Osip Emilevich Mandelstam was born in Warsaw, Poland, to a wealthy merchant family. He spent most of his early life in St. Petersburg, Moscow, where he attended the prestigious Tenishev School (1900-1907). From 1907 to 1910, he traveled to France and Germany, studying at the Sorbonne in Paris and the University of Heidelberg. He studied Philosophy at the University of St. Petersburg for six years (1911-1917). He did not graduate from any of the universities he attended.
Mandelstam's career as a poet began in 1910 when his first poems were published in the literary journal Apollon. He joined the Poets' Guild in 1911, where he became close to poets Anna Akhmatova and Nikolai Gumilev. His breakout work was Stone, published in 1913. It covered mostly apolitical and non-personal subjects, and had a strong focus on classical and Byzantine themes. His following collections, Tristia (1922) and Stikhotvorenia (1928), reflected the classical themes of his earlier work, but with a more melancholy tone.
He also became part of the dissident Acmeist poetry movement.
Although glad that the Czars were deposed, Mandelstam was initially hostile to the October Revolution of 1917. He briefly worked for the Education Ministry in Moscow in 1918, and made frequent trips to south of the Russian Empire. He viewed the newer poetry with contempt, especially that of Marina Tsvetaeva and Mayakovsky. Only Akhmatova and Pasternak still held his favor.
In 1922, Osip married Nadezhda. She was to be his stalwart companion throughout his years of exile and imprisonment. During the mid to late 1920's, Mandelstam earned his daily bread writing children's books and translations of Western literature. In those years, he sought to preserve cultural heritage, hoping to follow in the footsteps of Pushkin. He gained influential enemies within the Kremlin during this time, and tried...