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World War occupies a special place in Russian memory. Between June 1941 and the
liberation of Berlin in May 1945, over 26
million Soviet civilians, servicemen and women were killed fighting the Nazis. The
war also occupies a special place in the history of Russian poetry. Poems
written by Red Army soldiers were published in newspapers and broadcast on the
radio. Alexander Tvardovsky’s much-loved epic poem Vasili Tyrokin was
turned into a play and a film. Alexei
Surkov’s ‘In the Dugout’ and Konstantin Simonov’s ‘Wait for Me’ became
well-known as popular songs.
Russia is Burning brings together for the first time in Russian and
English over fifty poets, including Boris Slutsky, Boris Pasternak, Olga
Berggoltz, , Alexander Tvardovsky, Samuel Marshak, Irina Bem, Evgeny Vinokurov,
Vsevolod Nekrasov, Bulat Okudzhava, Vladimir Vysotsky and Ilya Ehrenburg. It
includes poems written by soldiers on the front-line and civilians in the
Leningrad blockade, by émigré poets, by prisoners of war and Gulag prisoners, by
poets who wrote ‘for the drawer’ and by later writers who tried to understand
the war and its long-term effects on Russian society. Russia is Burning is a testimony
to the power of poetry to resist Fascism and to the extraordinary heroism and endurance
of the Soviet people in the war against Nazi Germany.