Biography Dmitrii Bykov

Dmitrii Lvovich Zilbeltrud (Bykov is his alias) (born 1967) is one of the most remarkable figures of modern literary life.  In Russia, Bykov is a poet, prose writer, scholar, school teacher, journalist, radio host and one of Russia’s most outspoken public intellectuals. In an interview with the Los Angeles Review of Books Bykov admitted that “poetry is considered a prestigious occupation in Russia, because a poet is a prophet, a pillar of civic disobedience […]. Therefore, I prefer to consider myself a poet” (Razor 2017).

He graduated from Moscow State University in 1991 with a degree in journalism, and started working in Sobesednik and Vremechko. He also contributed to Ogonyok– a famous pro-democratic media outlet in Russia at that time. A member of the Writers’ Union since 1991, he published a prize winning biography of Boris Pasternak, and popular biographies of Bulat Okudzhava and Vladimir Mayakovsky.  He is the author of more than 30 books, including 15 prose publications and 18 poetry collections.

He has written a number of novels dedicated to Russian history and modern times, including Zh/D published in 2006 (this novel won the Strugatsky International Literature Prize in 2007). His bright literary talent especially appeared in his recent work Ostromov, which won the National Bestseller Prize in 2011. In his early novels Justification (2001) and Orthography (2003) Bykov, in his usual idiosyncratic and provocative manner, he articulates his own conservative critique of the “new Russian revolution” of 1991. Clearly, then, in the early 2000s, he was not sympathetic to the liberal intellectuals and displayed an imperial nostalgia. However, these views were, more likely, a reflection of the changing climate of opinions in contemporary Russia, or, as he admitted in his interviews, he had written the novels in his struggle against his own “imperial complex” (see detailed discussion in Polonsky 2012).

As a columnist of The New Gazette Bykov writes a weekly “column in verse.” Not surprisingly, he was an intellectual force for the joint project The Citizen Poet where the author reflected on classical poets to create hilarious spoofs. This project offers “a series of performative parodies to the classical 19th and 20th century poetry purportedly focused on the relations between poetry, politics, and Russian history” (Malykhina 2014:159).

His eclectic literary output encompasses a wide range of genres. Bykov has periodically hosted a show on the radio station Echo of Moscow, and he was one of the hosts of an influential TV  Vremechko till 2008. He has been a visiting lecturer in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures in Princeton University and a Visiting Professor at UCLA’s Slavic Department. In his frequent public appearances and poetic readings in Russia and in the US, he lectures on the different aspects of the Soviet legacy in Russia today, and rereading of major works and authors of literary canon. Also he is interested in the interviewing contemporary Russian intellectuals in his youtube Russian Literacy Series.


Malykhina, Svitlana. Renaissance of Classical Allusions in Contemporary Russian Media. Lexington Books, 2014.

Polonsky Rachel. Russia: The Citizen Poet. The New York Review. 2012.

Razor, Sasha. Interview with Dmitry Bykov. Los Angeles Review of Books. October 3, 2017