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11. The Thaw Generation Poets in the Post-Soviet Period

Emily Lygo

© 2017 Emily Lygo, CC BY 4.0

During the Khrushchev Thaw, poetry became a popular means of expressing ideas of renewal, hope, optimism and sincerity associated with de-Stalinisation and the USSR’s increasing openness to the West.1 The establishment of the ‘Day of Poetry’ in 1956 is indicative of the prominent place that poetry came to occupy in culture and arts during the Thaw that was, in many ways, launched at the Twentieth Party Congress that year. A group of poets who came to prominence at this time identified strongly with both the politics of de-Stalinisation and the sincerity and truthfulness that imbued much cultural production of the period. These estrada (podium) poets, who reached a wide audience both in the USSR and abroad through mass public readings, domestic and foreign publications and foreign trips, achieved fame and notoriety with works that were published thanks to the Thaw.2 They were criticised as well as praised, but they became the most famous poets of their generation whose story was intimately bound up with the narrative of the de-Stalinisation of the arts under Khrushchev. The most famous figures were Evgenii Evtushenko, Andrei Voznesenskii, Bella Akhmadulina, Robert Rozhdestvenskii and Bulat Okudzhava, but alongside them, bards also became very popular, as did some older poets, such as Boris Slutskii and Aleksandr Tvardovskii, whose work chimed with the cultural and political Thaw.

This chapter is concerned with how the reputations of these poets and the narrative about poetry in the Thaw period altered after the radical political and cultural changes in the USSR and then Russia of the late 1980s and early 1990s. After analysing the state of the canon for the Thaw Generation in the late-Soviet period, I will proceed to examine how the Thaw Generation has been positioned in the canon in the post-Soviet period. I will draw upon three main areas of canon formation: educational syllabuses and textbooks, anthologies, and prominent literary critics and commentators. Questions of literary quality, of course, play a significant role in canon formation, but in this article I am concerned primarily with extra-literary factors, since it seems to me that these have proved fundamental to the establishment of a narrative about poetry during the Thaw period which has influenced the canonisation of the individual members of this generation.

Any examination of the canon in the post-Soviet period must take as its starting point the canon as it existed in various contexts before the collapse of the USSR in 1991. Dealing with the question of the canon of Soviet poetry for the Thaw period is complicated by the existence of censorship, state control, and the difficulty of measuring the readership of unofficial publications. There has been a significant shift in thinking about canon that has led to the acknowledgement of more popular literature as constituting either part of a broad canon, or a competing canon of its own.3 The Soviet experience poses the question of a popular canon a little differently, however: the challenge is whether literature that was popular in the sense of being read widely can be recognised as canonical even if it was largely ignored by state-controlled institutions of canon formation. Publications such as textbooks prescribed for the teaching of literature and official histories of Soviet writing represent the highest level of canonicity — official approval and endorsement — but, especially from the Thaw period onwards, they were only part of the picture in the USSR, with samizdat (self-published) literature and magnitizdat recordings (amateur recordings using tape recorders) of guitar poetry making literature available through independent channels. Samizdat was not confined to the publication of new literature by unpublished poets. In the conditions of paper deficit, fixed print-runs, and a changing political climate that could see a work approved for publication but never re-printed, samizdat supplied what was in demand but not available. This ‘other’ canon is not necessarily one of so-called ‘popular literature’, but it is one that found expression only in its popularity. Labels such as ‘unofficial’, ‘alternative’, ‘underground’ and ‘uncensored’ have all been applied to it, or to a smaller subset, for example, prose works or poetry, but none really covers its variety.4

In the last decade of Soviet power, the official canon did not include many poets of the Thaw Generation beyond Evtushenko and Voznesenskii. The conservatism and hierarchical nature of the Soviet literary establishment meant that official statements about the canon of Soviet poetry, which included histories of Soviet literature and school syllabuses, were slow to incorporate younger poets. In the 1982 university textbook Istoriia russkoi sovetskoi literatury (The History of Russian Soviet Literature), L. F. Ershov’s chapter on the 1960s to the early 1980s covers the period that the new generation of Thaw poets belong to, but concentrates on the older generation of writers predominantly: Tvardovskii, Vasilii Fedorov, Leonid Martynov, Sergei Vikulov, Mikhail Dudin, Sergei Orlov, Iaroslav Smeliakov. Of the poets who made names for themselves during the Thaw, Ershov includes only Evtushenko, Voznesenskii, Rozhdestvenskii, and Nikolai Rubtsov.5 When he comes to the 1970s, there are no new entries into his canon, only the significant departures of a generation of poets. The period is — in classic Soviet euphemistic language — said to have been a ‘difficult one’ for poetry: ‘there were searches, but they did not always yield results’.6

The Thaw Generation poets had a similarly low profile in a textbook for students of Russian language and literature at Pedagogical Institutes that focuses specifically on Russian Soviet literature of the 1950s to 1970s. Two out of twelve chapters are devoted to poetry, a proportion of the study that already suggests poetry is not considered to be the most important genre of the period.7 One chapter focuses exclusively on poetry that takes the countryside as its theme, while the other deals only with the work of Martynov and Tvardovskii. Owing to the choice of themes to be explored in poetry of the period, this study does not make mention of Evtushenko, Voznesenskii or Rozhdestvenskii, names that were almost synonymous with Russian poetry of the Thaw in the West, and which were certainly well known and associated with the period in the USSR as well.

One has to look beyond official Soviet publications to find evidence of the popular canon that existed among readers in the USSR. In 1978, Edward Brown wrote that contemporary Soviet poets were those ‘who create the greatest stir and receive widest acclaim both at home and abroad’,8 and listed these as Evtushenko, Voznesenskii, Akhmadulina, Slutskii, Novella Matveeva, Tvardovskii, Okudzhava, Iosif Brodskii and Martynov.9 This is an indication of a canon perceived by a Western visitor trying to get beyond the official level of the conservative Soviet literary establishment, to an understanding of which poets mattered to Soviet, predominantly intelligentsia readers.

In such Western studies of Soviet literature and anthologies of Soviet poetry that predate the fall of the USSR, there is much consensus about the key figures of the Thaw Generation. A selection of Soviet and Russian literature covering the period of the Thaw all included Evtushenko, Voznesenskii and Akhmadulina among the major figures of the generation.10 All but the earliest one published in 1963, include Brodskii. That these four figures were, by the end of the 1960s, the most canonical poets of their generation, is underscored by the number of publications of their work in English translation.11 Other figures included in three or four of the studies are Okudzhava, Tvardovskii, Slutskii and Matveeva. The names of Aleksandr Galich, Viktor Sosnora, Evgenii Vinokurov, Gennadii Aigi and Rozhdestvenskii appear in only two of the studies and appear to form a group of poets that are not the core of the canon found in the more general surveys, but which belong in that which is described in studies of Soviet poetry aimed at a more specialist and specifically academic audience.

