Pushkin was not completely downcast to be leaving St Petersburg.
During his lifetime many of his friends and acquaintances were to
be hanged, imprisoned or exiled under harsher conditions. By the
standards of the time he enjoyed a surprising tolerance, but the
danger in which he stood was real.
He was sent to Ekaterinoslav (South Russia), where he fell ill
and was soon taken off to visit the Caucasus by the family of a
friend. This was the real frontier with Asia, still turbulent with
resentment against Russian rule, and Pushkin was deeply impressed
by the untamed scenery and restless population. One of his most
popular poems, The Prisoner of the Caucasus, about a romance
between a Russian prisoner and a Circassian girl, drew on this period
of his travels.
During his period of ‘sick leave’ Pushkin travelled
around the Crimea on his way back to Inzov’s office, which
had relocated to Kishinev in Moldavia. He began reading and writing
more seriously, filling the first of a series of notebooks recording
his thoughts and projects. He also wrote a number of poems and tales,
and assuaged his boredom by incessantly picking quarrels and fighting
In the summer of 1823 he moved to Odessa, on the edge of the Black
Sea. He spent much of his time there in initiating love affairs,
and penning insulting epigrams about his new boss, but Pushkin’s
requests to resign were ignored until one of his letters in which
he lightheartedly talked about taking ‘lessons in atheism’
was intercepted. In August 1824 Pushkin’s Civil Service employment
was terminated, and he returned to his parents’ estate in
Mikhailovskoe under police supervision.
Guest-curated for the British Library by Mike Phillips
Next - 'Back from exile - life on the family estate'