born in Kharkov, Ukraine, in 1936. In 1943, while my
father was still fighting in WWII, my family returned to
the ruined city.
graduated from Kharkov Poitechnicum and moved to the
city of Krasnoyarsk in Siberia. I got my PhD from Moscow
Mendeleyev Institute and taught chemistry at the
Krasnoyarsk Institute of Technology. Siberia was the
background of all my professional life in Russia.
I became a
chemist, but I was always interested in a lot of other
things and I felt equally comfortable in sciences and
humanities. Serious music—classical and of the
20th century—was my biggest infatuation.
In 1971, I spent
four months in Leningrad, now Saint Petersburg. I lived
far uptown, in the neighborhood of Sosnovaya Polyana
("Pine Glade" in English). After long wandering
around the majestic city filled with shadows of history,
I started writing poems and could not stop until 1984. I
never tried to publish my poems, most of which were
politically incorrect in Communist Russia. Rejecting
compromises, I could agree only to all or nothing.
reader may find in my poems a naive mix of Christian and
Jewish themes. My very first religious book in atheist
Russia was the Buddhist Dhammapadha
). It deeply imprinted me for life.
Five years later, at the age of 25, I accidentally
found the Gospels. I managed to get access to the
Bible only at 40. At 45, I learned about the Judaism
of Talmud. "Jew" in Soviet Russia meant not
religion but ethnicity.
In the 70’s,
the Soviet Jews were already packing for Israel and USA,
but I was far from such intent in Siberia, where
anti-Semitism was somewhat low key. In 1976, however, I
learned that I had been under KGB surveillance because
of ties with my high school friend who was about to
emigrate. I realized that I had to budge. Next
year I moved with my daughter to Kharkov, my wife joined
me later, but when we applied for exit visas, the
refusal—prohibition on emigration—closed all doors for
I could not
wait quietly and became a refusenik activist. In 1983 I
was arrested and sent for three years to a Siberian
labor camp in Chita, 1000 miles east of
Krasnoyarsk. I took no part in investigation and trial.
to America in 1987. New life required all my energy. I
worked as indusrial research scientist, read a lot, got
interested in world history, but could not come back to
Russian poetry. I tried to write in English (see Neighborhood).
My book Memoirs
1984, written in English, was published in
Journey by Nancy Rosenfeld (1993) describes
some unexpected American and French repercussions of my
While I was
in the labor camp, some of my poems were published in
France and Israel. In 1985, I shared the Liberty Prize
of French PEN Club with Irina Ratushinskaya.
believe that poetry is everything what is not prose.
Poetry is fuzzy and impractical. It imposes on poets,
however, an impossible and cruel restriction: to speak
the language not spoken in everyday life, and moreover,
never spoken before.
It was very hard to
preserve the poems and smuggle them out of Russia. I owe
that to Mikhail Berman and, especially, Tanya Ioffe.
I retired in 1999. My current interests
lie in the field of Pattern Theory.
What is my website about? Quoting my Essay
60, Art and Nexistence, it is about "my
personal life long obsession with Everything and what
unifies the natures of Things and humans, as well as
what makes them different."
Narragansett, 2000 -