Bella (Izabella) Akhmadulina - Biography

Bella Akhmadulina is the Russian poet, short story writer and translator.

Known in Russia as 'the voice of the epoch,' Bella Akhmadulina is one of the century's foremost poets who came to prominence during the Soviet era.

She is a member of the Russian New Wave literary movement, a group of writers who embraced Western ideology during the 1960s.

During this period her colleagues Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Andrey Voznesensky experimented with innovative poetic styles focusing on current issues of the day. Akhmadulina relied on traditional language to capture the mood and sentiments of the time.

I went out to the garden - but in garden,
the word, lies lush luxuriance.
As gorgeous as a full blown rose,
it enriches sound and scent and glance.
The word is wider than what surrounds me:
inside it all is well and free;
its rich black soil makes sons and daughters
of orphaned and transplanted seeds.
Seeding of dark innovations,
O garden, word, you are gardener,
who to the clipper's gleam and clutter
increase and spread the fruits you bear…

The poet Joseph Brodsky considered Akhmadulina an heiress to the Lermontov-Pasternak line in Russian poetry and referred to her as the “treasure” of Russian poetry. Akhmadulina has been cited by him as the best living Russian language poet.

The main themes of Akhmadulina's works are friendship, love, and human relations.

Smiling nervously but brightly,
conscious of her youth and fame,
she set the way that she was asked to
indifferently - or playing games.
Under heaven's dome's eternal childhood
April nineteen hundred twelve
has promised her in Ospedaletti
only prosperity and sun
She looks out from a lacy nimbus,
her hands folded in her lap.
The shadow of her future torments
lies locked inside her photo's trap….


How do you make this, o my college-comrades?
Having waked up, while dark’s moving to light,
you take your pen and open your notes,
and write – and is this quite enough to write?

No, in my case, all’s worse and all’s another:
I’d spend a candle, look through a window’s pane
like a bad student, that hasn’t solved his puzzle…
and find that light’s moving to dark again.

First comes the night of vigilance and woe,
Then (will it come?) the undistinguished hum…
We’re to begin that when we’re born – not grown –
and today I have neither mood nor time.

Akhmadulina avoids writing poems on politics although she did take part in political events in her youth, supporting the movement of so-called ''dissidents''.

She gained great popularity in the early 1960s in public recitals of poetry before vast audiences at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow State University, the Polytechnic Museum and other venues. Akhmadulina appeared alongside Andrey Voznesensky, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Bulat Okudzhava and Robert Rozhdestvensky – all poets, worshipped by millions, who played an important role in the liberation of the collective consciousness after decades of repressions.

Bella Akhmadulina was a mild, peaceful and at times ingratiating figure in opposition to the Soviet establishment, of which these people were a necessary complement. She was thus among the “podpisanty” (“signers”), people who signed letters to the authorities in support of individuals who showed themselves to be more open and aggressive opponents of the communist regime, like Andrey Sakharov, Lev Kopelev, Georgy Vladimov, or Vladimir Voinovich. Her statements were published in The New York Times and broadcast on Radio Liberty and Voice of America.

Akhmadulina was sometimes compared with Anna Akhmatova for her sincere feminine style. But later, after Nikita Khrushchev was dismissed by Leonid Brezhnev, the "thaw" ended and her style was misjudged by Soviet critics as eroticism. Akhmadulina was barred from the Writer's Union and banned from publication at the same time as Aleksander Solzhenitsyn and other Soviet dissidents. Her book of poetry "Oznob" (“Fever,” 1968) was published in Frankfurt, Germany, and in the US under the title "Fever and Other Poems" (1969).

When she was banned from the Soviet press and media, Akhmadulina delivered her statements through the foreign press and radio. Her poetry has been translated into English, Japanese, Italian, Arabic, French, German, Polish, Czech, Danish, Armenian, Georgian, Latvian, Kurdish, Romanian and many other languages worldwide.

Akhmadulina also devoted herself to writing numerous essays about Russian poets and translated poetry from France, Italy, Chechnya, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, among other countries, into Russian. In 1984 Bella was honored with the Order of "Friendship of Peoples".

Bella was born in Moscow. Her father, Akhat Valeevich Akhmadulin, and mother, Nadezhda Makarovna Lazareva, had a mixed Tatar, Russian, Georgian, and Italian heritage.

The family was well positioned in the Soviet hierarchy; her father was a highly placed customs official and her mother a major in the KGB. ...

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