Anna Akhmatova

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Akhmatova, Anna

Akhmatova, Anna (änˈnə əkhmäˈtəvə), pseud. of Anna Andreyevna Gorenko (əndrāˈəvnə gôryĕngˈkô), 1888–1966, Russian poet of the Acmeist school. Her brief lyrics, simply and musically written in the tradition of Pushkin, attained great popularity. Her themes were personal, emotional, and often ironic. Among her most popular volumes are Chiotki [the rosary] (1914) and Iva [the willow tree] (1940). She was married to the Acmeist poet Gumilev until 1918. Akhmatova remained silent for two decades. She began publishing again at the outbreak of World War II, after which her writings regained popularity. A courageous critic of Stalinism with a large underground following, she was harshly denounced by the Soviet regime in 1946 and 1957 for “bourgeois decadence.”


See her Selected Poems (tr. 1969), Poems of Akhmatova (tr. 1973), and The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova (1990, in Russian and English translation); her autobiographical writings in My Half Century: Selected Prose (1992), ed. by R. Meyer; biographies by A. Haight (1976, repr. 1990), R. Reeder (1995) and E. Feinstein (2006); study by S. N. Driver (1972).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Akhmatova, Anna Andreevna


(pseudonym of A. A. Gorenko). Born June 11 (23), 1889, in Odessa; died Mar. 5, 1966, in Domodedovo, Moscow Oblast; buried in Leningrad. Soviet Russian poet.

Akhmatova was born into the family of a naval officer. She studied at the Women’s College in Kiev and at the law department of the University of Kiev. From 1910 on, she lived mainly in St. Petersburg. In 1912, Akhmatova’s first book of poems, Evening, was published; it was followed by the collections The Rosary (1914), The White Flock (1917), Plaintain (1921), Anno Domini MCMXXl (1922), and others. Akhmatova was a member of the Acmeist group. In contrast to the symbolists, with their attraction to otherworldly, vague elements, the lyric poetry of Akhmatova was based on real life, drawing motifs of “great earthly love” from it. The principle of contrast is a distinguishing trait of her poetry; melancholic, tragic notes alternate with light, jubilant ones.

After the October Revolution, though Akhmatova was far removed from revolutionary activity, she nonetheless sharply condemned the White émigrés, people who had broken with their motherland (“I am not with those who have forsaken the land . . .”). In the course of a number of years, with difficulties and contradictions, new traits formed in Akhmatova’s creative work; she transcended the enclosed world of refined, aesthetic experiences. Beginning in the 1930’s, Akhmatova’s poetic range widened somewhat; themes of the motherland sounded more strongly, as well as the vocation of the poet (“Mayakovsky in 1913,” “Dante,” and the cycle Secrets of the Craft). A stream of historicism appeared in her creative work, a sarcastic farewell to the prerevolutionary epoch—for example, “At the Smolensk Cemetery,” “Prehistory,” “Ode to Tsarskoe Selo,” and “St. Petersburg in 1913.” During the Great Patriotic War patriotic verses stand out in Akhmatova’s poetry (for example, “The Oath” and “Courage”). Motifs of blood unity with the country sounded in her lyric cycles

The Moon at Its Zenith and From an Airplane. The peak of Akhmatova’s creative work is the large-scale, lyric-epic Poem Without a Hero (1940–62). The tragic plot of a young poet’s suicide alternates with the theme of the oncoming destruction of the old world; this poem is marked by a richness of images, precise quality of words, rhythm, and euphony. On the whole, Akhmatova’s poetry is characterized by a classical simplicity and clarity of style, by con-creteness and “substantiveness” in the structure of the images, and by an elevated lyric quality and melodiousness. Akhmatova translated Eastern, Western European, Jewish, and Latvian poets. Her works on the creative art of A. S. Pushkin are marked by refinement of analysis. Akhmatova’s poems have been translated into many languages.


Iz shesti knig. Leningrad, 1940.
Stikhotvoreniia (1909–1960). [Afterword by A. Surkov.] Moscow, 1961.
Beg vremeni: Stikhotvoreniia, 1909–1965. Moscow-Leningrad, 1965.
Golosa poetov: Stikhi zarubezhnykh poetov ν perevodakh Anny Akhmatovoi. [Foreword by A. Tarkovskii.] Moscow, 1965.
Stikhotvoreniia. Moscow, 1967.
“Stikhi raznykh let.” [Edited by V. Zhirmunskii.] Novyi mir, 1969, no. 5.


Eikhenbaum, B. Anna Akhmatova: Opyt analiza. Petrograd, 1923.
Eikhenbaum, B. “Anna Akhmatova: Opyt analiza.” In his book Stat’io poezii. Leningrad, [1969].
Ozerov, L. “Melodika, Plastika, Mysl’.” Literaturnaia Rossiia. Aug. 21, 1964.
Pavlovskii, A. Anna Akhmatova: Ocherk tvorchestva. Leningrad, 1966.
Dobin, E. Poeziia Anny Akhmatovoi. Leningrad, 1968.
Tarasenko, An. Russkie poety XX v. 1900–1955: Bibliografiia. Moscow, 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The Trevor Stewart-owned winner is named after 20th century Russian poet Anna Gorenko, who used Akhmatova as her pen name.