Yevgeny (Alexandrovich) Yevtushenko 1933–
(Also transliterated as Evgeni or Evgeny Evtushenko) Russian poet.
Yevtushenko is perhaps the most publicized living Russian poet, known throughout the world for dramatic readings of his own work. A large part of his popularity is attributed to the youthful vitality and dynamic personality which flavor his writing as well as his public performances.
Yevtushenko's poems are loosely categorized into two types: declamatory poems, which express his political and social concerns, and personal poems, which focus on self-doubt and self-reflection. Although the latter sometimes border on narcissistic self-absorption, most critics believe that the energy and authenticity of these personal poems endow them with greater literary value than is usually found in his political poems.
Yevtushenko's political poems show affection for the United States and criticize contemporary Soviet society, but at the same time demonstrate Yevtushenko's essential loyalty to Russia. Babyi Yar and The Heirs of Stalin are perhaps his best-known political poems. Babyi Yar breaks a traditional silence in Russia by directly commenting on Soviet involvement in the horrors of anti-Semitism. The Heirs of Stalin unsparingly attacks the former Russian ruler and his followers. Although Yevtushenko generally remains within the limitations set by Soviet censors, he has occasionally provoked criticism from the authorities (as with the publication of Babyi Yar). In several instances he has been denied leave to travel and perform due to his political "indiscretions."
Recent years have shown an increase in speculation about Yevtushenko's literary talents. When D. M. Thomas looked beyond the poet's personality, he found the poems themselves to be constructed with a "stylistic crudity and spiritual hollowness." However, Yevtushenko remains widely read at home and abroad. Yevtushenko's recent collection, Invisible Threads, reveals his talents as a photographer and poet. In this work he focuses on the need for international unity. Alternately optimistic and pessimistic, this cry for world peace can be heard throughout most of his work.
(See also CLC, Vols. 1, 3, 13 and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 81-84.)