Zabolotsky, Nikolai Alexeevich (1903–1958) By Syvarth, Kristina
Nikolai Alexeevich Zabolotsky was a Russian poet and translator, and a member of the avant-garde absurdist group Oberiu (a modified acronym for Obedinenie Realnogo Iskusstva [Association for Real Art]). He was born in Kizicheskaya Sloboda on 7 May 1903, and died in Moscow on 14 October 1958. Zabolotsky is best known for his work with the late avant-garde, alongside Daniil Kharms and Alexander Vvedensky in their absurdist group, Oberiu. In 1920 Zabolotsky moved away from his family in Urzhum to Moscow to study medicine and philology at Moscow University. Only a year later he moved to Petrograd (now St Petersburg) and enrolled in the Pedagogical Institute of St Petersburg State University. After graduating in 1925, Zabolotsky met Kharms and Vvedensky at a poetry reading and in 1928 they formed Oberiu, a group that gained notoriety for their nonsensical verse and absurdist theatrical productions. By 1931 Oberiu’s activity began to decline under the pressure of the Stalinist purges and the officially sanctioned Socialist Realism. In 1938 Zabolotsky was arrested in one of Stalin’s purges for his anti-Leninist philosophic views and sent to Siberia. He spent much of his time in Siberia working on his translation of the Kievian Rus’ epic, The Lay of Igor’s Host. Twelve years later he was released, and he moved to Moscow where he spent the remainder of his life writing translations and poetry.