Andrei Voznesenskii, one of Russia's foremost modern poets, was born in Moscow on May 12, 1933. Part of his early
childhood was spent in the ancient Russian city of Vladimir. During the war, from 1941 to 1944, he lived with his mother
in Kurgan, in the Urals, while his father, a professor of engineering in peacetime, was in Leningrad, engaged in evacuating
factories during the blockade.
Both Voznesenskii's parents have literary and artistic interests. His mother read poetry to him from his earliest
childhood - Igor' Severyanin and Boris Pasternak, he remembers in particular. Voznesenskii recalls seeing his father
once during the war when he flew to Kurgan on leave from the front. He carried nothing with him but a small rucksack
containing some food and a little book of reproductions of etchings by Goya, which powerfully affected his small son.
Voznesenskii's childhood apprehension of war in Russia, heightened by Goya's grotesque and terrible visions, ultimately
gave rise to his most famous poem, "I Am Goya".
After the war the family returned to Moscow. As an adolescent, Voznesenskii thought of becoming an artist. Then he studied
architecture. "I was already writing", he says, "but mainly I painted. Yet poetry was flowing in me like a river under
the ice". Shortly before his graduation from the Moscow Architectural Institute in 1957, an event occurred which is the
subject of the poem "Fire in the Architectural Institute". Like other senior students, Voznesenskii had spent his last
year on an elaborate design project, which he describes, with all due modesty, as "a spiral-shaped thing, a bit like the
Guggenheim Museum". "One morning", he says, "we found that a fire had destroyed a year's work. Whole districts and cities
on blueprints had vanished. We were so tired that we were glad that final examinations had to be postponed. But for me it
was more than a fire. I believe in symbols. I understood that architecture was burned out in me. I became a poet".
Andrei Voznesenskii was a disciple of Boris Pasternak during his early years. "Your entrance into literature was swift
and turbulent. I'm glad I've lived to see it", Boris Pasternak wrote to a 14-year old youngster who had sent him his
early verses asking for the great poet's opinion. Starting with his poem "Masters", Andrey Voznesenskii's poetry burst
into the poetic environment of contemporary life winning the praise of millions of readers. Since then, he published
numerous collections, including "The Triangular Pear", "Antiworlds",
"Stained-glass Master", and "Violoncello Oakleaf". His more recent creations are "Videoms" and "Fortune Telling by the
Book". Some of his works were turned into theater productions, like "Antiworlds" and "Save your Faces" at the Taganka
Theater, " 'Juno' and 'Avos' " at the Lenkom Theater and some others both in Russia and abroad. By now, Voznesenskii is
the author of approximately 40 volumes of poetry in Russian, two collections of fiction, at least three plays and two
operas. A five-volume set of his collected works appeared in 2000. A number of his works have been translated into English,
including "Antimiry", translated by W.H.Auden and others as "Antiworlds". He has also created many works of visual art,
in graphic and sculptural form. The poet has always striven for a synthesis of arts combining his readings with music and
demonstration of his new videom genre. His "Videoms" were successfully exhibited at the Moscow Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts,
as well as in Paris, New York, and Berlin. He was elected the member of eight Academies in different countries of the world,
including Russian Academy of Education, American Academy of Arts and Letters, The Goncourt Brothers Academy in Paris, the
European Academy of Poetry, the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, and of the French Academie Merimee. Voznesenskii has won a
number of prizes and honors, among them the International Poetry Forum's International Award for distinguished achievement
in poetry, in 1978.
Despite his honors, Voznesenskii has always been controversial, earning both praise and criticism. His poetry is experimental
in many ways, always novel and on the cutting edge of creative endeavors. His works are an original synthesis of deep lyricism
and profound philosophical concepts, musical and sounding like a powerful warning bell at the same time. But he has been
accused of experimentation for its own sake, name-dropping and simplistic moral rhetoric, as well as superficiality. The
Soviet authorities sometimes objected to his political stands (he was also a co-author of "Metropol" underground poetry
and prose anthology) and even accused him more than once of being a CIA spy. There was a period in Voznesenskii's life
when he was severely criticized by Soviet leaders, including Nikita Khrushchev himself. Criticism of Voznesenskii mounted,
in most menacing fashion, in 1963, during the vast official campaign against Russia's liberal-minded modernist writers and
The campaign was launched by Khrushchev at the now famous Manege exhibition of modern art, where he denounced the painters
torrent of scatological abuse and equated their work with homosexuality - "and for that", he said, "you can get ten years".
fury turned quickly to the writers, whom he abused in much the same terms he used against the painters, at closed meetings
government leaders and writers, artists, and other intellectuals. Voznesenskii was even threatened with deportation from Russia.
