Persecuted by the Stalinist government, prevented from publishing her work, Anna Akhmatova was regarded as a dangerous enemy , but at the same time became popular on the basis of her early poetry that even Stalin would not risk attacking her directly.
Akhmatova’s life was difficult to say the least. In these years of the Yezhov terror Anna spent seventeen months waiting in line outside the prison in Leningrad.
Her greatest poem, “Requiem,” recounts the suffering of the Russian people under Stalinism, more so, the tribulations of those women with whom Akhmatova stood in line outside the prison walls. Women just like Anna waited patiently, but with a sense of grief and powerlessness, for the chance to send a loaf of bread or a small message to their husbands, sons, lovers.
“Requiem” was not published in Russia in its entirety until 1987, though the poem itself was written around the time of her son’s arrest. It was his arrest and imprisonment, and the later arrest of her husband Punin, that provided the content of the poem, which is a sequence of lyric poems about imprisonment and its affect on those whose loved ones are arrested, sentenced, and incarcerated behind prison walls.