This paper discusses stereotypes of Moscow and Petersburg portrayals in Alexander Pushkin’s poem “The Bronze Horseman”. It focuses on the historical and philosophical context that each city bears in the mind of a Russian.
The stereotypes of Petersburg are evident in the poem “The Bronze Horseman” by Alexander Pushkin. The plot revolves around a sad story of a young and poor local official Evgenii, whose fate gets ruined by the great city. As a result of a destructive flood of the Neva river, his fiancée is found dead. Evgenii goes mad and roams Peterburg’s streets for a year until one day, thinking of what happened that tragic autumn day, he starts cursing the statue of tsar Peter the Great, a founder of the city. Evgenii visualizes how the bronze statue starts pursuing him. This leads Evgenii to death.
On the one hand, the reader comes across the stereotype of Petersburg as a symbol of strong, beautiful, and innovative Russia. He describes the city as the embodiment of grace and majesty, with structured forms, with golden skies, bright streets, and a shining spire of Admiralty. The city is full of romance and dreamy nights, harsh winters and long summer nights, when one can read and write without any lantern. On the other hand, this city is cold and unfriendly for a poor person. This can be well seen from the beginning lines of the poem where it is described how Peter the Great was conceiving of the city foundation: the city of Russia’s glory was to be erected with the hands of poor people living in black huts. The people lost their lives to build the city “on bank of mosses and wet grass”, i.e. in the area which is not at all good for building a city. Petersberg comes as a new, greater, and richer capital of the empire and eclipse Moscow, the old capital. However, this city is associated with the sufferings in the eyes of poor people, which is evident by the example of Evgenii.
As for the stereotype of Moscow in this poem, it revolves around the author’s vision of Moscow as an old-fashioned, less beautiful, and less impressive city. He compares it with “a queen-dowager” eclipsed by “a new queen, when her time comes.” In these lines, the reader can spot the stereotype of Moscow and Petersburg as the two competing cities, each wanting to retain the status of the real capital of Russia. It is clear that Moscow is a runner-up in the competition and that Petersburg is perceived as a far greater city with the empire.
Therefore, the stereotypical portrayals of Petersburg and Moscow by Pushkin focus on the confrontation between the cities and Petersberg’s greater beauty. At the same time, the author depicts Petersburg as unfriendly to the poor.
- Pushkin, A. (1833). The bronze horseman. Retrieved from