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Translation from Russian of "Stalin's Epigram"

Updated: Jun 20, 2020

Also known as "Kremlin Highlander" and written in 1933 by one of Russia's greatest poets - Osip Mandelstam, it depicts Stalin and describes the atmosphere of fear in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. Despite knowing what the consequences would be, Mandelstam made the poem public. He was arrested and died in a gulag in 1938. Several English translation already exist. In the poem Stalin, a Georgian from the Caucasus Mountains, is called "горец" that can be translated as "highlander" or "mountain man".

Can't feel the country beneath, we live weightless,

And our words don’t dare travel ten paces,

But in phrases to others we mumble,

Looms the mountain man of the Kremlin.

His fat fingers, like worms, hold the pipe,

Words, like lead, hit the targets just right.

He sneers, bug-eyed, into moustache,

Boots are gleaming from minion’s brush.

He is mobbed by rabble of spineless leaders,

Semi-humans whose favours he toys with.

They whistle, and meow and sob,

While he points and runs his gob.

Decrees from his forge, like horseshoes, fly

Into eyebrows, foreheads, and groins and eyes.

Gallows are a favoured den

Of barrel-chested mountain man.

Мы живём, под собою не чуя страны,

Наши речи за десять шагов не слышны,

А где хватит на полразговорца,

Там припомнят кремлёвского горца.

Его толстые пальцы, как черви, жирны,

И слова, как пудовые гири, верны,

Тараканьи смеются глазища

И сияют его голенища.

А вокруг него сброд тонкошеих вождей,

Он играет услугами полулюдей.

Кто свистит, кто мяучит, кто хнычет,

Он один лишь бабачит и тычет.

Как подкову, кует за указом указ:

Кому в пах, кому в лоб, кому в бровь, кому в глаз.

Что ни казнь у него — то малина,

И широкая грудь осетина.

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