Obituary: Yevgenii Yevtushenko

Yevgenii Aleksandrovich Yevtushenko, Russian poet (18 July 1933 – 1 April 2017)

Yevtushenko in the 1970s. Image © Simon Franklin

Yevtushenko in the 1970s. Image © Simon Franklin

One of the oddest documents in my desk is an un-headed, un-stamped A4 sheet, hastily typed and with scraggy handwritten corrections. Dated 14 July 1983, it is addressed to the customs officials at Sheremetevo airport. Dorogie tovarishchi (dear comrades), it begins. Today, it says, my friends from Britain arrive at 17.00. Today in the Olympic complex my 50th-birthday concert begins at 19.00. Please let my friends through vne ocheredi (without queuing), so that they won’t be late. Signed, Yevgenii Yevtushenko. So many aspects of this seem bizarre in retrospect: that anybody might seriously write such a note to customs officials; that customs officials could be expected even to recognize, let alone pay any attention to, a personal note bearing the unverified signature of a poet; that a poet would be performing at an Olympic-sized arena. Most bizarre of all: this actually worked. Only in the late Soviet era. Only Yevtushenko.

Why did all this not seem so odd at the time? Why was the mere name enough to circumvent normal border controls? Why was the huge arena packed? Yevtushenko has had many reputations. In the West he was and is most often treated as a voice of the Thaw, as the poet of Babii Yar and Nasledniki Stalina. Among post-Soviet intellectuals he was often regarded superciliously as the tame Soviet semi-dissident, serving the regime that he purported to criticize. Both attitudes are political, though often voiced by people who affect to despise the political contamination of literary values.

Neither assessment meant a great deal to the throng of his fans at the Olympic complex.  They wanted the mesmeric performance, his peculiar style of declamatory lyricism that in other contexts, or from anyone else, might have seemed merely bombastic. Two poems were printed in the leaflet serving as a programme, and for me they represent Yevtushenko better than either ‘The Bratsk Hydro-Electric Station’ (Bratskaia GES) or ‘The Tanks Roll Through Prague’ (Tanki idut po Prage). I can still hear him caressing the air and his audience with the almost indecently lush assonances and alliteration of the refrain of ‘Sleep, my beloved’ (Liubimaia, spi…):

И море всем топотом,         And the waves ever bustling,
И ветви – всем ропотом,     And the boughs all rustling,
и всем своим опытом –       And memories hustling
пёс на цепи,                        And the dog on its chain,
и я тебе ­– шепотом,             I tell you, whispering,
потом полушепотом,            And then half-whispering,
потом уже – молча:             Then already unspeaking,
“Любимая, спи…”                “Beloved one, sleep…”

The other poem – ‘White snow falling’ (Idut belye snegi) - gets more air-time now in Russia. Its form is classic elegy, in quiet stanzas of restrained two-foot anapaestic lines: nature eternal and repetitive and impervious; reflections on mortality, on his own mortality, and on remembrance; and, laced into the fabric of the poet’s persona, Russia. This becomes clear in the second half of the poem:

Идут белые снеги,                    White snow falling
как во все времена,                 As it has in all times,
как при Пушкине, Стеньке        In Pushkin’s and Stenka’s,
и как после меня,                     As it will after mine;

Идут снеги большие,                Heavy snow falling
аж до боли светлы,                  So bright it brings pain,
и мои, и чужие                         Sweeping others’ traces
заметая следы.                        Sweeping mine away.

Быть бессмертным не в силе,   I cannot be immortal
но надежда моя:                      But hope is mine:
если будет Россия,                   If Russia survives,
значит, буду и я.                       Then so will I.

Yevtushenko was global in his curiosity and ambition, Soviet in his sense of the historical moment, Soviet also in the ways in which he tends to be framed; so it is almost shocking to see here the directness of his declaration of an essential Russianness as the core of his identity and aspiration.

