MOSCOW, July 19 (RIA Novosti) – A hundred and twenty years after his birth and 83 years after his suicide, literary rebel-cum-Communist Vladimir Mayakovsky remains one of modern Russia’s most popular poets, according to a new poll.
Mayakovsky is the second most popular Russian poet of the 20th century, according to a poll by the Levada Center published Thursday, a day before the poet’s 120th birthday.
Generations of Soviet school kids had to memorize his lines about the eternal glory of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin, or the pride of owning a Soviet passport – along with litanies of the Communist utopia and a didactic sermon about the good and the bad, addressed to an imaginary “baby son” the poet never had.
But there was another Mayakovsky – a rejected, heartbroken and suicidal lover and also an arrogant nihilist whose rebellious, exquisitely-rhyming lines might fit a modern heavy metal anthem or rap tune. He committed suicide in 1930, after the end of a not entirely monogamous relationship with Jewish Communist Lilya Brik and increasing disillusionment with Communist dogma.
His popularity is exceeded only by Sergei Yesenin, the heavy-drinking bard of the Russian countryside, who killed himself five years prior to Mayakovsky’s suicide. Vladimir Vysotsky, the actor and folk singer who died in 1980, came third in the list.
Prior to Mayakovsky’s birthday, a national television channel showed a somewhat glamorous mini-series about his life and love, and readings of his poems were held throughout Russia.
Although Mayakovsky’s suicide was widely seen as a symbol of the Soviet intelligentsia’s falling-out with the Communist regime, a cult began around him right after his death.
Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, who dabbled in poetry in his youth and studied theology before becoming a full-time Marxist revolutionary, turned the iconoclastic poet into an icon. Dubbed No. 1 Proletarian Poet, he became omnipresent on bookshelves and city squares, with his statues mushrooming all over the Soviet Union and his works published in the tens of millions.
Mayakovsky was widely translated into European languages and was popular among Western leftist intellectuals. US poet Frank O’Hara wrote a poem about him, and British singer Billy Bragg recorded an album named after one of his works entitled “Talking with the Taxman about Poetry.”
The Levada poll was held in late June and covered 1,601 respondents. It had a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.