, tells the story of a Lithuanian pagan youth captured by the Teutonic Knights, who eventually rises to the rank of their Grand Master only to orchestrate, in one decisive moment, the Order's military defeat. Framed by a motto from Machiavelli, the poem basically asks whether the end justifies the means when it comes to the fate of nations. Its fourteenth-century Lithuanian-Teutonic backdrop was widely seen as a subversive mask for contemporary Polish-Russian realities. In his preface, Mickiewicz describes Lithuanians as "a people that disappeared in the immensity of its conquests, like a stream that subsides after an excessive overflow, and flows in a narrower bed than before." (13) This was a veiled warning to Russia about the perils of what historians might now term imperial overextension. Mickiewicz's preface also highlights the danger of denationalization for the ethnic group that is the bearer of empire--a problem that increasingly worried the Russian intelligentsia. Pushkin, for whom defensive polemic with the Polish bard served as frequent inspiration, flips this metaphor in "To the Slanderers," showing the Russian sea as boosted, rather than diminished, by its Slavic tributaries. He pegs this imperial "sea's" impressive coordinates between Perm and Crimea (Tavrida), Finland, and Georgia (Kolkhida), Moscow's Kremlin and the Great Wall of China, appearing untroubled by empire as a solvent of national identity. (14)

Fedotov finds in Pushkin's prophesy of the eventual confluence of Slavic streams into the Russian sea a "clear incarnation of political amorality," which reduces the question of Russia's relation to its Slavic neighbors to one of naked power. (15) However, the striking move on Pushkin's part, ignored in the poem's previous interpretations, is his emphatic branding of this confluence as an existential necessity for the Russian empire. Remarkably, the peril of dessication looms in these lines for the Russian sea rather than for the Slavic streams. Contrary to a recent interpretation, the stark alternative to the confluence is that "it"--the Russian sea--will dry up, not that "they"--the Slavic streams--will. (16) There is no third option here, such as a diminished robustness of the Russian sea, which might nevertheless survive should the streams become redirected away from it. The possibility of some form of harmonious coexistence and peace between the Slavs, to Fedotov's regret, is also absent. (17) The poem makes the ability to hold on to Slavic domains a sine qua non for the continued viability of the Russian empire. Russia's need to rule other Slavs thus emerges in the poem as a certain vulnerability, which is why it therefore also becomes such a non-negotiable necessity.

What the poem does not address, but was obvious to its elite readers in 1831, is the rival claims by Poland and Russia to their shared borderlands in today's Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania. While Poland had gained these lands through a fourteenth-century dynastic union that in 1569 led to the creation of a dual confederate state, by the nineteenth century Poland's claim to this territory could be considered just as imperial as Russia's, its rule just as foreign. As was well known, Polish insurrectionists demanded the restitution of the Polish borders from 1772, that is, from before the partitions of Poland. This would mean returning to Poland right-bank Ukraine and Kyiv, something that was unacceptable from the Russian point of view. The Poles persisted in this demand even when Russian troops were encircling Warsaw. As Ol'ga Murav'eva notes, while the Poles' Western European sympathizers largely ignored this aspect of the conflict, it was foremost in Russian public opinion. She writes:
   Poland's unprecedented demand to willingly give over to her
   enormous territories did not particularly feature in the Western
   press, but in Russia it was a foremost concern [...] The key
   question troubling Europe [was] the fight of the Poles against an
   autocratic imperial regime for national independence and democracy.
   Europeans were absolutely indifferent to all the niceties of "the
   family quarrel" that meant so much to the Russians. This mutual
   deafness was for Europeans ample evidence of Russian barbarity, and
   for Russians--a proof of European arrogance and hatred for Russia.

In fact, Pushkin explicitly addresses the Russo-Polish rivalry over these contested territories in his other contribution to the same patriotic brochure, the poem "The Borodino Anniversary." He asks in it mockingly what territorial concessions would satisfy the Poles: the Russian retreat behind the Bug River (the westernmost option, the river separating Poland from Belarus and Ukraine), the Vorskla River (in northeastern Ukraine), the Liman (the northwestern shores of the Black Sea, formerly part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth), or perhaps the abandonment of Volhynia, or even Kyiv. That Kyiv is glossed as "the forebear of Russian towns" (prashchur russkikh gorodov, emphasis mine) signals how unacceptable the possibility of relinquishing this city to the Poles appeared to the poet. The implication of this "cascade of angry rhetorical questions" is that to expect Russia to do any of these things would be ludicrous. (19) It would be a slippery slope of imperial retreat, an eastward drift of the Polish-Russian border into historically "Russian" land.

Asymmetries of Slavic "Quarrels"

What is loudly proclaimed in "The Borodino Anniversary" crops up less overtly in "To the Slanderers of Russia." Yet both poems ultimately work with the same political framework. Like "The Borodino Anniversary," "To the Slanderers of Russia" presents the ancient "unequal quarrel" (neravnyi spor) between two imperial systems, ones of Liakh and Ross, over the direction of the Slavic streams and their ultimate political reservoir. The Slavic streams in question here are not just Polish, but the streams that meander between Poland and Russia, and especially Ukraine. By then, Pushkin had made clear his position on Russo-Ukrainian relations in the long narrative poem Poltava (1828-29) that celebrates Peter the Great's defeat of the separatist Ukrainian hetman Ivan Mazepa. Pushkin avoids any implication that Mazepa might be motivated by a legitimate political opposition, portraying him as obsessed with a petty grievance. His Mazepa brings the Ukrainian Hetmanate into a full-scale war with Russia as revenge for the disrespect he personally suffered when Peter, once in a distant past, publicly tugged at his mustache. The poet also throws in a bit of sexual perversity in the hetman's portrait, presenting him as the seducer of his teenage goddaughter, thus rounding off his image as a deviant villain.

The Russo-Polish quarrel is "unequal," of course, because Poland's pathetic statelessness is no match for the heft and stretch of the Russian Empire. Here was a country wiped off the map of Europe that demanded from its powerful imperial sovereign the restitution not only of its ethnic territory, but also of its former quasi-imperial domains (which did, however, contain significant Polish populations, especially among the nobility). This shows both how unrealistic Poles were in their aspirations, and how crucial to Polish identity this eastern rim still was. From the Polish perspective, the demand was to return Poland to its historic boundaries. From the Russian perspective, Poland was an imperial periphery that had the gall to demand territories to which it had no legitimate claims.

