Few poets stood higher on Joseph Stalin’s hit list than Anna Akhmatova, the Soviet doyen of reverie and suffering who was born near the Black Sea in 1899 to an upper-class family. Like many in her literary milieu before the Russian Revolution, she revolted against drowsy symbolism and became a poet of spiritual clarity and of simplicity—but she always resisted the characterization of her poems as the work of a seductive poetess or a counter-revolutionary. She preferred to consider herself a poet
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