Выборг (Vyborg, Wyborg, Viipuri)
The poem was also written in Komarovo in September 1964. The poet comments in the draft that it was composed by daylight and mentions the street address of her dacha – Ozernaya Lane (Lake Lane). The poem is dedicated to the mathematician and member of the Academy of Sciences Olga Ladyzhenskaya, a friend of Akhmatova, who visited Vyborg in the late summer of 1964. It includes an allusion to Nikolay Gumilov’s poem “Canzona” from 1917. The short poem is highly impressionistic and evokes a hazy feeling of the beauty of the “Scandinavian” town of Vyborg and of “the silent music” of the North. The imagery used is in part neoclassical and in part reminiscent of Edith Södergran’s work. Vyborg is seen as a threshold to Scandinavia and “a vast submarine footstep leading to Neptune’s domain”.
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.
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.
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.