Izabella Akhatovna Akhmadulina (ak-mah-DEW-lee-nuh) is one of Russia’s foremost contemporary poets. Her career began during the period of relatively lax social politics after Joseph Stalin’s death, from 1953 to 1963, and she became famous as one of Moscow’s “New Wave” poets along with Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Bulat Okudzhava, Robert Rozhdestvensky, and Andrei Voznesensky.
Akhmadulina was the only child of a Tatar father and a Russian-Italian mother. Bella’s mixed racial origins motivated her to travel throughout Central Asia as a young adult and to write about her “Asiatic blood,” a recurring theme in Fever, and Other New Poems. She graduated from high school in 1954, the same year in which she married Yevgeny Yevtushenko and began to work for the Soviet newspaper Metrostroevets. After her short-lived marriage to Yevtushenko ended, she married the writer Yuri Navigin, then Gennadi Mamlin, a writer, and finally the artist and stage designer Boris Messerer. She has two daughters, Elizaveta and Anna.
In 1955 Akhmadulina entered the Gorky Institute of World Literature in Moscow and published her first poem. She remained a student at the institute until 1960 but was subjected to temporary expulsion because of her indifference to politics. The well-known writer Pavel Antokolsky helped to reinstate the young student at the institute, but politics never became a concern in Akhmadulina’s creative expression.
In 1962 her first collection of poetry, Struna: Stikhi (the string), was published to much acclaim. Critics praised Akhmadulina for the formal precision of her verse;...
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