Pushkin's rhetoric of questioning ("will Slavic streams flow into the Russian sea?") does not signal any real doubt as to the ultimate result of this epochal struggle, because it has already been "preordained by fate" (vzveshennyi sud'boiu). The poem argues that the political result will not be decided by any contingencies of the battlefield or diplomacy because it has been decreed by Russia's manifest destiny in its Slavic periphery. This is a position on the Slavic Question that Dostoevsky, who inherited much from Pushkin's imperial thinking, would also espouse in his Writer's Diary in the 1870s. Dostoevsky claimed, for example, that Poland and Russia will never find a way to coexist (im ne uzhit 'sia) because Poland's ultimate goal is to usurp Russia's place in the Slavic world. (20)

Yet for all his concern with Slavdom, Pushkin strains his lexicon's cogency when in place of Poland he invokes Lithuania (Litva), which actually connotes not a Slavic, but a Baltic ethnic periphery. It is true that as a historical designation, "Lithuania" referred not to an ethnicity, but to the entirety of the multiethnic Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, at its peak in the seventeenth century the biggest state in Europe. But there is no disguising that "Lithuania" reads incongruously in the context of "an argument of Slavs among one another" (spor slavian mezhdu soboiu, emphasis mine), which appears in the very next line. In fact, perhaps to avoid confusing poor Frenchmen, the minister of education, Count Sergei Uvarov, when translating the poem loosely for a French audience, got rid of any mention of Lithuania. (21)

Indeed, Pushkin scrupulously avoids the word "Poland" and all its derivations. Curiously, this is an anti-Polish poem in which the name "Poland" does not ever crop up. Instead, there's talk of "Lithuania" and "Liakhy," the latter term referring to the semi-mythic progenitors of Poles. What reasons could have guided Pushkin toward such substitutions? First, they ground the 1831 conflict in the distant history of expansionist rivalry between medieval Muscovy and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In doing so, Pushkin denies that there is anything qualitatively different about the Poles' demand of national independence from Russia in 1831. He presents the November Uprising as merely the most recent iteration of "a domestic, old quarrel" (domashnii, staryi spor) between the region's two historic powers in their rivalry over the East European peoples caught between them, which the Poles are doomed to lose just as those that came before. Second, these substitutions deny Poles any modern national identity, locking them rhetorically in antiquated locutions. While the insurrectionists struggled to convince Russia and Europe that their mature, modern nationhood made them deserving of statehood, "To the Slanderers of Russia" performs the opposite operation, pushing the Poles back into the musty regions of ancient tribal politics and identity.

Hokanson identifies Pushkin's additional insults toward the Poles, such as the classic imperial paternalism of his tone; he addresses the French "in the manner of one parent speaking to another about a misbehaving child." She is also right that for Pushkin to make Russia the head of the Slavic household would rile the Poles. (22) Since at least the time of Herder, arguments about who was the most Slavic of all Slavs obsessed East Europeans. Herder located the purest Slavic folk songs, hence the cradle of Slavdom, in the areas of western Ukraine and southeastern Poland. Russians viewed themselves as the most important Slavs because they created the one major, powerful Slavic state (most other Slavs by the nineteenth century were subjects of other states), and because they preserved Orthodox Christianity, seen by them as more authentically "Slavic" because non-Western. In the age of nationalism, debates about the authenticity and putative origins of nations were passionate, and morphed all too easily into mythologies.

A common disparagement of Russian pretensions to the status of the most Slavic of all Slavs, voiced by many Poles, was that Russian stock was doubly contaminated: first by admixtures from the Varangians (a Scandinavian tribe that responded to the Rus'ian princes' invitation to come rule over their land), and then by the Russians' intermarriage with their empire's more recent Asian subjects. For many Eurocentric Europeans, Russians were tainted with "Asiaticism" and its colonially defined corollaries, such as barbarism, despotism, etc. While many Poles, Mickiewicz among them, orientalized Russia as a barbaric semi-Asian colossus of tyranny, many Russians treated Poles as inauthentic and overly westernized Slavs, whose political follies had led their country to well-deserved ruin. (23)

Against the background of these conflicting perceptions and biases, Pushkin defines the Russian version of European geopolitics in his poem. Poland, eager to play the role of a counterweight to despotic Russia, and to be seen as an easternmost bulwark of European civilization, is tucked by Pushkin under Russia's mantle, subordinated to the Russia-led "family" of Slavs, and reduced to a tributary of the mighty Russian sea. Europe cannot have separate dealings with such a Poland; its proper diplomatic partner in Eastern European matters is Russia. As Hokanson puts it, the poet asserts that "it is Russia that stands between East and West, not Poland." Furthermore, as Harsha Ram argues, Pushkin ushers in with this ode a "new kind of politics" by making Europe Russia's Other. (24) The poem also does what imperial texts of this sort typically do: it makes light of the Poles' anti-imperial challenge. Russian public opinion was shocked and dismayed by how long it took to crush the rebels. Europeans' siding with the Poles harmed Russia's interests and strategic position in European affairs. We know from Pushkin's correspondence that he was concerned about the war's slow progress; after it ended, he called it "nine months of disaster." (25) He had personal reasons to worry as his own brother, Lev Sergeevich Pushkin, participated in the Polish Campaign in the rank of cavalry captain. (26) Just a few months after having tied the knot with Natalia Goncharova in February 1831, the poet claimed his readiness to strap his new wife to the saddle and gallop off to battle himself. (27) Yet in the poem, he diminishes the seriousness of the Poles' military challenge to the Russian Empire, reducing it to mere "agitation"--not even in Poland, but in "Lithuania" (volneniia Litvy). The epigraph to the poem's manuscript version bore the Latin maxim "Vox et praetera nihil," meaning "Sound and nothing more." (28) This trivializes nearly a year of bloody war and the modern political grievance that gave rise to it.

