‘Long will I be honored by the people’. Thus starts the quotation from one of Pushkin’s poems on the pediment of his statue at Pushkin ploshad. Tradition has it, that on Pushkin’s birthday, June 6, people gather at the feet of the statue and commemorate the poet’s spirit. Pushkin is not only seen as the source of modern Russian literature, more or less being the Russian Goethe, but in the century after his death he grew to represent the ideal Russia. This national poet represents moral righteousness, which has been hard to find in the Russia of the 19th and 20th century under Tsarism, Leninism or Stalinism. More than any country in Europe, Russia survived inhumane tragedies, so let Russians pride themselves for it! The poem continues:
For awakening with my lire kind impulses
For praising in this fallen age freedom
And advocating mercy to the fallen
The dead were for decades more powerful than the living under Stalinism. People gathered on June 6 to commemorate Pushkin and perhaps more so, to remind themselves and the regime of the lines of poetry, words written by a bird’s feather, a single feather uplifting a nation’s kind impulses. So no wonder that the statue of this Russian of all Russians at Pushkin ploshad symbolizes the human will to survive and strive to be free. Freedom, yes it is a universal desire, and it survived even in Russia where the intellectual history is full of questions being raised about the servile nature of the Russian people.
Pushkin proudly looks over the buzzing stream of people that flows along Tverskaya, his back turned to the building on the northeast corner housing the former Soviet newspaper Izvestya (news) and the Russia Cinema, where once a year the Russian film prizes are awarded and the International Film Festival of Moscow takes place. Across the street, you will find a highly popular McDonalds, rounding a highly bizarre circle of 200 years of history at Pushkin square.
I had expected on my arrival to find a large crowd of Russians, with guest speakers reciting selected work by Pushkin, with popular artists and policy makers claiming the event. But I was surprised to find only a unorganized and select group of old people taking turns to read their favorite selections and applauding for each other. There were some official festivities taking place later in the afternoon most likely, and about three to four television crews shooting scenes and interviewing some of the about thirty gray haired Pushkinists. At the pediment a few dozen flowers were placed in the course of the day, now heavily guarded by metal fencing and a fresh dozen militia recruits dressed in oversized militia coats and not yet possessing that intimidating posture of more experienced militia.
For a few minutes I stood and absorbed the Pushkinist semi-circle and listened to the Russian recitations, trying to absorb the esthetic melodies without comprehending.