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Essay on Napelon as Portrayed by Pushkin and Lermontov

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“We all now pose as Napoleons--
Millions of two-legged creatures
For us are the instrument of one.”
--Eugene Onegin, by Pushkin
Napoleon in Russian Thought

Despite Russia’s own history with Napoleon Bonaparte in the Russian invasion of 1812, Russians came to view Napoleon with a strange sort of admiration and reverence. In much the same way as Western Europe at the time, Russians saw Napoleon as a symbol: an extraordinary modern man who overstepped boundaries and moral law to change history on his own terms. As a historical example or type, Napoleon surfaces in the writing of Gogol, Lermontov, Tolstoy, Tutchev and Pushkin. In his verse novel Eugene Onegin (1825-1832), Pushkin cites the influence of Napoleon in Russian thought: “We
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Исчез властитель осужденный,
Могучий баловень побед,
И для изгнанника вселенной
Уже потомство настает.

Napoleon’s name is always associated with military campaigns, bloody battles and thousands of perished soldiers. But Pushkin does not reproach him for this, but restrains himself before the supreme will of a Providence who pacified her mutinous hero.

О ты, чьей памятью кровавой
Мир долго, долго будет полн,
Приосенен твоею славой,
Почий среди пустынных волн...

“O hero, with whose bloodied story
Long, long the earth will still resound,
Sleep in the shadow of your story,
The desert ocean all around”

To Pushkin, Napoleon’s illustrious personality appears as a natural necessity of time; Napoleon’s enterprise is of a such enormous proportions, that Pushkin praises him even while discussing Napoleon’s attitude to Russia and does not belittle his glory and greatness:

Надменный! кто тебя подвигнул?
Кто обуял твой дивный ум?
Как сердца русских не постигнул
Ты с высоты отважных дум?
Великодушного пожара
Не предузнав, уж ты мечтал,
Что мира вновь мы ждем, как дара;
Но поздно русских разгадал...

“Vainglorious man ! Where were you faring,
Who blinded that astounding mind?
How came it in designs of daring
The Russian’s heart was not divined?
At fiery sacrifice not guessing,
You idly fancied, tempting fate,
We would seek peace and count blessing;
You came to fathom us too late…”

To Pushkin, Napoleon is mythical hero; the last of
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