The Poem's Addressee

The ode's title addresses Russia's "slanderers" in the West. These were the deputies in the French Parliament who advocated for armed assistance to the Poles and some of the most respected French poets and intellectuals, such as Hugo, Jullien, Delavigne, and Beranger, who vocally supported the Polish cause. (29) Yet although the poem was translated into French and German by various admirers, it was not published in Western Europe at the time (such translations were printed in Russia, long after the uprising). (30) Pushkin, whose French was excellent, himself never translated it. So the ode's actual addressee, despite the title, appears to have been the domestic audience. Nicholas I, in promoting the speedy public dissemination of Pushkin and Zhukovsky's brochure in Russia, seized upon this poetic statement as propounding the correct view of the Polish Uprising and of Russia's relation to Europe. Mickiewicz, in his 1832 poem "To My Russian Friends" ("Do przyjaciol Moskali"), later accused Pushkin of writing his anti-Polish poems in order to curry favor with Nicholas I. It is true that Pushkin was indeed rewarded for them with a post in the Collegium of Foreign Affairs that came with a salary of 5,000 rubles. (31) However, most scholars regard the poems as a sincere expression of Pushkin's views; the perks were incidental.

And yet, while meant primarily for domestic consumption, Pushkin's ode ostensibly fashions a way of speaking to Western Europeans. It tries to persuade not the West, however, but the Russians that a patriotic, principled rejection of Western arguments was possible and to model what it might look like. For those among Russia's westernized elites who were dispirited by Europe's condemnation, or even sympathized with the rebels, as many on the radical left did, Pushkin models a different affect and a different politics. (32) According to this rehearsal of a rebuttal, it is imperative to denounce Western poets' misplaced sympathies, their "senseless" (bessmyslennaia) fascination with the desperate plight of the Poles. It is essential to remind the Europeans of Russia's sacrifices for the security of Europe, most recently in the Napoleonic Wars (more on this below), on account of which Russia may be "owed" Europe's non-interference in its Slavic sphere of influence, to use a more modern concept. However, while the poem's real audience was Russian, the idea that this audience needed to be properly coached in addressing the court of European public opinion means that Europe's opinion of Russia did in the end matter greatly. After all, Pushkin's furor over Europe's condemnation of Russia's politics in Poland is what inspired him to write the poem.

Yet on the question of the addressee, postcolonial theory prompts us also to ask who the poem refuses to speak to. Remarkably, the poem makes no overtures toward the mutinous Poles. As Dixon astutely notes: "Pushkin talks right past [Poland] to the Europeans whose anti-Russian speeches he wants to answer." (33) This further supports my earlier point that Pushkin's new model of geopolitics is to make Russia Europe's sole diplomatic counterpart in Eastern European politics. He eliminates Poland as an interlocutor and an independent player with any rights to represent its own interests, much less those of the region. An irritatingly "haughty" (kichlivyi) subaltern, Poles are not a subaltern worth speaking to.

Kinship as an Alternative to a Civilizing Mission

Pushkin makes no effort to enlighten the Poles about the benefits of imperial inclusion, or to articulate any civilizing mission that Russia might enact in their country. He likely realized that any efforts to do so would fall flat in the context of the rather high regard in which Russians in the early decades of the nineteenth century held Polish culture. Polish culture was then discussed in the Russian press not as standing to gain from an association with Russian culture, but as helping Russia mature by facilitating its reorientation toward more Slavic and national cultural models. (34) In postcolonial terms, this may be seen as a fairly anomalous instance of a periphery "civilizing" the center. This was the Achilles heel of Russia's imperial ideology in the western provinces: the difficulty of articulating the advantages of streaming into "the Russian sea."

So Pushkin dispenses with civilizing blandishments and settles for a brilliant substitute: the notion of kinship. "This is a quarrel of Slavs among one another" (eto spor slavian mezhdu soboiu), Pushkin announces. The incompetent West lacks any expertise to adjudicate the region's politics:
   [phrase omitted]

   Leave us: you have not read
   These bloody tablets;
   Incomprehensible and foreign to you
   Is this familial enmity.

The metaphor of kinship thus takes the thorny question of Polish independence out of the court of European public opinion and its irksome meddlers. If the conflict between Russia and Poland is a domestic, internal "family" dispute, then Europe has no say in the matter.

In the long term, Pushkin's anti-Polish poems solidified in Russian political discourse the notion of kinship as an expedient substitute for a civilizing mission. Both performed the same function: to justify imperial appropriation and to legitimize an ideology of rule. Of course, civilizing scenarios about leading colonized peoples to progress and prosperity flourished in Russia with respect to other imperial regions, especially in Asia. But kinship became the default metaphor coding the relations between Russia and its Slavic neighbors, especially East Slavs, who were connected to Russians by geographical proximity and the traditions of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Although Slavic kinship is one of those notions we now do not pause to ponder, like many such ideas, it is an ideological construct that arose in response to specific historical circumstances. Seventeenth-century Ruthenian (mostly Ukrainian) church fathers who took positions of authority in the Muscovite ecclesiastical hierarchy came up with the idea of being related to northern Rus'ians in an effort to gain acceptance in their new place of employment and shed their status as outsiders. (35) In his ode, Pushkin turns this idea into a powerful imperial invention that is still very much with us to this day: kinship as an argument for imperial rule and a license to punish political insubordination. Instead of persuasion, Pushkin speaks the language of tough paternalistic power that will brook no dissent.

Indeed, familial ties in "To the Slanderers of Russia" evoke no cozy metaphors of care, inclusion, or embrace. Instead, kinship is an argument for compulsion and entrapment. Pushkin presents the Poles as wayward kinsmen who must be reunited with their Slavic "family," headed by Russia. In a sense, this image replays the biblical parable of the prodigal son, minus the benevolence and forgiveness. It is not an option for prodigal Poland to stray. Disturbingly, violence may be needed to reintegrate this kinsman to the family. According to the poem, the reasons why this must take place have nothing to do with anything that Poland might stand to gain from this affiliation. Instead, this forcible reintegration serves the discursive needs of the Russian Empire as it articulates an appealing conception of its own identity. Any political divorce would destabilize the vision of the Russian imperial "family" flanked by stalwart kinsmen.

