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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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Conclusions 323


Conclusions Leningrad poetry flourished during the Thaw period, with a number of outstanding individuals among the poets who appeared in the city at this time. Most poets had significant connections with the officially-sponsored forums for poetry that were fostered by the authorities in the 1950s and 1960s, and while it is impossible to determine how far this institutional support helped bring about the poetry movement in Leningrad during the Thaw, nevertheless it is important to consider the role that it played in its creation. While the political Thaw after the death of Stalin provided optimism and impetus, the LITOs and literary seminars provided the environment where these could be developed concretely in literature, and a career structure that assured young people there was a future for them as writers. More importantly, they formed an intellectual and relatively free-thinking environment for young people who had been emboldened by the Secret Speech. They brought old and young generations together, enabling cultural values to be passed on to young people eager to connect with tradition. The combination of people, politics, and circumstances produced outstanding and, to some extent, unanticipated results. Decisions and actions taken by the authorities in the later 1960s and 1970s had a significant, albeit negative influence on the younger generation of poets that appeared in Leningrad after the Thaw. Again, it is difficult to identify exactly how policy affected poets, but the attitudes of this group of young people were significantly more disillusioned and cynical that those of the molodaya...

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