Anna Andreyevna Gorenko was born on June 23, 1889 in Bolshoy Fonton near Odessa, Russia and grew up in St. Petersburg. Her father was a naval engineer and her parents were descended from Russian royalty. When she began publishing poetry in her teens, Anna took the pen name of Anna Akhmatova, her grandmother's surname, because her father did not want her to use his name. She wrote poems and memoirs throughout until her death of heart failure in 1966. Anna Akhmatova was a modernist poet during the "Silver Age". She became one of the leading female poets in Russia during the turmoil of the World Wars and the Russian Revolution.
Anna Andreyevna began writing poetry at the age of 11 and wrote prolifically throughout her life.. After meeting her future husband, Nikolai Gumilev, the Guild of Poets and published her first collection of poems and she quickly gained fame for her work. Her literary career is often divided into two periods with less work produced between the periods (because of government restrictions on intellectual work).
The Guild of Poets published much of Anna's work and her name and poetry quickly became well-known in Russia. Her poetry collections included.
- Evenings (1912)
- The Rosary (1914)
- Anno Domini (1924-6)
Due to government censorship, Anna could not publish much poetry between 1925 and 1966. Although much of her later work was censored her poetry was much admired. She published several collections including the following books.
- Requiem (1935-1940)
- Poem Without A Hero (1940-1960)
- Selection of Poetry (1943)
- In Praise of Peace (1949)
- Poems (1961)
- The Flight of Time (1965)
Anna Andreyevna studied law at Kiev University but left to pursue her studies in literature in St. Petersburg. She would go on to write and publish poetry during the turmoil in Russia during the first half of the twentieth century.
Significance as an author
Anna Andreyevna may be the most influential Russian, female poet of her time. In 1910 she became a member of the Acmeist group of poets. Her style followed the simplistic, disciplined manner of the Acmeists in stark contrast to the mysticism popular in European poetry at the time. Her distinct, precise style remained throughout her poetry. The female characters in Anna's poetry were emotionally strong. Instead of romanticism, Anna's characters were most always at an ambiguous point in their relationships.
As the Russian Revolution progressed and Stalinism took hold of the country, Anna could not publish much poetry and it was highly censored. For years, she and her family lived in fear of prison or execution because of their intellectual pursuits. Her first husband, Nikolai Gumilev was executed by the Soviet Secret Police in 1918. She married and divorced Vladimir Shilejko (1918-1926). Her son Lev Gumilev and partner Nikolai Punin were sent to a labor camp for many years. Anna was unable to publish her poetry due to the government although she worked on her two masterpieces Requiem and Poem Without a Hero in secret. She also translated Russian works including Pushkin's.
In 1949, Anna's son Lev was sentenced to 10 years in Siberia. During that time, Anna fought hard for his release. She wrote the pro-Stalinist poem, In Praise of Peace which was published in the magazine Gonicok and her son was finally released in 1956. It was in 1956 that Anna's poems began to reappear.
Anna Akhmatova was a great poet who lived during a period of extreme fear of intellects as communism swept her homeland. Throughout her life, she continued to create poetry reflecting the emotional strength of women. She was much admired throughout the USSR and Europe and was considered one of the greatest poets of her time.