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6 Jun, 2008 13:30

Pushkin celebrated around the world

Russia is celebrating the 209th anniversary of the birth of the poet Aleksandr Pushkin.

He is often considered the country’s greatest ever poet.

His legacy endures around the world, with around 270 monuments to his literary genius standing in cities throughout the globe.

In Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, there was a festive atmosphere around Pushkin’s statue. Traditional music was played to accompany readings of his poetry. The Russian Embassy helped put the event together, to commemorate a poet who “beautified the world like flowers,” said a representative of the Foreign Ministry.

A bust of the writer stands proudly in a park in central Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. By midday it was already covered in roses and tulips, brought by local schoolchildren. Each child read out a few verses of his poetry – with some trying to outdo each other by seeing who could recite the most by heart. A museum dedicated to the writer, and a nearby estate where he briefly lived, threw open their doors to the public for the day.

Pushkin’s birthday is also major literary event in London. The sixth annual ‘Pushkin in Britain’ festival opened on Thursday, with 200 people competing in a poetry competition in Pushkin’s honour. Though they could be about any topic, there was one interesting caveat: they had to contain the line “But London grabbed your attention, your gaze,” from Pushkin’s poem The Grandee. Among the finalists were Russian-speaking writers from thirteen countries.

In Kaliningrad Pushkin’s works were recited in the central square. The art director of a local cinema, Artem Ryzhkov, said: “Now people don’t read as much as they used to – but everyone has read Pushkin. So Pushkin brings us together!” There was also a special showing of a film adaptation of Pushkin’s short story, The Aristocratic Peasant Girl.

Pushkin lovers are keen to spread the poet’s work abroad. The chairman of the International Federation of Russian Writers, Aleksandr Gerasimov, said: “Our goal is to promote Russian language and culture abroad. Many former members of the Soviet Union are very enthusiastic when we suggest building a monument to Pushkin in their countries.” The organisation gave out hundreds of Pushkin’s storybooks to Moscow schoolchildren to mark the event.