The narrative of poetry of the Thaw period found in Soviet publications plays down the estrada phenomenon that brought poetry to popular culture. Ershov acknowledges that literature underwent significant change during the Khrushchev Thaw, however, and when he describes the advent of Evtushenko and Voznesenskii, he is quick to point out the shortcomings of their style.12 A sober evaluation of much poetry of the Thaw appeared as early as the late 1960s in various official statements indicating a return to more conservative norms.13 There was also a tendency to downplay the significance of poetry for this historical period. In contrast, narratives found in Western studies of Thaw literature from the late Soviet period underline that lyric poetry, which had virtually disappeared from official publications during the Stalin period, experienced a revival and rehabilitation in the 1950s. Poetry is connected to de-Stalinisation, to the growth of dissidence and non-conformism, and to the development of an underground and the phenomenon of samizdat. The range of Thaw Generation poets recognized as significant is far wider than that found in Soviet publications.

Changes to the Canon During and After Perestroika

During perestroika, the range of published poets belonging to the Thaw Generation expanded to include émigrés and poets who had remained ‘unofficial’ in the USSR. The removal of Soviet ideology from narratives about Thaw poetry changed the way that this generation of poets was conceived and interpreted in Russia.

Émigré poets introduced to Russia during perestroika include Brodskii, Dmitrii Bobyshev, Natalia Gorbanevskaia, and Lev Losev. By far the most significant of these was Brodskii, and the return of his work to Russia was a huge corrective to the canon. From about 1995, and especially after his death, there were a large number of publications about Brodskii, mostly by academics.14 To a large extent, however, he has been seen as an individual: his identity as a Russian poet is in no doubt, but he is not seen as a representative of third-wave émigré literature.15 He is seen more as a part of the Leningrad poetry of the post-Stalin era, but even then his work is discussed largely divorced from this context.16 Another context for him is the transnational canon that, through his essays and articles, he was instrumental in forging.17 When his poetry returned to Russia in the late 1980s, it did not open the door for the reception of third-wave émigré poets more generally, and the narrative of the Thaw Generation has yet to assimilate a good number of poets.18

The previously unofficial poets who now appeared in print and on the internet were more numerous. In anthologies published in both the West and Russia, three widely included figures from unofficial literature are Evgenii Rein, Genrikh Sapgir, and Dmitrii Prigov.19 Boris Chichibabin and German Plisetskii also appear in several anthologies, as does Vladimir Kornilov, who belonged to official literature but fell from grace in the 1970s. However, a much more extensive list of unofficial poets emerges from comprehensive collections and studies that aimed to make accessible this underground stratum of literature. In the 1990s, a powerful narrative about the evolution of underground poetry and poets of the Thaw era developed, informed by Konstantin Kuz’minskii’s Blue Lagoon Anthology published in the United States in the 1980s,20 and then by studies, anthologies and web-based projects in Russia in the following decade, including Samizdat veka (Samizdat of the Century),21 and the web site ‘Russkaia poeziia 60-kh godov’ (‘Russian Poetry of the 1960s’), created in 1999.22 Dmitrii Kuz’min’s website Vavilon (Babylon) is not necessarily put forward as an attempt at canon definition,23 but a comprehensive anthology Russkie stikhi 1950–2000 (Russian Poetry 1950–2000), which includes unofficial, émigré and official Soviet poets, seems to be putting forward a version of the canon.24

In contrast to the lack of a narrative about émigré poetry in this period, the narrative of unofficial poetry of the 1950s onwards has become well established. It identifies ‘forefathers’ in poets such as Nikolai Glazkov,25 and Roal’d Mandel′shtam, who spurned official Soviet culture.26 It also describes the mentoring of younger poets by members of the older generation of intelligentsia, of whom some had experienced the Gulag and some were associated with the pre-revolutionary period. Anthologies and studies of the period describe the associations and groups of poets that together make up a patchwork of the generation as a whole. Significantly, the emphasis on groups is distinct from the official Soviet canon of poets which deliberately avoided the organization of poets into the kinds of sub-groups that were outlawed in the early 1930s.

Canon-Forming Processes

Educational Syllabuses

The poets and narratives about poetry of the Thaw Generation have undergone processes of canonisation to varying extents in the fields of educational syllabuses, anthologies, and influential commentators. These processes are distinct, but not unrelated. There is usually a delay before the publication and critical reception of contemporary literature settles down enough to be incorporated into the educational canon; Mikhail Gasparov has suggested, indeed, that the incorporation of a work of literature into educational syllabuses is a sign that the work no longer pertains to the category of ‘contemporary’.27 While the Thaw clearly no longer belongs to the category of contemporary literature, the newcomers to the corpus of poetry from this era are in some sense still new, and it is not surprising that although returned literature has been published and received critical attention, it has yet to be fully assimilated by educational syllabuses.

There are post-Soviet government prescriptions for literature to be studied in general and specialised (‘middle’) schools. In the second half of the 1990s, the general syllabus for literature of the second half of the twentieth century set the minimum requirement as the study of three to four works drawn from Fedor Abramov, Viktor Astaf’ev, Vasilii Belov, Valentin Rasputin, Evgenii Nosov, Vasilii Shukshin, Iurii Kazakov, Rubtsov, Mikhail Isakovskii, Nikolai Zabolotskii, Aleksandr Iashin, Rozhdestvenskii and others.28 In the syllabus for middle schools published two years later, the choice of works for study from the second half of the twentieth century is explained as taking in those which ‘were acclaimed as significant by their contemporaries’. Here, Kazakov, Isakovskii, Zabolotskii, Iashin and Rozhdestvenskii from the general level list are replaced with Viktor Nekrasov, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Vasil Bykov, Konstantin Vorob’ev, Iurii Trifonov, Evtushenko, Aleksandr Vampilov, Akhmadulina, Voznesenskii, Brodskii, Okudzhava, Vladimir Vysotskii.29 This selection introduces writers whose work opens up the possibility of discussing more complex questions of the historical period such as emigration, dissidence, the individual, and problems in Soviet society that were, as a rule, excluded from mainstream Soviet literature. It also introduces a few more poets to a list that is certainly dominated by prose writers.

