Anna Akhmatova is one of the best known and beloved Russian poets. Her contemporary poet Marina Tsvetaeva nicknamed her “Anna of the Golden Mouth of All Russias”, a phrase that has resonated widely with Akhmatova’s strange ability to express the feelings of the entire nation. Today, she is one of the acclaimed poets of the Russian Silver Age, a period of prolific creativity that spanned the late 19th century and the first three decades of the 20th. But as the art scene flourished during this time, Stalin’s rise and the state’s violent repression of individual freedoms quickly made it a dark and dangerous time for many intellectuals. Akhmatova’s poetry put the suffering of millions of people into words, offering an invisible tool of resistance to those who defend freedom against Stalin’s iron fist.
Born in 1889 in Odessa, Anna Andreevna Gorenko chose to write under a pseudonym after her father, a marine engineer from a modest bourgeois background, forbade her to publish poetry under her “respectable name”. Her maternal Tatar roots inspired her pseudonym: his great-grandmother claimed to be descended from Khan Akhmat, who had Genghis Khan as an ancestor.
Akhmatova’s life and work are a vivid testimony to the horrors of the twentieth century. She survived two wars, a revolution and the siege of Leningrad, as well as the gradual departure, murder or arrest of her closest friends and family. The repeated detentions and eventual gulag conviction of her son Lev deterred her from writing: fear that his poetry would worsen her plight, coupled with an unofficial ban on her works, silenced her for nearly 20 years. years. Akhmatova’s ability to express this historical tragedy in the first person is what makes her astonishing body of work relatable to this day.
This innovative Akhmatova guide covers five works that summarize the poet’s creative universe, from the intimate to the political.