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Soviet Poet Criticized in Moscow for Poem Denouncing Anti-semitism

September 28, 1961
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Evgeny Yevtushenko, one of the most prominent young Russian poets, was widely criticized by leading Soviet writers and critics in Moscow today for a poem denouncing anti-Semitism, according to dispatches received here from the Soviet capital.

Yevtushenko has written a poem entitled “Babi Yar,” in which he attacked anti-Semitism and declared that international Communism cannot triumph “until the last anti-Semite has been obliterated from the face of the earth. ” Babi Yar” is the name of a district in Kiev where a vast mass grave contains the remains of tens of thousands of Jews slaughtered in the Ukrainian capital during the Second World War under the Nazi occupation.

The poem was published in the leading Russian literary publication, Literaturrya Gazetta, Just prior to its publication, Yevtushenko read the poem to a large audience in one of Moscow’s concert halls, and the crowd, including many young people, applauded him wildly, the dispatches report.

Today, D. Starikov, a prominent Russian literary critic, attacked Yevtushenko, declaring his references to anti-Semitism were “provocative.” Writing in “Literature and Life,” organ of the Soviet Writers Union, Starikov denied that anti-Semitism exists in the Soviet Union and asked: “Why did the poet fail to mention the fight against anti-Semitism by Tolstoy, Chekhov, Gorko and Lenin?” Another famous Soviet poet, Alexei Markov, issued a statement calling Yevtushenko “a pigmy cosmopolitan.”

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