The syllabuses that were set out ten years later were more narrowly prescriptive about the range of poets from the Thaw Generation to be studied. The general level prescribed Brodskii, Voznesenskii, Vysotskii, Evtushenko, Okudzhava, and Rubtsov, and named, albeit in vague formulations, the themes characterising their poetry: ‘the critical problems of their times’ and ‘the search for solid moral values in the life of the people and the discovery of distinctive national characteristics’.30 While the inclusion of Brodskii makes clear that the canon has undergone a shift since the Soviet period, the themes identified are still rather conservative, concentrating on the history of Thaw poetry, and the theme of national character. The middle school syllabus is similarly prescriptive in spite of the fact that it is aimed at students at a higher level.31 The choice of poets put forward is only a suggestion, and others may be substituted, but as it stands it recommends including Tvardovskii, Rubtsov, the Dagestan national poet of the Soviet period Rasul Gamzatov, Brodskii and Okudzhava. The themes identified for discussion go beyond rather vague and nationalist concerns, and introduce questions about the past: the influence of the Thaw on the development of literature; literary journals and their place in social consciousness; the ‘camp’ theme; and ‘village’ prose.

The government prescriptions make clear that alongside the estrada poets and older figures such as Tvardovskii, the canon for the Thaw Generation now includes Brodskii and some other figures that have gained recognition since perestroika. Interestingly, however, the themes and concerns of Brodskii’s work in particular have not come to be seen as indicative of the Thaw years. Indeed, since 2000, Rubtsov has become identified as more representative of the Thaw period and the principal concerns that preoccupied the literature of that time: the themes of Russia, Russianness and rural life. Such recommendations give a distinctly nationalist bent to the government syllabuses, which is not surprising in the least, and also imply that while Brodskii cannot be ignored, he is not typical or representative of his time.

Alongside the government syllabuses for schools are textbooks and curricula for both school and university courses that are published by academics and teachers. There is considerable variation between textbooks, and there has not been a steady progress of change to the canon put forward by them; rather, while in 1998 a Moscow University textbook shows considerable influence of the changes to the canon in the post-Soviet period, a 2007 syllabus from Voronezh University on the ‘History of Russian Literature of the Twentieth Century’ sticks quite closely to the Soviet canon. It may be that there is a tendency for the capital to be more up-to-date than the provinces; on the other hand, the influence of the individuals writing the textbooks is also crucial.

Two of the more conservative examples of syllabuses include the programme for prospective university students (abiturienty) published by Ulianovsk Pedagogical College in 2001,32 and educational materials produced by Voronezh State University for higher education institutions in 2007.33 In the Ulianovsk document, the Thaw Generation poets appear under the heading Poeziia poslednikh desiatiletii (Poetry of the recent decades) and are represented by Evtushenko, Voznesenskii, Rozhdestvenskii, and Akhmadulina. With the addition of Okudzhava, the same figures appear as a group in the Voronezh syllabus, and here they are identified as one of two reactions to the Stalinism of the preceding decades. This emphasis on the estrada poets is distinct from the Soviet canon that was wary of promoting these poets and their de-Stalinising work, but does not move beyond the bounds of Soviet published poetry. The Voronezh syllabus also includes the poetry of Rubtsov: he is presented here as a representative of a contrasting tradition, an alternative response to the Stalinist past that involved a return to the village and Russian nineteenth-century tradition and a position that was ‘outside’ the Thaw politics.

Other curricula reflect the changes to the field of Russian poetry that have taken place since the late 1980s. A Moscow University textbook introduces Brodskii to the heart of the Thaw Generation, devoting a chapter to him; Vysotskii is the only other Thaw poet whose work receives a chapter of its own, while in the introductory chapter, other names from this period mentioned are Rubtsov, Galich, Iulii Kim, and Okudzhava.34 In this textbook there is at least mention of Losev, Slutskii, Rein, Anatolii Naiman, Prigov, Kushner, Akhmadulina, Fazil Iskander, Voznesenskii, and Rubtsov. The selection of Brodskii and Vysotskii as the two leading figures that merit a chapter of their own suggests several important strands to the history of the poetry of the Thaw Generation: the genuine popularity that Vysotskii enjoyed during his lifetime, the phenomenon of Brodskii’s exile, and the phenomena of unpublished and underground poetry. Along with these changes to the canon, however, is a perhaps related assertion that in this period, poetry was not very important as a literary genre. The authors even go as far as dismissing Brodskii’s acknowledgement of the great talent of his generation as ‘poetic exaggeration’. In common with the Moscow University publication, the textbook Uroki literatury v 11-om klasse (Literature Lessons in Class 11) places Brodskii at the centre of the canon.35 An essay entitled ‘Contemporary literature’, written by the prominent literary critic Igor Shaitanov, states that Brodskii is the only major Russian poet of the second half of the twentieth century. The essay places emphasis on the historical context of the Thaw period and the place of both official and unofficial poetry, and does not entirely reject the former in favour of the latter.

Though they have taken into account the changes to the corpus in the post-Soviet period, even these syllabuses are still relatively conservative in their canonical statements: there is virtually no mention of avant-garde poetry or poets, for example. Shaitanov’s essay is notable for its attempt to bring together pre- and post-1991 views of the Thaw Generation. He recognises the historical interest of the estrada poets as major, seeing them as importantly provocative (vozmutiteli) at the time, and sets them in their historical context. Significantly, it argues that their work now often requires a commentary because it is so closely connected to the historical context of the Thaw. In fact, it was mainly Evtushenko and Rozhdestvenskii who wrote such ‘topical’ poems, but even the intimate poetry of Akhmadulina or quiet philosophical lyrics of Kushner perhaps lose some of the impact they had when they were written, when read out of the context of their time.

Shaitanov’s essay also acknowledges the significance of Thaw Generation poets who were not recognized by the Soviet literary establishment, but this inclusion does not lead to a complete re-casting of the narrative of the generation. He singles out two figures from their contemporaries, Rein and Oleg Chukhontsev, and devotes a section to each.36 This selection is rare if not unique for the Russian school and university syllabuses, and would appear to be included largely because of Shaitanov’s personal judgement: as an influential and prolific literary critic, as well as an academic, Shaitanov brings a view of the canon to the construction of the school syllabus that appears radical against the general inertia in this field. The two poets are not, however, seen as part of a wider narrative about this generation. They are given very little context and discussed almost exclusively in terms of their texts. The chronological narrative moves from Olga Berggolts and Smeliakov, to Evtushenko, Voznesenskii, Akhmadulina and Rozhdestvenskii. A divergence thus emerges in this syllabus — and is echoed in others too — between the figures of the history of Thaw poetry, and the main poets of the Thaw Generation. Overall, this tendency suggests that a significant source of inertia within the canon of poetry is the established narrative of a generation that is linked to institutions, historical events, political trends and the history of publication.


