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Sophia Yakovlevna Parnók
(August 11, 1885 - August 26, 1933) Russia

Sophia Parnók

Poet and translator


Russia's only self identified, openly lesbian poet, Parnók was born in Taganrog, the first child of a physician mother who died when she was 6 years old. Her father, a pharmacist, remarried shortly after his first wife's death. Friction with her stepmother and, later, with her father, who strongly disapproved of her lesbianism, cast a shadow over Parnók's youth, but tempered her in more courage and independence.

From the age of six she took refuge in writing, and during her last two years at the gymnasium she wrote extensively, especially about her lesbian sexuality and first love affairs. Her creativity would remain closely linked with her lesbian experience throughout her poetic life as she struggled to make her unique voice heard in an anti-lesbian literary culture.

In 1905 she left home with an actress lover and spent a year in Europe. For a time she studied at the Geneva Conservatory, but a lack of funds forced her to return to her hatred father's house. To become independent of him she married a close friend and fellow poet, and settled in St Petersburg. In 1909 she decide to leave her husband and after divorce, she settled in Moscow, making a modest career as a journalist, translator, opera libretist and poet and writing under the male pseudonym Andrei Polianin.

At the beginning of WWI, she met the young poet Marina Tsvetáeva, with whom she became involved in a passionate love affair that left important traces in the poetry of both women. They broke up in 1916. Parnók and her new lover, Lyudmila Eraskaya, an actress, left Moscow in 1917 and spent the Civil War years in the Crimean town of Sudak. In 1923 she met Olga Tsuberbiller, a mathematician at Moscow Unievrsity, with whom she lived in a permanent relationship from 1925 until Parnók's death.

The Soviet censorship soon decided that Parnók's poetic voice was "unlawful" and after 1928 she was unable to publish. In late 1931 she met and fell in love with the physicist Nina Vedeneyeva. Parnók died of a heart attack in a village outside Moscow.


Source: excerpts from: Aldrich R. & Wotherspoon G., Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History, from Antiquity to WWII, Routledge, London, 2001

Her work include:

  • Stikhotvoreniia (Poems, 1916)
  • Rozy Pierii (Roses of Pieria, 1922)
  • Loza (The Wine, 1923)
  • Muzyka (Music, 1926)
  • Vpolgolosa (Half-voiced, 1928)
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