Incidentally, while reserving for his ode high-minded ideals such as the unification of all Slavs under Russia's aegis, Pushkin also voiced privately more crass considerations for not tolerating Poland's splintering from the empire. In one letter, he expressed regret about Russia's prolonged loss of colonial income from Poland due to the uprising. (36)

The Power of (Negative) Emotions

"And you hate us" (I nenavidite vy nas)--this stark accusation of the West jolts the third stanza. Sympathy for Poland automatically means hatred of Russia. (37) As in 1830, so today, any expression of support by the "West" for Eastern Europeans asserting their independence from the region's hegemon is equated with enmity toward Russia. In fact, in "The Borodino Anniversary," such support is construed as revealing of the West's ultimate, real goal: to subjugate Russia itself. The possibility of European interference in the November Uprising is described as the same "feast" (pir) as the one of 1812, which again beckons Europeans, intoxicated by Slavic blood. To be fair, the recent memory of Napoleon's multinational army's invasion of Russia, so richly invoked in the brochure's poems, gives some credence to this argument. But this also licensed certain paranoid tendencies in the Russian political imagination: a persistent suspicion that the West is out to destroy Russia. As Frizman shows, although European public opinion, and especially its liberal factions, overwhelmingly supported the Poles, no European state actually considered aiding Poland in 1831. (38) Even the insurrectionists themselves insisted they harbored no ill will toward the Russian people, whose aspirations to freedom they shared and hoped to encourage. Their joint enemy was the repressive tsarist regime. A famous motto emblazoned on Polish military banners proclaimed, in both Polish and Russian, "For our and your freedom" (Za naszq i waszq wolnosc; Za nashu i vashu vol'nost').

For Pushkin to invoke hatred meant to draw a red line: we will consider any Western support for defection from our Slavic backyard as an act of enmity toward Russia. Europe owes Russia this concession, the following stanza argues, by virtue of two epochal services that Russia rendered to Europe. The poet sarcastically wonders whether precisely these Russian sacrifices might be the reasons why the West hates Russia:
   [phrase omitted]

   For what? Answer us: is it because
   On the ruins of burning Moscow
   We did not bend to the insolent will
   Of him under whom all of you trembled?
   Or is it because we hurled into the abyss
   The pagan idol oppressing all kingdoms
   And redeemed with our blood
   Europe's freedom, honor, and peace?

Both questions are typically read as referring to Napoleon, who tyrannized Europe before Russia finally defeated him, sacrificing its glorious ancient capital in the process. However, I would argue that only the first one does. Would Pushkin, famed for his economy of means, ask the same question twice, especially in such a short poem? The second question actually refers to stemming the tidal wave of what is known in Russian historiography as the "Mongol yoke," or the thirteenth-century Mongol invasion of Rus'. This meaning is suggested by the word "[pagan] idol" (kumir) and the fact that it appears in a separate, but syntactically cognate, question. By absorbing the brunt of the Mongol conquest, as the argument ran, Russia saved Europe, where the Mongols were ultimately headed. Just as the idea of the most Slavic of all Slavs, the question of which Eastern European people saved Western Europe from Asian conquest was the subject of polemics. Some historians of Ukraine believed that the honor belonged to the Cossacks and their borderline defenses against the steppe peoples. Poles credited King Jan III Sobieski and his celebrated rescue of Vienna from the Ottoman siege in 1683. Pushkin clearly held the Russian view of the matter, which he also expressed elsewhere. (39) All in all, the fourth stanza indignantly broods over the political irony that instead of gratitude for Russia's defense of Europe's freedom, the repayment appears to be hate. (40)

Amid all the parsing of historical references and political arguments in the critical literature on the poem, this rich affective layer has escaped attention. But the power of this political ode stems not only from the language of reason but also that of emotions. According to recent research by psychologists, cognitive scientists, and philosophers, emotions are also forms of cognition in that they have intentional content and operate like cognitive habits, and as such can be learned, unlearned, and modified. (41) Rather than purely biological forces, they are shaped by culture-specific emotional repertoires and sociolinguistic templates. In the realm of social life, our private emotions contend with what William Reddy calls "emotional regimes," or sets of normative emotions practiced in official rituals. Nations especially are affective communities that, in order to build a sense of loyalty and allegiance, rely on emotional identification--which must be constructed, learned, practiced, and transmitted. (42) "To the Slanderers of Russia" became a very successful item in the emotional repertoire of Russian nationalism, and it entered the monarchy's official emotional regime, as seen in the circumstances of its publication and popular dissemination.

So what is the poem's emotional repertoire? The cool-headed and ironic opening, condescendingly advising Europeans not to stick their noses where they don't belong, gives way, in the last of the discussed stanzas, to a wounded sense of justice and bitter resentment at the black ingratitude for Russia's sacrifices. The proper reaction to Europe's supposed hatred, the poem coaches its readers, is not sheepish resignation but a projection of strength. Russia's greatness and confidence in its raison d'etat allow it to dispense with the love of either the Europeans or Polish "kinsmen." The Russia in the poem would rather be respected and feared than loved. Those Europeans eager to challenge Russia over Poland are therefore issued intimidating reminders of Russia's imperial might and military prowess. Rattling "the Izmail bayonet" for the occasion, and thus invoking Russia's celebrated 1790 victory over Ottoman forces, the poet asks, purely rhetorically: "Has a Russian grown unaccustomed to victories? / Are we few?" (Il' russkii ot pobed otvyk? / Il' malo nas?). As for those reckless enough to ignore the warning, he issues in the closing lines a taunting invitation to come to Russia's spacious plains, where they might find many "not unfamiliar graves" (nechuzhdykh im grobov). This was a chilling reference to the hundreds of thousands of Napoleon's soldiers who perished on his disastrous campaign in Russia. The poem's emotional register is thus further diversified by menacing, muscular defiance.