If educational syllabuses tend to be limited in terms of the number of works and writers that are included in the canon, anthologies can be far more inclusive and therefore more reflective of the changes that have occurred to the corpus. Nevertheless, either through the selection of poets included, or by the amount of space dedicated to individual poets, anthologies make important statements about canon. Katharine Hodgson points out that two of the most significant anthologies of Russian twentieth-century poets that have been published since 1991 have claimed to be motivated by the task of the preservation of texts, but that nevertheless the selection of poets and poems have been subject to vigorous criticism because of the perceived assertions about the shape of the canon.37

Arguments over the canon that are presented by the anthologies confirm that the main problem for anthologists is the question of whether Soviet literature should now be recognized as a part of Russian literature. As Hodgson shows, both approaches have been advocated by Russian literary critics.38 Although there are significant voices that advocate the removal of most, if not all, Soviet poetry from the canon, most major published anthologies that aim at anything like a comprehensive picture of Russian poetry of the twentieth century do not make such a wholesale rejection. However, given the politically-charged nature of the twentieth-century canon, this can mean, as Il’ia Kukulin has formulated, that

any assertion of the canon looks like a re-evaluation of the Soviet picture of new Russian poetry with a bias towards the underground and émigrés, or […] a confirmation that Soviet aesthetic criteria are valid for the present day.39

Hodgson highlights that disagreements over the inclusion or exclusion of poets in the major anthologies have at times focused on the extent to which avant-garde and non-conformist work has been introduced to the canon.40

These questions of the balance in the canon of Soviet and unpublished poetry, and of avant-garde and strict form are particularly pointed in the discussion of the Thaw Generation poets. It is complicated to reformulate an understanding of the period without the estrada poets, but at the same time in the post-Soviet context there has been a tendency to see their political positions as hopelessly compromised. Poetic form is much debated because the proliferation of underground poetry during the period, especially in Moscow, featured a significant amount of non-classical, avant-garde verse. In the anthologies, as in the school syllabuses, the question emerges as to whether or not the historical figures are in fact the major poets of the period; the answers presented by the anthologies can articulate a more nuanced positioning of the poets, however, since previously central figures can be retained but shifted to a peripheral position in the overall picture.

Although there have been many anthologies of Russian poetry of the Soviet era published in Russia since 1991, a significant majority of these are confined to poets of the Silver Age.41 This seems to suggest that this period is seen as the most significant for twentieth-century Russian poetry. Whatever the grounds for this perception are, they mean that the number of anthologies in which the Thaw Generation is represented is quite small. Collections of poetry that are focussed exclusively on underground poets, for example Samizdat veka, are by definition not contributing directly to the canon-forming processes under discussion. In particular, they do not engage with the key question of the re-balancing of Soviet and non-Soviet (émigré or unofficial) poetry within the canon. For this study a selection of six anthologies was made, three from Russia and three from the West.42

Before looking at the general trends that emerge across the six anthologies, a comparison of the Western and Russian publications points to some distinctions between these sub-groups, and perhaps between the Russian and foreign branches of the canon-forming process. There are a handful of poets included in all the Russian anthologies who are absent from, or given little space in, the Western anthologies, yet the space alloted to them by the Russian compilers suggests they are of some significance. They include figures of Soviet poetry such as Vladimir Sokolov, Iurii Kuznetsov, Konstantin Vanshenkin and Iurii Riashentsev, whose recognition and popularity in the USSR continued into the post-Soviet period with the awarding of prizes, and, in Vanshenkin’s and Riashentsev’s cases, the continuing popularity of their songs in classic Soviet films. They also include conceptualists such as Vsevolod Nekrasov and Stanislav Krasovitskii, and bards such as Novella Matveeva, Kim, Aleksandr Gorodnitskii and even Vysotskii. Lastly, both Evtushenko and Voznesenskii are found in Evtushenko’s collection in English, but are surely significant exclusions from both Contemporary Russian Poetry and In the Grip of Strange Thoughts.43

The reasons for these poets’ absence from the Western-published anthologies are no doubt varied. The Soviet poets, especially those famous as song-writers, and the bards might be described as belonging to sub-genres of poetry that have not been recognized widely as part of Russian lyric poetry outside Russia; the lesser-known conceptualists, on the other hand, may just have missed the ‘radar’ of Russian poetry readers abroad, eclipsed by their more famous counterpart Prigov. But the editorial decisions not to include Evtushenko and Voznesenskii in two of the Western publications cannot be because these poets are unknown in the West. Instead, it suggests that Western observers of the canon feel more able to make such radical exclusions from a selection of Thaw Generation poets than their Russian counterparts, perhaps because Russian editors are concerned with the question of the preservation of texts and the literary-historical picture: that any selection made should not only reflect the editor’s judgement of poetic merit, but also acknowledge that the picture of poetry of this era that has changed over time.

Notwithstanding these differences between the Western and Russian publications, a comparison between the selections of poets featured in the collections and the relative weighting assigned to individual figures suggests that there is no clear dividing line between East and West. Therefore, by treating the six as a sample of anthologies, it is possible to draw some observations and conclusions about canon formation within a reasonable range of publications from the 1990s and 2000s. There are six poets who appear in all of the anthologies, a list which does not include Brodskii: Akhmadulina, Kushner, Iunna Morits, Okudzhava, Prigov and Rein. Brodskii’s absence from In the Grip of Strange Thoughts may be due to his being so well known, and it would seem unwise to draw conclusions about his canonicity — which is so strongly established in so many ways — from this one omission. The other names here are predominantly poets who were published, albeit only partially, during the Soviet period. Rein hardly counts as such, given that his first collection was published during perestroika, so he and Prigov can be said to be the only two of the six who belong to unofficial literature. With the absence of Evtushenko, Voznesenskii and Rozhdestvenskii, the four Soviet-published poets of the list looks like an elite of the more lyrical poets of the Thaw Generation published since the 1950s and 1960s, who are not seen as compromised by their political situations and, even though Akhmadulina and Okudzhava did take part in the stadium poetry readings, are distanced from the phenomenon of estrada poetry. These are perhaps seen as more ‘authentic’ poets who were not such obvious mouthpieces for Khrushchev’s de-Stalinising, liberalising agendas.

