After fighting a duel to defend his wife's honor, the beloved Russian poet Alexander Pushkin died in a rented apartment in this building on January 27, 1837. The poet lived out the last act of his illustrious career here, and what a life it was. Pushkin (b. 1799) occupies in Russian literature the position enjoyed by Shakespeare and Goethe in the respective literatures of England and Germany. He is most famous as the author of Eugene Onegin, the ultimate tale of
unrequited love, whose Byronic hero is seen more as the victim than as the arbiter of his own fate (a new sort of "hero" who cleared the path for the later achievements of Tolstoy and Chekhov). At the heart of this story—which involves a young genteel girl who falls in love with Onegin only to be rejected, then years later winds up rejecting Onegin when he falls in love with her—is a sense of despair, which colored much of Pushkin's own life and death. The poet was killed by a dashing count who had openly made a play for Pushkin's wife, Natalya Goncharova, reputedly "the most beautiful woman in Russia."
Pushkin actually lived at this address less than a year (and could afford it only because the palace owners, the noble Volkhonsky family, were co-sympathizers with the poet for the Decembrist cause). The apartment museum has been restored to give it the appearance of an upper-middle-class dwelling typical of the beginning of the 19th century. (Pushkin had to support a family of six with his writing, so his apartment was less luxurious than it looks now.) Although few of the furnishings are authentic, his personal effects (including the waistcoat he wore during the duel) and those of his wife are on display. Recently, St. Petersburg forensic experts verified that the bloodstains on the sofa here were indeed left by the poet's gunshot wound. The library, where Pushkin actually expired, has been rebuilt according to sketches made by his friend and fellow poet Vasily Zhukovsky, who was holding vigil in his last hours. A moving tape-recorded account leads you through the apartment and retells the events leading up to the poet's death.