This was, however, a staged defiance, securely reserved for the time when it was abundantly clear that no European offensive had the remotest chance of materializing. Pushkin wrote the poem on 16 August, three days before General Paskevich laid siege to Warsaw. Whatever fears of European aid to the rebels he may have still harbored must have been getting weaker by the day. Warsaw's fall on 8 September put the final nail in the uprising's coffin. "To the Slanderers" was published on 14 September. It was written from the perspective of nearly assured victory, and was published in its celebration.

For defiance and saber-rattling to imprint themselves in the history of Russian political poetry as Pushkin's emotional reaction to the November Uprising also brings up other ironies. For Pushkin was very anxious about the possibility of European intervention. In June, though hopeful that the principle of noninterference would restrain Europeans, Pushkin worried that they might "barge in" (Togo i gliadi, naviazhetsia na nas Evropa). He kept gauging this risk in July: "It looks like we'll be able to avoid a European war. May God grant it." In letters to Viazemsky as late as early August, he is apprehensive, but also moderately hopeful about the unlikelihood of such developments. "We just might get out of this pickle," he concludes in the first letter (tak avos' li vykarabkaemsia). In the second, he somewhat unseriously considers joining the fight if the Europeans do barge in. (43) Moreover, in a poem written in June 1831, "Before a Sacred Tomb" ("Pered grobnitseiu sviatoi"), the poet mused about resurrecting the hero of 1812, General Kutuzov, so he could either save Russia all over again or designate a worthy successor. This certainly did not exude confidence about the job performance of Kutuzov's successors on the Polish front in 1831.

The martial rhetoric in "To the Slanderers" thus hides Pushkin's real apprehensions about the perceived strategic and military vulnerabilities of the empire. The ode publicly performed an affective posture that was not a sincere reflection of the poet's own. Instead of cool equanimity at the prospect of Europeans stumbling foolishly into their Russian graves, Pushkin's letters evince an anxiety about a European intervention. Instead of confidence in the Russian army, Pushkin was frustrated about its fumbling. The emotions of the poetic "I" in this ode overlap only partially with those of the poet, who--as befits the genre--fashioned an affective posture that in his view was suitable to the emotional regime of the imperial government and the imagined collectivity of the Russian nation. To dwell on this discrepancy is instructive. In imperial texts such as this one, behind strident assertions of power there often lurk the empires' perceived vulnerabilities. In fact, a sense of these very weaknesses may well be powering the stridency.

A similar dynamic obtains in a poem written nearly a century later that models itself on Pushkin's "To the Slanderers of Russia": Alexander Blok's 1918 poem "The Scythians" ("Skify"). (44) This demonstrates how culturally hardwired the emotional and ideological repertoire of Pushkin's ode had by then become. The geopolitical situation that triggered "The Scythians" was analogous to that of the November Uprising. (45) Toward the end of World War I, in an effort to extricate Russia from the war, the Bolsheviks wished to conduct separate peace negotiations with the Central Powers: Germany and the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires. Blok wrote his poem as a warning to the Allied powers--France, Britain, the United States, and Italy--not to interfere in these negotiations, which resulted in the 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Calling it a "rude imitation of Pushkin" (grubaia poddelka Pushkinu), Ivan Bunin similarly detected an irony in Blok's menacing of the West with Russian hordes (Blok's nas t 'my i t 'my i t 'my) at a historical moment of extreme weakness, when the entire Russian army, as Bunin put it, "beat a hasty retreat from the front" (udrali s fronta vo vse lopatki). (46) Blok copies Pushkin's rhetoric of menace: enter this conflict at your peril. We will no longer protect you from the Mongol hordes. Echoing Pushkin's invitation to foreign soldiers, Blok taunts Western Europeans "Come all, come to the Urals / We're clearing the battleground" (Idite vse, idite na Ural! / My ochishchaem mesto boiu). The geopolitical vectors of the conflict from the Pushkin ode morph in Blok's poem into a clash of races and civilizations. Blok paints a gruesome apocalypse of the "yellow" race exterminating the white one, as the Russians, with their "Asian mugs" (aziatskie rozhi), stand by and watch. Blok threatens the West that Russia will be its graveyard, which is also Pushkin's ultimate message to Russia's "slanderers" who would be foolish enough to put their money where their mouth is.


To read "To the Slanderers of Russia" only for its confident political declarations is not enough. Seen through the context of history, larger cultural debates, and Pushkin's own correspondence, the ode reveals subtle tensions and insecurities in Russia's imperial project. The poet's martial bluster betrays certain vulnerabilities. These include staking Russia's imperial fitness on the ability to hold on to the volatile and perennially insubordinate Polish periphery, an insecurity about the benefits of inclusion that Russia might offer the Poles, and apprehensions about European interference. This bluster, in other words, is rooted in a complex psychology of defense mechanisms.

My analysis also shows that an imperial framework is indispensable to understanding not only the poem's presentation of Russia's and Poland's relations with each other, but also of their competition over a shared East European borderland. The clash of these two adversaries needs to be seen in a larger regional context, as the fluvial imagery, so central to the poem, shows. Poland is not just a disgruntled national minority in the poem, but also Russia's rival for both territory and primacy in the Slavic world. Pushkin reveals that Polish irredentism had an imperial impetus of its own. His ode appreciates the complexity of Polish-Russian relations in this historical moment by painting the November Uprising as a national uprising, an anti-imperial uprising, and, in a certain sense, an interimperial tug-of-war, all wrapped into one.

Pushkin's ode makes two related political arguments. Its vision of Russia's relations with the Slavic world structures the larger argument about Russia's relation to Europe. Since, according to the poem, the Poles, like other Slavs, can only enter the world stage by riding Russia's imperial coattails, this effectively abrogates their unmediated relations to Europe. The ode fashions Russia as the sole entity able to speak competently on behalf of the Slavic world.

And yet the poem's political affect--the emotions it models for its audience--deserve our attention no less than the reasoned arguments that Pushkin brings in support of this geopolitical vision. More than any obscure historical allusion, it is arguably these masterfully curated emotions--of indignation and anger and defiance--that bring ever new generations of Russians to this ode in moments of strain with Europe and trouble in their Slavic "backyard." In this and other imperial texts, Pushkin bequeathed to his countrymen a repository of great power endorphins that retain their addictive force to this day.

