Leslie O'Bell

“Whatever my mode of thinking, never have I shared with anyone whatsoever the democratic hatred towards the nobility. It has always seemed to me an indispensable and natural estate in a great educated people.”

We know that being an aristocrat was important to Pushkin. The Russian term, of course, is dvorianin or member of the landed gentry. Pushkin was proud of his 600-year-old family tree, proof that the Pushkins had played their part in the history of the nation. It will be my argument that Pushkin’s aristocratic heritage formed a particular mentality in him as he defined himself vis-à-vis the society he lived in, that of the insider-outsider. It made available to him a position of opposition from within, and this, I think, is one of the keys to the story of his last years. Above all, the way he chose to live out his aristocratic identity at that time was not mere snobbery or the futile pursuit of an obsolete ideal. It made perfect sense in the social conditions of the world he lived in, a world which I will shortly define in the special sociological terms of Norbert Elias as a Russian “court society.”


O'Bell, Leslie. "Pushkin, Aristocratic Identity and Court Society." Pushkin Review 3 (2000): 23-42.