Yevtushenko, Yevgeny (Alexandrovich)
YEVTUSHENKO, Yevgeny (Alexandrovich)
Nationality: Russian. Born: Stanzia Zima, Siberia, 18 July 1933. Education: Gorky Literary Institute, 1951-54. Family: Married 1) Bella Akhmadulina in 1954 (divorced); 2) Galina Semyonovna in 1962 (divorced); 3) Jan Butler in 1978 (divorced); 4) Maria Novikove in 1986; five children. Career: Since 1996 faculty member, Queens College, New York. Awards: U.S.S.R. Commission for the Defense of Peace award, 1965; U.S.S.R. state prize, 1984; Order of Red Banner of Labor; finalist, Ritz Paris Hemingway award for best 1984 novel published in English, 1985, for Wild Berries.
Razvedchiki gryaduschego [The Prospectors of the Future]. 1952.
Tretii sneg: Kniga liriki [Third Snow]. 1955.
Shosse entusiastov [Highway of the Enthusiasts]. 1956.
Stantsiya Zima. 1956; as Winter Station, 1964.
Obeschanie [Promise]. 1957.
Luk i lira: Stikhi o gruzii [The Bow and the Lyre]. 1959.
Stikhi raznykh let [Poems of Several Years]. 1959.
Yabloko [The Apple]. 1960.
Nezhnost: Novyii stikhi [Tenderness: New Poems]. 1962.
Posie Stalina [After Stalin]. 1962.
Selected Poems (selections in English). 1962.
Vzmakh ruki [A Wave of the Hand]. 1962.
The Poetry of Yevgeny Yevtushenko, 1953-1965 (selections in English and Russian). 1965; revised and enlarged edition, 1967.
Bratskaia GES. 1965; translated as Selections from the Bratsk Hydroelectric Station and Other Poems, 1965; as Bratsk Station and Other New Poems, 1967.
Yevtushenko Poems (selections in English and Russian). 1966.
Poems Chosen by the Author, Yevgeny Yevtushenko (selections in English and Russian). 1966.
Kater sviazi [Torpedo Boat Signaling]. 1966.
Babii Yar and Other Poems (in English and Russian). 1966.
The City of Yes and the City of No, & Other Poems. 1966.
Flowers and Bullets, & Freedom to Kill (translation of Tsvety i puli ). 1970.
Stolen Apples (in English and Russian). 1971.
Kazanskii universitet. 1971; as Kazan University and Other New Poems, 1973.
From Desire to Desire. 1976.
The Face behind the Face. 1979.
Ivan the Terrible and Ivan the Fool (translation of Ivanovskie sittsy ). 1979.
Invisible Threads (selections in English). 1981.
A Dove in Santiago: A Novella in Verse (translation of Golub' v Sant'iago ). 1982.
Early Poems (selections in English). 1989.
Belorusskaia krovinka: Otryvok iz poemy, stikhi. 1990.
The Collected Poems 1952-1990 (selections in English). 1991.
Net let: Liubovnaia lirika. 1993.
Moe samoe-samoe. 1995.
Yagodnyye mesta. 1981; as Wild Berries, 1984.
Ardabiola: A Fantasy. 1984.
Ne umira prezhde smerti. 1993; as Don't Die before Your Death: An Almost Documentary Novel, 1994; as Don't Die before You're Dead, 1995.
Poiushchaia damba: Stikhi i noema (Pod kozhei statui Cvobody) [Under the Skin of the Statue of Liberty] (produced 1972). 1972.
I Am Cuba, with Enrique Pineda Barnet, 1963; Kindergarten, 1983; Pokhorony Stalina, 1990.
A Precocious Autobiography. 1963.
Almost at the End (selected prose and poetry in English). 1987.
Divided Twins: Alaska and Siberia (essays; translation of Razdelënnye bliznetsy ). 1988.
Fatal Half Measures: The Culture of Democracy in the Soviet Union (speeches and essays). 1991.
Pervoe sobranie sochineniaei v vosmi tomakh. 1997.
Medlennaeiia leiiubov. 1997.
Volchiaei pasport. 1998.
Izbrannaia proza. 1998.
Editor, with Albert C. Todd and Max Hayward, Twentieth Century Russian Poetry: Silver and Steel: An Anthology. 1993.*
I Am Cuba, 1964 (as Soy Cuba, 1964, Ia Kuba, 1964); Kindergarten, 1983; Pokhorony Stalina, 1990.
