From Wikipedia, the free
Osip Emilyevich Mandelstam (also spelled
Mandelshtam) (Russian: О́сип Эми́льевич Мандельшта́м)
(January 15 [O.S. January 3] 1891 – December 27, 1938)
was a Russian poet and essayist, one of the foremost
members of the Acmeist school of poets.
Life and work
Mandelstam was born in Warsaw to a wealthy Jewish
family. His father, a tanner by trade, was able to
receive a dispensation freeing the family from the pale
of settlement, and soon after Osip's birth, they moved
to Saint Petersburg. In 1900, Mandelstam entered the
prestigious Tenishevsky school, which also counts
Vladimir Nabokov and other significant figures of
Russian (and Soviet) culture among its alumni. His first
poems were printed in the school's almanac in 1907. In
April 1908, Mandelstam decided to enter the Sorbonne to
study literature and philosophy, but he left the
following year to attend the University of Heidelberg.
In 1911, in order to continue his education at the
University of Saint Petersburg, he converted to
Methodism (which he did not practice) and entered the
university the same year.
Mandelstam's poetry, acutely populist in spirit after
the first Russian revolution, became closely associated
with symbolist imagery, and in 1911, he and several
other young Russian poets formed the "Poets' Guild"
(Russian: Цех Поэтов, Tsekh Poetov), under the formal
leadership of Nikolai Gumilyov and Sergei Gorodetsky.
The nucleus of this group would then become known as
Acmeists. Mandelstam had authored the manifesto for the
new movement - The Morning Of Acmeism (1913, published
in 1919). 1913 also saw the publication of his first
collection of poems, The Stone (Russian: Камень, Kamyen),
to be reissued in 1916 in a greatly expanded format, but
under the same title.
In 1922, Mandelstam arrived in Moscow with his newly-wed
wife Nadezhda. At this time, his second book of poems,
Tristia, was published in Berlin. For several years
after that, he almost completely abandoned poetry,
concentrating on essays, literary criticism, memoirs
(The Din Of Time, Russian: Шум времени, Shum vremeni;
Феодосия, Feodosiya - both 1925) and small-format prose
(The Egyptian Stamp, Russian: Египетская марка,
Yegipetskaya marka - 1928). As a day job, he translated
(19 books in 6 years), then worked as a correspondent
for the newspaper The Irish Times. Mandelstam's
non-conformist, anti-establishment tendencies always
simmered not far from the surface, and in the autumn of
1933, they broke through in form of the famous "Stalin
Epigram". The poem, sharply criticizing the "Kremlin
highlander", was described elsewhere as a "sixteen line
death sentence," likely prompted by Mandelstam's seeing
(in the summer of that year, while vacationing in
Crimea) the effects of the Great Famine, a result of
Stalin's collectivisation in the USSR and his drive to
exterminate the "kulaks". Six months later, Mandelstam
Georgy Chulkov, Mariya Petrovykh, Anna Akhmatova,
Lev Bruni. 1916
For Osip Mandelstam
And the town is frozen solid
in a vice,
Trees, walls, snow, beneath a glass.
Over crystal, on slippery tracks of ice,
the painted sleighs and I, together, pass.
And over St Peter’s there are poplars, crows
there’s a pale green dome there that glows,
dim in the sun-shrouded dust.
The field of heroes lingers in my thought,
Kulikovo’s barbarian battleground.
The frozen poplars, like glasses for a toast,
clash now, more noisily, overhead.
As though it was our wedding, and the crowd
were drinking to our health and happiness.
But Fear and the Muse take turns to guard
the room where the exiled poet is banished,
and the night, marching at full pace,
of the coming dawn, has no knowledge
However, after the customary pro forma inquest, he not
only was spared his life, but the sentence did not even
include labor camps - a miraculous event, usually
explained by historians as owing to Stalin's personal
interest in his fate. Mandelstam was "only" exiled to
Cherdyn in Northern Ural with his wife. After his
attempt to commit suicide, the sentence was softened,
and he was banished from the largest cities, but
otherwise allowed to choose his new place of residence.
He and his wife chose Voronezh.
photo after the first arrest, 1934
photo after the second arrest, 1938
Мы живем, под
собою не чуя страны,
Наши речи за десять шагов не слышны,
А где хватит на полразговорца,
Там припомнят кремлёвского горца.
Его толстые пальцы, как черви, жирны,
А слова, как пудовые гири, верны,
Тараканьи смеются усища,
И сияют его голенища.
А вокруг него
сброд тонкошеих вождей,
Он играет услугами полулюдей.
