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Mandelshtam, Nadezhda Yakovlevna


(18991980), memoirist and preserver of her husband Osip Mandelshtam's poetic legacy.

Nadezhda Yakovlevna Mandelshtam (née Khazina) is known primarily for her two books detailing life with her husband, the Modernist poet Osip Mandelshtam, and the years following his death in Stalin's purges. She grew up in Kiev in a tight-knit, intellectually gifted family, fondly recalled in three biographical sketches. With the onset of revolution and civil war, she enjoyed a bohemian existence as a painter in the artist Alexandra Ekster's studio.

In 1922 Nadezhda married Mandelshtam, and the two moved to Moscow and then to Leningrad in 1924. In 1925 her friendship with the poet Anna Akhmatova began. Osip Mandelshtam was arrested in Moscow in 1934 after writing a poem that denounced Josef Stalin. Nadezhda accompanied him into exile in Voronezh until 1937 and in 1938 was present when he was arrested and sent to the gulag where he died. She escaped arrest the same year.

For the next two decades, Nadezhda Mandelshtam survived by teaching English and moved frequently to avoid official attention. In 1951 she completed a dissertation in linguistics. She also began working on her husband's rehabilitation and researching his life and fate. Many of his poems survived because she committed them to memory. Her first book of memoirs, Vospominaniia (New York, 1970, translated as Hope Against Hope, 1970), was devoted to her final years with Osip Mandelshtam and to a broader indictment of the Stalinist system that had condemned him. The book, which circulated in the Soviet Union in samizdat, attracted attention and praise from Soviet and Western readers. Her second book, Vtoraia kniga (Paris, 1972, translated as Hope Abandoned, 1974), offended some Russian readers with its opinionated descriptions of various literary figures. Treatments of Nadezhda Mandelshtam's work have noted her success in achieving a strong and vibrant literary voice of her own even as she transmitted the cultural legacy of a previous generation.

See also: akhmatova, anna andreyevna; gulag; mandelshtam, osip emilievich; purges, the great; samizdat


Brodsky, Joseph. (1986). "Nadezhda Mandelstam (18991980): An Obituary." In Less Than One: Selected Essays. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux.

Holmgren, Beth. (1993). Women's Works in Stalin's Time. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Proffer, Carl R. (1987). The Widows of Russia and Other Writings. Ann Arbor, MI: Ardis.

Judith E. Kalb

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