Anna Akhmatova was arguably the greatest Russian woman poet. She was born Anna Andreevna Gorenko on June 23, 1889, in Bolshoi Fontan,a suburb of Odessa, Ukraine, Russian Empire. Her father, AndreiAntonovich Gorenko, was a Navy Engineer. Her mother, Inna Erazmovna(nee Stogova), belonged to Russian Nobility.
From 1890-1905 her fatherserved in St. Petersburg at the Headquarters of the Imperial TradeFleet and Ports under Grand Prince Aleksander Mikhailovich. The familylived in Tsarskoe Selo, the elite Royal suburb of St. Petersburg. YoungAnna Akhmatova received an excellent private education and attended theTsarskoselky Gymnasium for Ladies.
After the divorce of her parents in1905, she lived in Kiev for 4 years. There she graduated from theFundukleevsky Gymnazium in 1907, and attended the Law school of KievUniversity for 2 years. Back in St. Petersburg she studied at the St. Petersburg Classes for women (Zhenskie Kursy) from 1911-1913.
Akhmatova started writing poetry from age 11, and signed her firstpublication with her real name, Anna Gorenko. Her father objected thatshe used his name, because he also was a writer, and even met'Fyodor Dostoevsky' and corresponded with 'Anton Chekhov' . Then Anna made up a pseudonym 'Akhmatova' and invented a poetic myth ofher connection to the Tatar Khan Akhmat; her pseudonym was a product ofher creative imagination. In 1910, in Kiev she married Nikolai Gumilev,whom she knew for five years. Gumilev was an important Russian poet andcritic, the founder of the literary movement of Acmeism.
The youngcouple spent a honeymoon in Paris. There she met with then little knownartist Amedeo Modigliani. She made a second trip to Paris in 1911 andto Italy in 1912, and continued her friendship with Modigliani, whomade fifteen portraits of her, some of them nude. Inspired by love,Akhmatova wrote her first book of poetry "Evening" (Vecher, 1912). Atthe same time Akhmatova met 'Vladimir Mayakovsky' at the St.
Petersburg literary club 'Brodyachaya Sobaka' (Stray Dog). Her son LevGumilev was born in October of 1912. Her next books "Rosary" (Chyotki,1914) and "The White Flock" (Belaya Staya, 1917) brought her literaryfame. Her poetry was highly praised by 'Yuri Tynyanov' and'Boris Pasternak' . Terror came in her life with the Russian revolution of 1917.
Communistskilled leading intellectuals by thousands. Akhmatova's separatedhusband Nikolai Gumilev was executed in 1921 on the charges of"anti-Soviet plot". After publishing her books "Plantain" (Podorozhnik,1921) and "Anno Domini MCMXXI (1922) she was ostracized as "bourgeous". She witnessed the brutal arrest of poet Osip Mandelstam, who criticized'Joseph Stalin' and later was killed in a Siberian prison-camp. Publication of her works has been banned from 1925 to 1953.
One modestcollection of her poetry was published in Leningrad in 1940, but wasbanned the same year and confiscated from all Soviet libraries and bookstores. In spite of her own suffering, Akhmatova supported a youngstruggling writer 'Olga Berggolts' . At the beginning of the Nazisiege of Leningrad Akhmatova was starving and helpless. She wasevacuated to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where she lived with the family of'Korney Ivanovich Chukovsky' . In the middle of WWII her poem'Courage' was published in Pravda.
Akhmatova's husband Nikolai Punin was a chief curator of the Hermitageand a prominent art historian and writer. He was arrested in 1935,after his criticism of ugly life in the Soviet Union under'Joseph Stalin' . Punin criticized the loss of civilized values andtasteless portraits of the Soviet dictator 'V. I. Lenin' , thousandsof which flooded the renamed city of Leningrad.
Akhmatova had to burnall of her husband's documents and photographs in order to protect hislife. Then she was assisted by her friends 'Mikhail A. Bulgakov' and 'Boris Pasternak' in writing a petition to'Joseph Stalin' , and her husband was released. The second timeAkhmatova tried to save Punin from under arrest was in 1949. At thattime, Punin lectured that Cezanne and Van Gogh were great artists, andhe described the portrait of 'V.
I. Lenin' , as "a bootleg, not apainting"; for such anti-communist statement he was arrested and exiledto the Gulag prison-camp. He died in a Vorkuta prison-camp in 1953. This time Akhmatova was powerless, because she was under KGBsurveillance. After the end of the Second World War Akhmatova was interviewed inLeningrad by Sir 'Isaiah Berlin' , who came for a visit from Londonin the fall of 1945.
In August of 1946 Akhmatova was attacked by theCentral Committee of the Communist Party, because 'Joseph Stalin' pushed repressions against intellectuals (writers, musicians, doctors). Akhmatova was labeled "alien to the Soviet people" for her "eroticism,mysticism, and political impartiality. " She was censored along with'Boris Pasternak' , 'Mikhail Zoschenko' ,'Sergei Prokofiev' , and other leading intellectuals. The officialban was imposed on all publications and public performances ofAkhmatova, and she was deprived of livelihood until the death of'Joseph Stalin' . After her expulsion from the Union of Writers in 1946, Akhmatova wasleft penniless.
At that time she was threatened by the Sovietauthorities and moved from Leningrad to Moscow with the family of'Viktor Ardov' . Ardov, Chukovsky, and Fadeev later helpedreinstate her membership in the Union of Writers. 'Boris Pasternak' gave a special reading of the unpublishedversion of his novel 'Doctor Zhivago' for Akhmatova. In 1955 shereceived a small dacha-cabin in Komarovo, a suburb of Leningrad (St. Petersburg).
There she was living and writing in the summertime,working on her major works: 'Poema bez geroya' and 'Requiem'. But hermasterpiece 'Requiem' was not published until 1987. 'Requiem' is amonumental poem about survival of the people through the 'Great Terror'and dictatorship of Stalin. Her only son Lev Gumilev (1912 - 1992) was a historian and philosopher,who survived several arrests and spent many years in the Soviet Gulagprison-camps. Akhmatova and her circle in the 50's and 60's Leningradwas an unofficial incubator for talented youth, such as her apprentice'Joseph Brodsky' .
In 1962, Akhmatova was nominated for the NobelPrize in Literature, and in 1964 she was awarded the Etna-TaorminaPrize for poetry. Akhmatova also received an honorary doctorate fromOxford University (1965). Anna Akhmatova died on March 5, 1966, in Domodedovo, a suburb of Moscow. Akhmatova's burial service was held at the St. Nicholas Naval Cathedralin St.
Petersburg, she was laid to rest in the Komarovo cemetery, nearSt. Petersburg, Russia. .
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