In an age when almost nobody from the Soviet Union travelled, Yevtushenko travelled everywhere, knew everybody. He reckoned he had visited over seventy countries. He was translated into over eighty languages. He met Kennedy, Castro, Neruda. He was perhaps unworthily proud of all of that. But he also had the gift of generous attentiveness, no matter who he was with. Talking with people about their recollections of Yevtushenko, I have been struck by how vivid, and how generally warm, are their memories even of the briefest of encounters. Among his memorable qualities was physical energy, his constantly mobile face, his restless mind. His creative output astonished in quantity and diversity. His poetry ranged from intimate lyrics to grand quasi-epic cycles. He was a novelist, film actor, film director, a published photographer. He was also an anthologist on the grand scale, constantly revising and enlarging ever more vast collections of Russian poetry. He probably wrote far too much, or at any rate published far too much; weak Yevtushenko pieces are easy to find. He became easy prey for parodists. Sneering remains easy; but he was an extraordinary talent nonetheless.

After a brief infatuation with elective politics in the Gorbachev Spring, Yevtushenko soon discovered the hard lesson that so often brings disillusionment for (and in) intellectuals: to speak to power is one thing; to have it – quite another.  He spent most of his last 25 years quietly, by his standards, based in Tulsa, where, by all accounts, he was a popular and conscientious lecturer, and where, on 1 April, he died. In his final few years he enjoyed fresh popularity in Russia, with readings, books, interviews, tours. He was the only one left, the only link to that age of what now looks like naïve optimism; a curiosity; a dinosaur; a national treasure.

One of Yevtushenko’s best known aphoristic lines was ‘A poet in Russia is more than a poet’ (Поэт в России – больше, чем поэт). Not any more. For better, for worse, he was the last. 

Professor Simon Franklin (University of Cambridge)

Translations of ‘Sleep, my beloved’ and ‘White snow falling
© BASEES Newsletter editorial team

BASEES President's Statement on the Referendum on Membership of the Union

BASEES and the Referendum on Membership of the European Union

The British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies is a professional association of scholars from Universities and other places of higher learning dedicated to furthering knowledge of the countries and regions of Eastern Europe, the Russian Federation and other states of the former Soviet Union.  The Association is deeply worried about the prospect of United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union and unreservedly concurs with the view of the majority of University Vice-Chancellors that withdrawal from the European Union would do irrevocable harm to academic research.  A vote to leave Europe would restrict the access of British scholars to European funding opportunities, make cross-border collaborations within Europe more difficult, endanger the recruitment and the retention of top academic talent in our field, and discourage applications for post graduate degrees from European students with knowledge of Slavonic and East European languages.  

Throughout the period of the Cold War BASEES took an active part in debate about economic, political and geopolitical developments in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.  It has continued to contribute to East-West debate in the years since 1989-1991 and the input individual members has been influential in policy-making.  The United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union has enhanced BASEES’s ability to fulfil its mission of fostering and strengthening a community of scholars with a unique combination of linguistic and analytical skills needed to give a full account, including to government, of the history, culture and social, economic and political development of the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.  In recent years, BASEES has become the European hub for Slavonic and East European studies with its annual conference attracting participants from across the European Union, the countries of the former Soviet Union and beyond.  Were the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, the Association would have difficulty maintaining this leadership position, which would have serious knock-on effects on its standing among the wider global community of scholars with an interest Russian, East European and Eurasian studies.  

It is in the interests of all BASEES members who are eligible to vote in the up-coming referendum to cast a vote in favour of remaining in the European Union. Please take the time to do so. 

Professor Judith Pallot

BASEES President

Call For Papers: BASEES 2015 Annual Conference

The BASEES 2015 Annual Conference will take place 28-30 March and will be based at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, United Kingdom

Proposals are invited for panels, roundtables and papers for the 2015 Annual Conference of the British Association of Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES). The conference will take place 28-30 March and will be based at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Panels, roundtables and papers are welcome in the areas of Politics; History; Sociology and Geography; Film and Media, Languages and Linguistics; Literatures and Cultures; Economics. The conference especially welcomes participation by postgraduate research students and by young scholars.

To propose a panel or a paper you will need to fill in a proposal form. There are separate forms for panels/roundtables and papers. The forms can be downloaded from the conference website You should download the appropriate form and fill it in electronically, and send it electronically to the appropriate subject stream email AND to the conference email address.

