Laken service honours Pushkin, the peaceful poet


A memorial service was held in the Brussels district of Laken last weekend for the Russian poet Pushkin, whose statue stands in a disputed square

Pushkin comes to shove

The month of June this year is dominated by the Battle of Waterloo, which took place exactly 200 years ago this Thursday, and which has everyone so fired up that even the issue of a €2.50 coin made headline news.

In a corner of Laken in Brussels, however, all minds last weekend were on another giant of the early 19th century – not a conqueror but a poet, a man of peace and reflection.

Alexander Pushkin was only 16 when Napoleon was defeated, but, like everyone at the time, he was profoundly marked by the Corsican's career. A year before Waterloo, he had written his first poem about the emperor, and more were to come.

Despite Napoleon causing great damage and leaving a trail of Russian dead in his march on Moscow, the young Pushkin, like Beethoven, could not help but admire the heroism of the quest. 

The latest memorial service held in Pushkin's honour in Laken’s Poesjkinplein, under the gaze of the statue of the poet by contemporary Russian sculptor Georgy Frangulyan, was organised on the theme of War and Peace. It included a reading by Belgian poet laureate Charles Ducal.

Peace has broken out, in the meantime, in the war between the inhabitants of the area and the public transport authorities De Lijn and MIVB, which plan new tram routes that risk cutting right through the square, with unknown deleterious effects on the Pushkin statue. Such was the fear that the Pushkin Foundation, which organises the annual memorial every June, launched a protest.

The furore has died down for the time being. The plans, however, remain on the table.