Language Resident: Aleksandra Bystrova

Date: 10/05/2021

Class theme/topic discussed: Soviet Poetry of the Khrushchev Thaw (1960s)

Goal of the class: 

  • Learn about the poetry during the Khrushchev Thaw
  • Practice translating and listening skills
  • Get to know the Soviet director, screenplay writer and poet Gennadiy Shpalikov

Class structure:

  1. Greetings and warm-ups.
    Discussion in pairs: Do you like poetry? Who is your favorite poet if you have one? Do you know any Soviet or Russian poets?
  2. Introduction. Gennadiy Shpalikov
    I briefly introduce the biography of Gennady Shpalikov to the class. Why he was important for the “Ottepel” (the Khrushchev Thaw) and what the general atmosphere in the culture at that time was. I ask students if they know something about 1960s culture in the Soviet Union.
    “В воздухе была надежда на свободу, и мы дышали этим воздухом, а как точно заметил Сергей Соловьев, Шпаликов этот воздух создавал” (Юлий Файт)
  3.  Activity 1. Translate a poem.
    I give students a handout with the Shpalikov’s poem “Людей теряют только раз” (“You lose people only once…”) translated in English and ask them to come up with a Russian translation for this poem. I put students into two groups, so every group come up with their own translation. Then, I ask them to present their poems to the rest of the class.
  4. Activity 2. Comparison with an original.
    Александр Яценко – “Людей теряют только раз”
    I show students a video of a Russian actor Alexander Yazenko reading this poem in a studio. Before that, I give them a handout with an original text, so students can compare their poems with the original.
Геннадий Шпаликов
Людей теряют только раз,
И след, теряя, не находят,
А человек гостит у вас,
Прощается и в ночь уходит.
А если он уходит днем,
Он все равно от вас уходит.
Давай сейчас его вернем,
Пока он площадь переходит.
Немедленно его вернем,
Поговорим и стол накроем,
Весь дом вверх дном перевернём
И праздник для него устроим.    
Gennady Shpalikov
Translated by Igor Skryagin and Aleksandra Bystrova  
All people may be lost just once,
And a lost trace may not be found,
When a person, who is staying with you,
Leaves into the night, saying «goodbye».
And if they leave in the afternoon,
They leave you anyway.
Let’s return them right now,
While they are crossing the square.
Let’s return them immediately,
And talk to them, and set the table,
Turn the whole house upside down
And arrange a feast for them.  
Activity 1. Translate the poem.
Activity 2. Comparison with the original

What worked well in this class? What did not work?
Students came up with beautiful translations of the poem. They were very engaged into translating it. If students are interested in the Soviet culture and poetry, it can be a very enjoyable class. However, if students don’t like poetry it might be challenging. The level of the poem is appropriate for advanced learners. The groups of two students in each group worked well.

How could this class be improved/ modified? 
I would leave it as it is. If you have more time left, you can do the same with another poem from the Thaw’s poet Bella Ahmadulina “В тот месяц май, в тот месяц мой…” (