Three Poems

Originals by Vsevolod Nekrasov

Translated, from the Russian, by Molly Dwyer

 believe it or not

and yet here they are
they believed

after all
they were ordered to

 верите ли

а ведь вот они

ведь им ведь

Oh ho ho

we have it good

they have it bad


what is bad there for them

is good here for us


why is it so

just because


we have
a Motherland


and what do they have


у нас-то хорошо

у них плохо


что у них плохо

то у нас хорошо


почему уж так

потому что


у нас


а у них что

Original by Vsevolod Nekrasov

Translated, from the Russian, by Victoria Juharyan

As the night

The Man

as it thickens

I slacken

The most august
thickest night

shacks anew

Let me take a breath
yes to breathe

to hold
to hold

to hold on

to hold on

to hold on

at least, at least

but at least


To take a breath
and that’s enough

как загустевает

не успевает

как она загустевает

Я не успеваю

густейшая ночь

еще дач

Дайте вздохнуть
да еще






хоть хоть

ну хоть


и хватит

Vsevolod Nekrasov (1934-2009), a lifelong resident of Moscow, became active in the literary and artistic underground in the late 1950s. Through the fall of the Soviet Union, his work only appeared in samizdat and European publications. At the beginning of his career, Nekrasov was associated with the experimental writers and artists of the Lianozovo group, and went on to become one of the founding members of Moscow Conceptualism.

Nekrasov’s poetry, which is often characterized as minimalist, uses repetition and paranomasia to deconstruct and recontextualize his linguistic environment—he targets everything from stock Soviet political mottos to clichés people mutter to one another in everyday situations. For example, by juxtaposing phrases the average Soviet citizen would have taken for granted with arbitrary-seeming homophones, Nekrasov calls official Soviet language to task for the numbness and thoughtlessness it promotes. When not overtly political, his poems examine this same tension between ‘outward speech’ and ‘inward speech,’ that is, between the language we use when talking to others and talking to ourselves.

Molly Dwyer is a Washington D.C.-based senior analyst, working in the intersection of technology and geopolitical affairs. Molly graduated from Princeton University with a major in Comparative Politics and a minor in Russian and Eurasian Studies. Before Princeton, Molly received the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) scholarship from the U.S. Department of State for a year of study in Kazan, Tatarstan; she went on to study in Moscow and Baku and intern at the U.S. Consulate in Yekaterinburg.

Victoria Juharyan is a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Russian and German at UC Davis. She was formerly a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pittsburgh, visiting faculty at Dartmouth College, and a visiting assistant professor of Russian and a graduate school instructor at Davis School of Russian at Middlebury College. Victoria completed her PhD in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Princeton University in 2018. She also holds an MA in Comparative Literature from Dartmouth Colleague and a BA in Literary Editing from St. Petersburg State University in Russia. Her research interests include the relationship between philosophy and literature, German Idealism and Russian Realism, nineteenth-century Russian literature, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, aesthetics, philosophy of emotion and cognition in literature, the theory of the novel, Bakhtin, Russian theater, poetry, and translation. In addition to completing a manuscript on Tolstoy’s philosophy of love titled The Cognitive Value of Love in Tolstoy: A Study in Aesthetics, Victoria is working on two other long term projects: one on Hegel’s influence on Russian literature, titled German Idealism and Russian Realism: Hegel’s Philosophy in Goncharov, Turgenev, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, and the other on the eighteenth-century Ukrainian philosopher Hryhorii Skovoroda, titled Socrates in Russia. Victoria is also the co-editor of Tolstoy Studies Journal and she serves on the Program Committee for Pre-1900 Russian Literature at AATSEEL.