by Gennady Aygi
Gennady Aygi (1934–2006), one of the most original of modern Russian poets, was born in the village of Shaymurzino, in the Chuvash Autonomous Republic, some 450 miles east of Moscow. His father was a village schoolteacher, his maternal grandfather a priest of the ancient Chuvash religion. Although he wrote mainly in Russian, he eventually became the national poet of Chuvashia, having published volumes of Chuvash poetry, translations from French, Polish, Russian and other languages, and an Anthology of Chuvash Poetry.
Expelled from the Gorky Literary Institute for his links with Pasternak, Aygi found a society of like-minded artists in the creative Moscow underground. For ten years he worked at the Mayakovsky Museum, organizing exhibitions of modern art, but generally he led a life of poverty, constantly harassed by officialdom; only with the advent of perestroika did he begin to be published in the Soviet Union and to accept numerous invitations to travel to the West. But from the 1960s onwards his Russian-language poetry was published and acclaimed throughout the world, being translated into more than twenty languages. Living mainly in Moscow, he was married four times and left seven children.