* 11th August 1885 in Taganrog, now Russia
† 26th August 1933 near Moscow, now Russia
Sonya Yakovlevna Parnokh, better known by the name Sophia Parnok (also Sofia, Sofja, or Sofya), was a Russian poet and journalist. She is known as one of Russia’s earliest poets to live openly as a lesbian and featured her relationships in her poetry. For this reason she is known as “Russia’s Sappho”.
To break free from her father’s control, with whom her sexual orientation had also been a source of conflict, she published her first poem in 1906 under the pseudonym Sophia Parnok. Her works were strongly influenced by her relationships. She had artistic exchanges with Marina Tsvetaeva (a fellow poet), for example, who she continued to reference in poems up to her death. Due to the civil war, illness, and financial difficulties, she moved back to Crimea with her then partner, actor Lyudmila Erarskaya. There, Parnok wrote one of her masterpieces – the libretto for Alexander Spendiaryan’s opera, “Almast”.
After returning to Moscow she met mathematician Olga Tsuberbiller, with whom she spent the rest of her life. It became increasingly difficult for Parnok to publish her poems since she had to contend with censorship time and time again. In the end, she was unable to publish anything she had written after 1928. These works were first released in 1979 as part of her collected works, 46 years following her death.