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The Pushkin Remembrance day: St. Petersburg in the times of the Russian poetry's pride

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On February 10th residents of St. Petersburg commemorated Alexander Pushkin. A minute of silence was observed in the poet's apartment-museum at the Chernaya river - the place where he dueled to death with Dantes.

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Pushkin's position on table of ranks was quite modest - a titular counsellor. Frankly speaking, lower level of average class. As every statesman, he was part of the system. Thats why his everyday peculiarities were typical and obvious.

Alexey Balakin, researcher, Institute of the Russian literature: "We tend to idealize the life in St. Petersburg in the 19th century. But it wasnt so good, first of all from the everyday conveniences point of view".

Household conditions have traditionally been the first description. Pushkin stayed in a house on the Moyka, in 11 rooms, along with family members, servants and occasional guests. Such was the custom back then".

Sergey Nekrasov, head of the National Pushkin museum: "And he also had 20 servants who lived in different corners of the house".

There was no tap-water or sewage system. Water was delivered in oak barrels. Relatively clean water - that from the Neva River - was supplied to the rich. The poorer classes used water from swamps. Citizens were often ill, average age was low. Aged 37, Pushkin was considered as a rather old person.

Alexey Balakin, researcher, Institute of the Russian literature: "Child mortality rate was high"

We know them from our childhood - from books and movies - Pushkin's contemporaries, looking like antic gods. But, frankly speaking, standards of beauty were different then. Movies mace that reality look a little brighter.

Alexey Balakin, researcher, Institute of the Russian literature: "There were no dentists. Many girls lost front teeth by the age of 25".

Just as all residents of St.Petesburg, Pushkin was deprived of everyday baths, so twice a week he went to public saunas. Some of his friends went there even less frequently, which was never an obstacle to be regular guests at ballroom parties.

The mazurka became a hit in St. Petersburg shortly prior to the Patriotic war of 1812. It played a special role in the high society; sometimes a lady was invited for this dance few days before the ballroom gala. It had been in the trend for several decades. Dostoevskiy danced wildly, Turgenev danced himself into ecstasy. In Pushkin's St. Petersburg, the mazurka was an equivalent to "rave parties" of nowadays.

Alexey Mikhalyov, reporter: "Pushkin's generation is the first Russian dandies. They openly took their style from London. Dandyism's first rule is discreet attractiveness. So everyone understands - this is a fashionable man, his style is copied, but describing his style with words is difficult. Not only vibrant, but also new clothes are outlawed among them. If a coat or jacket is fresh off tailor's hands, then it needed to be oldified - like this, with a piece of broken glass. 150 years later, Vivien Westwood and "Sex pistols" will legalize this style as grunge. But we now were torn jeans actually have their roots".

Nowadays tailor shops are a rarity, but the lives of Pushkin and his contemporaries was directly dependent on their tailor's actions. Sewing a jacket took a month's salary off Pushkin's hands. A genius of a poet, but yet he had to save money on buying cloth.

But the quality of one's carriage was where economy didn't apply. Pushkin couldn't afford to buy horses, but his carriages and droshky were always immaculate. He was forced to take part in this vanity fair.

Sergey Nekrasov, head of the National Pushkin museum: "Pushkin was particularly posh about his drives. The Zimniy was in just a stone throw away, but you simply couldn't arrive at the Tzar's on foot".

This complicated relationship with the finances is perfectly signified in Nashokin's house - grossly expensive entertainment for adults. Pushkin was frequent guest to the miniature, where his friend staged genuine feasts - dishes were changed, samovars were boiling, piano and guitar were played and even guns - as small as a nail - were being fired.

Nashokin spent 40 thousand silver coins on this idea. One could buy two mansions in St. Petersburg's city center with this money.

Food. This side of life was depicted by Pushkin and Gogol on numerous occasions. Early 19th century is the golden age of the Russian cuisine. Names of dishes sound like music through the words of Sobakevich.

Some of those recipes survived. The "sutochnye shi" soup, praised by Pushkin, became frequent in Soviet diners. No wonder, its so easy to make: pork, sauerkraut, onion and carrots.

Alexey Mikhalyov, reporter: "Ingredients have stayed the same, but is cooking has changed"

The trick is that the "sutochnye shi" shouldn't be cooked completely - it is taken out to the cold to freeze, kept out for a day, and on the next day put in a clay pot and boiled in a stove, shut by non-salted duff. Both a clay pot and a stove are not so hard to find nowadays.

Alexey Mikhalyov, reporter: "But there are things which make recreation of this old recipe impossible - the art of living and spare time. Who would now wait for a day for the shi to freeze and then melt?"

"If Pushkin lived in our days, we would have cherished him and gave him a perfect life". This is how Zoshenko expressed a common wish to take Pushkin away from the old uncomfortable St. Petersburg. But no-one ever asked oneself a question: would Pushkin himself really have liked that?

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