Throughout the many travesties and struggles that Anna endured she never stopped writing and in doing so, she shaped history from a perspective of time which most people today could never imagine.
“She was a Russian, and to Russia, she would return no matter what awaited her there; the Soviet regime, whatever one might think of it, was the established order in her country: with it, she had lived and with it, she would die – that is what being a Russian meant”.
– Roberta Reeder.
Together with Osip Mandelstam and Gumilev, Akhmatova was a founder of a movement called Acmeism. While the movement lasted only three years (1912-1914), Acmeism had a massive impact on the poetical process of Russia and even more so on Akhmatova’s creative career. This movement emerged as a reaction against Symbolism, which aimed to transfer truth indirectly, through the use of symbols.
Acmeists renounced mystical images and the idealization of life. Instead they decided to return to the clarity of words and images as well as placing humanity in the center of the poet’s attention. Acmeism manifested differently in each poet, where Anna’s style had a very intimate verse of love and witnessing.
Yet one love that surpassed her love of poetry was her love for her homeland, even when it changed so much from the country she was born and raised.
She stayed and fought even though her longtime friend and partner was executed, she endured the imprisonment of her son and husband and fought multiple regimes that would try and silence her. While many of the day’s scholars and writer’s would flee from Russia, Anna refused to go.
Anna believed that those who fled from Russia after the Revolution “left their country for enemies to tear apart” – Nayman
While Anna herself was never subject to Stalinist tortures, she was never free from the Nation’s punishment. Her sentence was simply to be forgotten in her own country. Except for a few close friends, no one even knew about her anti-Stalinist poetry. Most of the poems she composed could not be written down but were relayed and memorized by her friends.
Anna’s life would drastically change with the February Revolution in 1917, when the Tzar regime fell leaving Russia in the hands of fate. Anna’s fight against censorship started at the same time as the Bolshevik takeover in Russia, in October 1917. She would find herself homeless from the eve of the February Revolution up until the very end of her life, when the Soviet government granted her a country house outside of Leningrad.
Her first encounter with the Soviet censorship happened in 1925. An unofficial Communist Party resolution banned any further publication of her work and while the ban was not announced it would leave her poetry to be left unpublished for the next decade and a half.
Anna’s answer to this was to develop a special way of writing poems, called tainopis, which means “secret writing.” This method consisted of a process of Anna not transcribing her poems but instead, memorizing and relaying them to the friends she could trust. They in turn would have to learn the poems by heart, as well.
Reading the diaries of Lydia Chukovskaya, a close friend of the Anna, it’s apparent what a daunting task this truly was. Anna would ask Lydia about the poems written long ago in order to modify them, or sometimes she needed to remember not a specific poem but what was changed in it throughout time.
After Stalin’s death, Anna was slowly “rehabilitated.” Publication of her work, including her essays and translations resumed and she received international recognition, including an honorary degree from Oxford in 1965.
Anna passed away on March 5, 1966, and is remembered as one of Russia’s most revered poets. During her lifetime the censors were never able to silence Anna’s resounding voice. In her death, her poet’s voice only grew louder. Anna was a remarkable woman who chose to stay when so many left. She fought back when others conformed. Anna Akhmatova exemplifies the impenetrable human spirit that even with a life stripped of everything, one’s life can amass so much wealth from the self realization of doing what was right.
You will hear thunder and remember me, and think: she wanted storms.
– Anna Akhmatova
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