The deadline for panel/roundtable proposals is 3 October 2014, and 19 September 2014 for individual paper proposals.

Proposals should be submitted to the appropriate subject group:

Postgraduate members of BASEES who present papers are eligible to apply for financial support towards their conference costs. They should download the application form from the website and fill it in, and send to the appropriate subject stream email by 3 October 2014.

The congress also welcomes proposals for postgraduate posters. The poster will be displayed throughout the conference. Please fill in the proposal form (available from the website) and email it as an attachment to the conference email address AND the conference organiser, Dr Matthias Neumann by 1 December 2013.

General enquiries about the conference are welcome at

PhD Scholarship Opportunities in Russian, Central & East European Studies at The University of Glasgow

The School of Social and Political Science, Central and East European Studies subject area at The University of Glasgow encourages applications for a range of PhD studentships due to begin in September 2014. These studentships are offered on a self-funding and funded basis. Funded scholarships are offered through the ESRC Scottish Graduate School of Social Science (Language-based Area Studies pathway) in conjunction with CRCEES, and as part of the University of Glasgow’s College of Social Science Scholarship Competition 2014.    

General information about the Glasgow’s PhD programmes in Russian, Central and East European Studies can be found at:

Information on how to apply is available at:

 For information on available staff research interests and subject areas available for supervision please see:  


Scholarship Opportunities

 1.    The ESRC Scottish Graduate School of Social Science, Language-based Area Studies Pathway.

 ESRC-funded PhD scholarships in Language-based Area Studies in the field of Russian, Central and East European Studies are available at the University of Glasgow through CRCEES. These annual scholarships offer full fees and maintenance (subject to eligibility rules) are available on the following models depending upon your prior qualifications:

·         2+3 years - Master of Research (MRes) in Russian, Central and East European Studies + intensive language training to advanced level + PhD

·         1+3 years - Master of Research (MRes) in Russian, Central and East European Studies or intensive language training to advanced level + PhD

·         +3 years - PhD study

For information on CRCEES please see:

For application information and guidance please see:

Please note the following dates:

- Institutional deadline for programme applications: 4 February 2014 Individuals wanting more information or intending to apply must make themselves known to CRCEES by the 27 January 2014. Please email

- Nominated candidates will be informed of their selection no later than the 13 February 2014

- Nominated candidates must register on the ESRC portal by the 21 February 2014 and complete their application by the 7 March 2014

- Applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application no later than 9 May 2014.


2.    College of Social Science Scholarship Competition 2014

 This is an open competition. UK/EU and international applicants interested in undertaking a PhD in Russian, Central & East European studies are encouraged to apply. This scholarship provides 3 year (full-time) / 5 year (part-time) funding support, including full fees (at Home/EU or international rate), maintenance bursary (£13,863 FT / £6931.50 PT) and research support grant (£750 FT / £375 PT).

 For further information and details on how to apply please see:

 Please note the following dates:

 - Institutional deadline for programme applications: 3 February 2014 Individuals wanting more information or intending to apply must make themselves known to CRCEES by the 27 January 2014 at the very latest. Please email  


3.    Individuals interested in undertaking a Self-funded PhD do not have the same deadline requirements but are encouraged to contact the University as soon as possible to highlight their interest. University of Glasgow alumni benefit from a 10% reduction in fees.

For more information or if you have any questions about these funding opportunities or undertaking a PhD at the University of Glasgow in Russian, Central and East European Studies please contact the CEES PGR applications convenor Dr Eamonn Butler (


Job Announcement - Professor for Caucasus Studies, Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany

Friedrich Schiller University in Jena is seeking to fill a position as Professor for Caucasus Studies (tenured position, W3) at the earliest possible date.

The University Professor will be required to cover Caucasus Studies from an interdisciplinary perspective both in teaching and research; to continue and develop existing teaching and research collaboration with the chair; to master one or more languages of the Caucasus region and to hold a record of third-party funds acquisition. The candidate is required to develop a teaching concept that will strengthen the position of the University's existing BA- and MA education, and he or she must be able to successfully teach students of other disciplines who choose to take courses in Caucasus Studies.

