Anna Akhmatova

Biography by

One of the most popular Russian poets of the twentieth century, Anna Akhmatova was also one of the least-published poets of the Stalin era. Her work was strictly apolitical, largely consisting of very…
Read Full Biography

Artist Biography by

One of the most popular Russian poets of the twentieth century, Anna Akhmatova was also one of the least-published poets of the Stalin era. Her work was strictly apolitical, largely consisting of very personal love lyrics and religious allusions ultimately delivered in classical Russian-verse forms. Thus, by defiantly standing outside the new Soviet society, she was considered almost as suspect as if she were an outright dissident. Her husband and son fell victim to Stalin's purges, but Akhmatova managed not only to survive but to write a long, acclaimed (outside the Soviet Union) poem about her family's oppression, titled "Requiem." Born Anna Andreyevna Gorenko, Akhmatova began her career as a poet under the spell of the French and Russian symbolists. In 1903, she met poet Nikolai Gumilev, who published one of her pieces in his Paris-based journal Sirius. The two were married in 1910, but divorced three years later. During that period, though, Akhmatova became secretary of the Guild of Poets, which Gumilev helped organize. Akhmatova gained attention with her very first volume of poetry, Evening, love lyrics written in a feminine voice (Russian letters had until then been dominated by men). She immediately became a prominent member of the Acmeist group of poets, and then caught the public eye in 1914 with her second book, Rosary. Three more notable poetry volumes followed: The White Flock (1917), Plantain (1921), and Anno Domini (1922). But then the Soviet crackdown forced her to withdraw from significant poetry publication for nearly 30 years. A series of attacks in 1946 was particularly severe. So instead of publishing her own poetry, she concentrated on writing scholarly articles on Russian poetry of the past, notably that of Pushkin. She continued to write poetry in private, however; most important was the long "Poem Without a Hero," which she worked on from 1940 to 1965 and with which she celebrated Russian culture just before and during the Revolution. As a poet, Akhmatova was able to return to public life in the 1950s and she strongly influenced a new generation of poets, most prominently Joseph Brodsky. Akhmatova was well regarded by many musicians of the time, as well, including Shostakovich.