"The Politics of Poetry: The Sad Case of Yevgeny Yevtushenko" by Robert Conquest, in New York Times Magazine, 30 September 1973; "The Poetry of Yevgeny Yevtushenko in the 1970s" by Irma Mercedes Kaszuba, in Language Quarterly, 25(1-2), Fall/Winter 1986, pp. 31-34; "Yevtushenko Feels a Fresh Wind Blowing" by Katrina Vanden Heuvel, in Progressive, 24 April 1987, pp. 24-31; "Russian Roué" by Anthony Wilson-Smith, in Maclean's (Canada), 108, 12 June 1995, p. 60.
Director: Film— Kindergarten, 1984. Actor: Film— Pokhorony Stalina, 1990.* * *
Yevgeny Yevtushenko, born in 1933 in the village of Zima Junction in Siberia, is a profoundly Russian, profoundly Siberian writer. He is also, like most Russian writers, acutely aware of history. His hundreds of works are steeped in the geography, history, and daily life of Russia. Even his poems about other countries, while perceptive and accurate portrayals, remain nonetheless "Russian" poems, their subjects seen through the eyes of a Russian observer. The same holds true for his treatment of historical events. The roots of his morality are to be found in his love of Russia, his belief in the brotherhood of all people, and his belief in the ideals of the revolution.
Yevtushenko's career took off with the "thaw" following Joseph Stalin's death in 1953. He became a popular poet whose readings filled football stadiums and who was given unprecedented freedom to travel abroad. This prominence made it possible for him to take strong critical positions and to tackle such taboo subjects as anti-Semitism. In his political poems Yevtushenko praises Salvador Allende and Che Guevara and condemns nuclear weapons at the same time that he warns against militarists, dishonest bureaucrats, and toadies of all kinds at home.
Even the semi-offical poet was not immune from censorship, however. A number of poems written during the 1960s, such as "Russian Tanks in Prague" (written in 1968; published in 1990) could not be published until years later. Even "Babii Yar," his best-known poem, about a Nazi massacre of Jews and others near Kiev during World War II, was to reap both tumultuous public praise and official disapproval.
Yevtushenko's poems dealing with World War II are illustrative of his socialist vision and his civil courage as well as his conviction that a poet has an ethical duty to perform. Most of them fall into two categories: personal, patriotic poems about his experiences as a child in Siberia, and those focusing on Jewish themes. In "The Companion" (1954) the narrator and another child strive to act bravely after the train in which they are riding is bombed. In "Party Card" (1957) a little boy brings strawberries to a Russian officer in the forest, then takes the dying officer's Communist Party card and carries it next to his own heart. In "Grandma" (1956) Yevtushenko recalls listening to his grandmother's revolutionary tales while his mother was at the front. "Army" (1959) portrays a children's chorus singing to wounded soldiers in a hospital in Siberia, while in "Weddings" (1955) he describes the desperate gaiety of wartime weddings, as young men married only to go off to the front the next day. Uniting all these poems is a sense of the resolve and human solidarity of ordinary Russians in the face of the fascist menace.
The second category contains the few poems Yevtushenko wrote about the Holocaust. All are interwoven with the poet's thoughts on his own identity and contemporary political concerns. "Russians and Jews" (1978) celebrates the unity of the peoples who fought together for "moral justice" and "died for their common land." In the opening lines of the antiwar poem "On the Question of Freedom" (1967) the lines "Dachau's ashes burn my feet/The asphalt smokes under me" link the Holocaust to later crimes such as the Vietnam War and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
"The Apple Trees of Drobitskii" (1989) recalls the mass murder of Jews and Ukrainians by Nazis at Drobitskii Yar near Kharkov. In a powerful evocation of the common humanity of the victims Yevtushenko portrays a group of apple trees growing from the killing ground, each rooted in a child that whispers through the trees—Sarah in Yiddish, Khristia in Ukrainian, Manechka in Russian, Dzhan in Armenian. "All the skeletons embrace one another in the ground." But like Yevtushenko's more famous poem "Babii Yar" it is also an indictment of contemporary Russian anti-Semitism. He asks "Ruvin Ruvinovich," who survived the massacre, if he had escaped only so "some day/they could charge your gray hairs/with Jewish Freemasonry?" But, the poet insists, "we are working our way out … from under the ruins."
In 1961 Yevtushenko wrote the poem that made his a familiar name in the West, "Babii Yar," about the Nazi massacre of tens of thousands at a ravine outside Kiev. In it he makes his strongest statement of solidarity with the Jews, as victims both of the Holocaust and of ongoing anti-Semitism. Yevtushenko appeals to the goodness of his fellow Russians who are, he insists, "international to the core." The poem ends with the now-famous words "I am as hateful as a Jew/to all antisemites/In their callous rage./For that reason I am a true Russian!"
—Patricia Pollock Brodsky
See the essay on "Babii Yar."