Bulat Okudzhava 09.05.1924- 12.06.1997
Academician of The Russian Academy of Arts. Poet, Composer, Writer, Proseman and Screenwriter.
USSR State Prize Laureate, Sakharov Prize for Writer’s Civic Courage Laureate, Russian Booker Prize Laureate. Golden Crown First Prize Laureate, Golden Guitar Festival in Sanremo Prize Laureate. Honorary Doctorate in Liberal Arts from Norwich University.
Companion of the Order of Friendship of Peoples, Medal for the Defense of the Caucasus, Medal of Honor of the Soviet Peace Foundation.
Bulat Okudzhava suffered grievous wrongs in his childhood. His parents were arrested, father died and mother was sentenced and sent to labor camp. He was just a youth when the Great Patriotic War began. In 1942 he went to the front as a volunteer and was wounded near Mozdok. «I was a funny soldier. — Bulat Shalvovich recalled. — I guess there was not much use of me. But I tried a lot to satisfy everyone. I shoot when needed, though it didn’t make me happy. Believe me, killing wasn’t a pleasant thing at all.» Since those days he hated war and was against all kind of military development in Afghanistan and Chechnya. In the same time he always loved Victory Day, which happened to fall on his birthday.
Bulat Okudzhava was always serious about war and veterans. An Andrey Smirnov’s film Belarus Station with his song We’ll Pay a Heavy Price for Victory made him nationally famous. «The director wanted lyrics written not by a professional poet but a man sitting in a trench and writing rhymes about his friends, — Bulat Okudzhava said. — I thought that I couldn’t do it right. I always tried to write about war from a point of view of a man of peace. But it should be something from there. And we were absolutely different persons at the front. Suddenly my memory worked it out. I remembered the war and almost saw that amateur poet in a trench. But the first line came much later: «There is no place for birds, there is no any trees…»
Cinematographers didn’t often ask him for cooperation, but it was always the best choice. Bulat participated in such films as Chain Reaction, I am Twenty, Zhenya, Zhenechka and Katyusha, The Key That Should Not Be Handed On, Legal Marriage and Guard Me, My Talisman. Together with Isaac Schwartz they wrote more than thirty songs for films including Your Excellency Lady Luck from White Sun of the Desert, a horse-guardsman’s song from The Captivating Star of Happiness, Love and Parting from We Weren’t Married in Church and songs from A Golden-colored Straw Hat.
Bulat Okudzhava was undoubtedly an outstanding poet. But he also wrote prose. According to critics his stories and novels revealed new sides of historical literature to readers. There are few of those who can match him in cleanness and beauty of narrative text. His works Gulp of Freedom about Mikhail Bestuzhev, Poor Avrosimov about Pavel Pestel, Travel of Dilettantes, A Meeting with Bonaparte and an adventure novel called Merci or Adventures ofShipov are undeniable classics of Russian literature.
At the same time Bulat Okudzhava had a pretty strong sense of irony and could make fun of seemingly serious things. Though, he could also be delicate. These two sides of his character were a part of his innate intelligence described by himself as the ability of thinking independently, searching for knowledge and sacrificing it at the altar of the motherland. «Besides that, intelligence, in my own opinion, is a state of soul, -Bulat noticed. — Ethic criteria are very important: respect, conscience, tolerance, ability to change one’s opinion, self-irony and intolerance to violence. Perhaps I didn’t mention something. Maybe someone wouldn’t agree with me at all. I don’t pretend to be ultimately right, just thinking.»
The pursuit of independence and anti-despotism were distinctive features of Bulat Okudzhava as a citizen. He was an honest man and truly expressed his feelings. And his words weren’t kindly accepted by everyone. But due to Bulat the whole generation of Soviet intellectuals knew the difference between good and evil. «Bulat was neither pro- nor anti-governmental, — his legal advocate Zoya Krakhmalnikova said. — He was not only a great poet and bard but also a man of conscience. When he was unable to protect us from troubles, he tried to find hope. And then he divided it between everyone.»