Osip Mandelstam
Overview
Osip Emilyevich Mandelstam (also spelled Osip Mandelshtam, Ossip Mandelstamm) ( – December 27, 1938) was a Russian poet and essayist who lived in Russia during and after its revolution and the rise of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. He was one of the foremost members of the Acmeist
Acmeist poetry
Acmeism, or the Guild of Poets, was a transient poetic school which emerged in 1910 in Russia under the leadership of Nikolai Gumilyov and Sergei Gorodetsky. The term was coined after the Greek word acme, i.e., "the best age of man"....

 school of poets. He was arrested by Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

's government during the repression of the 1930s and sent into internal exile with his wife Nadezhda
Nadezhda Mandelstam
Nadezhda Yakovlevna Mandelstam was a Russian writer and educator, and the wife of the poet Osip Mandelstam, who died in 1938 in a transit camp to the gulag of Siberia...

.
Quotations

Only in Russia poetry is respected – it gets people killed. Is there anywhere else where poetry is so common a motive for murder?

Quoted in Nadezhda Mandelstam|Nadezhda Mandelstam, Hope Against Hope: A Memoir (1970), ch. 35

Encyclopedia
Osip Emilyevich Mandelstam (also spelled Osip Mandelshtam, Ossip Mandelstamm) ( – December 27, 1938) was a Russian poet and essayist who lived in Russia during and after its revolution and the rise of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. He was one of the foremost members of the Acmeist
Acmeist poetry
Acmeism, or the Guild of Poets, was a transient poetic school which emerged in 1910 in Russia under the leadership of Nikolai Gumilyov and Sergei Gorodetsky. The term was coined after the Greek word acme, i.e., "the best age of man"....

 school of poets. He was arrested by Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

's government during the repression of the 1930s and sent into internal exile with his wife Nadezhda
Nadezhda Mandelstam
Nadezhda Yakovlevna Mandelstam was a Russian writer and educator, and the wife of the poet Osip Mandelstam, who died in 1938 in a transit camp to the gulag of Siberia...

. Given a reprieve of sorts, they moved to Voronezh
Voronezh
Voronezh is a city in southwestern Russia, the administrative center of Voronezh Oblast. It is located on both sides of the Voronezh River, away from where it flows into the Don. It is an operating center of the Southeastern Railway , as well as the center of the Don Highway...

 in southwestern Russia. In 1938 Mandelstam was arrested again and sentenced to a camp in Siberia
Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

. He died that year at a transit camp.

Life and work

Mandelstam was born in Warsaw
Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

 (then part of the Russian Empire) to a wealthy Polish
Poles
thumb|right|180px|The state flag of [[Poland]] as used by Polish government and diplomatic authoritiesThe Polish people, or Poles , are a nation indigenous to Poland. They are united by the Polish language, which belongs to the historical Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages of Central Europe...

 Jewish family. His father, a leather merchant by trade, was able to receive a dispensation freeing the family from the pale of settlement
Pale of Settlement
The Pale of Settlement was the term given to a region of Imperial Russia, in which permanent residency by Jews was allowed, and beyond which Jewish permanent residency was generally prohibited...

 and, soon after Osip's birth, they moved to Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

. In 1900, Mandelstam entered the prestigious Tenishevsky School. The writer Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was a multilingual Russian novelist and short story writer. Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian, then rose to international prominence as a master English prose stylist...

 and other significant figures of Russian and Soviet culture have been among its alumni. His first poems were printed in 1907 in the school's almanac.

In April 1908, Mandelstam decided to enter the Sorbonne
University of Paris
The University of Paris was a university located in Paris, France and one of the earliest to be established in Europe. It was founded in the mid 12th century, and officially recognized as a university probably between 1160 and 1250...

 in Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 to study literature and philosophy, but he left the following year to attend the University of Heidelberg in Germany. In 1911, to continue his education at the University of Saint Petersburg, from which Jews were excluded, he converted to Methodism
Methodism
Methodism is a movement of Protestant Christianity represented by a number of denominations and organizations, claiming a total of approximately seventy million adherents worldwide. The movement traces its roots to John Wesley's evangelistic revival movement within Anglicanism. His younger brother...

 and entered the university the same year. He did not complete a formal degree.