We are looking for a candidate with an academic background in Philology, History or Ethnology who has conducted in-depth research in the region and who is connected to a regional academic network in the Caucasus. Furthermore, we expect the candidate to have experience in interdisciplinary integrated research projects (Verbundforschung) and he or she must have a proven record of the ability to use innovative research designs in outreach activities and publications.

Friedrich Schiller University is an equal opportunity employer, striving to increase the share of women in the university and we strongly encourage women to apply. In case of equal qualifications, applications from challenged persons are favored.

In case of a first-time professorial appointment, employment will be on tenure-track basis.

Please submit your application with the usual documentation (cover letter, curriculum vitae, documents) electronically to

Applications are accepted in German or English. All applications must entail the application form that can be downloaded at

Should you have any queries regarding the position or the selection procedure, please do not hesitate to contact Managing Director (Geschäftsführer) Dr. des. Matthias Braun (phone: +49.3641.9.44000, mail:

Closing date: 31.1.2014

PhD studentships, University of Sheffield for 2014

Applications are invited from suitably qualified candidates for admission to PhD study in the Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies, to begin during the 2014-2015 academic year.

We offer research expertise and supervision in the following broad areas:

- critical theory and the history of ideas (Prof. Evgeny Dobrenko, Prof. Craig Brandist)

- Russian and Soviet literary and film studies (Prof. Evgeny Dobrenko, Prof. Craig Brandist)

- history of art, visual culture and the aesthetics of everyday life in twentieth century Russia and the Soviet Union (Prof. Susan E. Reid)

- the linguistics of Slavonic languages, especially corpus linguistics, cognitive linguistics, studies of variation, and language  policy, with respect to Russian, Czech, Polish and Serbian (Prof. Neil Bermel, Dr Dagmar Divjak)

In addition, we offer the possibility of co-supervision with staff in the other Departments of the School (French, Hispanic Studies, Germanic Studies) via our School Research Clusters


    Visual Culture, Film and Performance

    Gender Studies

    Intellectual History and Politics

    Migration, Culture and Communities

    Literary Studies

Applications for the following scholarship opportunities must be submitted by 3 February 2014:

1) Following the announcement that the White Rose College of the Arts & Humanities (WRoCAH) has received £19m from the AHRC to establish a Doctoral Training Partnership that will create over 300 PhD studentships and join the expertise of the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York, we are pleased to announce a range of AHRC-funded PhD opportunities. Further details can be found on the White Rose College website:

2) Applications for the University Prize scholarships, the Harry Worthington scholarships, the Wolfson scholarships and Faculty scholarships are also open and further details about all of them can be found here:

Before submitting a funding application, scholarship applicants must have been accepted by the Department for a place on our programme. We strongly encourage applicants to discuss their research proposal with one of the research supervisors in the Department (listed above) in advance of submitting the application.

Further information about postgraduate study can be found here:

Please direct enquiries to the Graduate Tutor: Professor Susan E. Reid:

3) Caucasus Scholarship:  In addition to the above scholarships, the Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies also invites applications to the  Caucasus scholarship for doctoral research in one of the  following areas: 

a) The study of Caucasian folklore in the Marr circle;

b) The use and re-use of folklore in 20th-century Georgian literature.

For further detail concerning the Caucasus Scholarship, or to discuss your proposal please contact Professor Craig Brandist:

Professor Richard Peace

Prof Richard Peace

Prof Richard Peace

It is with sadness that the Department of Russian at Bristol informs the membership of BASEES of the sudden death of Richard Peace yesterday afternoon (Thursday 5 December).

