Considered the founder of modern Russian literature and one of the greatest Russian poets, Alexander Pushkin was born in 1799 in Moscow into a noble family. Interestingly, his great-grandfather was brought as a slave from Africa and rose to become an aristocrat. Pushkin published his first poem at the age of fifteen, and wrote his most famous play, "Boris Godunov" (1825) while under the surveillance of the Tsar's political police, which banned him from publishing.
Pushkin must have set a record among his peers for engaging in the most duels to defend his honor. His twenty ninth duel cost him his life by the sword of Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d'Anthès, a French officer who tried to seduce his wife. Pushkin's premature death at the age of 37 in 1837, was devastating to Russian literature.