Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Infobox Writer
name = Yevgeny Yevtushenko

imagesize = 280px
caption = Yevgeny Yevtushenko (right) with Richard Nixon
pseudonym =
birthdate = birth date and age|1933|7|18
birthplace = Zima Junction, Siberia
deathdate =
deathplace =
occupation = poet, film director, teacher
nationality = Russian, Ukrainian, Tatar
period =
genre =
subject =
movement =
notableworks = "Babi Yar"
influences = Carl Sandburg
influenced =
website =

Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Yevtushenko ( _ru. Евге́ний Алекса́ндрович Евтуше́нко) (born July 18, 1933) is a Russian poet. He also directed several films. Reportedly, before the appearance of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Sakharov and the dissident movement in Russia, Yevtushenko, through his poetry, was the first voice to speak out against Stalinism."RENOWNED POET TO VISIT CITY." DONALD W. PATTERSON. News & Record (Greensboro, NC). CITY LIFE, Pg. 3. April 8, 1999.]


Early life

Born Yevgeni Aleksandrovich Gangnus (later he took his mother's last name, Yevtushenko) in the Irkutsk region of Siberia in a small town called Zima Junction [ [] ] [ [] ] [Columbia Dictionary of Modern European Literature By Jean Albert Bédé, William Benbow Edgerton. Pg. 886.] [Touch of the poet. JAMES D. WATTS JR. Tulsa World (Oklahoma). LIVING; Etc.; Pg. D1. April 27, 2003.] on 18 July, 1933 to a peasant family of mixed Russian, Ukrainian and Tatar heritage. [] . His maternal grandfather, named Ermolai Naumovich Evtushenko, had been a Red Army officer during the Russian Revolution and the Civil War (both of Yevtusheko's grandfathers were arrested as "enemies of the people" in 1937 during Stalin's purges). The future poet's father, named Aleksandr Rudolfovich Gangnus, was a geologist, as was his mother, named Zinaida Ermolaevna Evtushenko, who later became a singer. The boy accompanied his father on geological expeditions to Kazakhstan in 1948, and to Altai, Siberia, in 1950. Young Yevtushenko wrote his first verses and humorous songs "chastushki" while living in Zima, Siberia.

After the Second World War, Yevtushenko moved to Moscow. From 1951-1954 he studied at the Gorky Institute of Literature in Moscow, from which he dropped out. He published his first poem in 1949 and his first book three years later. In 1952 he joined the Union of Soviet Writers after publication of his first collection of poetry. His early poem "So mnoyu chto-to proiskhodit" ("Something is happening to me") became a very popular song, performed by actor-songwriter Aleksandr Dolsky. In 1955 Yevtushenko wrote a poem about the Soviet borders being an obstacle in his life. His first important publication was the poem "Stantsiya Zima" ("Zima Junction" 1956). In 1957, he was expelled from the Literary Institute for "individualism". He was banned from traveling, but gained wide popularity with the Russian public. His early work also drew praise from the likes of Boris Pasternak, Carl Sandburg and Robert Frost.Fact|date=December 2007

During the Khrushchev Thaw

Yevtushenko was one of the authors politically active during the Khrushchev Thaw (Khrushchev declared a cultural "Thaw" that allowed some freedom of expression). In 1961 he wrote what would become perhaps his most famous poem, "Babi Yar", in which he denounced the Soviet distortion of historical fact regarding the Nazi massacre of the Jewish population of Kiev in September 1941, as well as the antisemitism still widespread in the Soviet Union. The usual Soviet policy in relation to the Holocaust in Russia was to describe it as atrocities against Soviet citizens, and to avoid mentioning that it was a genocide specifically of the Jews. Therefore, Yevtushenko's "Babi Yar" was quite controversial and politically incorrect, "for it spoke not only of the Nazi atrocities, but the Soviet government's own persecution of Jewish people." Following a centuries-old Russian tradition, Yevtushenko became a "public poet." The poem achieved widespread circulation in the underground samizdat press, and later was set to music, together with four other Yevtushenko poems, by Dmitri Shostakovich in his Thirteenth Symphony, subtitled Babi Yar. Publication of the poem in the state-controlled Soviet press was delayed until 1984. Reportedly, the poem "was published abroad and appeared in clandestine fashion in the Soviet Union." Alternatively, some note that the poem was published in a major newspaper "Literaturnaya Gazeta" [Literaturnaya Gazeta, September 19, 1961.] and achieved widespread circulation in numerous copies.

