Much, even too much, has been written about the fateful duel of Jan. 27, 1837 and its prehistory. I say “too much,” because a surfeit of information can sometimes hinder an understanding of the essence of a matter, no less than the lack of information does. Some may say that I myself, by taking up this theme, am adding to the potentially harmful surfeit. But, first of all, the place for calling a halt has already been passed. Moreover, writings on Pushkin’s duel during the past twenty or thirty years have been dominated by a tendency that, as I shall try to show, leads away from the truth.
In 1916, the prominent historian and writer P.Ye. Shchegolev published his voluminous (around 400 pages) book, The Duel and Death of A.S. Pushkin, which more or less summarized the results of the preceding eighty years of investigation. Later, however, in 1928, a second edition of this book came out that was larger by half, in the introduction to which P.Ye. Shchegolev stated that “new material, previously inaccessible but uncovered by the revolution in 1917, . . . has prompted me to reevaluate the history of the duel.”
This revision was expressed, in one way or another, in the writings of other prominent Pushkin specialists of that time—M.A. Tsyavlovsky, B.L. Modzalevsky, B.V. Kazansky, and D.D. Blagoy, who much later, incidentally, in 1977, harshly criticized the first edition of P.Ye. Shchegolev’s book: “Under the pen of this researcher, a national tragedy was transformed into a rather banal family drama: a husband, a beautiful young wife, and a homewrecker—a fashionable, handsome officer of the cavalry.”
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Source Credits: Vadim V. Kozhinov in Schiller Institute