Mandelstam's poetry, acutely populist
Populism
Populism can be defined as an ideology, political philosophy, or type of discourse. Generally, a common theme compares "the people" against "the elite", and urges social and political system changes. It can also be defined as a rhetorical style employed by members of various political or social...

 in spirit after the first Russian revolution
Russian Revolution of 1905
The 1905 Russian Revolution was a wave of mass political and social unrest that spread through vast areas of the Russian Empire. Some of it was directed against the government, while some was undirected. It included worker strikes, peasant unrest, and military mutinies...

 in 1905, became closely associated with symbolist
Symbolism (arts)
Symbolism was a late nineteenth-century art movement of French, Russian and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts. In literature, the style had its beginnings with the publication Les Fleurs du mal by Charles Baudelaire...

 imagery. In 1911, he and several other young Russian poets formed the "Poets' Guild" (Russian: Цех Поэтов, Tsekh Poetov), under the formal leadership of Nikolai Gumilyov and Sergei Gorodetsky
Sergei Gorodetsky
Sergey Mitrofanovich Gorodetsky was a Russian poet, one of the founders of Guild of Poets .Gorodetsky entered the literary scene as a Symbolist, developing friendships with Blok, Ivanov, and Briusov...

. The nucleus of this group became known as Acmeists
Acmeist poetry
Acmeism, or the Guild of Poets, was a transient poetic school which emerged in 1910 in Russia under the leadership of Nikolai Gumilyov and Sergei Gorodetsky. The term was coined after the Greek word acme, i.e., "the best age of man"....

. Mandelstam wrote the manifesto for the new movement: The Morning Of Acmeism (1913, published in 1919). In 1913 he published his first collection of poems, The Stone (Russian: Камень, Kamyen); it was reissued in 1916 under the same title, but with additional poems included.

Marriage and family

Mandelstam was said to have had an affair with the poet Anna Akhmatova
Anna Akhmatova
Anna Andreyevna Gorenko , better known by the pen name Anna Akhmatova , was a Russian and Soviet modernist poet, one of the most acclaimed writers in the Russian canon.Harrington p11...

. She insisted throughout her life that their relationship had always been a very deep friendship, rather than a sexual affair.
In 1922, Mandelstam married Nadezhda Khazina
Nadezhda Mandelstam
Nadezhda Yakovlevna Mandelstam was a Russian writer and educator, and the wife of the poet Osip Mandelstam, who died in 1938 in a transit camp to the gulag of Siberia...

 in Kiev
Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

, Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

, where she lived with her family. He continued to be attracted to other women, sometimes seriously. Their marriage was threatened by his falling in love with other women, notably Olga Vaksel in 1924-25 and Mariya Petrovykh
Mariya Petrovykh
Mariya Sergeevna Petrovykh was a Russian poet and translator.- Early life :...

 in 1933-34.

Career

In 1922, Mandelstam and Nadezhda moved to Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

. At this time, his second book of poems, Tristia, was published in Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

. For several years after that, he almost completely abandoned poetry, concentrating on essays, literary criticism, memoirs (The Noise Of Time, Russian: Шум времени, Shum vremeni; Феодосия, Feodosiya - both 1925; Noise of Time (1993 in English) and small-format prose (The Egyptian Stamp, Russian: Египетская марка, Yegipetskaya marka - 1928). As a day job, he translated literature into Russian (19 books in 6 years), then worked as a correspondent for the newspaper.
Mandelstam's non-conformist, anti-establishment tendencies were not heavily disguised. He opposed the increasingly totalitarian government under Joseph Stalin. In the autumn of 1933, he composed the poem "Stalin Epigram
Stalin Epigram
The Stalin epigram, also known as The Kremlin Highlander is a satirical poem by the Russian Acmeist poet Osip Mandelstam, dated as being written in November 1933...

", which he read at a number of small gatherings in Moscow. The poem was a sharp criticism of the "Kremlin highlander" (or, in some translations, the "Kremlin mountaineer".) It was likely inspired by Mandelstam's having seen the effects of the Great Famine
Holodomor
The Holodomor was a man-made famine in the Ukrainian SSR between 1932 and 1933. During the famine, which is also known as the "terror-famine in Ukraine" and "famine-genocide in Ukraine", millions of Ukrainians died of starvation in a peacetime catastrophe unprecedented in the history of...

 that year, during his vacation in the Crimea
Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

. This was the result of Stalin's collectivisation in the USSR
Collectivisation in the USSR
Collectivization in the Soviet Union was a policy pursued under Stalin between 1928 and 1940. The goal of this policy was to consolidate individual land and labour into collective farms...

 and his drive to exterminate the "kulak
Kulak
Kulaks were a category of relatively affluent peasants in the later Russian Empire, Soviet Russia, and early Soviet Union...

s".