In 1961, Yevtushenko also published "Nasledniki Stalina" ("The Heirs of Stalin"), in which he stated that although Stalin was dead, Stalinism and its legacy still dominated the country; in the poem he also directly addressed the Soviet government, imploring them to make sure that Stalin would "never rise again". Published originally in "Pravda", the poem was not republished until a quarter of a century later, in the times of the comparatively liberal party leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Yevtushenko became one of the best known poets of the 1950s and 1960s in the Soviet Union. He was part of the 1960s generation, which included such writers as Vasili Aksyonov, Andrei Voznesensky, Bella Akhmadulina, Robert Rozhdestvensky; as well as actors Andrei Mironov, Aleksandr Zbruyev, Natalya Fateyeva, and many others. During the time, Anna Akhmatova, a number of whose family members suffered under the communist rule, criticised Yevtushenko's aesthetic ideals and his poetics. The late Russian poet Victor Krivulin quotes her saying that "Yevtushenko doesn't rise about an average newspaper satirist's level. Yevtushenko and Andrei Voznesensky's works just don't do it for me, therefore neither of them exists for me as a poet." [ Russian language website news article -; Interview with Krivulin, Victor. Recollections about Akhmatova. July 14, 1995(Кривулин В.Б. "Воспоминания об Анне Ахматовой". Беседа с О.Е. Рубинчик. 14 июля 1995)] ] Alternatively, Yevtushenko was much respected by others at the time both for his poetry and his political stance toward the Soviet government. In 1963 (until 1965), for example, Yevtushenko, already an internationally recognised literateur, was banned from travelling outside the Soviet Union. ["A Demanding Kind of Genius." Irish Independent. May 8, 2004] . Generally, Yevtushenko was the most extensively travelled Soviet poet, possessing an amazing capability to balance between moderate criticism of Soviet regime, which gained him popularity in the West, and strong Marxist-Leninist ideological stance, which proved his loyalty to Soviet authorities.Fact|date=July 2008 At that time the KGB Chairman Vladimir Semichastny and the next KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov reported to the Communist Politburo on the "Anti-Soviet activity of poet Yevtushenko."


He was filmed as himself during the 1950s as a performing poet-actor. Yevtushenko contributed lyrics to several Soviet films and contributed to the script of Soy Cuba (1964), a Soviet propaganda film. His acting career began with the leading role in Vzlyot (1979) by director Savva Kulish, where he played the leading role as Russian rocket scientist Tsiolkovsky. Yevtyshenko also made two films as a writer/director. His film 'Detsky Sad' ('Kindergarten', 1983) and his last film, 'Pokhorony Stalina' ('Stalin's Funeral', 1990) are dealing with life in the Soviet Union.

Yevtushenko Controversy

In 1965, Yevtushenko joined Anna Akhmatova, Kornei Chukovsky, Jean-Paul Sartre and others and co-signed the letter of protest against the unfair trial of Joseph Brodsky (a fellow poet influenced by Anna Akhmatova) as a result of the court case against him initiated by the Soviet authorities. He subsequently co-signed a letter against the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Nevertheless, "when Yevtushenko was made an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Brodsky himself led a flurry of protest, accusing Yevtushenko of duplicity and claiming that Yevtushenko's criticism of the Soviet Union was launched only in the directions approved by the Party and that he criticised what was acceptable to the Kremlin, when it was acceptable to the Kremlin, while soaking up adulation and honours as a fearless voice of dissent." ["A Demanding Kind of Genius." Irish Independent. May 8, 2004.] Brodsky repeatedly criticised Yevtushenko for what he perceived as his "conformism". [Dovlatov, S. And then Brodsky said... Graph, Issue 3.3, 1999, p.10.] "West awakes to Yevtushenko: One of the greatest poets alive will perform at the Galway Arts Festival, but he is not without his critics." Daniel McLaughlin. The Irish Times.CITY EDITION; WEEKEND; Pg. 56. July 17, 2004.] Commenting on this controversy in "A Night in the Nabokov Hotel", an anthology of Russian poetry in English translation, Anatoly Kudryavitsky wrote the following: "A few Russian poets enjoyed the virtual pop-star status, unthinkable if transposed to other parts of Europe. In reality, they were far from any sort of protest against Soviet totalitarianism and therefore could not be regarded as anything else but naughty children of the regime." [Kudryavitsky, A. Introduction. In "A Night in the Nabokov Hotel. 20 Contemporary Poets from Russia" Edited by Anatoly Kudryavitsky. Dublin, Dedalus Press 2006) ( [ Online] )] Lopsided|date=September 2008 Responding to the criticism, Yevtushenko reportedly said

Who could sanction me to write Babi Yar, or my protests against the (1968 Soviet) invasion of Czechoslovakia? Only I criticised Khrushchev to his face; not even Solzhenitsyn did that. It is only the envy of people who couldn't stand against the propaganda machine, and they invented things about my generation, the artists of the '60s. Our generation was breaking the Iron Curtain. It was a generation crippled by history, and most of our dreams were doomed to be unfulfilled - but the fight for freedom was not in vain.

