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Rasul Gamzatov

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Updated: 05.11.2003

Russia's famous poet. Born September 8, 1923 - died October 2, 2003.

Rasul Gamzatov was born in the Avar village of Tsada in the north-east Caucasus. His father, Gamzat Tsadasa, was a well-known bard, heir to the ancient tradition of minstrelsy still thriving in the mountains, and Rasul's first tutor in the art of poetry.

In 1945 with a few books of his own in Avar and with a meagre sum of money in his pocket, Rasul Gamzatov arrived in Moscow to enter the Gorky Institute of Literature. There in the stimulating company of younger poets and under the guidance of veteran writers he studied Russian and world literature and the craft of poetry. By turns he fell in love with Blok, Mayakovsky, Yesenin, Pasternak, Tsvetayeva, Bagritsky, the Avar Makhmud and the German Heine. But Pushkin and Lermontov remained his constant love.

Over the past fifty years Rasul Gamzatov has been one of the most prolific of Soviet poets. His short love lyrics, long narrative poems, ballads, epigrams and philosophical octaves, have won him millions of devoted readers.

In recent years he lived in his home in Makhachkala. Winner of a Lenin Prize for poetry and honoured with the title of People's Poet of Dagestan, Rasul Gamzatov was a well-known public figure, chairman of the Union of Dagestan Writers. He has travelled widely in Europe, Asia and America.

Rasul Gamzatov wrote in his native Avar tongue, a language spoken by no more than 500,000 people.

Rasul Gamzatov has been fortunate in his Russian translators, Naum Grebnev and Yakov Kozlovsky, many of whose brilliant versions have become classics of Russian poetry. So much so that Rasul himself, reciting his poems in public in the strongly rhythmic guttural Avar tongue, often followed on smoothly and spontaneously with the Russian translation which he also knew by heart.

Related links:

Rasul Gamzatov's official site

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