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Russia Remembers Voznesensky, A 'Child Of The 60s'

  • RFE/RL

Andrei Voznesensky in 1978

Andrei Voznesensky in 1978

Russian poet Andrei Voznesensky died on June 1 at his home in Moscow following a long illness. He was 77.

Admirers and critics alike saw Voznesensky as a living classic, a poet whose innovative verses and defiance of the Soviet regime turned him into one of the country's most celebrated writers.

President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin both expressed their condolences to his relatives.

Putin, in a telegram sent to Voznesensky's widow Zoya, praised his poetry as "a hymn to freedom, love, nobility, and sincere feelings."

Andrei Voznesensky at a memorial service for novelist Vasily Aksyonov last year
Voznesensky, who published his first poem in 1958, belonged to the so-called "children of the 1960s" -- a generation of intellectuals and artists who rose to stardom during the thaw that followed the death of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1953.

During this era of liberalism, poets like Voznesensky, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, and Robert Rozhdestvensky filled entire stadiums with their poetry readings.

Despite periods of disgrace, Soviet authorities published Voznesensky's poems in huge volumes and allowed him to travel to Europe and the United States, where he quickly won fans.

During a visit to New York in May 1965, Voznesensky read extracts of his long poem "Oza" to a transfixed audience.



End Of The Thaw

Although careful not to rile the authorities, Voznesensky never bowed to the Kremlin and openly criticized rough-handed Soviet policies such as the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.

He managed to enrage Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who despite ushering in the thaw by denouncing Stalin's crimes, regularly hardened his line against intellectuals.

In December 1962, during a reception hosted by the Communist Party, Khrushchev berated Voznesensky as a capitalist agent, telling him to "go to the dogs" and threatening to exile him. Khrushchev's violent tirade reportedly gave the poet a nervous breakdown.

A year later, Khrushchev publicly branded him a pervert.

'Like Reflecting Glass'

Voznesensky was an architect by training and had a lifelong passion for painting. He was also fascinated by glass, which he considered one of the most poetic materials and liked to compare to Russian poets.

"For me, [Nikolai] Gumilyov was a flat, stained-glass window. [Mikhail] Kuzmin was Venetian glass," he said in a 1994 interview with RFE/RL.

"[Velimir] Khlebnikov is an optical glass refracting words, when words are diffused and refracted by the silver facets of this glass. His poem that reads from left to right and right to left is like a reflecting glass."

In addition to his verses, Voznesensky is known to wider audiences as the author of the famous song "Millions of Scarlet Roses," which he penned for cult singer Alla Pugachyova in 1984.

He also wrote the libretto for "Juno and Avos," a hugely successful rock opera in the late 1970s based on the life of 18th-century Russian explorer Nikolai Rezanov.

RFE/RL's Russian Service contributed to this report
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