That Black, Dragon-Haunted Pass: The Mystery of Lermontov’s Caucasus

By Tara Isabella Burton

“I was traveling along the military road back from Tiflis.”

So begins Mikhail Lermontov's 1833 A Hero of Our Time, the classic novel of the Caucasus: the mist-shrouded, emerald mountain range that once delineated the southern stretches of the Russian Empire. For Lermontov—whose own exploits in the Caucasus were as daring, dangerous, and unabashedly romantic as those of his anti-heroic protagonist, Pechorin—the Caucasus was more than merely a frontier outpost for Russia's colonial power. For Lermontov, as for Pushkin before him, the Caucasus was the land of passion...

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