March 20 in Russian history

43 BCE:Publius Ovidius Naso natus est! How come Ovid's birthday related to this blog, one might ask. Actually, it does not matter, he's just a great poet. And yet, there are good reasons to mention his birthday on a Russian history blog. Ovid was one of the favourite poets of Alexander Pushkin, Osip Mandelshtam and other Russian poets. Mandelshtam used to say: "Most of all I would like to see Ovid, Pushkin and Catullus to live again." Pushkin wrote a poem called "To Ovid". Ovid also appears in another poem, "The Gypsies". Actually, in the times of Pushkin, the life of Ovid was sometimes seen as a typical life of an educated man in the times of despotic rulers. A freemason lodge where Pushkin was a member, was called "Ovid #25". In the XIX century, Ovid's poetry was rarely read the way it is read now. It was taken as a manifestation of the decline, interesting from the historical point of view, but lacking any artistic merits. Pushkin saw Ovid more like we do now — an original, deeply personal, humanistic and psychological author. Pushkin's interest to Ovid grew when he seemingly repeated the fate of the Roman poet. In 1820, Pushkin was sent into exile to Yekaterinoslav. When he fell ill with pneumonia, after swimming in Dnieper, he left to Caucasus and Crimea. In September 1820, he arrives to his new work in Kishinev, in Bessarabia, not far from the Roman city Tomis, where Ovid spent his last years. Pushkin drew parallels between himself and Ovid, but does not identify himself with the Roman poet. He is aware of the psychological differences between them. For example, while Ovid often "weeps" and his verse are filled with tears, which is quite typical for the emotional people of antiquity, Pushkin writes: "Stern Slav, I didn't shed the tears. But I did understand them." Sometimes Pushkin quoted Ovid or used his verses as a source of inspiration and based his own poems on them. So, one of the heroes of "Gypsies", an old man, asks to carry his old bones to the south. This is the direct parallel to the Ovid's lines:

Ossa tamen facito parva referantur in urna
Sic ego non etiam mortuus exul ero.

The final lines of Metamorphoses together with the Horace's Monument clearly inspired Pushkin's Monument. Compare Ovid:

parte tamen meliore mei super alta perennis
astra ferar, nomenque erit indelibile nostrum.
Quaque patet domitis Romana potentia terras,
ore legar populi; perque omnia saecula fama,
siquid habent veri vatum praesagia, vivam!

(My nobler part, my fame, shall reach the skies,
And to late times with blooming honours rise:
Whate'er th' unbounded Roman power obeys,
All climes and nations shall record my praise:
If 'tis allow'd to poets to divine,
One half of round eternity is mine.)

And Pushkin:

I shall not wholly die. In my sacred lyre
My soul shall outlive my dust and escape corruption--
And I shall be famed so long as underneath
The moon a single poet remains alive.

I shall be noised abroad through all great Russia,
Her innumerable tongues shall speak my name:
The tongue of the Slavs' proud grandson, the Finn, and now
The wild Tungus and Kalmyk, the steppes' friend.

Sorry, I couldn't find a better translation.

Well, if you're still not sure if Ovid fits this blog, I give up. Here's another anniversary to you:

1833: Pushkin (yes!) publishes "Eugene Onegin" as a whole for the first time.

1535: Birthday of a kopeck. Elena Glinskaya, mother of young Ivan IV, begins a monetary reform. The problem was caused by false money. According to the state standard, one grivenka (around 409 grams) of silver costed 250 Novgorod dengas or 2 Muscovy rubles and 6 grivnas. In practice, people made up to 500 dengas from one grivenka, making coins two times smaller. Glinskaya decreed that one grivenka will cost 3 rubles or 300 dengas. Three types of coins were introduced: denga, polushka and kopeyka. The latter was named after a depiction of a horseman with a spear (spear is kopyo in Russian). After the revolution of 1917, there were no more spears on kopecks, but the name survived till 1992, if my memory serves me right, when the horseman (St.George) re-appeared on the coins.

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