So Many Worlds and Yet One

Between 1935 and 1940 Anna Akhmatova(1889-1966), a Russian and Soviet modernist poet, one of the most acclaimed writers in the Russian canon, composed, worked and reworked her long poem Requiem. She did her work in secret; it was a lyrical cycle of lamentation and witness, depicting the suffering of the common people under Soviet terror.1 Stalin's harshest period of mass repression, the so-called Great Purge or Great Terror, was launched in 1936-1937 and involved the execution of over a half-million Soviet citizens accused of treason, terrorism.

My mother and father had just met or were about to meet in the five years 1935-1940; the first Baha’i teaching Plan was planned and launched in 1936-1937. They were a busy two years in history: the years that Hitler consolidated his power and WW2 began. See this link was a survey of its main features: http://www.historycentral.com/dates/1936.html

Akhmatova carried the poem with her as she worked and lived in towns and cities across the Soviet Union. It was conspicuously absent from her collected works, given its explicit condemnation of the purges. The work in Russian finally appeared in book form in Munich in 1963; the whole work was not published within USSR until 1987. It consists of ten numbered poems that examine a series of emotional states, exploring suffering, despair, devotion, rather than a clear narrative.

Biblical themes such as Christ's crucifixion and the devastation of Mary, Mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, reflect the ravaging of Russia, particularly witnessing the harrowing of women in the 1930s. It represented, to some degree, a rejection of her own earlier romantic work as she took on the public role as chronicler of the Terror. This is a role she holds to this day.-Ron Price with thanks to 1"Akhmatova, Anna" Who's Who in the Twentieth Century. Oxford University Press, 1999.

Worlds apart, a purge in Russia1
and another one in Iran, but who
would know half a world away.
Shoghi Effendi could marry Mary
Maxwell; my mother & father met
at the Otis Elevator Company in the
Golden Horseshoe and the Baha’i
Faith was banned in Germany. A
Baha’i School was opened in the
Antipodes…But who would ever
have known; there were so many
worlds as there are now and yet:2
it’s an organic-unity: one world.3

1 Although the work is recognizable as an epic lament for a particular people in response to specific circumstances of history, Akhmatova couches references to actual times and places in such a way that the work transcends its era and becomes a universal and timeless voice for the victims of persecution anywhere and anytime. See Poetry Criticism, ©2004 Gale Cengage
2 See Glenn Cameron with Wendy Momen, A Basic Baha’i Chronology, George Ronald, Oxford, 1996, pp.247-251.
3 Formalist theories of art take the view that any work of art is an organic unity; that is, it is a self-contained, self-justifying entity. Such is this prose-poem. Cosmologically, the notion of organic unity sees the entirety of creation as the voice of the infinite. In my view an Unknowable Essence. The organic is an expression of the unity. We are no longer separate from the rest of creation, because we contain all of creation. Thus by studying creation, we study ourselves. It all starts from oneness, the infinite, when the universe existed in a state of pure potential. In geometry, it is the point. This oneness is the unity point from which the organic arises. The goal now is to achieve politically what already exists biologically: the socio-political unity of humankind.

Ron Price
13 January 2012