Osip Mandelstam, also Osip Mandel'shtam, was born in Warsaw and grew up in St.Petersburg. His father was a successful leather-goods dealer and his mother a piano teacher. Mandelstam's parents were Jewish, but not very religious. At home Mandelstam was taught by tutors and governesses. He attended the prestigious Tenishev School (1900-07) and traveled then to Paris (1907-08) and Germany (1908-10), where he studied Old French literature at the University of Heidelberg (1909-10). In 1911-17 he studied philosophy at St. Petersburg University but did not graduate. Mandelstam was member of 'Poets Guild' from 1911 and hand close personal ties with Anna Akhmatova and Nikolai Gumilev. His first poems appeared in 1910 in the journal Apollon.

As a poet Mandelstam gained fame with the collection 'KAMEN' (Stone), which appeared in 1913. The subject matters ranged from music to such triumphs of culture as the Roman classical architecture and the Byzantine cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. It was followed by 'TRISTIA' (1922), which confirmed his position as a poet, and 'STIKHOTVORENIA' 1921-25, (1928). In Tristia Mandelstam made connections with the classical world and contemporary Russia as in Kamen, but among the new themes was the notion of exile. The mood is sad, the poet is saying his farewells: "I have studied science of saying good-by in 'bareheaded laments at night'.

Mandelstam welcomed February 1917 Revolution but he was hostile at first to October 1917 Revolution. In 1918 he worked briefly for Anatoly Lunacharskii's Education Ministry in Moskow. With his frequent visits to the south Mandelstam avoided much of the troubles that complicated everyday life during the Civil War. After Revolution his views about contemporary poetry became harsh. The poetry of young people was for him a ceaseless cry of an infant, Mayakovsky was childish and Marina Tsvetaeva tasteless. He only accepted Pasternak and also admired Akhmatova.

In 1922 Mandelstam married Madezhda Iokovlevna Khazin, who accompanied him throughout his years of exile and imprisonment. In the 1920s Mandelstam supported himself by writing children's books and translating works by Upton Sinclair, Jules Romains, Charles de Coster and others. He did not compose poems from 1925 to 1930 but turned to prose. In 1930 he made a trip to Armenia. Mandelstam saw his role as an outsider and drew parallels with his fate and Pushkin's. The importance of preserving the cultural tradition became for the poet a central concern. The Soviet cultural authorities were rightly suspicious of his loyalty to the Bolshevik rule. To escape his influential enemies Mandelstam traveled as a journalist in the distant provinces. Mandelstam's Journey to Armenia (1933) became his last major work published during his life time.

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