Soviet Ministry Buys Poet’s Missives : Pushkin’s Love Letters Going Home
The Soviet Union has purchased 13 love letters written by poet Alexander Pushkin in a transaction that fulfilled a lifelong dream of the late Russian-born choreographer Serge Lifar.
The yellowed letters, in Pushkin’s flowing handwriting, were handed over Wednesday night in a brief ceremony at a Geneva hotel to Yuri M. Khilchevsky. The deputy Soviet minister of culture described the acquisition of the letters by Russia’s greatest and most honored poet as a “festive event.”
All but two of the letters are in French and addressed to Natalya Goncharova before Pushkin married her in 1831 after a turbulent courtship and against the will of her mother.
Once owned by a member of the czar’s family, Grand Duke Mikhail, they were acquired by Sergei Diaghilev, the famous impresario who died in 1929, and eventually were obtained by Lifar, the executor of Diaghilev’s will. Lifar left Russia as a refugee, living in France and Switzerland, but he hoped throughout his life the letters would return to the country where he was born.
The Soviet Ministry of Culture paid an undisclosed price for the letters in a private deal.
The letters tell in dramatic prose of Pushkin’s love for Natalya who was separated from him for months because of a quarantine imposed on Moscow residents during a major outbreak of cholera in the summer of 1830.
Many are pierced with a pin, apparently in the belief this would kill the dreaded disease.
Pushkin died in 1837, at age 38, from injuries received defending his wife’s honor in a duel with his brother-in-law.
The letters will become part of the Pushkin Museum in Leningrad, where the author of “Boris Godunov” and “Eugen Onegin” settled after his marriage.