“The Czar and the Poet”


When the people followed the Communists at the beginning of the twentieth century, they gave up Christ, but they found it impossible, as the revolutionary poets exhorted them, “to throw Pushkin overboard the steamboat of modernity.”

Prominent Russian writer Mikhail Shishkin has an essay up at The New Republic, translated from Russian, about the fundamental conflicts between his country’s society, its government, and its literature.

It’s not your average international-politics reportage; keeping technical details to a minimum, Shishkin explores in sterling prose the way Pushkin and other literary figureheads fundamentally changed Russia’s conception of itself—and how that hasn’t been enough to break the cycle of revolution and despotism.

Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →