Pushkin Is Our Everything is a documentary film in which Michael Beckelhimer goes on a journey through Russia and history to find out how Russia’s most famous 19th-century poet became contemporary Russia’s supreme national icon. It’s a fascinating jaunt through history, from Pushkin’s death by duel in 1837 to the fall of the Romanov empire through the communist period and into today.
After 200 years, Pushkin remains one of the most potent symbols of Russian national consciousness and pride. Since Dostoevsky praised him to high heaven at the unveiling of the Pushkin statue in Moscow in 1880, Russians of all stripes have glorified him.
Pushkin is everywhere in Russia today: in films, in plays, in bronze on city squares, on murals in cafes, in bookstore window displays, and on the lips of most passers-by, who aren’t shy about stopping to quote a few lines of their favorite Pushkin verse.
Many Russians still use the famous phrase “Pushkin is our everything.” As one Pushkinist told me, “Pushkin may not actually be our everything. But he sure is a lot.”
In response to recent Russian political and social upheavals, the film tackles a second question: How can Russia’s national poet help them today? On all sides of the debates, people are using Pushkin to promote their ideals of Russianness.