Six months later, Mandelstam was arrested. But, after the customary pro forma inquest, he was sentenced not to death or the Gulag
Gulag
The Gulag was the government agency that administered the main Soviet forced labor camp systems. While the camps housed a wide range of convicts, from petty criminals to political prisoners, large numbers were convicted by simplified procedures, such as NKVD troikas and other instruments of...

, but to exile in Cherdyn
Cherdyn
Cherdyn is a town and the administrative center of Cherdynsky District of Perm Krai, Russia. Population: The Kolva River flows by the town....

 in the Northern Ural
Ural (region)
Ural is a geographical region located around the Ural Mountains, between the East European and West Siberian plains. It extends approximately from north to south, from the Arctic Ocean to the bend of Ural River near Orsk city. The boundary between Europe and Asia runs along the eastern side of...

 with his wife. It was considered nearly a miraculous event, usually explained by historians as owing to Stalin's personal interest in the poet's fate. After he attempted suicide, and following an intercession by Nikolai Bukharin
Nikolai Bukharin
Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin , was a Russian Marxist, Bolshevik revolutionary, and Soviet politician. He was a member of the Politburo and Central Committee , chairman of the Communist International , and the editor in chief of Pravda , the journal Bolshevik , Izvestia , and the Great Soviet...

, the sentence was lessened to banishment from the largest cities. Otherwise allowed to choose his new place of residence, Mandelstam and his wife chose Voronezh
Voronezh
Voronezh is a city in southwestern Russia, the administrative center of Voronezh Oblast. It is located on both sides of the Voronezh River, away from where it flows into the Don. It is an operating center of the Southeastern Railway , as well as the center of the Don Highway...

.
This proved a temporary reprieve. In the next years, Mandelstam wrote a collection of poems known as the Voronezh Notebooks, which included the cycle Verses on the Unknown Soldier. He also wrote several poems that seemed to glorify Stalin (including "Ode To Stalin"). However, in 1937, at the outset of the Great Purge
Great Purge
The Great Purge was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin from 1936 to 1938...

, the literary establishment began to attack him in print, first locally, and soon after from Moscow, accusing him of harbouring anti-Soviet views. Early the following year, Mandelstam and his wife received a government voucher for a vacation not far from Moscow; upon their arrival in May 1938, he was arrested on the 5th May (ref. camp document of 12. October 1938, signed by Mandelstam) and charged with "counter-revolutionary activities". Four months later, 2 August 1938, Mandelstam was sentenced to five years in correction camps. He arrived at the Vtoraya Rechka (Second River) transit camp near Vladivostok
Vladivostok
The city is located in the southern extremity of Muravyov-Amursky Peninsula, which is about 30 km long and approximately 12 km wide.The highest point is Mount Kholodilnik, the height of which is 257 m...

 in Russia's Far East and managed to get a note out to his wife asking for warm clothes; he never received them. The official cause of his death is an unspecified illness.

Mandelstam's own prophecy was fulfilled: "Only in Russia is poetry respected, it gets people killed. Is there anywhere else where poetry is so common a motive for murder?" Nadezhda Mandelstam
Nadezhda Mandelstam
Nadezhda Yakovlevna Mandelstam was a Russian writer and educator, and the wife of the poet Osip Mandelstam, who died in 1938 in a transit camp to the gulag of Siberia...

 wrote memoirs about her life with her husband and the times in Hope against Hope (1970) and Hope Abandoned She also managed to preserve a significant part of Mandelstam's unpublished work.

In 1956, during the Khrushchev thaw
Khrushchev Thaw
The Khrushchev Thaw refers to the period from the mid 1950s to the early 1960s, when repression and censorship in the Soviet Union were partially reversed and millions of Soviet political prisoners were released from Gulag labor camps, due to Nikita Khrushchev's policies of de-Stalinization and...

, Osip Mandelstam was rehabilitated
Rehabilitation (Soviet)
Rehabilitation in the context of the former Soviet Union, and the Post-Soviet states, was the restoration of a person who was criminally prosecuted without due basis, to the state of acquittal...

 and declared exonerated from the charges brought against him in 1938. On October 28, 1987, during the administration of Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991...

, Mandelstam was exonerated from the 1934 charges as well and thus fully rehabilitated. 1977, a minor planet
Minor planet
An asteroid group or minor-planet group is a population of minor planets that have a share broadly similar orbits. Members are generally unrelated to each other, unlike in an asteroid family, which often results from the break-up of a single asteroid...

