Analysis of the Poem "Babi Yar"

In the poem, Babi Yar, Yevgeny Yevtushenko does a wonderful job of

paying tribute to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. He does this by

portraying the history of the Jewish people. Yevtushenko also uses

various literary devices to heighten the sentiment of the poem.

The poem is told in the first person, by the author of the poem.

In the poem it is also apparent that he is addressing all Russian

citizens when he writes "O Russian people". In this manner Yevtushenko

is able to eulogize the Jewish victims of the Holocaust in front of a

wide audience. This technique also allows him to speak directly to the

Russian people and tell them of their wrongs at the end of the poem.

Through usage of the first person he is able to place himself in

the various situations of anti-Semitism in history. He takes us

from Egypt, to the cross; from the Dryfus affair to the pogroms; from

Anne Frank's dark room to the massacre of Babi Yar. Through all this

Yevtushenko proclaims that "I" was there. This gives the reader a

sense of being trapped in the middle of these horrifying events. The

first person gives an eerie description that a third person

description could not give.

After he finishes his recitation of past events he begins

addressing the Russian people of the present. He tells them that in

general the Russians are a good hearted people. But, he goes on to say

that there are a minority of Russians who ruin the good name of the

whole. Yevtushenko contends that these people call themselves "The

union of the Russian people". However, he then goes on to directly

contradict their self-proclaimed name with clever uses of diction. He

claims that the Internationale, or the Russian "union" song, will only

be sung after these same anti-Semites are dead. In the last lines of

the poem he admits that although he is not a Jew he demands to "let me

be a Jew". Only when he is a Jew can he then go on to "call myself a

Russian". What he means by all this is that the Russian people are not

a group of Jew-haters, but rather a country of people who feel for

the sorrows of the Jewish people.

The first ezza is an introduction that tells us the occasion of

the poem. It claims that "There are no monuments on Babi Yar, A

steep ravine is all, a rough memorial." He then goes on to devote the

rest of the poem as a eulogy to the Jews killed by the Russians.

Therefore, this first ezza gives us the reason why he wrote the

poem. This poem would in fact be the memorial for Babi Yar. The first

ezza also does a terrific job of setting the gloomy tone for the

rest of the poem. He also seems to hint at the fact that the

anti-Semitism that began with the Christians is the same exact

anti-Semitism that has continued to the present date. The

anti-Semitism of Egypt remained in "her ancient days", but he insists

that "I perish on the cross, and even now I bear the red marks of

nails." His usage of the words "even now" contend that that specific

anti-Semitism continues to the present date.

In the next few ezzas sound plays a critical role. In the first

line of the second ezza there is a repetition of the letter "d" in

"Dryfus, detested, denounced". This sound conjures something

approaching from behind you, like a march. Although, this ezza only

affects one man, Dryfus, but there is the image of something

approaching in the "d" sound. The second line of the third ezza

reads "I seam to see blood spurt and spread". Here we have the

repetition of the "s" sound. This sounds like air escaping from

something, getting ready to explode. Then all of a sudden there are

"The rampant pogrom roars". Things are getting worse. In the following

ezza is a "translucent twig". The repeated "t" sound is like the

ticking of a time bomb. Immediately after this one reads of the

"pounding", or the final explosion. The explosion creates a "silent"

sound and an "endless soundless" because "thousands and thousandsof

thousands are dead". There is hardly anyone left to attack. Almost all

the Jews are dead.