The following table shows the frequency that poets appear in the selected anthologies:

In all the anthologies

In five out of six

In four out of six

























Of the poets appearing in five out of six, there are four more Soviet-published poets, and five who belong to unofficial poetry. In four out of the six anthologies we find six more Soviet-published and four unofficial poets. In total, therefore, there is a majority (fourteen) of Soviet-published poets and slightly fewer (eleven) unofficial (including émigré) poets. In view of the drama of the upheaval of the canon and the extensive debates over whether or not any worthwhile poetry was published in the USSR, the number of Soviet poets is perhaps surprisingly high. On the other hand, it bears out the historical narrative that sees the Thaw as a period during which a window of opportunity to become a published Soviet poet opened temporarily for young poets, especially in Moscow, and points to the Writers’ Union as having managed to accommodate a significant number of talented poets of the time.44

A slightly different view is gained by taking into account also the amount of space given to poets in these anthologies as an indication of their importance (with the caveat that the number of pages is an imprecise measure). In the case of the In the Grip of Strange Thoughts and Contemporary Russian Poetry, the poets selected are given roughly equal amounts of space, but inclusion in itself is an indication that the poet is considered important; in the others, the difference in the number of poems and pages allotted to each poet is significant. There is a group of poets that emerges as being important in five of the six anthologies (as it happens, none has this status in all six): Akhmadulina, Brodskii, Slutskii, Rein and Okudzhava, which overlaps significantly, of course, with the survey of frequency.45 Looking at the anthologies in this way throws up some interesting contrasts with the first, however; while the inclusion of a poet may be considered mandatory, the diminution of that figure achieved by including only a few poems can be an important statement about his or her position in the canon. Evtushenko and Voznesenskii, for example, are given significant coverage in only two and three of the six anthologies respectively, and two of these were edited by Evtushenko himself.

At the other end of the spectrum, there is a group of eight poets who receive significant space in only one anthology: Losev, Nekrasov, Plisetskii, Prigov, Rozhdestvenskii, Rubtsov, Sapgir, and Vladimir Ufliand; in five cases this is in the anthology, Russkie stikhi 1950–2000, pointing to this as the most idiosyncratic of the six examined here. The selection of poets given prominence by only this publication (Losev, Nekrasov, Prigov, Sapgir, and Ufliand) clearly points to an emphasis on avant-garde figures. Although overall the anthology is inclusive, featuring all the main poets of the generation, the selections of individual poets reveal its focus on the avant-garde, which is in contrast to the general tendency in the anthologies examined to focus on poetry written in more conventional, ‘classical’ form.

In the canon that emerges from these anthologies, the poetry is significantly depoliticised. Overall, the generation is still associated with the notes of sincerity and authenticity that were part of the reaction to the Stalin period, but this is expressed through private, intimate lyrics, as distinct from the more political de-Stalinisation associated with Evtushenko and Voznesenskii. Okudzhava and Akhmadulina, for example, although part of the estrada phenomenon, are both associated with a quieter and more intimate, lyrical style of work than Evtushenko’s public and often polemical poems and Voznesenskii’s formal experimentation and verbal play. Poets such as Brodskii and Rein who have been introduced to the canon are significantly apolitical; both were excluded from official literature, but neither is defined by a strongly political position in opposition to the Soviet authorities in the way that some Gulag writers were. They are also identified with the classical tradition of Russian poetry. In spite of quite frequent assertions that the Thaw witnessed a renewed interest in futurist and avant-garde poetics, in the canon as it emerges, they are still peripheral.

The range of poets in these anthologies represents a significantly revised view of the Thaw period. By implication, then, a different narrative about poetry in this era is also emerging, which will revolve around — or at least take in the experience of — these figures. It would be simplistic to assert that this new narrative requires poetry to be free from association with the Soviet authorities — the poets featured in anthologies are clearly not all from the underground and emigration. It is notable, however, that the poets in this reconfigured canon are to a greater or lesser degree distanced from the Soviet authorities, sometimes in literary, but more often in extra-literary terms. Thus, the Soviet literary process, defined largely in terms of publications and privileges, no longer exerts such an influence on the canon. Underground and émigré literary processes are recognised as having produced poets who can be assimilated into Russian poetry of the twentieth century. Instead of having an institutional base, I suggest that the canon, as it is expressed through these anthologies, is now formed of poets who can broadly be seen to share the renewal of poetry associated with the Thaw, mostly, though with some exceptions, through the foregrounding of intimacy, informality and sincerity in their work. This common thread has undermined the positions of Evtushenko and Voznesenskii, for their proximity to the authorities now compromises the sincerity and freshness that the form and content of their works seemed to express at the time.

Influential Commentators

A sense of the kinds of narratives emerging about the Thaw Generation can be found in criticism and commentary by influential critics. For the purposes of this study, I have identified Brodskii, Shaitanov, and Aizenberg as important and contrasting in their attitudes; Shaitanov’s comments about the Thaw Generation are generally found across a range of articles on contemporary and twentieth-century poetry; Brodskii’s are made through his endorsements of poets of the Thaw Generation, and in Aizenberg’s case, his essays written during the 1990s draw his own narrative about poetry that he proposes as a replacement for the existing, Soviet-era version. The contrasts between them highlight some of the main questions around poetry of the Thaw Generation that remain in contention. In particular, they disagree about the status of formerly official poets, about the significance of the avant-garde, and the relative importance of the generation in twentieth-century Russian poetry.

Brodskii’s statements about the canon for this generation are found not in a polemic on this subject, but in his support and endorsement of poets of his own generation, and in his important assertion of this generation’s significance found in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech. In the latter, he asserted that

the fact that not everything got interrupted [in those crematoria and in the anonymous common graves of Stalin’s archipelago], at least not in Russia, can be credited in no small degree to my generation, and I am no less proud of belonging to it than I am of standing here today.46

Ludmila Stern has described how, in the last decade of his life, Brodskii was inundated with requests for his endorsement of contemporaries’ poetry, and was regarded as holding the key to unlocking recognition and success in the West.47 Notwithstanding the somewhat ad hoc way in which his endorsements of poets may have been elicited, his introductions to, statements about, and translations of Russian poets of his generation bear out the pride in his generation that he first mentioned in the 1987 speech. From Losev’s bibliography of Brodskii’s articles from the period, one can find endorsements made during the perestroika period of Kushner, Ufliand, Rein, Akhmadulina, Inna Lisnianskaia, Tatiana Shcherbina, Naiman, and Gandel’sman.48

While this list is not exhaustive, it is an indication of Brodskii’s approach to the canon. He does not provide an explicit narrative, but through the selection it is immediately clear that his view of the Thaw Generation is not dominated by the history of poetry closely associated with politics of the period: neither the official policies of Khrushchev nor the resistance of the underground and unofficial literature. Brodskii apparently does not give weight to the distinction between poets officially published and those unofficial in the USSR: Lisnianskaia, Kushner and Akhmadulina feature alongside Ufliand, Rein and Naiman. In this respect, he is typical of his generation: in the early 1960s when he emerged as a poet in Leningrad, there was not a strong divide between official and unofficial poets. The selection is also dominated by Leningraders, suggesting that Brodskii saw the Leningrad school of poetry as a significant element of Russian poetry during the Thaw Generation. Since it is notable that Brodskii gave endorsements primarily to his own generation, and not to those a little younger than him, it seems that Brodskii’s choice was dictated in part by personal acquaintance, making his selection of poets also personal.

