Anna Akhmatova

Anna Andreevna Akhmatova was born in 1889 in the city of Odessa in present Ukraine. Her real surname was Gorenko, but for her poetry she used another family name than her father’s. Early on, she became an established and appreciated writer of love poems.

In 1910, she married Nikolay Gumilev, co-founder of the acmeism movement, whose literary view she embraced. Two years later a son, Lev, was born. After tensions in their marriage, the couple divorced in 1918.

In the beginning of the 1920s, Gumilev was executed by a firing squad, charged with contra-revolutionary activity. The son was arrested by the secret police in 1934 and was imprisoned at several occasions until 1956. Her second husband, Nikolay Punin, died in one of Stalin’s camps in 1953.

After the end of the war in 1945, Akhmatova was struck by an authority campaign against "slackness and liberalism" in art. She was charged with self-centered decadence and expelled from the Union of Soviet Writers, while her colleagues started to avoid her. She wasn’t published at all until 1950, and no book by her was published until 1953.

During this period of inner exile, she worked on the cycle Requiem, which was inspired by the tragic occurrences in her life. In what Akhmatova calls "Instead of a Foreword," she describes the background to this work and how she represents the collective; earlier her individualism had been doomed as a crime. Requiem is introduced by this prologue written in 1961:

No, not under the vault of another sky,
not under the shelter of other wings---
I was with my people then,
there where my people, unfortunately, was.

Not until two decades after her death in 1966, the Soviet authorities, under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, permitted Akhmatova's poems to be spread in her home country. Requiem was finally published in the Soviet Union in 1987. The following rendering into Swedish is based on the banned first Russian edition printed in Munich in 1963.


Akhmatova's Poetry