On This Day: Anna Akhmatova

Anna Akhmatova is one of Russias most brilliant poets.

Born in Odessa, Ukraine, Akhmatovas parents were both descended from Russian nobility. Her family moved to St. Petersburg before she was a year old, and she started writing poetry at age 11. Her father didnt want any of her work published under his “respectable” name (Gorenko), so the poet then adopted her grandmothers Tartar name: Akhmatova.

At age 21, she joined a group of St. Petersburg poets called the Acmeists, which included the great poet Osip Mandelshtam and Nikolai Gumilyov, who fiercely encouraged her poetic endeavours. Akhmatova and Gumilyov married in 1910, and their son Lev was born in 1912. Their marriage, however, ended in divorce in 1918.

The young Acmeist poets stood apart from the dominant style of symbolism, critical of its vague themes and images. Instead, they focussed on precise language, beauty, clarity, culture and art.

Akhmatova flourished. Her poetry, unreservedly feminine and unabashedly intense, launched a new style not yet seen on the Russian poetry scene.

In 1912, Russias Guild of Poets published her first collection, “Evening,” the first of five books she would produce in the next decade. Five years later the 1917 revolution began in what was known then as Petrograd (todays St. Petersburg). Although Akhamotva considered the option to leave, she eventually decided to stay: a decision she was proud of.

In 1921, her first husband, along with 61 others, was executed for alleged participation in an anti-Bolshevik conspiracy. These executions had a strong effect on the Russian intelligentsia. The Acmeist group dissolved and Akhmatova and her son were stigmatized. She was not able to publish her works, and Lev was not accepted in schools. While Akhmatova herself just about managed to avoid being arrested, her son was on several occasions imprisoned. Later her second husband was arrested several times and eventually executed. Akhmatova had spent endless hours in line to deliver food packages and appeal for their release. She immortalized this later in her great poem, “Requiem.”

In 1939, Stalin approved one volume of her poetry, though within months the books were withdrawn and destroyed. Later reports showed that during this time, Akhmatova was under surveillance; her apartment had been bugged and detailed files on her were kept.

During World War II and the Siege of Leningrad, Akhmatova was evacuated to Uzbekistan, where she began work on “Poem Without a Hero,” what she considered to be her lifes work. She returned to St. Petersburg (then called Leningrad) in 1944. But her struggles were not yet over.

In 1946, Stalin ordered an official campaign against bourgeois writers. Akhmatova was condemned, her poems banned from publication for “poisoning the mind of the Soviet youth.” This also led to her expulsion from the Union of Soviet WRead More – Source


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