Blood on Sofa Proved to Be Pushkin’s
Published: February 9, 2010 (Issue # 1546)
Alexander Belenky / The St. Petersburg Times
Tatyana Mazura, deputy director of the Pushkin Apartment Museum, points at the sofa on which the bloodstains were found.
St. Petersburg’s forensic experts have confirmed that the bloodstains found on the sofa on which the famed 19th-century Russian poet and author Alexander Pushkin is said to have died in 1837 were indeed left by the poet.
“The results of our medical research allow us to state that it is the poet’s blood on this historic sofa,” Yury Molin, deputy head of the Leningrad Oblast legal and medical department, said at a press conference in the city’s Pushkin Apartment Museum on Monday.
The painstaking year-long research proved firstly that the blood on the sofa was located on the exact spot where Pushkin’s wound would have been bleeding.
“For that purpose the researchers put a paper model of Pushkin’s body on the sofa, and then put the waistcoat Pushkin was wearing during his fatal duel on the model. The bloodstains on the waistcoat matched the place where the bloodstains were found on the sofa,” said Molin.
Secondly, experts ascertained that the blood on the sofa and the waistcoat came from a male belonging to blood group A (the second group, according to the Russian system,) and that both bloodstains had been there for many decades.
Molin said the scientists had also tried to conduct more detailed analysis of the bloodstains, including DNA and spectrum tests. However, the condition of the blood and need to treat the samples very carefully due to their historical value made the additional tests impossible.
“For instance, we could cut out a piece of the sofa to conduct a thorough analysis in a special lab, but neither we nor the museum would treat a historical relic like that,” Molin said.
“Nor could we do much to the waistcoat, so we just put a compress on it to absorb some blood from it in order to at least establish the blood group,” he said.
Molin said the results of the research could be seen as “indirect” due to the absence of DNA results, but that the overall results from the available methods proved that it was the blood of one of Russia’s best-loved historic figures.
The other aim of the analysis, according to Molin, was to establish whether or not the medical treatment given to Pushkin at his home was appropriate and whether he would have survived had he been taken to hospital, Interfax reported.
Molin said the results of the tests proved that taking Pushkin to hospital would not have saved his life, because the level of help that the hospital doctors could have offered the poet was no higher than that provided by the family doctors.
Galina Sedova, head of the Pushkin Apartment Museum, said that staff at the museum “were first struck when Pushkin’s blood was found on the sofa at their museum,” and then “deeply impressed by the results and the work of the forensic experts that amounted to a historical sensation.”
Sedova had previously proved the historical authenticity of the sofa itself.
The experts also concluded that the locks of hair kept at the museum had the same morphological characteristics as the blood, allowing them to confirm that the hair samples really did belong to Pushkin.
Pushkin died in St. Petersburg on Feb. 10, 1837, at the age of 37, as the result of a duel with the French-born Georges Dantes. Pushkin was shot in the stomach and died two days later at his home on the River Moika.
The leather sofa at the center of the current tests has been on display in Pushkin’s study for more than 70 years. Guides giving tours around the museum would invariably say that it was where Pushkin died, though some of the museum’s staff have expressed doubts as to whether or not it was the actual sofa on which the poet passed away.
The museum was given the sofa by the State Hermitage Museum in 1937. Earlier still, it had belonged to the Filosofov family, who received it as a gift from the wife of Pushkin’s youngest son, Grigory.
Pushkin is considered to be one of Russia’s greatest poets, and something of a national hero. The author’s rich language, ingenious rhymes and liberal politics awed not only his contemporaries but following generations, too. Pushkin’s epic poems such as “Yevgeny Onegin,” “The Bronze Horseman” and “Boris Godunov,” as well as his prose and poetic fairytales, have become much-loved classics of Russian literature.
An eternal romantic, Pushkin was also known for having a number of love affairs, many of which inspired his striking love poetry. His wife Natalya Goncharova, with whom he had four children, was reputed to be one of the most beautiful young women in Moscow and had many admirers. Pushkin challenged Dantes to a duel after the latter’s attentions toward the poet’s wife became the subject of public rumor. The Frenchman was also wounded in the duel, but made a full recovery.