Nikolai Alekseyevich Zabolotsky was born in 1903 in what
is now the city of Kazan and spent his early years in what later
became the Republic of Mari El and the Kirov Oblast. In 1920,
Zabolotsky moved to Moscow, enrolling simultaneously in the
departments of medicine and philology at the Moscow State
University, moving a year later to the Pedagogical Institute of
Leningrad State Pedagogical Institute. He had already begun
to write poetry, his main influences being the Futurist works
of Vladimir Mayakovsky and Velimir Khlebnikov, the lyrical
poems of Alexander Blok and Sergei Yesenin, and the art of
Pavel Filonov and Marc Chagall. During this period, Zabolotsky
met his future wife, E. V. Klykova.
In 1928, Zabolotsky, with Daniil Kharms and Alexander
Vvedensky, founded the avant-garde group Oberiu (the group’s
acronym stood for ‘The Association of Real Art’) and, in 1929,
his first book of poetry, Columns, was published
followed, in 1937, by a second poetry collection.
In 1938, Zabolotsky fell victim to Joseph Stalin’s ‘Great
Purge’; he was accused of taking part of a counter-revolutionary
plot with other Leningrad writers and sentenced to five years
in Siberia, a sentence that was prolonged until the end of the
Second World War. He was finally released in 1945.
Upon his return to Moscow in 1946, Zabolotsky was
readmitted to the Union of Soviet Writers and resumed his
work as a translator (particularly of Georgian poets) and on his
own poetry. The last few years of Zabolotsky’s life were beset by
illness and he died in Moscow in 1958..