Sergey Lvovich Pushkin had a son, whom he named in memory of his grandfather Alexander. After the christening in Pushkin’s house on German street in Moscow a modest “kurtag” is arranged: in addition to relatives, the Frenchman Montfort and Nikolay Mikhailovich Karamzin are invited. A pleasant conversation with refined poetic games is interrupted by the sudden appearance of Peter Abramovich Annibal – the native uncle of Nadezhda Osipovna Pushkina, the son of the famous “arap of Peter the Great” Ibrahim. The old arap shocked all the guests, he was rude to Sergei Lvovich, but he was pleased with the baby: “lion cub, arachonok!”
In his early childhood Alexander was clumsy, silent, absent-minded. But, like parents, loves guests, listens with interest to conversations in French. In his father’s study, he plunges into reading French books, especially his poems and compositions of love content. She spends a lot of time in the girlish, listening to the singing of the girl Tatiana before going to sleep. New habits of Alexander cause the wrath of the mother, who takes out on her son her dissatisfaction with a dissolute and frivolous husband.
Alexander begins to write poetry in French, but burns them after his experiences in the presence of his parents ruthlessly ridicule the tutor Roussel. At the age of twelve, Alexander seems to be a stranger in his own family, he mercilessly judges his parents with a cold, adolescent court. Sergei Lvovich, meanwhile, is thinking about the further education of his son and decides to give it to either the Jesuits or the newly created lyceum in Tsarskoe Selo.
In St. Petersburg, Alexander brought his uncle Vasily Lvovich, a poet, author of the frivolous poem “Dangerous Neighbor”. He represents the nephew of the poet and minister Ivan Ivanovich Dmitriev in order to enlist the support of an influential person. In favor of the Lyceum, Alexander Ivanovich Turgenev resolutely speaks out, from which the young Pushkin for the first time hears new poems by Batiushkov. The exam turns out to be a pure formality, and soon Alexander Pushkin was mistaken for No. 14 in the Imperial Lyceum.
He used to grow up alone, and it’s hard for him to get used to his comrades. Gorchakov and Valhovskiy pretend to be the first among the lyceum students. “Desperate” Broglio and Danzas compete in punishments, making one impertinence after another. For a
black table sometimes falls and Pushkin. He is angular, wild and with no one, except for Pushkin, until he is friends. He does not have a principality, he does not surpass others by force, but speaks French like a Frenchman, and knows how to recite the verses of Voltaire by heart. Even Gorchakov admits that he has a taste. Pushkin gnaws at the lessons and writes something down. However, in the lyceum other people are engaged in writing: Illichevsky, Delvig, Kiichelbecker.
Alexander causes hostility to the inspector Martin Piletsky, who demands that the director Malinovsky exclude Pushkin from the Lyceum – for lack of faith, for “mocking verses for all professors.” However, the Lyceum has to leave Piletsky.
Through the Tsarskoe Selo are Russian troops, preparing for a military campaign. Among the militiamen – a friend of Professor Kunitsyn, hussar Kaverin. He jokingly calls Pushkin and Pushkin with him. The army of Napoleon invades Russia, going either to Petersburg or to Moscow. Director Malinovsky worries about the fate of his pupils, who meanwhile keep an eye on the military events, discuss with the teachers the personality of Napoleon, find themselves favorite heroes among the Russian generals. After the report on the Borodino victory in the Lyceum, they organize a holiday with a theatrical performance, for which the director, however, gets reprimanded by Minister Razumovsky. On the anniversary of the foundation of the Lyceum, on October 19th, Napoleon and his army leave Moscow. Lyudmila Kaydanov, a teacher of history, informs the lyceum students about this, and Kunitsyn is convinced, that slavery in Russia will now be abolished. Director Malinovsky dies, proud that in the lyceum “there is no spirit of servility”. Alexander falls ill and gets to the infirmary. He is visited by Gorchakov, to whom he entrusts two of his risky poems. “The Shadow of Barkov” Gorchakov burns in horror in order to save his comrade from trouble, and “Monk” hides. Alexander talks a lot about poetry with Kühley, devotes a poetic message to him. Galich, who replaces the professor of literature of Koshansky, advises Pushkin “to test himself in an important way” – to sing in verse tsarskoselskie places and related memories of history.
