‘The Captain’s Daughter’ by Alexander Pushkin

Venerated as Russia’s mythic national bard, The Captain’s Daughter is regarded as Pushkin’s finest prose work. It is dedicated to the events of the Pugachev’s Rebellion in Russia in 1773-1775.

The priviliged Pyotr Andreyich Grinyov, just 17 years-old, is sent by his father, himself a former officer of the Imperial Army, to his military service in Orenburg in the Urals. He is accompanied by the elderly loyal servant, Arhip Savelyitch. Taking several days to reach his destination, Grinyov is posted to the isolated Fort Belogorsky under Captain Ivan Mironov.

Pushkin’s relatively short narrative is one of unfolding events rather than overt deep philosophical, political or psychological reflections. The boy is a Romantic looking for adventure and love – and gets it. Within days of arriving at this new posting, he falls in love with Mironov’s daughter, Masha. But he has to contend with Shvabrin, a spurned suitor who refuses to take ‘no’ for an answer.

As far as adventure is concerned, that follows quickly after falling in love – Pugachev and his men besiege the fort with the Cossacks of the Imperial Army stationed at Belogorsky defecting to the rebels. Mironov is executed but, having already met Pyotr on the road to Orenburg, Pugachev has taken to the young gentleman and packs him off to the military centre as a messenger.

More adventures follow as historical facts and pure fiction are interwoven. The Captain’s Daughter is a lovingly written, easily read young officer’s memoir with its ode to love, excitement (and singular focus) to battle – along with the unexpected ending where Masha mirrors the hero rescuing the heroine.