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Leningrad Poetry 1953–1975

The Thaw Generation


Emily Lygo

This is the first book-length study of the outstanding generation of Leningrad poets whose careers began during the Khrushchev Thaw. The text brings together memoirs, interviews, and archival research to construct an account of the world of poetry in Leningrad, in which many now-famous figures began writing. The author describes the institutions, official events, unofficial groups, and informal activities that were attended by many young poets, including the pre-eminent poet of this generation, Iosif Brodsky. Alongside a detailed study of Brodsky’s work from the early 1970s are close readings of two other major poets from this generation whose work has often been overlooked, Viktor Sosnora and Dmitry Bobyshev.


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Chapter 2 After the Thaw, 1965–1975 83


Chapter 2 After the Thaw, 1965–1975 Signs that the Thaw had come to an End On 12 October 1964 Nikita Khrushchev was ousted from his posts of First Secretary and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR. In retro- spect, his removal from office has become synonymous with the end of the Thaw, but this change at the highest level of the country’s political life did not immediately filter down to affect lower-level policy, such as that gov- erning literary politics in Leningrad. In the latter half of the 1960s, how- ever, several significant events in Moscow and Leningrad, which received high-profile attention in the USSR and the West, gave indications that the political atmosphere in the USSR was growing more conservative. A most unwelcome development in the 1960s was a return to the Stalinist practice of putting writers on trial. This began with the trial of Iosif Brodsky in Leningrad in 1964, an event which warned young, amateur writers that a literary, bohemian lifestyle would no longer be tolerated by the authorities. Both young, amateur writers and members of the Writers’ Union wrote letters to the authorities protesting at Brodsky’s treatment, and copies of the transcript of his trial which Frida Vigdorova had made were reproduced and circulated in samizdat.1 The following year, in 1965, another case of repressive measures taken against writers gained notoriety in the USSR and abroad, when Andrey Sinyavsky and Yuly Daniel' were arrested under statute 70 of the criminal code of...

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