Skip to main content

Distributed for Seagull Books

The Prison Poems of Nikolai Bukharin

Nikolai Bukharin (1888–1938), an original Bolshevik leader and a founder of the Soviet state, spent the last year of his life imprisoned by Stalin, awaiting a trial and eventual execution. Remarkably during that time, from March 1937 to March 1938, Bukharin wrote four book-length manuscripts by hand in his prison cell. Seventy years later, The Prison Poems is the last of the four prison manuscripts, which include How It All Began: The Prison Novel and Socialism and Its Culture, to be published, allowing readers to grasp Bukharin’s vision in its full extent.

Bukharin organized the nearly 180 poems in this volume, written from June to November 1937, into several series. One dealing with forerunners to the 1917 Russian Revolution and another focusing on the Russian Civil War contain commentary not found in the other prison manuscripts. The same is true of the “Lyrical Intermezzo” poems for and about Anna Larina, his young wife, from whom he was separated by his imprisonment.

This first English translation of Bukharin’s Prison Poems is a compelling read, evidencing the powerful intersection of politics and art.

572 pages | 5 x 8 | © 2009

The Prison Manuscripts


Seagull Books image

View all books from Seagull Books


"Bukharin (1888-1938) was among the leading lights of the Bolsheviks, a friend and colleague of Lenin, who labeled him "the favorite of the party," and of Stalin, who was later to order his death in one of the show trials.  . . . [The poems’] value, particularly those in ’Lyrical Intermezzo,’ stems from the human circumstances of the author. . . . Recommended."

D.B. Johnson | Choice

Table of Contents

Translator’s Introduction
Author’s Preface

An Egyptian Priest’s Lament; (From an Ancient Papyrus); The Blacksmith’s Apron; (A Legend from Ancient Iran); Spartacus; Peasant War; Pugachóv Encaged; Precursors; Thunderstorm (The French Revolution); The Dreamer (Charles Fourier); 1848; John Brown (A Ballad); Chernyschevsky on the Scaffold; The Paris Commune; 1905

Civil War [1917-1920]
Smolny; Sabotage; Lenin at a Factory; The Tauride Palace; Predators; In the Coils of the Constrictor; White Church Bells; Raven; Osmushka (Eighth of a Pound of Bread); Zhanna, Faithful and True; Earthquake; The Latvian Rifles; For Bread!; Yudenich Marches on Petrograd; Perekop

Nature -- Mother of All
Nature -- Mother of All; Journey by Air; Blue Ferganá; White Nights; Autumn Gold; Crystal Kingdom; (On the Summits of Tien Shan); Black Sea; Out on the Steppe; In the Taiga; Stars Above Ice; Altai Rapids; Vultures; Crab; At the Black Grouse Breeding Ground; Hawk Moth Carousers and Revellers; Birch Tree; On the Wild Boar’s Track; Mushrooms; In the Grass; Flowers; Spring’s Elemental Forces; Rainbow’s Arch; Electron World; Biosphere; Opening of the Treasure Troves; Swifts; Avalanche; Storm at Sea; Northern Lights; Dust-Devil Shirlwinds; Downpour; Sunset

Heritage; Europe and Asia; Hellas; Land Under a Spell (India); Behind the Great Wall (China); Voice of the Buried Sun (Aztec, Inca, Maya); Gothic Cathedral (Mediaeval Europe); The Renaissance; Schools of Painting; Voices of the Past; Makers of Machines; Science; The Master (Leonardo da Vinci); The Great Unknown; (William Shakespeare); The Lord Chancellor Philosopher; (Francis Bacon); Amor Dei intellectualis; (Baruch Spinoza); Phalanx of Sword-Bearers; (The Encyclopaedists); Worlds in Formulas (Isaac Newton); ’The Colossal Old Fellow’ (Hegel); The Eyes of Zeus (Goethe); Temple of Human Glory; (Ludwig van Beethoven); The Lyre of Irony (Heinrich Heine); The Brightness of Joy (Alexander Pushkin); The Count in Peasant’s Bast Slippers; (Leo Tolstoy); The Secret of the Human Species; (Charles Darwin); Mad Prophet (Friedrich Nietzsche); Swamps of Decay; Twilight of the Gods

War of Worlds
War of Worlds; The Masses; Adversaries; Ideal Types; Greed; Brutality; Selfishness; Jealousy; Paris, Light of Wing; Berlin Barracks; Octopus London; New York, with Its Towers; The Colonies; Path of Thorns (Soviet China); Economic Crisis; Blood-soaked Spain; Prometheus and the Red Cap of Liberty; (A Joking Fairy-Tale Medley from Various Lands and Times); Leningrad; The Bugler Plays Reveille; Red Army Song; Song of the Pilots (of the Red Air Force); Red Sailors’ Song; Dance of the Gorillas; Berlin Zoo; Lament of Shame; Conversation Between Two Worlds; An Old Prejudice Shaken; Birth of Humanity

Lyrical Intermezzo
Tristia; Remembrance; White Snows; Eyes; Together; To a Hittite Maiden; Nymph; Parting; Universal Love; Beginnings; Conception; Moonlight Sonata; Glory to Life; Anthem to the Sun; Idol; Young Woman’s Song; Car Chase; Sirin and Alkonost; Rádunitsa; The Road; ’After Horace’; Spring (In Imitation of Ausonius); A Dream; Battle of Ideas (A Sonnet); Meditationes; To a Jewish Maiden; Ancient Landscape; On a Bridge; Night

Epoch of Great Works
Emancipation of Labour; Stone Tablets of the Five-Year Plans; The Lever of Archimedes; Metamorphosis; The Land (Zemlyá); Kulak Perdition; Symphony of Cooperative Labour; Shock Workers; The Stalin Charter; Masters of Fate; Capital of the World; Birds of a New Kind; (Song of the Flight to the North Pole); Round Dance of the Women Paratroops; Women; Sasha -- Woman Tractor Driver; Mothers; (Kalos kai agados); Flesh and Spirit; Fragments and the Whole; Diversity; Vanity of Vanities; Flowering of Nations and Peoples; Pearl Necklace (Song about Kabardá)

The Future
The Universal Human Race; Laurel Wreaths of Brotherhood; Life-Creativity; Death and Life; Infinity

  Bukharin’s Letter to Anna Mikhailovna Larina, 15 January 1938
  Translator’s Note on Bukharin’s ’Chronological Listing’ of the Prison Poems
  Bukharin’s ’Chronological Listing’
  Translator’s Note on Bukharin’s ’Systematic Listing’

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press