In December 1825, Alexander I died leaving no heir. His brother, Constantine, abdicated in favour of his younger brother, Nicholas, who accepted the throne. High-rank officers and liberal aristocrats refused to sign allegiance to the new Tsar and instead arranged an uprising in front of the Senate building in St Petersburg. The Decembrist Uprising, as it came to be known, was severely suppressed. Five men were hung whilst others were sent to Siberia.
Pushkin had been in exile since 1820 for writing Ode to Liberty, a poem which many of the rebels confessed had influenced them.
Tsar Nicholas is alone, anguished by the bloodshed at the start of his reign. He has summoned Pushkin to question him. After 4 days’ travel Pushkin arrives disheveled and defiant. Their disagreements lead to mutual respect and Pushkin’s release from exile.
Pushkin celebrates with his friends in a tavern, boasting of his special relationship with the Tsar. A gypsy fortells his early death.
Natalya and her two sisters, Alexandrine and Catherine, discuss their hopes for marriage as they get ready for a party.
Two years pass and Pushkin is in love with Natalya. She isn’t sure what she feels and questions what love is. Pushkin asks her to marry him.
The Tsar wants to use Pushkin’s genius to unify Russia and win over his people. Pushkin is finding it an impossible task. He finally decides he can write about his hero, Peter the Great, using him as a metaphor to glorify Nicholas.
Pushkin is in the Park with his wife and friends. He mercilessly goads the Dutch Ambassador, Heckeren, about the attractive young Frenchman, D’Anthes, whom the Ambassador has adopted as his son. D’Anthès challenges Pushkin. D’Anthès and Natalya are drawn to each other.
Pushkin is summoned to the Palace to explain The Bronze Horseman. The Tsar orders him to write it again. He refuses. The Tsar rips the manuscript to pieces.
Heckeren, despite his hatred of Pushkin, recites one of Pushkin’s poem to express his feelings for D’Anthès. They meet with the Tsar and conspire how to bend Pushkin to the Tsar’s will. They decide D’Anthès should marry Natalya’s sister, Catherine.
Natalya and her two sisters are discussing how to pay the bills. D’Anthès and Natalya are flirting. Pushkin arrives home and is overwhelmed by jealousy.
The Tsar has made D’Anthès an officer in the Chevalier Guards. Pushkin arrives to repay his debt to the Tsar having pawned Natalya’s jewels. The Tsar gives him a humiliating new appointment usually reserved for teenagers.
Pushkin is out of his mind, imagining Natalya’s infidelity.
All are gathered at a Ball at the Palace. The Tsar flirts with Natalya and D’Anthès tries to get her to run away with him. Pushkin calls a duel.
Pushkin stands by the statue of The Bronze Horseman, in the snow, waiting for D’Anthès. He is focused and at peace.
Natalya and her two sisters are anxiously wondering where Pushkin and D’Anthès are. Pushkin is carried home mortally wounded. He tells Natalya she should marry again. The Tsar orders Pushkin to live but Pushkin dies. The Gypsy curses the House of Romanov, “…you will be remembered only as the Tsar who lived at the time of Pushkin.”