Ptitsy smerti v zenite stojat… (Птицы смерти в зените стоят…)

  • Country in which the text is set
  • Featured locations

    Ленинград (Leningrad, Petrograd, Saint Petersburg)


  • Impact

    This poem was written by Akhmatova on the 28 September, 1941 when she was being evacuated from besieged Leningrad. After starving in the city, Akhmatova left by plane, from where she witnessed the German bombardment. She describes the city craving for bread and impregnated with death. In the poem she tells us about “the sons of the city who lay on the humid bottom of the Baltic [a reference to the swampy city itself] and moan of suffering in their sleep… ” The poem is included in the collection “The Wind of War”.

    Anna Akhmatova is considered one of the most important Russian poets of the twentieth century. Her significance is also based on her role as the poet who experienced the fate and history of Saint-Petersburg-Petrograd-Leningrad as it unfolded during the twentieth century in all its tragedy and all its glory. Even during the harshest years of Soviet history when publication of her work was banned, she retained her reputation as a master stylist and a truly original poetic voice.

    Akhmatova’s verse has been translated into all European languages. The poet she most admired was Pushkin. Her oeuvre encompasses the tradition of the Russian (and St.Petersburg) poetry of the twentieth century (the Golden Age), to which she added new imagery and unsurpassed new depth, earning her the reputation of queen of the so-called Silver Age.

    She also absorbed currents from French poetry of the first two decades of the twentieth century and introduced them to Russia between the wars. The impact of her person and oeuvre during these decades is illustrated by the emergence of a whole group of young female poets who were called “podakhmatovkis”, e.g. those trying to compose verse like Anna the Great. Being a beautiful woman she enthralled the many talented men of her time, among them Amedeo Modigliani and Isaiah Berlin. Having spent the greater part of her life in the “Fountain House” in the center of Leningrad, she has become its legend and a symbol of the spirit of freedom that refused to bow before the horrors of the Stalinist age. Though many of her loved ones were sent to prisons and labor camps she refused to consider emigrating to the West. In the 1960s Akhmatova was granted the title of the Honorary Doctor by Oxford University and was given permission to go to England for the ceremony.

  • Balticness

    Akhmatova lived the major part of her life in Saint Petersburg (Petrograd, Leningrad) and became the city’s poet. However, she spent the last 10 years of her life in a little cottage in the Finnish village of Komarovo (Finnish name Kellomäki) by the shore of the Gulf of Finland. She devoted a great deal of her later lyrical verse to the humble beauty of this landscape. Her Komarovo cottage became something of a literary Mecca, and its visitors included Andrey Voznesensky, Joseph Brodsky and many other young poets, all of them seeking her opinion and approval. Akhmatova is buried in the Komarovo cemetery and the little town remains famous throughout the world because of her association with it.

    Polina Lisovskaya

  • Bibliographic information

    All seven poems are parts of different collections and for the most part were published long after they were written, either posthumously or after the advent of Perestroika.

  • Translations
    Language Year Translator
    English 1997 Judith Hemschemeyer
    Finnish 1978 Pentti Saaritsa
    German 1967 Rainer Kirsch
    Swedish 1978 Hans Björkegren
  • Year of first publication
  • Place of first publication
    Moscow, Leningrad

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