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Akhmatova, Anna Andreyevna

AKHMATOVA, ANNA ANDREYEVNA

(18891966), leading Russian poet of the twentieth century; member of the Acmeist group.

Anna Akhmatova (Anna Andreyevna Gorenko) was born on June 23, 1889, near Odessa, and grew up in Tsarskoye Selo, the imperial summer residence, where Pushkin had attended the Lyceum. She studied law in Kiev, then literature in St. Petersburg. She married poet Nikolai Stepanovich Gumilev in 1910, and the couple visited western Europe on their honeymoon. She made a return visit to Paris in 1911, and Amedeo Modigliani, still an unknown artist at the time, painted sixteen portraits of her.

In 1912, Akhmatova published her first collection of poetry, Vecher (Evening ), and gave birth to her son Lev. The clarity, simplicity, and vivid details of her poetry amazed her contemporaries. For instance, in 1934, Marina Tsvetaeva praised Akhmato's "Poem of the Last Meeting," extolling the lines "I slipped my left-hand glove/Onto my right hand" as "unique, unrepeatable, inimitable."

Also in 1912, Gumilev founded the Poets' Guild, a group whose opposition to the Symbolists led to the name "Acmeist," from the Greek akme, "perfection." The Acmeists, including Gumilev, Akhmatova, and Osip Mandelshtam, advocated simplicity, clarity, and precision over the vagueness and otherworldliness of the Symbolists.

Akhmatova's marriage with Gumilev was unhappy and ended in divorce. Her second collection, Chetki (Rosary ), published in 1914, revolves around the decline of the relationship, her sense of repentance, and her identity as a poet. In her following collections, Belaya Staya (White Flock, 1917), Podorozhnik (Plantain, 1921), and Anno Domini (1922), Akhmatova assumed the role of poetic witness, responding to the chaos, poverty, and oppression surrounding the Revolution and civil war.

In 1921, Gumilev was charged with conspiracy and executed. None of Akhmatova's work was published in the Soviet Union between 1923 and 1940. Yet, unlike many of her contemporaries, Akhmatova refused to emigrate. Her view of emigration is reflected in her 1922 poem from Anno Domini, "I am not one of those who left the land."

Between 1935 and 1940 Akhmatova wrote the long poem Requiem, a lyrical masterpiece. Dedicated to the victims of Josef Stalin's terror, and largely a maternal response to her son Lev's arrest and imprisonment in 1937, it recalls the Symbolists in its use of religious allegory, but maintains directness and simplicity. Akhmatova's next long poem, the complex, dense, polyphonic Poema bez geroya (Poem without a Hero, 1943) interprets the suicide of poet and officer Vsevolod Knyazev as a sign of the times. Some critics place it alongside Requiem as her finest work; others see it as the beginning of Akhmatova's poetic decline.

At the outbreak of World War II, Stalin briefly relaxed his stance toward writers, and Akhmatova was published selectively. In 1946, however, Andrei Zhdanov, secretary of the Central Committee, denounced her and expelled her from the Writers' Union. In 1949, her son Lev was arrested again and exiled to Siberia. In a desperate and futile effort to secure his release, Akhmatova wrote a number of poems in praise of Stalin. She later requested the exclusion of these poems from her collected work.

After Stalin's death, Akhmatova was slowly "rehabilitated." Publication of her work, including her essays and translations, resumed. She received international recognition, including an honorary degree from Oxford in 1965. She died on March 5, 1966, and is remembered as one of Russia's most revered poets.

See also: dissident movement; gumilev, lev nikolayevich; gumilev, nikolai stepanovich; intelligentsia; mandelshtam, osip emilievich; purges, the great

bibliography

Akhmatova, Anna Andreevna. (1973). Poems of Akhmatova: Izbrannye Stikhi, ed. and tr. Stanley Kunitz and Max Hayward. Boston: Little, Brown.

Akhmatova, Anna Andreevna. (1990). The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova, tr. Judith Hemschemeyer, ed. Roberta Reeder. Somerville, MA: Zephyr.

Amert, Susan. (1992). In a Shattered Mirror: The Later Poetry of Anna Akhmatova. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Ketchian, Sonia. (1985). "Akhmatova, Anna Andreevna." In Handbook of Russian Literature, ed. Victor Terras. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Leiter, Sharon. (1983). Akhmatova's Petersburg. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Diana Senechal

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"Akhmatova, Anna Andreyevna." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Akhmatova, Anna Andreyevna." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/akhmatova-anna-andreyevna

"Akhmatova, Anna Andreyevna." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/akhmatova-anna-andreyevna

Anna Akhmatova

Anna Akhmatova

The Soviet poet Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966) is the best-known member of the Acmeist movement. Her work is characterized by subtle understatement, careful variations in rhythm, and spontaneous recording of everyday emotions.