Yale University

[Please note: Some non-Latin characters were omitted from this article.]


Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Blok, A. A. Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem v dvadtsati tomakh. 20 vols. Moscow: Nauka, 1997

Bojanowska, Edyta. "Equivocal Praise and National-Imperial Conundrums: Gogol's A Few Words About Pushkin.'" Canadian Slavonic Papers 51, no. 2-3 (2009): 177-96.

Bunin, I. A. Pod serpom i molotom: Sbornik rasskazov i vospominanii. Moscow: DirectMedia, 2016.

Dixon, Megan. "Repositioning Pushkin and the Poems of the Polish Uprising." In Polish Encounters, Russian Identity, edited by David L. Ransel and Bozena Shallcross, 49-73. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.

Fedotov, Georgii P. "Pevets imperii i svobody." In Pushkin v russkoi filosofskoi kritike: Konets XIX-pervaia polovina XX vv., edited by R. A. Gal'tseva, 356-75. Moscow: Kniga, 1990.

Frantsev, V. A. Pushkin i pol'skoe vozstanie, 1830-1831: Opyt istoricheskogo komentariia k stikhotvoreniiam 'Klevetnikam Rossii' i 'Borodinovskaia godovshchina.'"Prague: Tip. "Politika," 1929.

Frizman, Leonid. "Pushkin i pol'skoe vosstanie 1830-1831 godov: Neskol'ko vstupitel'nykh slov." Voprosy literatury 3 (1992): 209-37.

Greenfeld, Leah. Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992.

Hokanson, Katya. "Politics and Poetry: The Anti-Polish' Poems and 'I built myself a monument not made by human hands.'" In Taboo Pushkin: Topics, Texts, and Interpretations, edited by Alyssa Dinega Gillespie, 283-317. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2012.

--. "In Defense of Empire: 'The Bronze Horseman' and 'To the Slanderers of Russia.'" In Beyond the Empire: Images of Russia in the Eurasian Cultural Contexts, edited by Tetsuo Mochizuki, 149-66. Sapporo: Slavic Research Center, Hokkaido University, 2008.

Keenan, Edward. "Muscovite Perceptions of Other East Slavs before 1654--An Agenda for Historians." In Ukraine and Russia in Their Historical Encounter, edited by Peter Potichnyj et al., 20-38. Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta, 1992.

'"Klevetnikam Rossii': Mal'chik chitaet stikh Pushkina na mitinge v Ialte 21 fevralia," (accessed 1 June 2019).

Kushakov, A. V. Pushkin i Pol'sha. Tula: Priokskoe knizhnoe izdatel'stvo, 1990.

Lednicki, Waclaw. Pushkin's The Bronze Horseman: The Story of a Masterpiece. Berkeley: University of California, 1955.

--. Pouchkine et la Pologne: a propos de la trilogie antipolonaise. Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1928.

Mickiewicz, Adam. Dzieta. 17 vols. Warsaw: Czytelnik, 1993-2001.

Murav'eva, Ol'ga. '"Vrazhdy bessmyslennoi pozor ...': Oda 'Klevetnikam Rossii' v otsenke sovremennikov." Novyi mir 6 (1994): 198-204.

Nussbaum, Marta. Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Pushkarev, A. S. '"Vy grozny na slovakh--poprobuite na dele!' A. S. Pushkin kak vyrazitel' russkogo obshchestvennogo mneniia o pol'skom vosstanii 1830-1831 gg.," Nash sovremennik 6 (2001): 246-53.

Pushkin, A. S. Polnoe sobranie sochinenii. 16 vols. Moscow: Akademiia nauk SSSR, 1937-59.

--. Sobranie sochinenii v desiati tomakh. Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel'stvo khudozhestvennoi literatury, 1959-62.

Ram, Harsha. The Imperial Sublime: A Russian Poetics of Empire. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2003.

Reddy, William M. Navigation of Feeling: A Framework for the History of Emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Reyfman, Irina. How Russia Learned to Write: Literature and the Imperial Table of Ranks. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2016.

Rothe, Hans. "A. S. Pushkins 'Klevetnikam Rossii.'" Zeitschrift fur Slawistik 51,no. 1 (2006): 3-43.

Schimmelpenninck van der Oye, David. Russian Orientalism: Asia in the Russian Mind from Peter the Great to the Emigration. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010.

Shchegolev, P. E. "Dva perevoda 'Klevetnikam Rossii.'" In Iz zhizni i tvorchestva Pushkina, 352-60. Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel'stvo khudozhestvennoi literatury, 1931.

Suny, Ronald. "Affektivnye soobshchestva i struktura gosudarstva i natsii v rossiiskoi imperii." In Rossiiskaia imperiia chuvstv: Podkhody k kul'turnoi istorii emotsii, ed. Jan Plamper, Shamma Schahadat, and Mark Ely, 78-114. Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2010.

Viazemskii, P. A. Zapisnye knizhki (1813-1838). Moscow: Izdatel'stvo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1963.

Wang, Emily. "Ryleev, Pushkin, and the Poeticization of Russian History." Russian Review 78, no. 1 (2019): 62-81.

The occasion that summoned this article into existence was the Pushkinalia conference held at Princeton University in April 2018. I am grateful to Ilya Vinitsky for kindly inviting me, and to the colleagues who participated in the conference for their feedback. The article's completed draft was substantially improved thanks to the thoughtful advice and corrections of Giorgio DiMauro, William M. Todd III, and the anonymous reviewers. I also thank Oleg Proskurin, Ilya Vinitsky, and Emily Wang for consultation on specific questions.

(1) "Will Slavic streams flow into the Russian sea? / Or will it dry out? That is the question." A. S. Pushkin, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, vol. 3, pt. 1 (Moscow: Akademiia nauk SSSR, 1948), 269 (hereafter PSS). All references to Pushkin's works and correspondence come from this edition. All translations from Russian, Polish, and French are mine.

(2) PSS 14: 230.

