Lord Byron’s reputation in Russia’s literary imagination might surprise those who remember him not only as a multifaceted poet or political commentator, but also as a sexual libertine. Following his death in Greece, the tempestuous Byron came to stand for both freedom and romanticism in Russia, especially for the poets who would become associated with the Decembrist Uprising, a failed attempt by liberal nobles to reform the absolutist state by military coup in 1825. Perhaps even more importantly, Byron also became identified with the primary candidate for the role of Russia’s national poet: Alexander Pushkin. Though much as been written about Pushkin’s “Byronic apprenticeship,” this article focuses on how Pushkin’s responses to the English poet led him to depart from—and even conflict with—a specifically political version of Byronism promoted by his contemporaries. In particular, it analyzes Russian poetic response to Byron’s death, including works by Pushkin, Ivan Kozlov, Wilhelm Küchelbecker, Kondraty Ryleev, and Dmitry Venevitnov. It also considers Pushkin’s “To the Sea” (1824), analyzing an extended polemic with Prince Pyotr Viazemsky about Byron’s political legacy that this poem initiates.

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