Vladimir Narbut

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Vladimir Narbut

Vladimir Ivanovich Narbut (Russian: Владимир Иванович Нарбут; Ukrainian: Володи́мир Іва́нович На́рбут) (1888–1938) was a Russian poet of Ukrainian descent, and member of the Acmeist group, brother of Ukrainian artist and graphic designer Georgy Narbut.


Vladimir Ivanovich Narbut was born on his family's estate at Narbutovka, near the town of Hlukhiv in the Chernigov Governorate of Russian Empire (now, the Sumy Oblast of Ukraine). In 1906, Narbut and his brother Georgii (the painter and graphic designer Georgii Ivanovich Narbut) moved to Saint Petersburg where Vladimir studied mathematics and Oriental languages. Narbut's poems first appeared in print in 1908 and two years later he published his debut collection of verse Stikhi. God tvorchestva pervy ('Poems. Year One of Creative Work'). His second collection, Alliluia ("Hallelujah," 1912)—filled with "grotesque and vivid imagery" according to the Handbook of Russian Literature—satirized the landed gentry,[1] and copies were seized by the police as pornographic. To avoid the ensuing scandal and a court trial, Narbut spent the next five months on an ethnographic expedition to Ethiopia and Somalia. He returned to Russia after the amnesty declared on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty in March 1913. On his return Narbut became the publisher and editor of the magazine Novy Zhurnal Dlya Vsekh until he had to give it up for financial reasons.

After the February Revolution broke out in 1917, Narbut joined the Bolsheviks. One night early in 1918, armed men broke into the Narbut family home and killed his brother Sergei. Narbut himself was wounded and had to have his left hand amputated. During the Russian Civil War, Narbut published literary magazines in Voronezh and Kiev. He was arrested by the White Guards in Rostov-on-Don and imprisoned until being released by the Red Army. In the 1920s, he edited the magazines Lava and Oblava in Odessa and issued further collections of his own verse, including Aleksandra Pavlovna (1922), the last to appear in his lifetime. In 1928 he was accused of not telling the truth about his imprisonment by the Whites and was expelled from the Communist Party. He began writing lyrics again in the 1930s and another collection, Spiral, was due to be published when he was arrested on October 26, 1936, and accused of belonging to subversive "Ukrainian nationalist" group. He sentenced to five years in the Gulag. He was incarcerated in prison camps near Vladivostok and Magadan, and the circumstances of his death and its date are uncertain, the registered date of 1944 in all likelihood invented. He was either summarily shot in 1938 or was drowned with a group of prisoners in sealed barge in the Arctic Ocean (according to Nadezhda Mandelshtam).

A translation of Narbut's poem "Portrait" appears in the anthology Modern Russian Poetry, ed. Vladimir Markov and Merrill Sparks (Bobbs Merrill, 1967).


  1. ^ Victor Teras, Handbook of Russian Literature, 292.


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