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Russian Poetry

Russian poetry is characterized by a great variety of schools and ages, most outstanding of which is probably the "Golden Era" or "Golden Age" of Russian poetry as it is traditionally referred to. This period fell on the 19th century and is also called the Age of Pushkin, after it's most significant poet.

Pushkin is not only the greatest Russian poet still loved, learned and published arounf the world but he also reformed Russian literary language of that period by using natural speech, introducing new vocabulary and inventing the style of storytelling by mixing different genres. Many of his works such as the poem "The Bronze Horseman" and the drama "The Stone Guest", "Don Juan", poetic short drama "Mozart and Salieri", verse novel "Eugene Onegin" are considered to be masterpieces.

Other prominet poets of this period are Mikhail Lermontov, Fyodor Tyutchev, Vasily Zhukovsky, Konstantin Batyushkov, Evgeny Baratynsky.

Mikhail Lermontov, a Russian romantic writer and poet was sometimes called "the poet of the Caucasus", and remained the most important Russian poet after Alexander Pushkin's death.

First two decades of the 20th century are traditinally called a "Silver age" of Russian poetry for being exceptionally creative period in its history. It is considered to have began with Alexander Blok's "Verses to the Beautiful Lady" and combined such artistic movements as Russian Symbolism, Acmeism, and Russian Futurism where poetic careers of Anna Akhmatova, Boris Pasternak, and Osip Mandelshtam launched from.

Marina Tsvetaeva

Ivan Bunin and Marina Tsvetayeva did not associate themselves with any of the movements though.

The "Silver Age" ended after the Russian Civil War which left it tragic imprint on the destinies of most poets - some died or executed as Nikolay Gumilyov, others were condemned as bourgeois element as his wife Anna Akhmatova, cursed by the citizens and threatened by the state as Pasternak, arrested and died in correction camps as Osip Mandelstam. However we still admire the crystal and magic lines originating from the "Silver age" which made their creators immortal.

Sergei Esenin

In this period the poetic careers of Vladimir Mayakovsky and Sergei Esenin started.

Esenin is traditionally considered to be peasant poet, his collections of poignant poetry about love and the simple life made him very popular.
Yet he October Revolution of 1917 which he briefly supported destroyed his illusions and his melodious lyrics that glorified peasant life and the beauty of nature (collection of poems, "Radunitsa") gave place to provocative, vulgar, wounded verses ("Confessions of a Hooligan").

Despite his restless, often depressed mood, numerous, not very happy marriages, alcohol abuse and hallucinations, he created great poems, that later became romances. "I will not weep, regret or scold..." ("Не жалею, не зову, не плачу...") has been praised as one of the greatest ever written in Russian.
Esenin died at the age of 30, committed suicide or killed - still not known for sure.
Most of his writings were banned by the Kremlin during the reigns of Joseph Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev. Only in 1966 were most of his works republished.

Vladimir Mayakovsky

Another very popular Russian poet that lived and worked almost at the same time with Esenin and greatly contributed into Russian poetry was Vladimir Maykovsky.
Being a witness of October Revolution, Mayakovsky was a proletarian poet whose poetic work matched cultural climate of the early Soviet Union. His unique style - the use of puns, the thumping rhythms and the unusual use of language added to his originality. Mayakovsky's political activism as a propagandistic nature of poems gained him growing popularity among the people.
However near the end of the 1920s, Mayakovsky became increasingly disillusioned with the course the Soviet Union was taking under Joseph Stalin: his satirical plays "The Bedbug" (Клоп, 1929) and "The Bathhouse" (Баня, 1930) which uncover Philistinism and beurocrasy show this attitude. Mayakovsky shot himself in 1930.

4 years earlier he reprimanded his poetic opponent, Esenin in the poem "To Sergey Esenin" for being too week to have committed suicide. Mayakovskiy's lines "It is not so hard cut your life, stay alive is much a harder job" became popular expression.

But could you?

I blurred at once the chart of trite routine
by splashing paint with one swift motion.
I showed upon a plate of brawny glutin
the slanting cheekbones of the ocean
Upon the scales of tinny fishes
new lips summoned, though yet mute.
But could you
right to the finish
a nocturne on a drainpipe flute?

Evgenii Evtushenko

Internationally known is one the best-known Soviet poets of the post-Stalin period was Evgenii Evtushenko. He is also the representative of "shestidesyatniki" - poets of the 60th.
His debut on literature came upon the last years of Stalin and approaching of Khrushev's thaw. That is why public, especially the youth, took Evtushenko poetry as a herald of renovation and inevitable changes. He became known with the poem "The Third Snow" (1955) and He is especially famous for it war poems, love lyrics, but he gained international fame with poem "Babi Yar" (Babi Yar is a ravine outside of Kiev where some 70,000 Jews were shot by the Nazis and buried in mass graves.

A fragment from the poem "Babi Yar"

Wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar,
The trees look sternly, as if passing judgement.
Here, silently, all screams, and, hat in hand,
I feel my hair changing shade to gray.
And I myself, like one long soundless scream
Above the thousands of thousands interred,
I'm every old man executed here,
As I am every child murdered here.
No fiber of my body will forget this.

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