Sonia I. Ketchian[*]

Bella Akhmadulina (b. 1937) refrains from reflecting on ancestors or family with rare exceptions, in some poems mentioning her daughters, Anna and Elizaveta, and her husband of many years, Boris Messerer.[1] Her autobiographical prose piece "Grandmother" (Babushka) marginally complements her sole genealogical narrative poem My Genealgy (Moia rodoslovnaia, 1962). By titling her poem My Genealogy, Bella Akhmadulina immediately signals a dialogue with Pushkin's famous poem bearing this title.[2] Indeed, Akhmadulina follows Pushkin in using genealogy to engage in literary and political polemic with her times, and she employs the more familiar context of her illustrious predecessor to her own purpose. The objective of this paper is to explicate both the divergences and the convergences of the two poets' treatment of the theme, highlighting Akhmadulina's original achievement. For she begins with Pushkin's model and then goes far beyond his piece to create a different type of poem — an extended self-deprecating mock-heroic account of her ancestors, where Pushkin's displays mock-heroic aristocratic pride over-shadowed by a sense of continuity and fulfillment. Akhmadulina leaves only one forebear as heroic — the revolutionary Aleksandr Stopani, an associate of Lenin.




Ketchian, Sonia I. "Bella Akhmadulina's Dialogue with Pushkin: My Genealogy." Pushkin Review 1 (1998): 15-33.

[*]  I gratefully acknowledge that research for this article was supported in part by a grant from the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), with funds provided by teh National Endowment for the Humanities, the United States Information Agency, and the U.S. Department of state, under the provisions of the Soviet and East European Trainging Act of 1983 (Title VIII) during my sojourn on the ACLS/Soviet Academy Exchange of Scholars in Summer 1990.

[1]  Examples are "Expecting the Christmas Tree" (Ozhidanie elki), "Features of the Studio" (Primety masterskoi) in B. Akhmadulina's Sny o Gruzii, 147-48 and 111, and "When I pitied Boris" (Kogda ia zhalela Borisa) in her Griada kamnei, 255.

[2] My Genealogy has been published in B. Akhmadulina, Oznob (1968); Metel' (1977); Svecha (1977); and in Sny o Gruzii. For a translation of "Babushka" see The Garden (1990: 151-164). The Russian text is in her "Dva rasskaza." I have not had the opportunity to examine the new three-volume Collected Works of Akhmadulina published in April 1997 in honor of her sixtieth birthday.