(3) Ol'ga Murav'eva, '"Vrazhdy bessmyslennoi pozor ...': Oda 'Klevetnikam Rossii' v otsenke sovremennikov," Novyi mir 6 (1994): 198, 202; Katya Hokanson, "Politics and Poetry: The 'Anti-Polish' Poems and 'I built myself a monument not made by human hands,'" in Taboo Pushkin: Topics, Texts, and Interpretations, ed. Alyssa Dinega Gillespie (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2012), 288-89. Megan Dixon argues that in "On the Slanderers," Pushkin seized the opportunity to fashion a public, national voice; see Dixon's "Repositioning Pushkin and the Poems of the Polish Uprising," in Polish Encounters, Russian Identity, ed. David L Ransel and Bozena Shallcross (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005), 49-73. On his contemporaries' reluctance to consider Pushkin as a national poet, see Edyta Bojanowska, "Equivocal Praise and National-Imperial Conundrums: Gogol's 'A Few Words About Pushkin,'" Canadian Slavonic Papers 51, no. 2-3 (2009): 177-96.

(4) Katya Hokanson explores the compatibility of the poem's sentiments with Pushkin's other works on empire in her "In Defense of Empire: 'The Bronze Horseman' and 'To the Slanderers of Russia,'" in Beyond the Empire: Images of Russia in the Eurasian Cultural Contexts, ed. Tetsuo Mochizuki (Sapporo: Slavic Research Center, Hokkaido University, 2008), 149-66. Pushkin expressed his high regard for "To the Slanderers" in an 1836 letter to Prince Nikolai Golitsyn; see Dixon, "Repositioning Pushkin," 50.

(5) On the poem's troubled critical reception, see Hokanson, "Politics and Poetry," 284. An example of a blocked Soviet-era article on "To the Slanderers" is Leonid Frizman, "Pushkin i pol'skoe vosstanie 1830-1831 godov: Neskol'ko vstupitel'nykh slov" [1962], Voprosy literatury 3 (1992): 209-37. Unconvincing attempts have also been made to deny the poem's anti-Polish sentiments. A. V. Kushakov has argued that Pushkin's apparent anti-Polonism is actually anti-Europeanism, and that his reaction stems not from any hostility to the Poles, but from his frustration that the Polish Uprising was retarding an eventual Slavic unification. See A. V. Kushakov, Pushkin i Pol'sha (Tula: Priokskoe knizhnoe izdatel'stvo, 1990).

(6) A. S. Pushkarev, '"Vy grozny na slovakh--poprobuite na dele!': A. S. Pushkin kak vyrazitel' russkogo obshchestvennogo mneniia o pol'skom vosstanii 1830-1831 gg.," Nash sovremennik 6 (2001): 246-53.

(7) See, for example, a young boy's reading of the ode at a Russian nationalist rally in Yalta in 2015: '"Klevetnikam Rossii': Mal'chik chitaet stikh Pushkina na mitinge v Ialte 21 Fevralia," (accessed 1 June 2019).

(8) See, for example, Hokanson, "Politics and Poetry" and "In Defense of Empire"; Dixon, "Repositioning Pushkin"; Frizman, "Pushkin i pol'skoe vosstanie"; Murav'eva, '"Vrazhdy bessmyslennoi pozor'"; Waclaw Lednicki, Pouchkine et la Pologne: A propos de la trilogie antipolonaise (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1928); and Hans Rothe, "A. S. Pushkins 'Klevetnikam Rossii,'" Zeitschrift fur Slawistik 51, no. 1 (2006): 3-43.

(9) Dixon, "Repositioning Pushkin," 50.

(10) This approach follows Homi Bhabha's influential work, which shows that imperial discourse, beyond ostensible projections of power, frequently bears fissures that reveal the colonizer's anxieties and insecurities. See Bhabha's The Location of Culture (New York: Routledge, 2004).

(11) Georgii P. Fedotov, "Pevets imperii i svobody," in Pushkin v russkoi filosofskoi kritike: Konets XIX-pervaia polovina XX vv., ed. R. A. Gal'tseva (Moscow: Kniga, 1990), 356-75.

(12) Proskurin's argument is referenced in Hokanson, "Politics and Poetry," 290 and 313n37.

(13) Adam Mickiewicz, Dziela (Warsaw: Czytelnik, 1994), 2: 70.

(14) On "To the Slanderers of Russia" as a precursor of Pushkin's famous exegi monumentum poem "I Built Myself a Monument Not Made by Human Hands" ("la pamiatnik vozdvig sebe nerukotvornyi," 1836), see Hokanson, "Politics and Poetry." This display of Russia's phenomenal imperial reach also makes Poland appear tiny and insignificant; see Dixon, "Repositioning Pushkin," 59. On Mickiewicz's poems against which Pushkin wrote his Prologue to The Bronze Horseman, see Waclaw Lednicki, Pushkin's Bronze Horseman: The Story of a Masterpiece (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1955).

(15) Fedotov, "Pevets imperii i svobody," 361.

(16) Hokanson's otherwise superb interpretation of this poem misreads these lines as a warning that if the Slavic streams don't flow into the Russian sea, they will dry up; see "Politics and Poetry," 288. See also Frizman's somewhat narrower argument that the possession of Poland emerges in the poem as the "condition for the existence of Russia" ("Pushkin i pol'skoe vosstanie," 218).

(17) Fedotov, "Pevets imperii i svobody," 362.

(18) Murav'eva, '"Vrazhdy bessmyslennoi pozor,'" 200; Hokanson, "Politics and Poetry," 289.

(19) Kushakov, Pushkin i Pol'sha, 81.

(20) Cited in Pushkarev, '"Vy grozny na slovakh,'" 250.

(21) See Uvarov's French translation, which was never published in France, and its literal reverse Russian translation, in P. E. Shchegolev, "Dva perevoda 'Klevetnikam Rossii,'" in Iz zhizni i tvorchestva Pushkina (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel'stvo khudozhestvennoi literatury, 1931), 354. Uvarov's rather poor translation sharpens some of Pushkin's ideas, as when suggesting that only the extermination of either the Poles or the Russians would solve the problem. Pushkin never goes so far in his poem, though he did voice similar ideas in his correspondence. For example, in a letter to E. M. Khitrovo of 9 December 1830, Pushkin writes that the present war between Russia and Poland "will be a war of extermination [une guerre d'extermination]--or at least should be one" (PSS 14, 133).