Post-Soviet period

In 1989 Yevtushenko was elected as a representative in the Soviet Parliament, where he was a member of the pro-democratic group supporting Mikhail Gorbachev. In 1991, he supported Boris Yeltsin, as the latter's defended the parliament of the Russian Federation during the hardline coup that sought to oust Gorbachev and reverse "perestroika". Later, however, when Yeltsin sent tanks into restive Chechnya, Yevtushenko reportedly "denounced his old ally and refused to accept an award from him."

In the post-Soviet era Yevtushenko actively discussed environmental issues, confronted Russian Nationalist writers from the alternative Union of the Writers of Russia, and campaigned for the preservation of the memory of victims of Stalin's Gulag. In 1995 he published his huge anthology of contemporary Russian poetry entitled "Verses of the Century". ["Строфы века. Антология русской поэзии" (Verses of the Century, 1995) Edited by Yvgeny Yevtushenko] Reviewing this anthology, Russian poet Alexey Purin referred to it as "a huge book, a huge flop. Really, a collection of names rather than a collection of good poetry." [ [ Russian language website - - with Purin's commentary] .] Purin (himself a traditionalist)Fact|date=December 2007 mentioned that Yevtushenko included only mainstream poetry written according to "good old canons"Fact|date=December 2007, and totally ignored nearly all of the avant-garde authorsFact|date=December 2007, notably Gennady Aigi, Vladimir Earle and Rea Nikonova. More recently, Yevtushenko has been criticised for refusing to speak out against Russian President Vladimir Putin's liberties during his presidency. Yevtushenko responded by saying that "Putin, like Russia, is struggling to find his way in a time when ideals have been shattered and expedience reigns."

Yevtushenko in the West

Yevtushenko, who now (October, 2007) divides his time between Russia and the United States, teaches Russian and European poetry and the history of world cinema at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma and at Queens College of the City University of New York. In the West he is best known for his criticism of the Soviet bureaucracy and appeals for getting rid of the legacy of Stalin. He is now working on a three-volume collection of Russian poetry from the 11th-20th century, and plans a novel based on his time in Havana during the Cuban Missile Crisis (he was, reportedly, good friends with Che, Salvador Allende and Pablo Neruda). In October 2007 he was an artist-in-residence with the School of Arts and Humanities at the University of Maryland, College Park, and recited his poem "Babi Yar" before a performance of Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 13, which sets five of his poems, by the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra and the men of the UM Choirs, with David Brundage as the bass soloist.

Personal life

Yevtushenko is allegedly known for his many liaisons. He has been married four times, once to Jan Butler, an English translator of his poetry with whom he visited Ireland several times. He has five children, all boys. His current wife teaches Russian at Thomas Edison Preparatory Academy in the United States, near the University of Tulsa, where Yevtushenko himself spends half the year, lecturing on poetry and European cinema.



*"A Night in the Nabokov Hotel. 20 Contemporary Poets from Russia" Edited by Anatoly Kudryavitsky. Dublin, Dedalus Press 2006) ( [ Online] )
*ru icon "Строфы века. Антология русской поэзии" (Verses of the Century, 1995) Edited by Yevgeny Yevtushenko
* [ Krivulin, Victor. Memoirs about Akhmatova] "
* [ Purin, Alexey. Tsar-Book. Verses of the Century ed. by Yevtushenko.]

External links

* [ Yevgeny Yevtushenko online archive]
*imdb name|id=0947877|name=Yevgeny Yevtushenko
* [ Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Collected Poems in English. Part 1]
* [ Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Collected Poems in English. Part 2]
* [ Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Zima Station Poem ]
* [ Chingiz Aitmatov on Yevgeny Yevtushenko]
* [ Andrey Voznesensky's article on Yevgeny Yevtushenko]
* [ Audio/Video recordings] of a Poetry Reading by Yevgeny Yevtushenko at the University of Chicago

NAME= Yevtushenko, Yevgeny Aleksandrovich
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Yevtushenko, Yevgeny Aleksandrovich; Евге́ний Алекса́ндрович Евтуше́нко
SHORT DESCRIPTION= Russian poet, film director, teacher
DATE OF BIRTH= July 18, 1933
PLACE OF BIRTH= Zima Junction, Siberia

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