In contrast with Brodskii’s statements and endorsements, Aizenberg’s essays collected in ‘Alternative Chronicles of Russian Poetry’ put forward a view of Russian poetry that is concentrated in Moscow, in the 1960s and 1970s, and in the underground.49 If Brodskii seems unconcerned with whether a poet was, during the Thaw period, official or unofficial, then for Aizenberg, this is a starting point. In his view, two bodies of work that can be defined as official and unofficial literature are mutually exclusive on the grounds that this status is always indicative of the aesthetic principles of the work and the poetic tradition it belongs to. ‘Unofficial’, for Aizenberg, denotes not just something that remained unpublished in the USSR. The term, as he defines it, implies poetry with a particular history and ‘genealogy’: it begins with the OBERIU poets, and it is continued through the late works of Osip Mandel′shtam and Georgii Obolduev, and in the 1950s works of Roal’d Mandel′shtam.50 It is interesting that, in contrast to the OBERIU, Vladimir Maiakovskii is not seen as a ‘teacher’ or precursor for these poets due to his involvement with Soviet publishing and power. Aizenberg suggests that the works of these writers varied hugely, and they are not united by a common aesthetic; rather, they share in common a rejection of all that was Soviet. In opposition to this ‘tainted’ literature is posited a ‘pure’ position that was opposed to Soviet power and therefore, it is assumed, was a more genuine development of Russian poetry.

Aizenberg’s selection of poets is clearly influenced by his own position in the generation, and, like Brodskii’s, must be seen as highly personal. It is dominated by conceptualism, which is given roots and a history here, apparently intended to strengthen its claim to be the most genuine expression of Russian poetry in the period. By avoiding aesthetic criteria and concentrating on what he deems to be moral choices about publishing in the USSR, Aizenberg would appear to be trying to re-cast conceptualism in a new mould. Rather than see it as a phenomenon peculiar to Moscow and as one of various directions that poetry developed in during the 1960s and later, he seeks to assert its predominance. Clearly the essays are polemical and challenge the perceived consensus that the ‘classical’ tradition in Russian poetry remained the central current in the Thaw period and beyond. It remains a radical challenge to the canon, one of the chief voices among critics and poets who complain that the avant-garde tradition in Russian poetry is sidelined.

As chief editor of Voprosy literatury (Questions of Literature) and major contributor to literary criticism on contemporary poetry, Shaitanov has, in the post-Soviet period, been an influential figure in canon formation in Russia. In 1998, he wrote three essays on contemporary poetry that deal in a variety of ways with the subject of the canon.51 Across these essays he addresses what are perhaps the key questions about the canon for this period: Brodskii’s position, the Soviet past, and the avant-garde. Shaitanov sees that the canon must draw on both unofficial and official poetry — especially since Brodskii is an ‘unofficial’ poet — but he is also dismissive of the rhetoric that prioritises unofficial poetry and makes assumptions about its superior quality. In comments about the English-language Reference Guide to Russian Literature, he notes that this publication includes poets from the avant-garde who are peripheral and known only to small, interested groups, yet omits Kuznetsov, Rubtsov, Aleksei Prasolov, Arsenii Tarkovskii, Morits, Martynov, Aleksandr Mezhirov, and Sokolov, and the poets of the Lianozovo school.52 These poets who have not made it into Cornwell’s Reference Guide are very different in school and style, yet without them, Shaitanov argues, there can be no overview of Russian poetry of the second half of the twentieth century. He sees in this western version of the Russian canon a tendency to prioritise the avant-garde in a way that distorts the picture of Russian poetry as it is seen and understood in Russia. On the other hand, he does not suggest that the Evtushenko and Voznesenskii should occupy a central position in the canon, and sees them as largely historical figures who wrote a handful of poems that should be preserved in anthologies.53


From this range of statements about the canon, it is apparent that the syllabuses from educational institutions are more conservative than commentators and editors working in the field of literary publishing and literary criticism. That said, even in most educational syllabuses and textbooks, the changes that have occurred to the corpus of poetry for the Thaw Generation since 1991 have had some impact on the choice of poets for discussion, reading and study. Anthologies and literary comments and criticism from influential individuals have introduced more significant changes to the canon; taken together, these statements highlight the borderlines and disputed areas of this still-difficult territory.

Major questions apparently remain about the shape of the canon of poetry of this era. Estrada poetry was prominent at the time and remained firmly in the Soviet canon, in terms of poets, poems and also the history of poetry. Now, the problem has emerged of how to re-conceive the history of poetry during the Thaw, acknowledging its prominence in official culture, but also its flowering beyond the bounds of Soviet publication and literary process. While syllabuses have tended to stick to the established narrative, accounts such as Aizenberg’s alternative narratives of Russian poetry propose a radical reassessment that replaces entirely Soviet publications with avowed underground and avant-garde poetry. Aizenberg’s position is certainly polemical and perhaps not widely shared, but it raises an important question about the significance of the avant-garde for this generation, and about the inertia of literary criticism and history in relation to it. In contrast to him, Shaitanov remains highly critical of the underground, not just in this period but also of the OBERIU, for example, endowed by many with sacrosanct status as persecuted geniuses beyond reproach. His defence of figures of the Soviet canon who have been marginalised in the post-Soviet period casts him somewhat in the role of gatekeeper defending the canon against incursions from aesthetic and formal extremes, but also from arguments founded on anti-Soviet sentiment. For some, such as Brodskii, an individual’s relationship to Soviet power seems not to figure in the estimation of a poet, and the division between official and unofficial literature is ignored, even as many narratives about literature of the period and especially those focussing specifically on the phenomenon of underground or unofficial literature, preserve this distinction. But it may be that to ignore it is also to ignore its formative influence upon poets, such that a part of the history of the generation is lost.

