Standing at the intersection of Fenyang Lu and Yueyang Lu, the bronze bust of Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (1799-1837), widely regarded as the founder of modern Russian literature and the country's greatest poet, was first erected on February 10, 1937 by the Sino-Soviet Association, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of his death in a duel.
That’s right, a duel.
Notoriously touchy about his honor, Pushkin fought a total of 29 duels in his life, and was fatally shot through the spleen in his final one by the grandly named Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d'Anthès. A French officer, d'Anthès had been attempting to seduce the poet's wife, and his sister-in-law, Natalya. The cad.
Back to the bust, which is said to be the only surviving statue of a foreigner in China that predates the People’s Republic (Rabindranath Tagore's was erected in 2010), albeit in its third form. The sculpture was destroyed in November 1944 during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-45) and rebuilt in 1947. It was then smashed by Red Guards in 1966 during the Cultural Revolution.
Reform and Opening Up brought a new era of sculpting to the city. After some deliberation, it was decided the Pushkin monument would be rebuilt. In August 1987, 150 years after Pushkin's death, the statue was unveiled for the third time in its original location. On May 18, 1989 Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev laid a wreath at the monument.
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[All images by Nicky Almasy]