Russian television to feature Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Friday, November 30, 2012

A special biography about the TU instructor will air on Moscow's Channel One in 2013

A Moscow television crew directed by Russian biographer Solomon Volkov visited The University of Tulsa this week to interview TU Professor Yevgeny Yevtushenko.

Yevtushenko, an internationally known and often controversial Russian poet, novelist and filmmaker, has served as a Distinguished Professor in TU’s Department of English for 17 years. He currently teaches Russian and European Cinema as well as Masterpieces of Russian Literature.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko“He is literally the most famous living poet in the world,” said TU Provost Roger Blais, who said Yevtushenko found Tulsa in a very unique way. Blais said then-TU President Bob Donaldson, who is currently a TU political science professor, had convinced Yevtushenko to appear in Tulsa. Once in Oklahoma, the poet confided in Donaldson that he liked the city because it reminded him of the people in his Siberian hometown.

“Yevtushenko was invited to speak at TU and taken to lunch at the Wild Fork restaurant. While walking out of the establishment, he heard Lara’s Theme playing from the movie Dr. Zhivago,” Blais said. “He thought the song was a good omen and he decided to move to Tulsa.”

Yevtushenko accepted an offer from Donaldson to teach one semester a year, an appointment that became full-time more than a decade ago.

“It’s been terrific for our students and the city of Tulsa,” Donaldson said.

As a poet, Yevtushenko has toured the world to present readings of his works, now translated into 72 languages. He has visited 94 countries and read his poems in every American state. Some of his most famous works include two poems published in 1961, Nasledriki Stalina and Babi Yar, which inspired the Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich, to write Symphony No. 13. That same year, Yevtushenko was featured on the cover of Time magazine.

His film career began in the 1950s, and he contributed to several Soviet films in the 1960s. In 1979, he was the lead role in Vzlyot (Take-Off) playing a Russian rocket scientist. Yevtushenko contributed as a writer and director to Detsky Sad (Kindergarten) in 1983 and Pokhorony Stalina (Stalin’s Funeral) in 1990.

In addition to TU, Yevtushenko has taught at Queens College in New York and the University of Pennsylvania. He is a member of the Ogoniok magazine editorial board, the European Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts.

Volkov filmed his interview of Yevtushenko in the Ann and Jack Graves Faculty Study of TU’s McFarlin Library this week. The final production will be featured in a major television production on Moscow’s Channel One next year to mark the poet’s 80th birthday.

“The program will be a highlight of the station’s 2013 season,” said Volkov, a respected journalist and historian. He also plans to publish the Yevtushenko interviews in a book Conversations with Yevtushenko, the sixth in his “Conversations” biography series.

“I’ve been wanting to do a book on Yevgeny Yevtushenko for 30 years,” Volkov said.

Yevtushenko and his wife, Masha who teaches Russian at Tulsa’s Edison Preparatory School, reside in Tulsa along with their two sons who are current TU students.

Gail Banzet