As well as the question of which poets are canonical for this generation, there is a wider question, raised by these various configurations of the canon, about the significance of this poetic generation in the context of Russian and especially twentieth-century Russian poetry. In the Soviet era, the Khrushchev Thaw was closely associated with poetry chiefly in the form of estrada, but there have also been claims that the unofficial flowering of poetry made it a great poetic generation: as well as Brodskii’s claims in his Nobel Prize speech referred to above, the term ‘Bronze Age’ has quite frequently been adopted to refer to this period, claiming a position behind, but nonetheless associated, with the Golden and Silver Ages of Russian poetry. Yet syllabuses in particular indicate that this status is not universally accepted, and that in fact the generation is seen by some as insignificant for poetry. This rhetoric about Thaw poetry having limited interest is reminiscent of the most conservative critics of the late Soviet period, who focused, for example, more on the deaths of established poets than the emergence of new ones in the 1970s. It could be, therefore, that such assertions hark back to this attitude of the early 1980s. On the other hand, it may be that the removal of the estrada poets leaves a vacuum that looks like a dearth of good poetry, and also an uncomfortable question about the pedigree of the poets who might replace them: a mixture of underground and émigré figures whose Russianness is questioned not only in terms of their ethnicity (there is a striking number of Jewish poets among the Thaw Generation) but also in their opposition to the Soviet state that might be seen as unpatriotic.

It may also be that the close association of poetry and politics in the period is uncomfortable. In comparison with the Silver Age, Thaw poetry is hardly published at all. This may have something to do with the fact that the location of the Silver Age outside and on the cusp of the Soviet period renders it free from political associations. The complexity of the relationship between poetry and power in the Thaw period may create a sense that it is compromised and therefore less ‘genuine’ and less worthy of attention. It is interesting to note, for example, the recent interest in poets of the 1970s underground, coming after the Thaw Generation, who were much more cut off from and in opposition to the authorities. In this respect, they too are less tainted by association with the authorities and are perhaps more attractive because of this.

1 On poetry during the Thaw period see Marc Slonim, Soviet Russian Literature: Writers and Problems 1917–67 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), pp. 315–17; Ol’ga Carlisle, Poets on Street Corners: Portraits of Fifteen Russian Poets (New York: Random House, 1968), pp. 2–6; Suzanne Massie, The Living Mirror. Five Poets from Leningrad (London: Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1972), pp. 22–43; Emily Lygo, Leningrad Poetry 1953–75: The Thaw Generation (Oxford and Bern: Peter Lang, 2010).

2 Anna Akhmatova used this term to describe Evtushenko and others. See, for example, Aleksandr Kushner, ‘U Akhmatovoi’, in ‘Svoiu mezh vas eshche ostaviv ten′…’: Akhmatovskie chteniia. Vypusk 3, edited by N. V. Koroleva and S. A. Kovalenko (Moscow: Nasledie, 1992), pp. 133–41 (p. 137).

3 See, for example, The Popular and the Canonical: Debating Twentieth-century Literature 1940–2000, edited by David Johnson (Abingdon: Routledge, 2005), especially pp. 3–12.

4 For example, Istoriia leningradskoi npodtsenzurnoi poezii: 1950e–1980e gody, edited by B. Ivanov (St Petersburg: Dean, 2000); Stanislav Savitskii, Andegraund: Istoriia i mify leningradskoi beofitsial’noi literatury (Moscow: NLO, 2002); and Robert Porter, Russia’s Alternative Prose (London: Bloomsbury, 1994); although in the latter book Robert Porter arguably presents writers united by a common reaction to the lifting of censorship in Russia and an aesthetic response to the new conditions.

5 L. F. Ershov, Istoriia russkoi sovetskoi literatury: uchebnoe posobie dlia universitetov (Moscow: Vysshaia shkola, 1982), pp. 255–70.

6 Ibid., p. 267.

7 Russkaia sovetskaia literatura 50–70kh godov, edited by V. A. Kovalev (Moscow: Prosveshchenie, 1981).

8 Edward Brown, Russian Literature Since the Revolution (London: Collier-MacMillan Ltd, 1963, revised edn 1969), p. 318.

9 Notably, almost all these poets are featured in an anthology of Soviet Russian poetry taken from the journal Sovetskaia literatura translated and published in English in 1981. Only Akhmadulina and Brodskii are absent. See Soviet Russian Poetry of the 1950s–1970s, compiled by Nina Kupriianova and Ariadna Ivanovskaia (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1981).

10 See Soviet Literature in the Sixties, edited by Max Hayward and Edward L. Crowley (London: Methuen, 1963); Johannes Holthusen, Twentieth-Century Russian Literature: A Critical Introduction (New York: Ungar Publishing Co., 1968); Edward Brown, Russian Literature Since the Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1969); Deming Brown, Soviet Russian Literature Since Stalin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979); Peter France, Poets of Modern Russia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982); Geoffrey Hosking, ‘The Twentieth Century: In Search of New Ways, 1953–80’, in The Cambridge History of Russian Literature, edited by Charles Moser (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 520–94; Carlisle, Poets on Street Corners; George Reavey, The New Russian Poets 1953–1968: An Anthology (New York: October House Inc., 1968).

11 The Reference Guide to Russian Literature lists for the period 1962–1991 at least sixteen significant publications of Evtushenko’s work in English, nine of Voznesenskii’s, four of Akhmadulina’s and eleven of Brodskii’s. See Reference Guide to Russian Literature, edited by Neil Cornwell (London and Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1998).

12 Ershov, Istoriia russkoi sovetskoi literatury, pp. 223 and 213.

13 See, for example, Lygo, Leningrad Poetry 1953–75, pp. 86–94.

14 This is suggested in the Russian language bibliography by Lev Losev, Iosif Brodskii: Opyt literaturnoi biografii, Zhizn’ zamechatel’nykh liudei (Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 2006). See also Chapter 2 by Aaron Hodgson in this volume.

15 See, for example, Maxim Shrayer’s article ‘Russian American Literature’, in The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Multiethnic American Literature, edited by Emmanuel S. Nelson, 5 vols. (Westport CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005), IV, 1940–1951.

16 Exceptions include David MacFadyen, Joseph Brodsky and the Soviet Muse (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000); Lygo, Leningrad Poetry 1953–75; and Losev, Iosif Brodskii, Opyt literaturnoi biografii.

17 See the bibliography in Losev, Iosif Brodskii, Opyt literaturnoi biografii.

18 To a greater or lesser extent this includes: Lev Losev, Dmitrii Bobyshev, Naum Korzhavin (as a dissident he is more assimilated), Maria Temkina, Vladimir Gandelsman, Konstantin Kuzminskii, and Vadim Kreps. Other lesser-known poets listed by Shrayer are Pavel Babich, Ina Bliznetsova, Mikhail Iupp, Aleksandr Ocheretianskii, Sergei Petrunis, and Viktor Urin; see ‘Russian American Literature’, p. 1949.

