The best known Russian poet of the post-Stalin generation, Yevtushenko's demands for greater artistic freedom and his attacks on Stalinism in the late 1950s and 60s made him a leader of Soviet youth.
Yevgeny Yevtushenko was born in Zima in Irkutsk in 1933, as a fourth-generation descendant of Ukrainians exiled to Siberia. He moved to Moscow in 1944, where he later studied at the Gorky Institute of Literature.
His first important narrative poem Zima Junction was published in 1956 but he gained international fame in 1961 with Babi Yar, in which he denounced the Nazis and at the same time clumsily criticized his own country for forgetting the message of the Internationale:
"But those with unclean hands
Babi Yar is one of a number of literary treatments of a massacre of Jews in occupied Kiev on September 29, 1941. The poem was not published in Russia until 1984, although it was frequently recited in both Russia and abroad.
Yevtushenko has remained politically outspoken all of his life, though he was sometimes critisized in the West for being too soft. In 1987, when Yevtushenko was appointed an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Russian-born poet Joseph Brodsky resigned in protest -- he considered his colleague a party yes man. Brodsky has bitterly stated: "He throws stones only in directions that are officially sanctioned and approved." Yevtushenko's readers, however, have defended the poet faithfully, stating that "you can't blame him that he survived." In 1993 Yevtushenko received a medal as 'Defender of Free Russia,' which was given to those who took part in resisting the hard-line Communist coup in August 1991.
One of my favorite Yevtushenko poems:
From a Talk
You're a brave man
I never tried to push the
world out of orbit.
I defended those with talent
and branded mediocrity.
But a time will come to remember
A list of Yevtushenko's book that are in print and available at Amazon.com:
A more complete biography and bibliography for Yevtushenko can be found at: http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/jevtusen.htm
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