Yevgeny Yevtushenko was born on July 18, 1933, in the Irkutsk region of Siberia, and he grew up there and in Moscow. He first received acclaim for his poetry as a teenager, when he began publishing in magazines and was admitted to the Gorky Literary Institute and the Soviet Writers’ Union.
In 1956 Yevtushenko published a long poem, “Zima Junction,” about his hometown in Siberia; this poem was criticized by the press for its portrayal of the post-Stalin Soviet Union. In 1961 he published his best-known poem, “Babi Yar,” which famously denounced Russian anti-Semitism and inspired Dimitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13.
Yevtushenko published numerous poetry collections, including The Collected Poems: 1952–1990 (Henry Holt, 1991), Almost at the End (Henry Holt, 1987), From Desire to Desire (Doubleday, 1976), and The Poetry of Yevgeny Yevtushenko, 1953–1965 (October House, 1965). He was also the author of several works of prose, including the novel Wild Berries (W. Morrow, 1984) and the autobiography A Precocious Autobiography (Dutton, 1963).
Yevtushenko was a prominent member of the Sixties movement in the Soviet Union, a group of poets, writers, and artists who came to prominence during the “Khrushchev Thaw.” He was known for his poems of protest, and his hopeful and defiant verse inspired future generations of Russian writers.
Yevtushenko was an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was awarded the American Liberties Medallion of the American Jewish Committee. He divided his time between Russia and the United States, where he taught at the University of Tulsa, the City University of New York, and New York University, among others. He died in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on April 1, 2017.