Anna Akhmatova: Biography

Anna Akhmatova

23 jun 1889

Anna Andreyevna Gorenka was born in 1889 in Odessa, in what is now part of Ukraine. She was a Russian poet, who published modernist poetry under the pen name of Anna Akhmatova.

She remains one of the most important figures in Russian literary history, and is best remembered for her work expressing the suffering and terror felt by ordinary people living under the Stalinist regime. She was the daughter of a naval engineer, and was a direct descendent of Russian nobility on both sides of her family. Her parents separated in 1905, and immediately afterwards Akhmatova moved to Kiev. Here she finished school and briefly attended Kiev University to study law, before moving to St Petersburg to start a literature course.

In 1910, Akhmatova married the poet Nikolay Gumilev, against her parents’ wishes. None of the family attended the wedding as it was considered an undesirable match for a woman of her class. Gumilev was a huge encouragement to Akhmatoa in her writing, and it was he who originally convinced Akhmatova to publish her poetry.

Her most famous work is a lyrical cycle called Requiem, which Akhmatova wrote over the course of three decades. She took the manuscript with her wherever she went, writing and redrafting for nearly 3 years.

In 1965, at the age of 76 Anna Andreyevna Akhmatova died after suffering a heart attack. She remains one of the most celebrated writers to come out of Russia, and her work and some of her personal effects are on display at the Anna Akhmatova Literary and Memorial Museum in St Petersburg. In 1988, Harvard University held a conference in Akhmatova’s honour to celebrate her life and work in the year that she would have turned 100.