Headshot of Dmitrii Bykov.

Dmitry Bykov

  • Visiting Assistant Professor in Russian

Office Location
428 Lattimore Hall

Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 1-3 p.m. and by appointment


Of all of Dmitry Bykov’s professions—journalist, biographer, public intellectual, novelist, poet, media personality, professor of literature—he likes that of poet the best. “Traditionally, writing poetry is considered a prestigious occupation in Russia, because a poet is a prophet, a pillar of civil disobedience,” he states in a 2016 LA Times interview. At the same time, he considers the academic environment to be his “natural habitat.” He loves to teach and write about literature. As a scholar, Bykov has written prize-winning biographies of the Russian poets Vladimir Mayakovsky and Boris Pasternak; the poet, guitar bard and writer Bulat Okudzhava; the writer Maxim Gorky; and, most recently, president Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine (soon to be published in English translation).

As a novelist, Bykov has been called one of the faces of contemporary Russian literature whose novels “balance quasi-realistic verisimilitude with modernist phantasmagoria” (Oxford History of Russian Literature). His best-known work in the West is Living Souls (2005), which, according to the Independent, blends “a novel of ideas with a fairy-tale and satire with lyricism” in its picture of Russia in the near future, where war rages between liberal Westernizing forces and statist nationalists, each of whom “endlessly take turns at colonizing Russia” (Oxford History of Russian Literature). An extremely prolific writer, Bykov is the author of some 90 books, including 5 biographies, 12 novels, and 20 collections of poetry.

One of Bykov’s most famous projects is “Citizen Poet” in which he satirizes social and political realities in Russia through verses based on famous poems in Russian and world literature that are publicly performed or recorded on YouTube. Bykov was also a prominent participant in the famous “strolls with writers” protest in Moscow in May 2012, after authorities prohibited public rallies in the wake of Putin’s re-election to a third term. Leading writers used social media to organize literary readings while strolling along Moscow boulevards as a protest against Putin’s increasing authoritarianism.

Bykov twice refused personal invitations to meet with President Putin as part of the president’s discussions with members of Russia’s cultural elite. In April 2019, as the result of his outspoken criticism of the Putin regime, Bykov was poisoned by the same Russian FSB operatives who a year later poisoned political opposition leader Alexei Navalny (see the investigation by the news organization Bellingcat). He was banned from teaching at Russian universities or appearing on Russian state-controlled media. He left Russia in 2022 just before Putin invaded Ukraine and was declared a "foreign agent" by the Russian government. In December 2023, his books were officially banned from Russian bookstores and libraries.

Bykov has taught at Moscow State University, Princeton, UCLA, and also worked as writer in residence at Cornell. In spring 2024 he was named Inaugural Humanities Center Scholar in Exile at UR, where he is now teaching in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures.

Research Overview

Covers of books written by Dmitry Bykov
Book cover with Russian writing, and the author's face in silhouette.Book cover with Russian writing, and the letters V and Z in black tape on a white background.Book cover with the words Living Soul and a mosaic of soldiers carrying bayonets.
Book cover with Russian writing and a graphic illustration of train cars on a green background.Book cover with Russian writing on a black background.Book cover with Russian writing and a photo of the author wearing a police cap.Book cover with Russian writing and a photos of groups of people along with a line drawing of a woman's head with vines for hair.
Book cover with Russian writing and a picture of the sun setting behind a tree, waves hitting the shore, and a man's head.Book cover with Russian writing and a images of an alley between buildings, a soldier with his horse, and a man's face.Book cover with Russian writing and an image of a man's face long with two graphic images in black and white: one of a woman in a hat and the other of a group of people following a person carrying a flag.Book cover with Russian writing and a graphic image of a man divided into pieces on a plate with a fork and knife.

Research Interests

  • Soviet period of Russian history
  • American true crime fiction
  • Poetics
  • Morphology of thriller and suspense