If you are learning Russian or just interested in Russian literature you must have been familiar with the poet Anna Akhmatova (1889–1966). I learned about her in elementary school in my Russian language class and since then I loved reading her poetry. When I finally had the opportunity to visit St. Petersburg I also visited her apartment turned into a museum in 1989.
Shortlisted Nobel Prize nominee, Anna Akhmatova was a famous poet who lived in a thought time of the Stalinist Dictatorship. Her modest apartment with tens of thousands of personal items is a witness to the Stalinist era, first and second World Wars, and authentic early 20th century Russia.
The house was called Fountain House and it was built in 1750 on land given by Peter I to Field-Marshal Count Boris Sheremetev in 1712. Until the October Revolution, it was home to five generations of the Count’s descendants.
Akhmatova’s second husband, the poet, and orientalist Vladimir Shileiko tutored the last Count’s children, and after the family fled she lived with him for two years in his lodgings in the northern wing of the palace.
The apartment in the southern wing, which now houses the museum, was assigned to her third husband, the art historian Nikolai Punin, and Akhmatova lived there until her death.
The museum houses her items, photographs, original furniture, sculptures, artwork, and so much more. every literary lover will find themselves imagining her at her desk writing poems like “The Last Toast”, “Requiem”, and other masterpieces. Part of the museum is also dedicated to Akhmatova’s son, the controversial historian Lev Gumiliev, and to Joseph Brodsky, who is considered her literary heir.
There are two more museums dedicated to the poet. One is also in St. Petersburg and it is called “Anna Akhmatova. The Silver Age”. It is located on the ground floor of an ordinary apartment building in the vicinity of Avtovo. The other museum is in a village Slobidka-Shelekhivska in Khmelnytskyi Oblast, Ukraine. It is called the “Literary-memorial museum of Anna Akhmatova”.
In the Evening
There was such inexpressible sorrow
in the music in the garden.
The dish of oysters on ice
smelt fresh and sharp of the sea.
He said to me ‘I am a true friend!’
He touched my dress.
There is no passion
in the touch of his hands.
This is how one strokes a cat or a bird,
this is how one looks at a shapely horsewoman.
There is only laughter in his eyes
under the light gold of his eyelashes.
The violins’ mourning voices
sing above the spreading smoke:
‘Give thanks to heaven:
you are alone with your love for the first time.
You will hear thunder
You will hear thunder and remember me,
And think: she wanted storms. The rim
Of the sky will be the color of hard crimson,
And your heart, as it was then, will be on fire.
That day in Moscow, it will all come true,
when, for the last time, I take my leave,
And hasten to the heights that I have longed for,
Leaving my shadow still to be with you.
Everything’s looted, betrayed and traded,
black death’s wing’s overhead.
Everything’s eaten by hunger, unsated,
so why does a light shine ahead?
By day, a mysterious wood, near the town,
breathes out cherry, a cherry perfume.
By night, on July’s sky, deep, and transparent,
new constellations are thrown.
And something miraculous will come
close to the darkness and ruin,
something no-one, no-one, has known,
though we’ve longed for it since we were children.