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Pushkin A.S. History of the Pugachev rebellion. Part I-II. St. Petrsburg. 1834.

Pushkin A.S. History of the Pugachev rebellion [Istoriya Pugachevskago bunta]. Part I-II. St. Petrsburg. [V Tipografii II Otdeleniya Sobstvennoi E.I.V. Kantseliarii], 1834. First edition. Two parts in one volume. One of 3000 copies. In-8°, 26x17 cm.

Pt. I: half-title, title-page, [2], 168 + 10 p.p. + [2], [5], [7], Pugachev’s portrait-frontispiece [very rare!], folding map of provinces of Russian Empire, plate with image of Pugachev’s seal & 4 plates with facsimile of various signatures.

Pt. II: half-title, title-page, [3], [2], 336 p.p.

The name of the author is not on the title-page, but signed to the introduction and signed by ink on the title-page, which lightly repaired. The last pages of first part contain reproductions of map, Pugachev’s seal and of various signatures. Binding: contemporary brown leather, front and back covers with the gilt arms, gilt edges (lightly rubbed). Provenance: from the library of prince Mosal’skii, «Rurikid».

The History of Pugachev (1834) and its highly compressed fictional counterpart, The Captain's Daughter (1836), show Pushkin's historical work at full maturity. In the former he analyzes the Pugachev rebellion of the 1770s against a carefully established background of social, political, and economic oppression. The ostensible leader of the uprising, Pugachev, is shown to be a mere screen onto which the Cossacks and peasants could project their resentments. The speed of the narrative brilliantly conveys the speed and scope of the uprising, which had badly shaken the Russian Empire. Lest Nicholas I miss the point, Pushkin provided him with a set of comments on his history. The narration of The Captain's Daughter and its editorial presentation provide, in themselves, a historiographical commentary on this national crisis. The story is told from the perspective of a young officer, Grinyov, caught up in the uprising and forced by his attachment to the heroine to move back and forth between the government's forces and the rebels; each side threatens at times to destroy him and his fiancee. This mode of presentation, familiar to Pushkin from Scott's novels, gives a bird's-eye view of the uprising. A second perspective, Grinyov's in older age, offers an interpretation of the events in terms of Enlightenment historiography, i.e. as a struggle of law and reason vs. cruelty and superstition. The limitations of this second perspective are revealed by the editor's perspective of 1836, manifest in epigraphs and in the organization of the text; it illuminates the conflict as one between the culture and government of the Westernized gentry (Catherine II’s state) and the culture and government of the un-Westernized, Cossack Old Believers (Pugachev's state). What appeared to the naive young man and to the enlightened older Grinyov as anarchy, the Cossack army, is seen from this perspective as a cultural phenomenon with its own laws, beliefs, and political organization, no more violent and arbitrary than those of the Empress's state.

Reference literature:

1. Smirnov-Sokol’skii, Biblioteka, №1018.

2. Kilgour, №887.

3. Smirnov-Sokol’skii, Rasskazy o prizhiznennykh izdaniyakh Pushkina, №33, 346-371 p.p.

4. Tsyavlovskii, Pushkin in Print, 1814-1837, №№982-983.

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