its public aspect, the campaign raged for seven months in the press, and at writers' meetings held all over the country where
Stalinist mediocrities proceeded to vent their pent-up anger and jealousy on nearly every young writer who had received public
during the last years - particularly Voznesenskii and Evgenii Evtushenko. They called for an end to the editions of 100,000
the favorable reviews, and the trips abroad for writers who, they claimed, flout Party opinion and play the game of Western
ideologists ("with one foot on Gorky Street and the other on Broadway") in their "rotten, overpraised, unrealistic, smelly
It is in this context that Voznesenskii's immense popularity, inconceivable in the West for a "serious" modern poet, may
be fully understood. If 14,000 people congregated (as they did in 1962) in a sports stadium to hear Voznesenskii read his
poetry, or 500,000 subscribed to buy a book of his poetry ("An Achilles Heart"), it is because countless Russians turned
to the language of symbol and fantasy for the truths they seek. One result was the rage for poetry readings which seized
Russia in the post-Stalin decade. Until the crackdown of 1963 severely curtailed poetry readings had become the principal
entertainment of intellectuals and students in Moscow, and in provincial cities, where poets went by the truckload.
In classic purge style, recantations were demanded of the writers. Here Voznesenskii, together with most of the other
writers, proved to be elusive. Many maintained silence, or defended themselves; although the writers were hardly offered
a forum in the Soviet press, reports from foreign Communist observers indicated widespread defiance at the writers'
meetings. Even recantations deemed fit to print in the newspapers were often ambiguous or ironic. This was Voznesenskii's
response to a savage attack on him by Khrushchev: "It has been said at this plenum [of the board of the Soviet Writers'
Union] that I must never forget the stern and severe words of Nikita Sergeyevich [Khrushchev]. I shall never forget them.
I shall not forget not only these severe words but also the advice, which Nikita Sergeyevich gave me. He said: 'Work'. I
do not justify myself now. I simply wish to say that for me now the main thing is to work, work, work. What my attitude is
country, to communism, what I myself am, this work will show" (the newspaper "Pravda", March 29, 1963).
The campaign petered out in late June of 1963. It had failed utterly in its objective to cow the writers and humiliate them
before the nation,
and to re-establish controls, on the Stalinist model, over literature. The writers had clearly won a moral victory. The authorities
settle for an undeclared truce with the liberal writers, which has been maintained (with some grave lapses) during the first
two years of
the post-Khrushchev era. The writers who were under fire in 1963 gradually reappeared in print, and poetry readings were resumed,
no means on the same scale as before.
Whatever the outcome of the campaign, the force and character of the attack on Voznesenskii, and other writers, were bound
to be profoundly wounding. Voznesenskii was at first sent into virtual exile (it was announced that he was spending his time
in factories near Vladimir), and for many months he wandered about the country.
New times have brought new challenges, but nowadays Voznesenskii's readers, as well as many poets around the world, continue
to appreciate his
examination of universal issues like morality, evil, spirituality, freedom, the role of technology in society, and possibilities
of a poetic
language. One of the most famous American poets Robert Lowell wrote: "Voznesenskii came to us with the care-free vitality
of the 20s and
Apollinaire, surrealism trickles down his fingers. He is full of novelty, humor, it dawns up on him. He is a Master who has
courage and inspiration
to be himself". "Time" magazine named Voznesenskii the greatest living Russian poet. He does his poetry readings in many cities
all over the world.
During the Days of Triumph in Paris in 1996, "Le Nouvel Observateour" called him "the greatest poet of our time". For years
he maintained friendly
relationships with many prominent Russian and Western artists, political and cultural figures, including Allen Ginsberg, Arthur
Kennedy Onassis, Mstislav Rostropovich, Maiia Plisetskaia, and others. Not long ado shorthand records of his conversations
with Martin Heidegger
and Jean-Paul Sartre were published.
Critics and scholars around the world continue to write about Voznesenskii. An online subject search in the "MLA Bibliography"
in January 2003
produced 69 entries, in the following languages: Bulgarian, Dutch, English, French, German, Latvian, Russian, Spanish, and
is so renowned in Russia that a search on the Russian Google on January 24, 2003 produced 9,160 hits, including the site of
a very active fan club
In his capacity as Vice-President of the Russian PEN Center, Voznesenskii is active in the promotion of young poets' readings.
He has also put lot of effort in creating Pasternak's museum in Peredelkino.
Voznesenskii is still writing, creating art and giving readings to large, appreciative audiences. The poet lives in Moscow.