Reconfiguring the Canon of Twentieth Century Russian Poetry, 1991-2008


5:00pm - 7:00pm, Thursday 10 October 2013. Queen's Building, LT4.2.

'Three Ways of Being a Soviet Poet: Vladimir Maiakovskii, Boris Slutskii, and Bella Akhmadulina'. Natalia Karakulina, Katharine Hodgson and Alexandra Smith will introduce three poets who, at different stages in the USSR’s history, found their own ways of being a Soviet poet.

We tend to imagine poets in the Soviet Union as being either obedient ‘artists in uniform’, or heroic figures whose defiance of censorship and Socialist Realism exposes them to persecution. For Vladimir Maiakovskii, a Futurist, the October Revolution embodied the overthrow of restrictive tradition he sought in his art, and called it ‘my revolution’. Boris Slutskii came of age in the Stalin years, fought in the war, and left a huge legacy of unpublished poetry which charted his response to the catastrophes of the time including the Terror and the Holocaust. Bella Akhmadulina belonged to the generation of the post-Stalin Thaw period, but still had to negotiate demands for politically committed poetry, and managed to do so while creating a poetic persona with links to other cultures and other times.

Translation Workshop

4:00pm - 6:00pm, Wednesday 16 October 2013. Queen's Building, MR1.

'Translating Russian Poetry: A Workshop'. This workshop is for anyone who is interested in having a go at working with others on translating a Russian poem: no knowledge of Russian required – Russian speakers will be on hand to help, and you will have a line-by-line literal translation to work from as well as the original text. Poems for translation will be made available online in advance, or you can collect your copy of the texts on the day. We will be offering three different texts for translation, one by each of the following: Vladimir Maiakovskii, Boris Slutskii, Bella Akhmadulina. You can find out more about each poet at our earlier event, ‘Three Ways of Being a Soviet Poet’.


During the course of the project, we are running a series of collaborative workshops which will bring together specialists in twentieth-century Russian culture to discuss the process of canon formation. Each participant will contribute a paper on a different aspect of twentieth-century Russian poetry and the canon. The workshops will provide a forum for collaboration which will enhance the development of these papers. The exchange of ideas will be furthered by a password-protected area on the project wiki, where draft papers will be posted.

Workshop participants

In addition to the project team, the following specialists will be participating in the series of workshops:

  • Robin Aizlewood (SSEES)
  • Denis Akhapkin (St Petersburg)
  • Alexandra Harrington (Durham)
  • Andrew Kahn (Oxford)
  • Emily Lygo (Exeter)
  • Polly McMichael (Nottingham)
  • Maria Rubins (UCL)
  • Stephanie Sandler (Harvard)
  • Olga Sobolev (LSE)
  • Josephine von Zitzewitz (Oxford)