Best known poet of the post-Stalin generation of Russian poets, Yevtushenko's early poems show the influence of Mayakovsky and loyalty to communism, but with such works as The Third Snow (1955) Yevtushenko become a spokesman for the young post-Stalin generation and traveled abroad widely throughout the Khrushchev and the Brezhnev periods.
Yevtushenko was born in Zima in Irkutsk (July 18, 1933) as a fourth-generation descendant of Ukrainians exiled to Siberia. He moved to Moscow in 1944, where he studied at the Gorky Institute of Literature from 1951 to 1954. In 1948 he accompanied his father on geological expeditions to Kazakhstan and to Altai in 1950. His first important narrative poem Zima Junction was published in 1956 but gained international fame in 1961 with Babi Yar, in which he denounced Nazi and Russian anti-Semitism. The poem was not published in Russia until 1984, although it was frequently recited in both Russia and abroad.
The Heirs of Stalin (1961), published presumably with Party approval in Pravda, was not republished until 1987. The poem contained warnings that Stalinism had long outlived its creator.
Yevtushenko's demands for greater artistic freedom and his attacks on Stalinism and bureaucracy in the late 1950s and 60s made him a leader of Soviet youth. However, he was allowed to travel widely in the West until 1963. He published then A Precocious Autobiography in English, and his privileges and favors were withdrawn, but restored two years later.
In 1972 Yevtushenko gained huge success with his play Under the Skin of the Statue of Liberty. Since the 1970s he has been active in many field of culture, writing novels, engaging in acting, film directing, and photography. He has also remained politically outspoken and in 1974 supported Solzhenitsyn when the Nobel Prize Winner was arrested and exiled. In 1989 Yevtushenko became member of the Congress of People's Deputies. Since 1990 he has been vice president of Russian PEN. He was appointed honorary member of American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1987.
After the accession of Gorbachev
to power, Yevtushenko introduced to Soviet readers many poets repressed
by Stalin in the journal Ogonek. He raised public awareness of the
pollution of Lake Baikal and when communism collapsed he was instrumental
in getting a monument to the victims of Stalinist repression placed opposite
Lubianka, headquarters of the KGB.