Richard, who was born in 1933, was the first lecturer to be appointed to teach Russian at Bristol, in 1963, and he led the small sub-department, as it then was, until 1975, when he was appointed to a Chair of Russian at the University of Hull. He returned to Bristol in 1984, to take up the newly created Chair of Russian, and remained in Bristol, as Head of Department, until his retirement in 1994. Richard will be remembered for many things. He was one of the major students of classical Russian literature in his generation and a Vice-President of the International Dostoevsky Society. He was also a past President of our national association of Slavists (then BUAS), an active promoter of educational exchange with the Soviet Union, a tireless defender of his subject against the threats it faced and a respected and congenial colleague. It is of some consolation that just three weeks ago the department at Bristol celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of its foundation with a large gathering of colleagues, former colleagues and alumni and that Richard, who had led the department for twenty-two of its fifty years, greatly enjoyed this event.


Professor Derek Offord

BASEES Members - How To Join The SSEES Library

Reference access

Current academic staff and research students from all UK/Irish universities and abroad can register for a free annual reference ticket to the Library. Proof of ID and proof of status is required.

Taught students from University of London institutions are also eligible for free annual reference access. Proof of ID and proof of status is required.

Taught students from other UK/Irish universities can use the Library for free during UCL vacation periods, but not during term.

Retired staff (from institutions other than UCL), taught students from overseas and all other private scholars / members of the public have to pay a fee to use the Library. A day ticket costs £7, a weekly ticket is £20 and a monthly ticket costs £30.



Current academic staff and research students from all UK/Irish universities can apply for free borrowing access (up to 5 standard loan books at a time from any UCL library) if they wish. In  addition to proof of ID and proof of status, they would need to provide one passport photo and show proof of home address. A SCONUL Access Band ‘A’ card / letter is also required unless the person is from a University of London institution.

All other categories of external user have to pay to borrow books. Borrowing access (up to 3 standard loan books from SSEES library only) costs £100 per year. Proof of ID and proof of home address is required.

Anyone required further information on library membership should contact


Access to electronic resources

Electronic resources can be accessed via the Explore terminals (catalogues) in the SSEES Library. There are two terminals on each floor of the Library. Most electronic resources are licensed for use by all visitors to the Library, but a few resources are restricted by password to members of UCL only.

Off-site access to electronic resources is only available to UCL staff and students.

There are no printing facilities for visitors to the Library, but users can download and save articles to USB.

Further information on visitor access to electronic resources is available on the main Library Services website:

If members have any issues, please contact Dr Jeremy Hicks ( who can raise them with SSEES library committee.


Discount Offer - Classical and Contemporary Russian Literature

Duckworth publishers are delighted to be offering BASEES members the chance to purchase titles from the renowned Ardis list of Classical and Contemporary Russian Literature series at a discount of 30% (postage free). To receive a complete list of available Ardis titles and critical editions such as Pilnyak’s Naked Year or the anthology Russian Symbolist Theater, published in 2013 please email

Members can take advantage of this special offer (including postage) by calling our distributor on 01256 302699 and quoting the code 9QR and relevant ISBNs and having  their credit card details ready.  Alternatively, a cheque made payable to Macmillan Distribution (MDL) can be sent with a letter, address details and the offer code. All pre-ordered copies will be supplied upon publication. This offer is valid immediately and throughout 2014.

Sawyer Seminar Postdoctoral Fellowship 2014-2015 - Carnegie Mellon University.

Sawyer Seminar Postdoctoral Fellowship 2014-2015 - Carnegie Mellon University.

During 2014-15, Professors Wendy Goldman and Joe Trotter, Department of History, Carnegie Mellon University, will host a Sawyer Seminar on "The Ghetto: Concept, Conditions, and Connections in Transnational Historical Perspective, from the 11th Century to the Present." It will focus on four case studies of the ghetto: the confinement of European Jews (16th to 19th century), colonial policy in South Africa, Nazi ghettos, and segregation of African Americans. We invite scholars who have received their Ph.D. in or after 2010 and working in any of these four areas to apply for a one-year postdoctoral fellowship to involve regular participation in the Seminar. Send a cover letter, c.v., two letters of reference, writing sample, and a three-to-five page project proposal. The proposal should include a description of research, chapter outline of your dissertation, explanation of its significance to relevant fields, and plans and goals for the fellowship term. Send to Hikari Aday by 20 March 2014. Women and minorities are urged to apply. AA/EOE.

For more information, visit our website