Delvig and Pushkin decide to send their poems to the magazine “Herald of Europe.” The first to publish Delvig, and Pushkin, in anticipation of an answer, finds amusement in the performances of the serf theater of Count Tolstoy, sings in verse to actress Natalia. Finally, the message “To a friend of the poet” appears in the “Herald of Europe”, signed by a pseudonym. Sergei Lvovich is proud of his son, Vasily Lvovich considers this event to be a brilliant start. At the solemn examination at the Lyceum, Alexander reads “Memories in Tsarskoe Selo”, and the decrepit Derzhavin with unexpected ease runs out to embrace the author. But Alexander is hiding.
Karamzin visits the lyceum, and together with him Vasily Lvovich Pushkin and Vyazemsky, informing Alexander that he was accepted into the society “Arzamas”, where he was given the name of Cricket. He comes to visit Pushkin and Batiushkov. Alexander is excitedly included in the literary war of the Arzamasians with “Conversation of the lovers of the Russian word”, composes an epigram on Shishkov, Shikhmatov and Shakhovsky.
The new director of the lyceum, Yegor Antonovich Engelhardt, eliminating “all traces of the old master,” refers to Pushkin wary and seeks to “bring him into the borders.” The director is annoyed, and the excessive attention that his relative, the young widow of Maria Smith, this young and impudent poet, gives to his wife. However, Maria, sung by the names of Leela and Lida, did not for long possess the feelings of Alexander: he forgot about her at once, as they parted. Karamzin and his wife Katerina Andreyevna are moving to Tsarskoe Selo, and now Alexander must be sure every morning that he will see her in the evening. She understands him only, although he is seventeen years old, and she is thirty-six.
Alexander wrote a love note to Katerina Andreevna. Learning about this, Karamzin paternally chastises the poet in love, and Katerina Andreevna laughs, leading Alexander to tears and to complete despair. Soon Karamzin becomes aware of caustic and accurate epigrams, composed on his “History” by Pushkin. In the debates about slavery and autocracy, the young poet took the side not of Karamzin, but of Kaverin and Chaadaev.
Pushkin and his comrades graduated from the Lyceum for three months before the scheduled: the tsar has long been burdened by the proximity of this educational institution to the palace. Lyceum students are persuaded to get together every year on the nineteenth of October. In St. Petersburg, Alexander is fascinated by the theater, there is every evening. Occupy it and the young “traitors”. Meanwhile seditious verses bring him to mischief. One day a quarterly comes after him and delivers him to the main police department. There, Pushkin is shown a whole cup full of his epigrams and denunciations of him.
Chaadaev and Karamzin are trying to alleviate Pushkin’s fate. The emperor, after listening to Karamzin’s request, decides to send Alexander not to the fortress, but to the south, to Ekaterinoslav. Karamzin, in the presence of Katerina Andreevna, expects Pushkin to improve. “I promise… For two years,” – he replies.
Pushkin bids farewell to St. Petersburg. He ends up with a new book of poems. Poem “Ruslan and Lyudmila” in the press. Before leaving, he manages to lose his cards, leaving Nikita Vsevolozhsky even a manuscript of his poems.
He learns his homeland in all its breadth and power on the big roads. The way is far. In Ekaterinoslav Pushkin meets with the family of General Rayevsky, they together go to the Caucasus and the Crimea. Looking at the Crimean coast, Alexander thinks about Katerina Andreevna, writes elegy – as “the last thing that had to be said.”
“Above your head, breathing evenly.” Life goes on, like a poem. “