Boris Ryzhy

Boris Ryzhy (1974-2001) was known as the ‘Poet of Perestroika’. Here he is introduced by Sasha Dugdale.

“I first heard of Boris Ryzhy from another Ekaterinburg writer, the playwright Vassily Sigarev. Vassily was in London working on a rehearsed reading of his play Plasticine at the Royal Court. He was excited because he was going to be introduced to the poet Ryzhy on his return to the Urals. Ryzhy, at 26, was slightly older than the prodigal Sigarev, but both writers shared a similar background. Ryzhy’s father was a mining engineer and Ryzhy himself trained as a geologist. They lived in a workers’ area in Ekaterinburg. 

Sigarev’s family came from a small town built around a metal works. Both writers focused on contemporary urban Russia in their work, but underpinned the grime and dysfunctionality with a mystic symbolism and idealism. It seemed almost odd that they had not met before, gone on one of Sigarev’s legendary week-long benders together or discussed matters of the soul as the sun rose over the polluted capital of the Urals. But Sigarev arrived back in Ekaterinburg to learn that Ryzhy had committed suicide the day before, 7 May 2001. It took me a while to find poems by Boris Ryzhy. Although he won the Anti-Booker Prize in 2000, one of Russia’s most prestigious literary awards (set up in opposition to the Booker Prize which also existed in Russia for a short while), and he had a short collection published, most of his poetry remains unpublished and only a sixth of his poetic output is printed, mainly in various literary periodicals. 

Recently I found a selection on the internet, taken from the periodical Urbi and the poems in MPT are from this selection ( and from an anthology of Russian poets in their thirties, edited by Gleb Shulpiakov and published by MK-Periodika in 2000. Some Russians consider Ryzhy to be the finest poet of the age and it seems shameful that there are so few publications of his work.” 

– from Sasha Dugdale’s introduction in MPT 3/1, Introductions

The photo is from, where versions of some of his poems set to clips from the Movie ‘Boris Ryzhy’ can also be viewed.