Adrian Wanner

Тебя я воспою, герой,
О Котляревский, бич Кавказа!
Куда ни мчался ты грозой—
Твой ход, как черная зараза,
Губил, ничтожил племена… [1]

The dithyramb to Russian military power in the epilogue of “Kavkazskii plennik” has created somewhat of a quandary for Pushkin scholars. While the author draws a seemingly sympathetic portrait of the Caucasian natives in the main body of his poem, in the epilogue he glorifies their extermination by the Russian military machine. We also observe a substantial change in style: the earlier elegiac, romantic tone is replaced by a classicist, bombastic diction reminiscent of eighteenth-century solemn odes. This observation has led critics from Pushkin’s time until now to formulate two sets of questions, or rather, accusations. One objection is of an aesthetic nature and berates the poem’s lack of internal coherence.[2] The second, perhaps more damaging, reservation concerns Pushkin’s ethics.


Wanner, Adrian. "Imperialism as an Infectious Disease: The Theme of Death in 'Kavkazskii plennik'." Pushkin Review 3 (2000): 133-50.