Yevgeny Yevtushenko, an internationally acclaimed poet with the charisma of an actor and the instincts of a politician whose defiant verse inspired a generation of young Russians in their fight against Stalinism during the Cold War, died on Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he had been teaching for many years. He was 83.
His death, in a hospital, was confirmed by a close friend, Mikhail Morgulis, with the TASS news agency, Radio Free Europe reported.
It said he had been admitted late on Friday in “serious condition.”
His wife, Maria Novikova, and their two sons, Dmitry and Yevgeny, were with him when he died.
Yevgeny said his father’s doctors said that he was suffering from stage 4 cancer.
Yevtushenko’s poems of protest, often declaimed with sweeping gestures to thousands of excited admirers in public squares, sports stadiums and lecture halls, captured the tangled emotions of Russia’s young — hope, fear, anger and euphoric anticipation — as the country struggled to free itself from repression during the tense, confused years after Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953. In 1961 alone, Yevtushenko gave 250 poetry readings.
He gained international acclaim as a young revolutionary with Babi Yar, the unflinching 1961 poem that told of the slaughter of nearly 34,000 Jews by the Nazis and denounced the anti-Semitism that had spread throughout the Soviet Union.
At the height of his fame, Yevtushenko read his works in packed soccer stadiums and arenas, including to a crowd of 200,000 in 1991 that came to listen during a failed coup attempt in Russia.
He also attracted large audiences on tours of the West.
He was the best known of a small group of rebel poets and writers who brought hope to a young generation with poetry that took on totalitarian leaders, ideological zealots and timid bureaucrats.
However, Yevtushenko did so working mostly within the system, taking care not to join the ranks of outright literary dissidents.
By stopping short of the line between defiance and resistance, he enjoyed a measure of official approval that more daring dissidents came to resent.
Additional reporting by AP
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