Akhmatova’s life and literary career illustrate the challenges that creative intellectuals faced under the restrictions imposed by the Soviet Union’s communist regime. Her poetry is introspective and personal, with unfulfilled love and strained relationships common themes throughout her graceful compositions. Her imagery contrasts hardship and disappointment with elements of tenderness and even optimism. She also occasionally addressed political themes. Her famous “Requiem” deals with the Stalinist purges of the 1930’s.
After Akhmatova published her earliest work between 1912 and 1922, she endured a literary hiatus until the early 1940’s, when she was allowed to publish A Selection from Six Books. In 1946, on the threshold of the Cold War, Soviet authorities branded Akhmatova’s poetry as “bourgeois” and expelled her from the Union of Soviet Writers. What little writing she did over the last twenty years of her life conformed to Communist Party rules.
Under the more open atmosphere of Mikhail Gorbachev’s regime during the 1980’s, Akhmatova’s writings were again published in the Soviet Union. Since the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, appreciation of her poetry has seen a renaissance, and Akhmatova has won recognition as one of the significant Russian poets of the twentieth century.