Anna Akhmatova, the pen name of Anna Andreyevna Gorenko, was born on June 23, 1889, near the Black Sea port of Odessa. Her father, a retired naval officer, moved the family to St. Petersburg when Anna was a young girl. She attended the Tsarskoe Selo Women's Gymnasium near St. Petersburg, where she met Nikolai Gumilev, whom she married in 1910. He was also a poet of the Acmeist movement, which proclaimed a return to precise, direct expression of poetic emotion.

Anna Akhmatova lived mainly in St. Petersburg and at her nearby country home, Komarovo, but traveled abroad several times: in 1910-1911 to Paris; in 1912 to northern Italy; and in 1965 to Oxford, England, where she was awarded an honorary degree. Throughout her life St. Petersburg played an important thematic role in her poetry. It was the city of such great writers as Fyodor Dostoevsky, Nikolai Gogol, and Aleksandr Pushkin, and it represented Anna Akhmatova's affinity to the 19th-century Russian prose tradition.

Her early life was marked by immediate success in poetry and the anguishing failure of her marriage to Gumilev, whom she divorced in 1918. Her first books, Evening (1912), Rosary (1914), and Anno Domini MCMXXI (1921), testify to the trials of her marriage. Gumilev was executed in 1921 as a counterrevolutionary, and their only son, a historian, spent most of the years from 1939 to 1956 in a Soviet prison camp. These events compounded Anna Akhmatova's misfortune and led to the book of poems Requiem (1963), which is a testament to the suffering not only of the poet but of all Russians during the horrifying days of Stalin's purges. In 1946 Anna Akhmatova was hounded by Stalin's minister of culture, Andrei Zhadanov, called "a mixture of nun and harlot," and expelled from the Union of Soviet Writers. She had been reduced to silence before, from 1925 to 1940; she did not emerge from this final rebuke until after the death of Stalin. During the late 1950s and the 1960s she devoted herself to translations and to her own poetry.

Anna Akhmatova's poetic diction and her predominantly psychological themes were drawn from the humanistic tradition of 19th-century Russian prose. Her poetry imitates the rhythm and structure of conversational speech. Her work, like that of Boris Pasternak, whom she admired, was a sincere response to the inhuman cruelties of the age.

Anna Akhmatova was at work on her book The Death of Pushkin, a tribute to the perishing of genius at the hands of an insensitive society, when she died of a heart attack on March 6, 1966. She was accorded a Russian Orthodox funeral and was buried near Komarovo.

Further Reading

There is no adequate biography of Anna Akhmatova. Personal reminiscences about her are in the moving account by Osip Mandelstam's widow, Nadezhda Mandelstam, Hope against Hope: A Memoir (trans. 1970). Helen Muchnic, Russian Writers: Notes and Essays (1971), has an interesting discussion of Anna Akhmatova and her contemporaries. The definitive critical book on her poetry is in Russian: Boris M. Eikhenbaum, Anna Akhmatova (1923). A useful study is Leonid Strakhovsky, Craftsmen of the Word: Three Poets of Modern Russia (1949). The broadest selection of her poetry in English is Forty-seven Love Poems, translated by Natalie Duddington (1927).

Additional Sources

Anna Akhmatova and her circle, Fayetteville, Ark.: University of Arkansas Press, 1994.

Davies, J. (Jessie), Anna of all the Russias: the life of Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966), Liverpool: Lincoln Davies, 1988.

Haight, Amanda., Anna Akhmatova: a poetic pilgrimage, New York: Oxford University Press, 1976.

Reeder, Roberta., Anna Akhmatova: poet and prophet, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994. □

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Akhmatova, Anna

Anna Akhmatova (än´nə əkhmä´təvə), pseud. of Anna Andreyevna Gorenko (əndrā´əvnə gôryĕng´kô), 1888–1966, Russian poet of the Acmeist school. Her brief lyrics, simply and musically written in the tradition of Pushkin, attained great popularity. Her themes were personal, emotional, and often ironic. Among her most popular volumes are Chiotki [the rosary] (1914) and Iva [the willow tree] (1940). She was married to the Acmeist poet Gumilev until 1918. Akhmatova remained silent for two decades. She began publishing again at the outbreak of World War II, after which her writings regained popularity. A courageous critic of Stalinism with a large underground following, she was harshly denounced by the Soviet regime in 1946 and 1957 for "bourgeois decadence."

Bibliography

See her Selected Poems (tr. 1969), Poems of Akhmatova (tr. 1973), and The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova (1990, in Russian and English translation); her autobiographical writings in My Half Century: Selected Prose (1992), ed. by R. Meyer; biographies by A. Haight (1976, repr. 1990), R. Reeder (1995) and E. Feinstein (2006); study by S. N. Driver (1972).

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Akhmatova, Anna

Akhmatova, Anna (1889–1966) Russian poet. Akhmatova's simple, intense lyrics and personal themes appear in The Rosary (1914) and The Willow Tree (1940). Her longest work, Poem Without a Hero (trans. 1971), is her masterpiece. Although officially ostracized for “bourgeois decadence”, she remained popular in the Soviet Union. Her poems, published in full in 1990, confirmed her as one of Russia's greatest poets.

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