Russia Beyond The HeadlinesThe Russian poet Alexander Pushkin is a man of unparalleled influence on his country’s national literature. Since 2003, his popularity has been reflected by the ever-more ambitious Pushkin in Britain Festival in London, an event aiming to “bring the beat of the Russian heart to the UK”.

The seventh annual international festival of Russian poetry and art coincides with Pushkin’s 210th birthday on June 6. One of the highlights is the tournament of Russian poets outside Russia, in which participants are invited to complete a Pushkin verse. Over the past seven years, 117 authors from 46 countries have taken part in the London final.

A Pushkin and Shakespeare Round Table will be held on June 5, and an antiquaries auction on June 7 will feature objects produced before 1837 (the year of Pushkin’s death) and mentioned in his poem Eugene Onegin.

June 6 will see the seventh International Russian Poetry Contest at St Giles-in-the- Fields Church, opened by the Russian rock band White Eagle. Competitors will battle for the titles of King and Queen of Poetry.

A new event, the first International Poetry Translations Contest, will be held earlier the same day. Translators of any nationality are required to submit their version of Shakespeare’s fifth sonnet from Sonnets to the Sundry Notes of Music, as well as nine other translations of any poets from any period. There is a £300 cash prize.

The festival programme also includes a poetry jam session, a poetry marathon, picnics and a boat cruise along the Thames – during which a poetic improvisation contest will take place.

Last year’s event was a resounding success. “Pushkin in Britain has become part of my life, part of the life of Russian writers and lately part of British life,” said Valentina Korkoran, a member of the 2008 jury. Admission to all events is free, excluding the boat trip.

Published in Russia Now, May 2009, with The Daily Telegraph (UK).