"> Name: Mikhail Lermontov's "Death of a Poet"

Date:  1800 - 1850

Location:  Russia and Central Asia

SubjectPolitical/Economic/Social Opinion


Artist: Mikhail Lermontov

Confronting Bodies: Tsar Nicholas I and Russian beurocrats.

Date of Action: 1837

Specific Location: Russia

Description of Artwork: "Death of a Poet" was written in response to the death of Aleksandr Pushkin (A famous poet and author) in a duel. Most of it was developed while Pushkin was merely wounded and this portion merely praises him and insults his opponent. However when Pushkin died three days after the duel from wounds he sustained, Lermontov added a new section in a fit of rage. This passage denounces the aristocrats around the throne (Who apparently supported Pushkin's opponent) as the executioners of freedom and genius.

Description of Incident: An aristocrat who saw the poem as an attack on the best families in Russia showed it to the head of the secret police and emperor Nicholas I. The copy sent to the emperor was labeled "A Call to Revolution." He immediately considered it political subversion and that it implied his own connection to the death of Pushkin.

Results of Incident: Although the head of the secret police found nothing objectionable in the piece, circumstances forced him to denounce it as seditious. Nicholas had Lermontov examined for insanity and then exiled him to the Caucasus.

Source: Censorship: A World Encyclopedia. Ed. Derek Jones. Chicago; London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001.

Submitted By: NCAC

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