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Pushkin lovers celebrate his 200th birthday

MOSCOW -- From Russia's prime minister to its top patriarch, Russians around the world claimed poet Alexander Pushkin as their own Sunday to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth.

Russia's main television channels devoted themselves almost exclusively to the bard, with plays, operas, ballets, interviews and documentaries in his honor. Evening newscasts led with the celebrations, calling them the main political event of the day.The ceremonies capped months of tributes to Pushkin, by far Russia's most respected writer and possibly its most revered figure. He died in a duel in 1837 at the age of 37.

Sunday's main event was held in the northern Russian town of Pushkinskiye Gory, where the poet is interred.

Thousands of Pushkin lovers, including Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, visited the estate where the poet lived and the monastery where he was buried.

"Today, on Pushkin's 200th birthday, we are coming to understand ourselves once again. Let's realize that we are a strong, powerful nation," Stepashin said.