19 Included in Strofy veka. edited by Evgenii Evtushenko (Moscow: Polifakt, 1995); Russkaia poeziia 1950–2000, edited by Uritskii, Akhmetev, Orlov, Lukomnikov (Moscow: Letnii sad, 2010); and Sovremennye russkie poety, edited by V. Agenosov, K. Ankudinov (Moscow: Naucho-prakticheskii tsentr ‘Megatron’, 1998) all published in Russia, and in G. S. Smith, Contemporary Russian Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993) and J. Kates, In the Grip of Strange Thoughts (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe Books, 1999) with the exception that Sapgir does not appear in Contemporary Russian Poetry.

20 The Blue Lagoon Anthology of Modern Russian Poetry, edited by Konstantin Kuzminskii and Grigorii Kovalev, 5 vols. (Newtonville: Oriental Research Partners, 1986).

21 Samizdat veka, edited by Andrei Strelianyi (Moscow: Polifakt, 1999).

22 Mariia Levchenko, ‘Russkaia poeziia 60kh godov’, Ruthenia,

23 Dmitrii Kuzmin, Vavilon,

24 On this see Katharine Hodgson, ‘Two Post-Soviet Anthologies of the 1990s and the Russian 20th-Century Canon’, Slavonic and East European Journal, 90 (2012), 642–70.

25 ‘Nikolai Glazkov’, Samizdat veka, p. 372.

26 Roal’d Mandelshtam, Sobranie stikhotvorenii (St Petersburg: Izdatel’stvo Ivana Limbakha, 2006).

27 Mikhail Gasparov, ‘Stoletie kak mera, ili Klassika na fone sovremennosti’, Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 62 (2003),

28 ‘Ob obiazatelnom miminume soderzhaniia obrazovatelnykh programm osnovnoi obshcheobrazovatelnoi shkoly. Pismo. Ministerstvo obshchego i professionalnogo obrazovaniia RF’, 18 June 1997, N 974/14–12 (D), p. 19,

29 ‘Srednego (polnogo) obshchego obrazovaniia. Prikaz. Ministerstvo obrazovaniia RF’, 30 June 1999, N 56 (NTsPI), p. 5,

30 ‘Standart osnovnogo obshchego obrazovaniia po literature’, from ‘Dokumenty i materialy deiatelnosti federalnogo agenstva po obrazovaniiu za period 2004–2010 (vplot do ego uprazdneniia na osnovanii Ukaza Prezidenta RF ot 4 marta 2010 goda No. 271)’, pp. 86–102 (p. 94),

31 ‘Primernaia programma srednego (polnogo) obshchego obrazovaniia po literature, bazovyi uroven’,

32 O. K. Rybitskaia, ‘Metodicheskie rekomendatsii po literature dlia abiturientov 2001 goda (polnoe srednee obshchee obrazovanie)‘, Ulianovsk Pedagogical College, approved by the Ministry of General and Professional Education of the Russian Federation,

33 T. A. Nikonova, ‘Istoriia russkoi literatury XX veka. Shestidesiatye gody. Uchebnoe posobie dlia vuzov’ (Voronezh: Voronezhskii gosudarstvennyi universitet, 2007), Edinoe okno,

34 Istoriia russkoi literatury XX veka (20–90e gody). Osnovnye imena: Uchebnoe posobie, edited by S. I. Kormilov (Moscow: Moskovskii gosudarstvennyi universitet, 1998),

35 Igor Shaitanov, ‘O sovremennoi lirike (Opyt analiza)’, in Uroki literatury v 11-om klasse. Kniga dlia uchitelia, edited by V. P. Zhuravlev (Moscow: Prosveshchenie, [n.d.]). Also available online at

36 Notably, these two figures were also singled out for extensive attention in Neil Cornwell, Reference Guide to Russian Literature (London and Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1998), pp. 227–28 and 693–94.

37 Hodgson, ‘Two Post-Soviet Russian Poetry Anthologies’, p. 650.

38 Ibid., see especially pp. 650, 654.

39 Ilia Kukulin, ‘Impressionisticheskii monument’, Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 109 (2011),

40 Hodgson, ‘Two Post-Soviet Russian Poetry Anthologies’, p. 657.

41 I am grateful to Joanne Shelton for this information.

42 In order of publication they are: Contemporary Russian Poetry; Sovremennaia russkaia poeziia; Twentieth-Century Russian Poetry, compiled and edited by Evgenii Evtushenko (London: Fourth Estate, 1993); Strofy veka. In the Grip of Strange Thoughts; Russkie stikhi 1950–2000.

43 G. S. Smith has described how both Russians and non-Russians suggested that he should have included Evtushenko and Voznesenskii in the anthology because of their historical importance. Email to the author, 15 June 2013.

44 Of the list of Soviet poets, the following were living and publishing in Moscow: Akhmadulina, Okudzhava, Kornilov, Morits, Lisnianskaia, Slutskii, Matveeva, Vanshenkin, Voznesenskii, Vysotskii, Evtushenko. Only Kushner and Sosnora were able to make careers in Leningrad, and the latter had heavy sponsorship from Moscow.

45 For each anthology I identified bands of poets to whom similar amounts of space were allotted, for example 9–11 pages, 4–6 pages.

46 ‘Uncommon Visage’ in Joseph Brodsky, On Grief and Reason (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1996), pp. 44–58 (p. 55).

47 Ludmila Stern, Joseph Brodskii: A Personal Memoir (Fort Worth: Baskerville Publishers, 2004), pp. 304–05.

48 Losev, Iosif Brodskii. Opyt literaturnoi biografii, pp. 432–43. Evgenii Rein was identified by Brodskii as his main teacher.

49 These essays dating from 1991–1996 were collected, translated and published as a special edition of a journal: ‘Alternative Chronicles of Russian Poetry. Essays by Mikhail Aizenberg’, edited by Michael Makin, Russian Studies in Literature, 32: 2 (1996), 4–9.

50 The name OBERIU stood for ‘Ob′edinenie real′nogo iskusstva’ (Association for Real Art), a group of avant-garde writers, artists and musicians founded in 1928. They ceased to perform in public in the early 1930s. Writers associated with OBERIU included Daniil Kharms, Konstantin Vaginov, Aleksandr Vvedenskii and Nikolai Zabolotskii.

51 Igor′ Shaitanov, ‘O byvshem i nesbyvshemsia’, Arion, 1 (1998),; ‘Poet v Rossii…’, Arion, 2 (1998),; ‘Grafoman, brat epigona’, Arion, 4 (1998),

52 Idem, ‘Grafoman, brat epigone’.

53 Idem, ‘Poet v Rossii…’.