Anna Andreevna Akhmatova Biography

Born Anna Andreevna Gorenko, June 11, 1889, in Bol’shoi Fontan, Russia; died in Domodedovo, a sanatorium outside Moscow, Mar 5, 1966; dau. of Andrei Gorenko and Inna Stogova; m. Nikolai Gumilyov (poet and critic), 1910 (sep. 1916; div. 1918); m. Vladimir Shileyko, 1918 (sep. 1921); lived 15 years with Nikolai Punin; children: (1st m.) son Lev Nikolaevich Gumilyov (b. 1912).

Perhaps the most famous 20th-century Russian poet, published 1st poem (1907), in a small journal edited by 1st husband; because father disapproved of her writing, chose great-grandmother’s maiden name as a pseudonym; published 1st book of poems, Evening (1912), followed by Rosary (1914), a huge success, making her the 1st Russian woman poet to gain widespread fame; early poems are simple but psychologically nuanced, based on the psychological realism of the great 19th-century Russian novel; following WWI and the Russian Revolution, published 3 more books to continuing acclaim, but the growing Soviet literary bureaucracy moved to put an end to her publishing career, because her great popularity and increasing moral authority made her a threat; condemned as a petty-bourgeois writer, made a living by working in the library of the Institute of Agronomy, and more and more by literary translating; poems from this period survived only because they had been memorized; son was arrested during a Stalinist purge (1938); completed the long poem ‘‘Requiem,’’ in which she takes on the role of mourning mother, the feminine voice of Russia itself, and powerfully condemns the crimes of Stalinism (it would not be printed in Russia until 1987, 2 decades after her death); during WWII, her poetry was suddenly hot property again because of its resonant patriotism; following war, was once more denounced, expelled from the Writers’ Union, and son was rearrested; became desperate enough to write and publish a cycle of 15 poems praising the dictator Stalin in a futile attempt to free her son (1949); outlived Stalin and was acknowledged as the grand old lady of Russian literature; renowned throughout the world, was the 3rd Russian ever to be invited to Oxford University in England to receive an honorary doctorate in literature (1965).