History of Literature

Russian literature


Nikolay Zabolotsky

Nikolay Alexeyevich Zabolotsky - (Russian: Никола́й Алексе́евич Заболо́цкий; May 7, 1903 - October 14, 1958) a Russian poet, children's writer and translator. He was a Modernist and one of the founders of the Russian avant-garde absurdist group OBERIU.


Nikolay Alekseevich Zabolotsky was born on May 7, 1903 near the city of Kazan. His early life was spent in the towns of Sernur (now in the Republic of Mari El) and Urzhum (now in the Kirov Oblast). In 1920, Zabolotsky left his family and moved to Moscow, enrolling simultaneously in the departments of medicine and philology at the university there. A year later, he moved to Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg) and enrolled in the Pedagogical Institute of Saint Petersburg State University.

Zabolotsky had already begun to write poetry at this time. His formative period showed the influences of the Futurist works of Vladimir Mayakovsky and Velimir Khlebnikov, the lyrical poems of Alexander Blok and Sergei Esenin, and the art of Pavel Filonov and Marc Chagall. During this period, Zabolotsky also met his future wife, E.V. Klykova.

In 1928, Zabolotsky founded the avant-garde group OBERIU with Daniil Kharms and Alexander Vvedensky. The group's acronym stood for "The Association of Real Art" (in Russian, Объединение реального искусства). During this period, Zabolotsky began to be published. His first book of poetry, Columns (Столбцы, 1929), was a series of grotesque vignettes on the life that Lenin's NEP (New Economic Policy) had created. It included the poem "The Signs of the Zodiac Fade" (Меркнут знаки зодиака), an absurdist lullaby that, 67 years later, in 1996, provided the words for a Russian pop hit. In 1937, Zabolotsky published his second book of poetry. This collection showed the subject matter of Zabolotsky's work moving from social concerns to elegies and nature poetry. This book is notable for its inclusion of pantheistic themes.

Amidst Stalin's increased censorship of the arts, Zabolotsky fell victim to the Soviet government's purges. In 1938, he was sent for five years to Siberia. This sentence was prolonged until the war was over. In 1944 after his appeal he was freed of guard, but still continued the sentence in exile in Karaganda. In Siberia he continued his creative work and was occupied with translation of The Tale of Igor's Campaign. This followed with his release in 1945. Upon his return to Moscow in 1946, Zabolotsky was restored as member of Union of Soviet Writers. He also translated several Georgian poets (including Rustaveli's epic poem The Knight in the Panther's Skin, as well as more modern Georgian poets such as Vazha-Pshavela, Grigol Orbeliani, David Guramishvili) and traveled frequently to Georgia. Zabolotsky also resumed his work as an original poet. However, the literature of his post-exile years experienced drastic stylistic changes. His poetry began to take a more traditional, conservative form and was often compared to the work of Tyutchev.

The last few years of Zabolotsky's life were beset by illness. He suffered a debilitating heart attack and, from 1956 onward, spent much of his time in the town of Tarusa. A second heart attack claimed his life on October 14, 1958 in Moscow.



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