In 1830 the well-known Russian journalist, writer and historian Mixail Pogodin wrote a historical tragedy Marfa Posadnica about a conquest of the Russian city-state republic of Novgorod the Great in the late fifteenth century by the army of the Moscow Great Prince (in fact the tsar-autocrat) Ivan III. It was not the first time that the theme of Novgorod was treated by Russian writers. In the late eighteenth century and especially in the early nineteenth century a number of writers discussed the tragic fate of Novgorod which marked the triumph of the autocratic monarchy in Russia over republican democracy.
Pogodin's tragedy was not a success, for it was rather mediocre artistically, and if it deserves scholarly attention, it is primarily because of Pushkin's comments about it, which can be found in his letter to Pogodin and in his unfinished article "On the National Drama and the Drama Marfa Posadnica." Although Pushkin's theoretical ideas about national drama were discussed by many scholars, until now nobody paid attention to Pushkin's ideological evaluation of Pogodin's drama, although it sheds light on his political and historical views. It is exactly this aspect of Pushkin's letter and the article that I intend to concentrate on.
Judging by Pushkin's comments, his attitude toward Ivan and his policy is different from that of Pogodin. Significantly, unlike Pogodin, who made Marfa the major character in his drama and portrayed her as a real tragic heroine, Pushkin concentrates on the character of Ivan. In addition, although in Pogodin's drama Ivan looks rather unattractive from the moral point of view, Pu&hshachek;kin's evaluation of the Moscow ruler is very positive. Pushkin implicitly justifies the establishment of autocracy in Russia and the conquest of Novgorod because thanks to these developments the unification of Russia was completed; Russia gained independence and became a great power. Thus Pushkin's approach toward Pogodin's drama is of a distinctly political character. It goes in line with his criticism of Tacitus and Mickiewicz, his interest in Machiavelli and his vindication of the imperialistic policy of Russian tsars in the late 1820s and early 1830s.