Pushkin, the Decembrists, and Civic Sentimentalism


ACLS Fellowship Program


German and Russian Languages and Literatures


"Civic Sentimentalism" shows how literature shaped the young Russian conspirators behind the legendary Decembrist uprising of 1825. First, it shows how certain genres of poetry were intimately connected to both feeling and self-fashioning in early nineteenth-century Russia. Then it introduces the concept of “civic sentimentalism” as an ideal developed from literary models of emotion, and establishes how the Decembrists understood both Byron and Pushkin according to its terms—often to the dismay of Pushkin himself. Ultimately, while the Decembrists’ attempt to give Russia a constitutional government failed, their potent emotional ideal helped Pushkin develop his later conservative politics and his most mature works. Finally, civic sentimentalism also found a surprising successor in Leo Tolstoy.