 3461 Mandelshtam
3461 Mandelshtam
3461 Mandelshtam is a main-belt asteroid discovered on September 18, 1977 by N. Chernykh at Nauchnyj and named after the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam.- External links :*...

, discovered by Soviet astronomer Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh
Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh
Nikolay Stepanovich Chernykh was a Soviet and Russian astronomer.Chernykh was born in the city of Usman' in Voronezh Oblast...

, was named after him.

Selected poetry and prose collections

  • 1913 Kamen (Stone)
  • 1922 Tristia
  • 1923 Vtoraia kniga (Book Two)
  • 1925 Shum vremeni (The Din Of Time) Prose
  • 1928 Stikhotvoreniya 1921–1925 (Poems 1921-1925)
  • 1928 Stikhotvoreniya (Poems)
  • 1928 O poesii (On Poetry)
  • 1928 Egipetskaya marka (The Egyptian Stamp)
  • 1930 Chetvertaya proza, (The Fourth Prose). Not published in Russia until 1989
  • 1930-34 Moskovskiye tetradi (Moskow Notebooks)
  • 1933 Puteshestviye v Armeniyu (Journey to Armenia)
  • 1933 Razgovor o Dante, (Conversation about Dante); published in 1967
  • Voronezhskiye tetradi (Voronezh Notebooks), publ. 1980 (ed. by V. Shveitser)

Selected translations

  • Mandelstam, Osip and Struve, Gleb
    Gleb Struve
    Gleb Petrovich Struve was a Russian poet and literary historian from the Struve family. His father was Peter Berngardovich Struve, and his nephew is another prominent writer, Nikita Struve....

     (1955) Sobranie sočinenij (Collected works). New York
  • Mandelstam, Osip (1980) Poems. Edited and translated by James Greene. (1977) Elek Books, revised and enlarged edition, Granada/Elek, 1980.
  • Mandelstam, Osip (1973) Selected Poems, translated by David McDuff, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux (New York) and, with minor corrections, Rivers Press (Cambridge)
  • Mandelstam, Osip (1977) 50 Poems, translated by Bernard Meares with an Introductory Essay by Joseph Brodsky
    Joseph Brodsky
    Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky , was a Russian poet and essayist.In 1964, 23-year-old Brodsky was arrested and charged with the crime of "social parasitism" He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972 and settled in America with the help of W. H. Auden and other supporters...

    . Persea Books (New York)
  • Mandelstam, Osip (1973) The Complete Poetry of Osip Emilevich Mandelstam, translated by Burton Raffel and Alla Burago. State University of New York Press (USA)
  • Mandelstam, Osip (1981) Stone, translated by Robert Tracy. Princeton University Press (USA)
  • Mandelstam, Osip (1976) Octets 66-76, translated by Donald Davie, Agenda
    Agenda (poetry journal)
    Agenda is a literary journal published in London and founded by William Cookson. Agenda Editions is an imprint of the journal operating as a small press.-History and editorial orientation:...

     vol. 14, no. 2, 1976.
  • Mandelstam, Osip (1973) The Goldfinch. Introduction and translations by Donald Rayfield. The Menard Press
  • Mandelstam, Osip (1993, 2002) The Noise of Time: Selected Prose, translated by Clarence Brown, Northwestern University Press; Reprint edition ISBN 0810119285

Further reading

  • Coetzee, J.M. "Osip Mandelstam and the Stalin Ode", Representations, No.35, Special Issue: Monumental Histories. (Summer, 1991), pp.72–83.
  • Davie, Donald (1977) In the Stopping Train Carcanet (Manchester)
  • Freidin, Gregory (1987) A Coat of Many Colors: Osip Mandelstam and His Mythologies of Self-Presentation. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London
  • MacKay, John (2006) Inscription and Modernity: From Wordsworth to Mandelstam. Bloomington: Indiana University Press ISBN 0253347491
  • Nilsson N. A. (1974) Osip Mandel’štam: Five Poems. (Stockholm)
  • Platt, Kevin, editor (2008) Modernist Archaist: Selected Poems by Osip Mandelstam
  • Riley, John (1980) The Collected Works. Grossteste (Derbyshire)
  • Ronen O.
    Omry Ronen
    Omry Ronen is an American Slavist, known for his works on the Silver Age of Russian Poetry and especially on the poetry of Osip Mandelstam. He is Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor....

     (1983) An Аpproach to Mandelstam. (Jerusalem)

External links

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