The story of the life of a single man, is almost greater than the story of an entire nation. These words can rightfully be applied to Vladimir Sergeyvich Pecherin, a Russian philologist, and in later life, a fervent Irish pastor. This historical character, who, it is said, served as the prototype for Pechorin in Lermontov’s “A Hero of our Time”, ended his life in Dublin.
In 1831 Pecherin graduated from the faculty of classical languages at Saint Petersburg University and was sent abroad to complete his preparation for a professional position. In 1836 he was appointed as chair of Greek language at Moscow University. According to his contemporaries, Pecherin’s lectures were notable for their novelty and artful completeness. But the state of affairs in those days depressed Vladimir Sergeyvich, so he decided to leave Russia. In order to do this he needed money. Pecherin started giving private lessons, minimized his expenses, avoided gatherings with friends, and, eventually, left, informing the warden in writing that he would not be coming back to Russia. A legal action was brought against him in Russia, which dragged on for more than ten years. In 1847 Pecherin was stripped of all his property rights in absentia and expelled from the empire for life.
Even the fact that he, eventually, converted to Catholicism, seems best explained by Pecherin’s desire to break off entirely from his Russian (that is, Orthodox) past. His horror at the thought of a possible return to Russia was similar to that felt during the Soviet period. When a representative of the Russian consulate innocently came to visit him, Pecherin accused this well-intentioned bureaucrat of being an agent of the tsar’s secret police.
While abroad Pecherin was for some time a family tutor, he then moved to England and became a member of the Jesuit order, and a very zealous one at that. But there he allowed himself to be drawn into a scandal concerning one of his brothers with the result that in 1854 Pecherin moved away to Ireland – first to Limerick, then to Dublin, where in 1862 Vladimir Sergeyvich became the first priest at Mater Misericordiae hospital in Dublin.
Nevertheless, Pecherin’s end is a sad one: he became totally disillusioned, both with Socialism and with Christianity (“this Nazareth stuff and nonsense”). He continued to write letters regularly to his sole friend in Russia: “Answer me, my old friend, apart from you I have no one in the world”, he repeated in the letters, receiving no reply. For the old friend and comrade was already dead a long time, but still the letters kept coming…
Vladimir Pecherin died on the 17th of April, 1885. He was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.
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