On Esenin's Death

Sergei Esenin may be widely known because of his dramatic demise. After he married Isadora Duncan, they traveled Europe and America, where he became very ill. There are different explanations of what happened. The Soviet explanation is that

"...he had not been indifferent to the world's biggest arena of the conflicts engendered by the system of private ownership. Quite the contrary. He was astounded by what he had seen-and not just as a former peasant who found himself in the realm of machines. It was quite a different feeling-a passionate hostility towards a world lacking in everything spiritual, a world where man becomes a victim of industrial crises and provocative publicity" (Mendelson, 176)

All of this capitalism just made him sick. The other version attributes his mental breakdown to his long struggles with drinking. In November of 1925, he wrote down "The Black Man." He had become obsessed by this poem, which reflected his alcoholic hallucinations and insomnia. (McVay, 278)

After being discharged from a mental hospital on December 21, after nearly a two month stay, he again began to drink and moved to Leningrad by the 24th. His comrades reported that he was in high spirits while he was staying at the Hotel d'Angletre. On December 27th, he wrote "Goodbye, my friend, goodbye" in his own blood. He gave the poem to Elizaveta Ustinova that morning, but following Esenin's request, she did not read it until it was too late.

Sergei Esenin hung himself the morning of the 28th. The police report reads:

"...Arriving on the spot I discovered hanging from a pipe of the central heating system a man in the following state: his neck was not held tight in a loop, but only on the right side of the neck, his face was turned toward the pipe, and the wrist of the right hand had caught hold of the pipe. The corpse was hanging just beneath the ceiling, and the feet were about 1 1/2 meters from the floor. Near the spot where the man was hanging there lay an overturned night table, and the candelabrum standing on it lay on the floor. When the corpse was taken from the rope and examined, a cut was found on the right arm above the elbow on palm side, there were scratches on the wrist of the left arm, and a bruise beneath the left eye. He was dressed in grey trousers, a white shirt, and black patent-leather shoes." (McVay, 291-2)

Georgy Ustinov speculated about Esenin's death:

"The corpse was holding with one hand on to the central heating pipe. Esenin had not mad a noose, he had wound the rope around his neck just like a scarf. He could have jumped out at any moment. Why did he seize hold of the pipe? In order not to fall out ñ or in order to avoid the possibility of dying? People say that the autopsy established that his death was instantaneous, from a broken spine. Perhaps he had miscalculated the force of his fall when he kicked the stool away from under him ñ and died by accident, wanting merely to play with death? All this is as yet an insoluble mystery. The doctor who carried out the autopsy said: in answer to my question whether autopsies can reveal anything about the last mental experiences--'Science is powerless here. We can establish only the physical anomilies, but the pysche flies away together with the last breath''"

Leonid Leonov said of all of Esenin's last poems "He foretold his end in every

theme, cried out about it in every line: One merely needed ears to hear him." Shershenevich wrote "Everywhere in his verse the single theme began to appear: the theme of death--We thought it was only a literary theme. We thought it was only a poetic device, and yet it turned out to be the terrible truth'" However, Olga Hasty wrote "Although his suicide was shocking and theatrical, critics and commentators found in his verse no dearth of material for retrospective proof of its inevitability." A fear of losing his poetic abilities was a widely accepted explanation for his suicide and the images of death in his latter poetry. (Hasty, 837)


Gallery of Russian Poets Esenin's Poems Timeline of Esenin's Life
Pictures Poem for Esenin- by Mayakovsky Thoughts
On Esenin's Death Esenin and the Russian Revolution