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    ALEXANDER PUSHKIN'S LAST RESTING PLACE

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    Tatiana SINITSYNA, RIA Novosti analyst

    Alexander Pushkin was buried, February 6, 1837 "Why should we cherish Pushkin's memory? The answer is: Russia has never had a man whose artistry would attain such sublime perfection." Georgi Adamovich

    A funeral caravan rushed from St Petersburg to southern Pskov Province only stopping to change horses. Pushkin's servant, Nikita Kozlov had come on the journey without permission. He was crying next to Pushkin's coffin. A police officer and Alexander Turgenev, one of Pushkin's dearest friends, were following in another sleigh.

    Professor Nikitenko's wife, close acquaintance of the Pushkin household, encountered the sleighs while they were stopped. "What's this all about?" she asked a peasant. "A man named Pushkin has died. Now he's taken off in a gallop. Look, they've wrapped him in straw like a dead dog," was the reply.

    Tsar Nicholas I did everything he could to humble the "Sun of Russian Poetry", Alexander Pushkin so that Pushkin would be forgotten after he died. Many other Russians have made many attempts to revise Pushkin's heritage. Pushkin was harshly criticised during his life as well. In 1829 and 1830, after the long poem "Poltava" and the 7th chapter of "Eugene Onegin" were published Pushkin received many unfavourable reviews. One critic said that he was "used up".

    "1830 put an abrupt end to the Pushkin era, as Pushkin had written himself out and lost his influence," wrote Vissarion Belinsky. Dmitri Pisarev went even further and called Pushkin's verse, "shallow and outdated". "Pushkin's serenity and self-possession were mistaken for indifference to social matters. Pushkin's lucidity went out of fashion as new tastes dominated Russian poetry, presenting psychological strain of the split personality," remarked Ivan Rozanov, major historian of the Golden Age of Russian poetry.

    A Pushkin revival began in 1880, when a Pushkin monument was unveiled in Moscow. "The poet illuminated the road of Russian history, and prophetically foretold its future," Fyodor Dostoyevsky said in his famous address at the commemorative gala.

    Detached from praise and criticism, Pushkin has been in his grave in the ancient Svyatogorsky (Holy Mount) Monastery for the last 167 years. The town of Pushkinskiye Gory (Pushkin Hills) surrounds the monastery. A black-iron trellis encircles Pushkin's gravesite, which is next to the Dormition Cathedral. The busy street outside the cemetery, which runs through the town, is named after Pushkin.

    Many cars park in the parking lot in front of St. Anastasia's Gates, the same gates Pushkin used to enter the monastery. He first visited the monastery as boy. There he saw one of the monastery's most precious icons he liked so much, Our Lady Hodegitria, the patroness of travellers. When Pushkin was banished to Mikhailovskoye, his nearby country estate, he frequently visited the monastery. Father Superior Hegumen Jonas was appointed his spiritual supervisor. Monk allowed Pushkin to study mediaeval manuscripts from the monastery archives. The poet was writing the tragedy, "Boris Godunov", at the time.

    Poet's mother was buried at the monastery wall in April 1836.

    Throughout the years, local women sell flowers at the monastary wall for Pushkin's grave. The town's economy is supported by Pushkin's memory. The economy is centred on the Mikhailovskoye memorial estate, which is a state cultural-historical and nature preserve. The estate employs more that 2,000 people, including 700 tour guides. The local restaurant serves spicy cabbage pottage a la Hannibal in memory of Pushkin's great-grandfather who was an 18th century dignitary. The speciality of the restaurant takes its name from a line in one of Pushkin's poems, "On Seashore Far". The restaurant also serves Pushkin brand vodka. Souvenir stands sell a plethora of souvenirs including a tiny replica of the elaborate garden seat Eugene Onegin had his dramatic conversation on and a figurine of Pushkin wearing a red shirt and white hat with an iron walking-stick in hand.

    The humble funeral procession got lost in a blizzard on February 5, 1837. The tired horses stopped at the Trigorskoye house. Turgenev and the police officer went into the house to ask for directions to the Svyatogorsky Monastery. The sleighs eventually arrived at St. Anastasia's Gates half an hour later. For a night the coffin with the Pushkin's body was left in the south chapel, close to his brother Platon's grave.

    On February 6, peasants from Mikhailovskoye and Trigorskoye began digging a grave in the frozen ground. By dusk, the peasants had only dug a shallow grave so the coffin was put in the temporary grave and covered with snow. A wooden cross with "Pushkin" inscribed on it marked the grave.

    In the spring, Pushkin's body was buried in a proper grave, but the wooden cross still marked the site. In 1841, Pushkin's widow-with donations from all over Russia-hired Permagorov to design a memorial. The memorial is made of white marble and rests on a granite slab. An arch cut through the memorial holds an urn wrapped in a veil-a symbol of premature death-and crowned with a wreath of lilies-a symbol of genius. The memorial covers the graves of Pushkin and his mother. The remains of Ossip and Maria Hannibal, Alexander Pushkin's maternal grandparents, are near the memorial. Sergei Pushkin, the poet's father, was buried in the same graveyard, however, his gravesite has been forgotten.

    In 1889, the Royal Treasury bought the Mikhailovskoye estate from Grigori, the poet's youngest son, and gave it to the nobility of the Pskov Province. The estate became a memorial museum and a residence. There was limited public admittance. The Soviets made Pushkin's estate a national pilgrimage site. Mikhailovskoye, Trigorskoye and the poet's grave received the status of a preserve on March 2, 1922. This status was recently extended to Petrovskoye as well.

    During World War II the Nazis occupied the area and plundered and burned the estates in the area. They also placed explosive devices at Pushkin's grave. A heroic team led by Semyon Geichenko rebuilt Pskov based on old maps and sketches. However, the poet's priceless personal belongings, the family furniture were lost. Geichenko was appointed the manager of the museum and made it his life's work to restore the area.

    Semyon Geichenko was buried in the Ossipov-Wulf family graveyard on the territory of preserve. Georgi Vasilevich, the current museum manager, inherited Geichenko's love of the national shrine. Vassilevich won a State Prize for culture because of his work.

    Preserved in Pushkin's study are the two most precious items in the museum: his fabled iron walking-stick and the footstool he sat on when he declared his love to Anna Kern, the lady he described as "passing vision of beauty most pure". An oil lamp always burns on the desk, casting a pale light on three fine red apples-Pushkin used to eat apples while he worked. "He may walk in any instant," a tourist once remarked. "We are waiting for him everyday" replied guide.

    "Say the name of Pushkin, and resounding it will be the idea of Russia's national poet ... Pushkin reflected Russian nature, Russian soul, language and character in the purified beauty in which scenery is reflected in a convex lens," wrote Nikolai Gogol, another luminary of Russian literature and Pushkin's contemporary.

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