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Bulat Okoudjava

(1924-1997)



Okoudjava was born and brought up in a family that had suffered much from Stalinist reprisals. His father, once a big figure in the communist party, was executed and his mother spent years in a labor prison camp. He had to face the greatest ordeals of the 20th century: the terrors of repressions, the war, censorial persecution, conflicts of the times of the Soviet Union collapse and the raging of savage new Russian capitalism. He overcame all the tests with dignity and noble courage.


Okoudjava started writing verses when a child. In the 1957- 1958 he started singing his songs for his friends. Amateurish tape records of his private concerts soon spread all over the country and gained him love of the people. Once heard, his heartfelt songs would not be forgotten.

The success of his creations at that time to a great extend was due to the acute need for art directed toward the personality but not to the masses (while the latter was totally imposed by the mainstream Soviet art). That also explains the intense interest of the society in poetry in general.


Okoudjava was one of the first songwriters to sing his own songs alone to the guitar accompaniment. Soon he was followed by many other authors to form the genre of 'author's song' or 'bard song', with a whole constellation of names such as Novella Matveeva, Alexander Galich, Yuli Kim, Vladimir Vysotsky, and others. The aknowledged initiator of this genre, Okoudjava became its brightest representative and the tuning fork for bards.

The first professional record of Okoudjava's songs was released in Paris in 1968 in spite of the resistence of Soviet authorities. Soon his songs were heard in films and spectacles, at concerts and TV and radio programs.


One can hardly overestimate the impact of his creations on songwriters of his time and the following generations. Okoudjava's universal guideline for his followers was 'You write just like you breathe'. He also sang: 'Till poets sing the nation is alive'.









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