Yevgeny Alexandrovich Yevtushenko (1933–2017,) also spelled Evgenii Evtushenko, born Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Gangnus, was a Soviet poet. His explicitly political and often autobiographical poems focused on war atrocities and censured anti-Semitism and tyrannical dictators.
Born in Zima, Siberia, to a family of Ukrainians who had been exiled to Siberia, Yevtushenko wrote his first poem at age ten and published his first book of poems, Razvedchiki Griadushchego (1952, “The Prospectors of the Future”) at age 19. Yevtushenko was moved to Moscow with his mother in 1944. After World War II, he studied at the Gorky Institute of World Literature but dropped out after three years.
Yevtushenko gained notoriety with the publication of Treti Sneg (1955, ‘Third Snow’) and Shosse Entuziastov (1956, ‘Highway of the Enthusiasts.’) Obeshchanie (1957, ‘The Promise’) made him a spokesperson for greater creative freedom for artists in the post-Stalin generation. His long poem Stantsiya Zima (1956, ‘Zima Junction’) vented confusion over the direction of the country after Stalin and provoked outrage in sections of the Soviet press.
Babi Yar (1962) mourned the Nazi massacre of some 96,000 Ukrainian Jews and got him in trouble for its attack on Soviet anti-Semitism and Nazi Germany. It was merely recited but not published in the Soviet Union until 1984. Composer Dmitri Shostakovich set Babi Yar to music as part of his Thirteenth Symphony.
Yevtushenko published his Autobiografia (1963; A Precocious Autobiography,) Love Poems (1977,) Ivanovskiye sitsy (1976; Ivan the Terrible and Ivan the Fool, 1979) and the novel Yagodnyye Mesta (1982; Wild Berries, 1984.) He also embarked on an acting career, published a book of photographs, directed a film, and taught at the University of Tulsa. He remained politically outspoken, opposing the attempted 1991 coup against Mikhail Gorbachev, raising public awareness of the pollution of Lake Baikal, and getting a monument to the victims of Stalin placed opposite Lubyanka, KGB ‘s headquarters building in Moscow.