Кто свистит, кто мяучит, кто хнычет,
Он один лишь бабачит и тычет,
Как подкову, кует за указом указ:
Кому в пах, кому в лоб, кому в бровь, кому в
Что ни казнь у него - то малина
И широкая грудь осетина.
We live, not
feeling the earth beneath us
At ten paces our words evaporate.
But when there’s the will to crack open our
our words orbit the Kremlin mountain man.
Murderer, peasant killer.
plump as grubs.
His words drop like lead weights.
His laughing cockroach whiskers.
The gleam of his boot rims.
Around him a
circle of chicken-skinned bosses
sycophantic half-beings for him to toy with.
One whines, another purrs, a third snivels
as he babbles and points.
decrees to be flung
at the groin, the face, the eyes.
He rolls the
liquidations on his tongue like berries
delicacies for the barrel-chested Georgian.
This proved a temporary
reprieve. In the coming years, Mandelstam would (as was
expected of him) write several poems which seemed to
glorify Stalin (including Ode To Stalin), but in 1937,
at the outset of the Great Purge, the literary
establishment began a systematic assault on him in print
-- first locally, and soon after that from Moscow --
accusing him of harboring anti-Soviet views. Early the
following year, Mandelstam and his wife received a
government voucher for a vacation not far from Moscow;
upon their arrival in May 1938, he was promptly arrested
again and charged with "counter-revolutionary
Four months later, Mandelstam was sentenced to hard
labor. He arrived at a transit camp near Vladivostok and
managed to pass a note to his wife back home with a
request for warm clothes; he never received them. The
official cause of his death is an unspecified illness.
prophecy was fulfilled:
"Only in Russia
is poetry respected – it gets people killed.
Is there anywhere else where poetry is so common a
motive for murder?"
Alone I stare into the frost’s white face.
It’s going nowhere, and I—from nowhere.
Everything ironed flat, pleated without a wrinkle:
Miraculous, the breathing plain.
Meanwhile the sun squints at this starched poverty—
The squint itself consoled, at ease . . .
The ten-fold forest almost the same . . .
And snow crunches in the eyes, innocent, like clean bread.
Osip Mandelstam. January 16, 1937
Yet to die. Unalone still.
For now your pauper-friend is with you.
Together you delight in the grandeur of the plains,
And the dark, the cold, the storms of snow.
Live quiet and consoled
In gaudy poverty, in powerful destitution.
Blessed are those days and nights.
The work of this sweet voice is without sin.
Misery is he whom, like a shadow,
A dog’s barking frightens, the wind cuts down.
Poor is he who, half-alive himself
Begs his shade for pittance.
January 15-16, 1937
presented her account of the events surrounding her
husband's life in "Hope against Hope" and later
continued with Hope Abandoned.
Яковлевна Мандельштам, née Hazin;
31 October 1899 — 29 December
1980) was a Russian writer and a
wife of poet Osip Mandelstam.
Saratov into a middle-class
Jewish family, she spent her
early years in Kiev. After the
gymnasium she studied art.
marriage in 1921, Nadezhda and
Osip Mandelstam lived in
Ukraine, Petrograd, Moscow, and
Georgia. Osip was arrested in
1934 for his Stalin Epigram and
exiled with Nadezhda to Cherdyn,
in the Perm region and later to
Mandelstam's second arrest and
his subsequent death at a
transit camp "Vtoraya Rechka"
near Vladivostok in 1938,
Nadezhda Mandelstam led an
almost nomadic way of life,
dodging her expected arrest and
frequently changing places of
residence and temporary jobs. On
at least one occasion, in
Kalinin, the NKVD came for her
the next day after she fled.
As her mission
in life, she set to preserve and
publish her husband's poetic
heritage. She managed to keep
most of it memorized because she
didn't trust paper.
death of Stalin, Nadezhda
Mandelstam completed her
dissertation (1956) and was
allowed to return to Moscow
memoirs, Hope Against Hope and
Hope Abandoned, first published
in the West, she gives an epic
analysis of her life and
criticizes the moral and
cultural degradation of the
Soviet Union of the 1920s and
later. The titles of her memoirs
are puns, Nadezhda in Russian
In 1979 she
gave her archives to Princeton
University. Nadezhda Mandelstam
died in 1980 in Moscow, aged 81.
From Wikipedia, the free
Shalamov's short story "Sherry Brandy" was
written as a fictional description of Mandelstam's death
in a Soviet Union GULAG transit camp near Vladivostok.
writer best known for a series
of short stories about
imprisonment in Soviet labour
In 1922 Shalamov went to Moscow
and worked in a factory. Accused
activities while a law student
at Moscow State University,
Shalamov served two years at
hard labour in the Urals. He
returned to Moscow in 1932 and
became a published writer,
journalist, and critic.
