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Stalin's poetry

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Stalin's poetry

Stalin at about the age he wrote poetry, c. 1902

Before he became a Bolshevik revolutionary and the leader of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin was a promising poet.

Literary career

Like all Georgian children, Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili – who would later call himself Stalin – grew up with the national epic, The Knight in the Panther's Skin. As a child, Ioseb knew the poem by heart and passionately read the other popular poems of the time, notably those by Rafael Eristavi, Akaki Tsereteli and – once he learned Russian – Nikolay Nekrasov.[1]

At the Orthodox Seminary of Ilia Chavchavadze, who published five of them in his journal, Iveria, attributed to the pseudonym Soselo.[1]

One of these poems, Morning, begins:

"The pinkish bud has opened,
Rushing to the pale-blue violet
And, stirred by a light breeze,
The lily of the valley has bent over the grass."[2]

Once Stalin entered revolutionary politics, he stopped writing poetry – it took too much time, he told a friend – but in 1907 he still used his prestige as Soselo to obtain information he needed for a bank robbery from an admirer. During the [1]

Stalin published all of his work anonymously and never publicly acknowledged it. When Lavrenti Beria secretly had Boris Pasternak and other noted translators prepare a Russian edition of Stalin's poems for the ruler's 70th birthday in 1949, Stalin had the project stopped.[1]

Reception

Stalin's biographer, Simon Sebag Montefiore, notes that the poems in Iveria:

"were widely read and much admired. They became minor Georgian classics, to be published in anthologies and memorised by schoolchildren until the 1970s (and not as part of Stalin's cult; they were usually published as "Anonymous")."

Montefiore also writes that "Stalin was no Georgian Pushkin. The poems' romantic imagery is derivative, but their beauty lies in the rhythm and language."[1] Robert Service, another Stalin biographer, describes the poems as "fairly standard for early 19th century romantic poetry", and as "very conventional, ... very standardized and rather self-indulgent".[2]

Stalin's poems have been translated into English by Donald Rayfield.[1]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f  
  2. ^ a b Suzanne Merkelson (April 8, 2011). "Bad Politics, Worse Prose". Foreign Policy. Retrieved April 12, 2011. 
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