Punin, N. N. (Nikolaĭ Nikolaevich)

Alternative names
Birth 1888
Death 1953-08-21

Biographical notes:

Nikolai Nikolaevich Punin was born on 28 Nov. 1888 into the family of a Russian army medical officer stationed in Helsinki. After graduating from the classical gymnasium at Tsarskoe Selo he attended St. Petersburg University from 1907 until 1914. Punin began a career as an art scholar and critic, writing for major St. Petersburg periodicals and co-founding the Department of Iconography in the Russian Museum of St. Petersburg.

In 1917 N. N. Punin married Anna Arens, a physician; they had one daughter, Irina. After the Bolshevik Revolution he continued his work as a scholar and critic in St. Petersburg, editing as well the journals Iskusstvo Kommuny and Izobrazitel'noe Iskusstvo . Punin's life from 1920 on was marked by repeated investigations and arrests by the Soviet secret police, but even so he was able to maintain his career with some success.

In the middle 1920s Punin began an affair with the poet Anna Akhmatova which lasted until the eve of the Second World War. In the final years of his life with Akhmatova, Punin was arrested a second time; finally after the Second World War, in 1949, he was arrested and sent to Siberia, where he died at Vorkuta on 21 Aug. 1953.

One of the century's great poets, Anna Akhmatova was born in the Ukraine, near Odessa, in 1889. As the young wife of the Acmeist poet Nikolai Gumilëv, Akhmatova began writing poetry and quickly established a major reputation. After the couple's son Lev was born in 1917 Akhmatova and Gumilëv divorced; in 1921 Gumilëv was executed without trial by the Soviet authorities.

Increasingly repressive political and cultural policies made it impossible for her to publish her poetry in the years down to the Second World War. After a period of cynical rehabilitation during the war Akhmatova was again forbidden to publish in the years preceding Stalin's death in 1953. Only in the final years of her difficult life did Akhmatova find it possible to publish her work without serious official hindrance and to enjoy a measure of public recognition in her homeland and abroad. She died in 1966.

From the guide to the N. N. Punin Diaries and Correspondence TXRC99-A9., 1910-1939, (bulk 1915-1926), (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin)


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  • Art critics--Russia--Biography
  • Poets, Russian--20th century--Biography
  • Political prisoners--Russia


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