Igor Mironovich Guberman
Guberman, July 2009
Guberman, July 2009
Native name
Игорь Миронович Губерман
Born (1936-07-07) 7 July 1936 (age 85)
Kharkiv, Ukrainian SSR
OccupationPoetry, literature
Alma materMoscow State University of Railway Engineering
Igor Guberman Signature.svg

Igor Mironovich Guberman (Russian: И́горь Миро́нович Губерма́н, IPA: [ˈiɡərʲ mʲɪˈronəvʲɪtɕ ɡʊbʲɪrˈman] (listen), born 7 July 1936, Kharkiv) is a Russian writer and poet of Jewish ancestry; since 1988 lives in Israel. His poetry has received a great deal of acclaim primarily because of his signature aphoristic and satiric quatrains that he called gariki in Russian (singular: garik, which is also the diminutive form of the author's first name, Igor). (Gariki). These short poems (originally Guberman called them "Jewish Dazibao") usually feature an a-b-a-b rhyme scheme, employ various poetic meters, and cover a wide range of subjects including antisemitism, immigrant life, anti-religious sentiment, and the author's complicated relationship with Russia, Israel, and the respective cultures. Gariki are mostly humorous and often paradoxical, verging on philosophical.


Igor Guberman was born in Kharkiv on July 7, 1936. After high school, he entered the Moscow State University of Railway Engineering where, in contrast to the most prestigious Russian universities, there was not a maximum quota for Jews. In 1958, he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering. He worked as an electrical engineer for several years and wrote on the side in his spare time. Toward the end of the 1950s, he was introduced to Alexander Ginzburg, who published Syntax, one of the first samizdat periodicals, as well as to other underground philosophers, writers, and artists. For some time he worked as a secretary to the great Russian poet David Samoylov, and also as a ghostwriter for hire.

At first, Guberman wrote popular science books (such as "Third Triumvirate"), but he gradually became more and more active as a dissident poet. Guberman published his underground work under the pseudonyms I. Mironov and Abram Khayyam, connecting the names of the famous Persian poet Omar Khayyám and the Jewish first name Abram.

In 1979, Guberman was arrested and sentenced based on fabricated charges to five years in the Labor Camps. He based his book, Walks Around the Barracks (written in 1980, published in 1988), on the diaries he kept during his time in the Gulag.

In 1984, Guberman returned from Siberia. For a long time, he could get neither a job nor a residence permit (Propiska) to live in Moscow. In 1987, Guberman emigrated from the USSR, and since 1988 he has been living in Jerusalem. He visits Russia quite frequently to attend poetry readings. Books by Guberman have sold hundreds of thousands of copies in Russia and in countries with Russian immigrant communities, with whom they are always popular.

In 2017 he was interviewed by Echo Moskvy, the interviewer regarding the interview as "timeless", as it would fit into even future time because Vladimir Putin was never mentioned - although constantly present.[1]


Examples of Guberman's quatrains:

Возглавляя партии и классы,
Лидеры вовек не брали в толк,
Что идея, брошенная в массы,
Это – девка, брошенная в полк.

(the accented syllable is capitalised):
VazglavLIAia PARtii i KLASsy
LIdery vaVIEK nie BRAli v tolk,
Shto idEia, BROshennaia v MASsy,
Eto - DIEvka, BROshennaia v polk.

Those fervid leaders of parties and classes
Have to this detail ignorance displayed
That an idea thrown before the masses
Is like a harlot thrown to a brigade.
(translated for en.wikipedia by Ivonna Nowicka)

Мне жаль небосвод этот синий,
Жаль землю и неба осколки
Мне страшно, что сытые свиньи
Страшней, чем голодные волки.

(the accented syllable is capitalised):
Mnie zhal' niebaSVOD ETot SIniy,
Zhal' ZIEmliu i NIEba asKOLki
Mnie STRAshno, shto SYtyie SVIni
STRASHniey, chiem gaLODnyie VOLki.

I’m sorry for the stars above that shine,
And sorry for the Earth beneath our feet
It’s scary that satiated pigs and swine
Are scarier than wild wolves who need to eat.
(translated for en.wikipedia by Ivonna Nowicka)

Надежды нет, и мир суров.
Что делать бедному еврею?
Я продаю свое перо,
И жаль что пуха не имею.

(the accented syllable is capitalised):
NaDIEZHdy niet, i mir suROV.
Shto DIElat' BIEDnamu ievRIEiu?
Ia PROdaiu svaIO pieRO,
I zhal', shto PUha nie iMIEiu.

Hope is scarce, and the world is harsh.
What is a poor Jew to do?
And so I now sell my quill,
Regretting that I have no down*.

'*A play on the double meaning of word перо: pen and feather; hence: пух, meaning down.

Не прыгай с веком наравне,
Будь человеком.
Не то окажешься в гавне
Совместно с веком.

(the accented syllable is capitalised):
Nie PRYgai s VIEkom naravNIE,
Bud' chelaVIEkam.
Nie to oKAzheshsia v gavNIE,
SavMIEStna c VIEkam.

Don't race to keep up with the century,
Stay a human being.
Or else you'll find yourself in deep sh*t
Together with that century.


  1. ^ About Putin without Putin Interview with Igor Guberman on Echo Moskvy December 16th 2017 (in Russian)