Rearrested in 1937, supposedly
in part because of his public
approval of Soviet émigré writer
and 1933 Nobel laureate Ivan
Bunin, Shalamov spent the next
17 years in the extremely harsh
labour camps of the Kolyma River
basin in the Soviet Far East. He
was released in the 1950s and
was allowed to publish some of
his poetry, including the
collections Ognivo (1961;
“Flint”), Doroga i sudba (1967;
“Journey and Destiny”), and
Moskovskiye oblaka (1972;
“Moscow Clouds”). In the early
1970s Shalamov, by then broken,
ill, and dependent on the Soviet
Writers’ Union for publication
and money, was forced to write a
public letter denouncing
publication of his work abroad.
In 1978 a
Russian edition of Shalamov’s
Kolymskiye rasskazy (1978;
“Kolyma Stories”) was published
in England. This collection of
103 brief sketches, vignettes,
and short stories chronicles the
degradation and dehumanization
of prison-camp life. Written in
understated and straightforward
documentary style, the tales
contain almost no philosophical
or political nuances.
Publication was banned in the
Soviet Union until 1988.
collections of his poetry that
were posthumously published are
Stikhotvoreniya (1988; “Poems”)
and Kolymskiye tetradi (1994;
“The Kolyma Notebooks”).
Complete editions of Shalamov’s
works were released in Moscow in
1992. Selected tales from the
collection were published in
English in two volumes, Kolyma
Tales (1980) and Graphite
After the end of the Stalin era, Mandelstam was
rehabilitated in 1956, when he was exonerated from the
charges brought against him in 1938. On October 28,
1987, he was also exonerated from the 1934 charges and
thus fully rehabilitated.
Silver age poets Mandelstam, Chukovsky, Livshits and
Annenkov in 1914
Timeline for Osip Mandelshtam
Born in Warsaw to father who was a Latvian Jewish leather merchant whose
first language was German and a Russified Latvian mother who taught piano
Graduates Tenishev Commercial School in Saint Petersburg (where Nabokov also
attended), where he studied with Vladimir Gippius and fell in love with both
European and Hellenic culture
Travels to Paris and studies with Henri Bergson at the Sorbonne
Studies Old French Literature at University of Heidelberg,
Begins attending meetings at Vyacheslav Ivanov's tower St. Petersburg
Society of Philosophy
Writes early Acmeist manifesto, the essay "Francois Villon," which also
creates a model of the poet as a victim of the state
First poems appear in journal Apollon
Baptized in Vyborg Methodist Church and enrolls in Dept. of History and
Philology at University of St. Petersburg
Joins Gumilev's Poet's Guild and becomes active member of nascent Acmeist
movement which also includes Akhmatova and Annensky
Publishes Stone, a turn away from the ephemera of Symbolist poetry and
towards a more architectural, dense, solid, and neo-classical poetic
Enlarged edition of Stone appears
Meets Nadezhda Khazin (picture to the right) whom he marries two years
later; she would become the curator of his life's work, memorizing and
transcribing numerous works that would otherwise have been lost
Travels from Black Sea to Georgia three times over
Publishes Tristia a collection of poems whose title is taken from Ovid,
reaffirming Mandelstam's classical leanings and also displaying his facility
in composing sensuous love lyrics
Writes Nature of the Word
Writes Noise of Time, a dense "anti-memoir"
Tristia republished as The Second Book (Vtoraya kniga)
Writes the novella The Egyptian Stamp a semi-autobiographical, dreamlike
vision of revolution
Unable to gain access to publishers in Petersburg, he is forced to move to
Writes Fourth Prose
Travels to Armenia, a trip that his wife Nadezhda claims renewed his poetry
Writes First Moscow Notebook, the first of five unpublished poetry cycles
which establish Mandelstam as one of the greatest poets of the century
Publishes Journey to Armenia which reflects in it's a language a more
Writes Second Moscow Notebook
Writes Conversations about Dante
Arrested for the first time and exiled to Voronezh; this after a suicide
attempt and his blisteringly satirical poem about Stalin ("His fat fingers
slimy as worms," "He forges his decrees like horseshoes")
Writes First Voronezh Notebook
Writes Second Voronezh Notebook
Writes Third Voronezh Notebook
Denounced publicly as a Trotskyist as his exile came to an end
May, arrested for the second time
December 27, dies in a prison transit camp in Siberia