Ivan Barkov Biography

Ivan Semyonovich Barkov (1732–1768) was a Russian poet, the author of erotic "Shameful Odes". He was a student of Mikhail Lomonosov, whose works he frequently parodied. He was also a translator and editor at the Russian Academy of Sciences.


Ivan Barkov was born in 1732 in the family of an Orthodox priest. In 1744 he entered an Orthodox Seminary where he spent 5 years. In 1748 at Lomonosov's recommendation he was admitted to the Academic Gymnasium. Language and poetry were his fields of study. He was an uneven student, and he repeatedly was subjected to corporal punishment (whippings) for drunkenness, insolence, and slander against the rector. In 1751 he was "demoted" to a typesetter at the Academy's printing workshop, and in 1753 he was promoted to the position of a scribe in the Academy's administrative office.

In 1755-56 he was Lomonosov's personal secretary, and in this period he wrote "A Brief History of Russia", which was published in 1762. In 1759-60 he edited the medieval "Nestor's Chronicle" for publication. In 1756 he was dismissed from the Academy for drunkenness and insubordination, after several reprieves, and reinstated until final dismissal in 1766.

Barkov translated Horace's Odes into Russian in 1763, Phaedr's Fables in 1764, and Ludovico Lazzaroni's "Il Mondo degli Eroi" in 1763.

He died in 1768. According to widespread legends tells that he died either in a suicide, with the autoepitaph Жил грешно и умер смешно (lived sinfully and died ridiculously) "on a piece of paper inserted into his anus", or in an outhouse drowning.


Barkov was highly regarded as an able interpreter and a poet. Since poetry was his hobby more than his job, he could afford to use simpler language in his work. Most of his poems are outrightly obscene or even pornographic, although very funny. Written copies of his work circulated Russia since their creation.

Several works commonly yet erroneously ascribed to Barkov actually date from the 1840-60s. One such poem is "Luka Mudischev", a story of a low-life Russian nobleman from an old family which was given nobility due to the size of their penises (his last name Mudischev is derived from a highly obscene word муда́ meaning testicles). He is paid to have sex with a bored widow and kills her with his eight-vershok-long phallus in the process of doing so. In the end, he and the madame kill each other. However mundane the plot is, the poem manages to tell a lot about daily life of that time and place and is partially a satire directed towards odd nobility politics and social practices of that time.