(22) Hokanson, "Politics and Poetry," 290.

(23) On Mickiewicz's orientalizing of Russia, see Hokanson, "In Defense of Empire," 160-66; see also her "Politics and Poetry," 285-86.

(24) Hokanson, "Politics and Poetry," 287; Harsha Ram, The Imperial Sublime: A Russian Poetics of Empire (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2003), 214.

(25) See, for example, Pushkin's letters to P. A. Viazemskii of 1 June 1831 and to P. A. Osipova of 11 September 1831 (PSS 14, 169 and 222).

(26) PSS 14: 159, 225.

(27) Letter of 14 August 1831 to P. A. Viazemskii, PSS 14: 208.

(28) PSS 3, pt. 2, 877.

(29) On the Poles' French supporters, see Norman Davies, cited in Hokanson, "Poetry and Politics," 286. For a detailed account of the French debate, see V. A. Frantsev, Pushkin i pol'skoe vozstanie, 1830-1831: Opyt istoricheskogo komentariia k stikhotvoreniiam 'Klevetnikam Rossii' i 'Borodinovskaia godovshchina'" (Prague: Tip. "Politika," 1929).

(30) Shchegolev, "Dva perevoda." Among Pushkin's friends who translated the poem was E. M. Khitrovo (PSS 14: 230).

(31) On Pushkin's post, see A. S. Pushkin, Sobranie sochinenii v desiati tomakh, vol. 10 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel'stvo khudozhestvennoi literatury, 1959-62), note to p. 72. See also Hokanson, "Poetry and Politics," 288; and Irina Reyfman, How Russia Learned to Write: Literature and the Imperial Table of Ranks (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2016), 44-84.

(32) On the sympathy of many young Russians, Alexander Herzen prominent among them, see Frizman, "Pushkin i pol'skoe vosstanie," 215-16. Less convincingly, Frizman also argues that the title's "slanderers" include these Russian sympathizers (221-22).

(33) Dixon, "Repositioning Pushkin," 59.

(34) Interest in Polish culture peaked in the late 1820s before it was sharply curtailed by the November Uprising. The singular stature of Adam Mickiewicz, who spent his exile years in Russia, befriended Russian writers, and published some of his works there, helped spark this interest. Figures as diverse and influential as Faddei Bulgarin, Nikolai Polevoi, and Ivan Kireevskii hailed Mickiewicz as a great Polish national poet. Surveys of Polish literature soon followed. The knowledge of Polish literature and language was proclaimed as important and useful for Russians.

(35) Edward Keenan, "Muscovite Perceptions of Other East Slavs before 1654--An Agenda for Historians," in Ukraine and Russia in Their Historical Encounter, ed. Peter Potichnyj et al. (Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta, 1992), 20-38.

(36) Pushkin wrote, criticizing his compatriots' alleged inertia: "Impoverished and gloomy, we dully calculate the loss of our revenues [le decroissement de nos revenus]"; see his letter of 26 March 1831 to E. M. Khitrovo (PSS 14, 157).

(37) I maintain that Pushkin here accuses Europeans of siding with the Poles and hating Russians. For a contrasting interpretation see Dixon, who argues that "us" in this line means Russians and Poles together ("Repositioning Pushkin," 59).

(38) Frizman, "Pushkin i pol'skoe vosstanie," 222-25.

(39) A. S. Pushkin, "O nichtozhestve literatury russkoi" (1834); see also his letter to Chaadaev of 19 October 1836 (PSS 11: 268 and PSS 16: 171).

(40) Reflecting in his private notebook on this line from "To the Slanderers of Russia," Viazemsky bitterly wondered: "And what is it that the reviving Europe is supposed to love us for?" He was referring to Russia's insignificant contributions to European enlightenment, the key idea of Petr Chaadaev's notorious "Philosophical Letter," the publication of which five years later led to major reprisals for the author, the publisher, and the censor. (Chaadaev's writings, however, circulated widely in manuscript in the early 1830s, and were known to Pushkin and Viazemsky). See P. A. Viazemskii, Zapisnye knizhki (1813-38) (Moscow: Izdatel'stvo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1963), 214.

(41) This research is well summed up in William M. Reddy, Navigation of Feeling: A Framework for the History of Emotions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001); see also Martha Nussbaum, Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

(42) Reddy, Navigation, 21. Leah Greenfeld accords the emotion of ressentiment a key role in Russian nation building in her Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992). See also Ronald Suny, "Affektivnye soobshchestva i struktura gosudarstva i natsii v Rossiiskoi imperii," in Rossiiskaia imperiia chuvstv: Podkhody k kul'turnoi istorii emotsii, ed. Jan Plamper, Shamma Schahadat, and Mark Ely (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2010), 78-114. For a recent reading of Pushkin in the context of affect and politics, see Emily Wang, "Ryleev, Pushkin, and the Poeticization of Russian History," Russian Review 78, no. 1 (2019): 62-81.

(43) See Pushkin's letter to P. A. Viazemsky of 1 June 1831; to P. V. Nashchokin of 21 July 1831; and letters to Viazemsky of 3 and 14 August 1831; PSS 14: 169, 197, 205, 208, respectively.

(44) A. A. Blok, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem u dvadtsati tomakh (Moscow: Nauka, 1999), 5: 77-78; for parallels between "The Scythians" and "To the Slanderers," see 472-75.

(45) See David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye, Russian Orientalism: Asia in the Russian Mind from Peter the Great to the Emigration (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 222.

(46) I. A. Bunin, Pod serpom i molotom: Sbornik rasskazov i uospominanii (Moscow: DirectMedia, 2016), 197.
COPYRIGHT 2019 Slavica Publishers, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2019 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Bojanowska, Edyta M.
Publication:Pushkin Review
Geographic Code:90ASI
Date:Jan 1, 2019
Previous Article:Introducing the "Pushkinalia".
Next Article:Bot [phrase omitted] ...": Poetic Form as a Window onto Pushkin's Playful Ethical "Doublespeak".

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters