The Second World War occupies a special place in Russian memory. Between the German invasion in 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. For Anna Akhmatova the Red Army was defending the Russian language as well as Russian soil (‘we will defend you, Russian speech’). Poems written by Red Army soldiers were published in newspapers and broadcast on the radio. Alexei Surkov’s ‘In the Dugout’ and Konstantin Simonov’s ‘Wait for Me’ were turned into popular songs.
Published to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the War, Russia is Burning brings together for the first time in any language poems written by Soviet soldiers and civilians, by émigré poets, prisoners of war and Gulag prisoners, by poets who wrote ‘for the drawer’ and by later writers who have tried to understand the war and its long-term effects on Russian society. Including poems by Boris Slutsky, Anna Akhmatova, Boris Pasternak, Olga Berggoltz, Alexander Tvardovsky, Samuel Marshak, Irina Bem, Evgeny Vinokurov, Vsevolod Nekrasov, Bulat Okudzhava, Vladimir Vysotsky and Ilya Ehrenburg, Russia is Burning is stunning testimony to the power of poetry to resist Fascism and a reminder of the extraordinary heroism and endurance of the Soviet people in the war against Nazi Germany.