Nadezhda Mandelstam

Nadezhda Mandelstam
Nadezhda Mandelstam

Nadezhda Yakovlevna Mandelstam (Russian: Наде́жда Я́ковлевна Мандельшта́м, née Khazina; 30 October [O.S. 18 October] 1899 – 29 December 1980) was a Russian writer and educator, and the wife of the poet Osip Mandelstam, who died in 1938 in a transit camp to the gulag of Siberia. She wrote two memoirs about their lives together and the repressive Stalinist regime: Hope Against Hope (1970) and Hope Abandoned (1974), both first published in the West in English, translated by Max Hayward.

Of these books the critic Clive James has written : "Hope Against Hope puts her at the centre of the liberal resistance under the Soviet Union. A masterpiece of prose as well as a model of biographical narrative and social analysis it is mainly the story of the terrible last years of persecution and torment before the poet [ her husband Osip] was murdered. The sequel, Hope Abandoned, is about the author's personal fate, and is in some ways even more terrible, because , as the title implies, it is more about horror as a way of life than as an interruption to normal expectancy. [The two books] were key chapters in the new bible that the twentieth century had written for us." [1]


Early life and education

Nadezhda Khazina was born in Saratov, southern Russia, the youngest of four children (she had an older sister and two older brothers) of a middle-class Jewish family. Her parents were Yakov Arkad'evich Khazin and Vera Yakovlevna Khazina, and the family was wealthy enough to travel. Her mother was among the first group of women in the Soviet Union to complete training as a medical doctor, and her father was an attorney. The family did not practice Judaism, and kept Russian Orthodox holidays. Later they converted to Christianity.[2] The family moved to Kiev, Ukraine, for Nadezhda's father's work, a larger city with greater cultural and educational opportunities. There she attended school. After gymnasium (secondary school), Nadezhda studied art.


Nadezhda met the poet Osip Mandelstam at a nightclub in Kiev in 1919,[3] and they started a relationship which led to marriage in 1921-1922. They lived in Ukraine at first, but moved to Petrograd in 1922. Later they lived in Moscow, and Georgia. Osip was arrested in 1934 for his poem entitled "Stalin Epigram" and exiled with Nadezhda to Cherdyn, in Perm Oblast. Later the sentence was lightened and they were allowed to move to Voronezh in southwestern Russia, but were still banished from the largest cities, which were the artistic and cultural centers.

After Osip Mandelstam's second arrest in May 1938 and his subsequent death at the transit camp "Vtoraya Rechka" near Vladivostok that year, Nadezhda Mandelstam led an almost nomadic life. Given the repression of the times, she tried to dodge an expected arrest, and frequently changed places of residence and took only temporary jobs. On at least one occasion, in Kalinin, the NKVD came for her the day after she fled. As her mission in life, she set out to preserve her husband's poetic heritage, with the goal of publication one day. She managed to keep most of it memorized because she did not trust paper. Many years later, she was able to work with other writers to have it published.

Through the terrible years, she managed to gain her college degree and taught English in various provincial towns. After the death of Joseph Stalin, when government's repression eased, Nadezhda Mandelstam returned to her studies and completed her dissertation in linguistics (1956).[4] It was not until 1964 following the first phase of Mandelstam's rehabilitation (under Nikita Khrushchev) that the government allowed her to return to Moscow. She had spent 20 years in a kind of internal exile until the "thaws" of the late 1950s.[4] Nadezhda began writing her memoir, which was published in English as Hope Against Hope in 1970, in part as a way of restoring her husband's memory and integrating her own struggles. It first circulated in a samizdat version in the Soviet Union in the 1960s.[4][5]

In her memoirs, Hope Against Hope (memoir) (1970, 1977) and Hope Abandoned (1974, 1981), first published in the West, she made an epic analysis of her husband's life and times. She elevated her husband as the figure of an artistic martyr under Stalin's repressive regime.[4][6] She criticizes the moral and cultural degradation of the Soviet Union of the 1920s and later. The titles of her memoirs are puns, as nadezhda in Russian means "hope".

In 1976 Mandelstam gave her archives to Princeton University in the United States. Nadezhda Mandelstam died in 1980 in Moscow, aged 81.



  1. ^ Clive James, Cultural Amnesia, pp. 414-415
  2. ^ Holmgren, 1993, pp. 99-101
  3. ^ Holmgren, pp. 104-105
  4. ^ a b c d Beth Holmgren, Women's Works in Stalin's Time: On Lidiia Chukovskaia and Nadezhda Mandelstam, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1993, p. 115, accessed 8 Nov 2010
  5. ^ Holmgren, p. 114
  6. ^ Holmgren, p. 124

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