The island in Lake Sevan photographed sometime between the 1920s and 1940s, as Osip Mandelstam might have seen it (photo Wikimedia Commons)

Balakian Publishes New Essay on Poet Mandelstam and Armenia


HAMILTON, N.Y. — Peter Balakian’s new essay “Ending the Dry Spell: Mandelstam’s Journey to Armenia” has just been published in Literary Imagination (Volume 24, issue 2, July 2022). Osip Mandelstam (1891-1937) remains one of the most important poets of the 20th century. He was a major figure in Russian literary modernism whose steadfast commitment to his literary and aesthetic principles made him an enemy of Stalin’s new Soviet cultural repression. He was arrested and sent into exile to labor camps several times and died at the age of 47 in a Siberian transit camp. But, before he did, he made his now famous journey to Armenia in 1930, during which time the poet lived in lenient exile in order to escape the surveillance he was living under in Moscow.

Osip Mandelstam as a young man (photo Wikimedia Commons)

Balakian writes, with uncanny insight, about the depth of Mandelstam’s passion  for Armenia as nation and as a seminal a part of a larger geographic Mandelstam called “the holy land” of “Christian, Hellenic, and Judaic civilization.” He explores Mandelstam’s great essay “Journey to Armenia,” and the impact of Armenia on the poet’s imagination in the essay that ended the writer’s block that had plagued Mandelstam during the dark years of the late 1920s in Moscow.

A hardcover edition of Journey to Armenia

Balakian’s groundbreaking analysis of Mandelstam’s overlooked poem cycle “Armenia,” written immediately after the poet left Armenia in October of 1930, also sheds light on an important poem cycle that opened up Mandelstam to a new poetics that would define his final phase of writing. Balakian argues that understanding the poem cycle “Armenia” is essential to understanding one of the most important poets of the 20th century. “Ending the Dry Spell: Mandelstam’s Journey to Armenia” is essential for understanding Mandelstam and his love affair with the Armenian culture and history. See https://doi.rg/10.1093/litmag/imac022 .

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