Anna Yablonskaya: Playwright acclaimed far beyond her native Ukraine for the acuity of her dramatic vision

In her short career, Anna Yablonskaya became one of the most accomplished post-Soviet playwrights and her plays attracted attention and stagings across Russia and abroad, winning many awards thanks to the acuity of her dramatic vision.

Her striking looks were crowned with a mane of Russian fairy-tale blonde hair.

She was born in Odessa in Ukraine, but she wrote in Russian and had her earliest successes there, at Teatr.doc, a small basement theatre founded by a group of experimental playwrights. At home it was a different matter: she wrote that Ukrainian literary managers "cross themselves at the mention of new writing" and described Odessa as a city dramatic in real life but theatrically dull. Nevertheless, she never abandoned it for Russia and was an active member of the Odessa-based South Russian Writers' Union. She also supported Vladimir Neklyayev, the imprisoned Belarusian writer and former presidential candidate.

Yablonskaya's father was a journalist and compiler of collections of Russian satire and humour. Yablonskaya started writing early: she had a play performed at her school, while her poetry was recited in assembly and started to be published when she was in her early teens. She also acted, joining the Tour-de-force company, which staged her play The Door. She drew on these experiences for her play Bermudskii kvadrat ("Bermuda Square"). It was there that she met her husband, though he was not an artist but the manager of a shipping company.

Before embarking on a full-time writing career she studied law in Odessa and worked in marketing, journalism and public relations. Her poetry appeared both in print and online journals including Prolog, October and Interpoeziya; her theatrical career was short but intense and in less than a decade she wrote around 20 plays.

The Eurasia Drama Competition in Ekaterinburg regularly presented her work, including Pismo v zoopark ("Letters to the Zoo", 2005), Kosmos ("Space", 2006), and Videokamera, ("Camcorder", 2008), whose graceful blank verse contrasts with the study of a man at odds with modern consumerist society. Elsewhere, the 15 miniature stories of Monodialogi ("Monodialogues", 2005) won prizes, and overseas her work was recognised in Utrecht and Wiesbaden.

Though she considered herself neither a feminist nor a controversialist, her chosen subject matters couldn't help but be both. Family Scenes charts the effects of a soldier's post-traumatic stress on his wife and son and the woman's lover. After one reading there was a discussion at which she was criticised for the "unfair" portrayal of the soldier, with the implication that showing how he was damaged by war was disrespectful.

Rather than dismissing this, Yablonskaya tried to engage with the criticism in a way that was typical of the humility that she never lost. Similarly, after a reading of her last play The Pagans, generally seen as her greatest, she went on stage to discuss what she saw as its shortcomings.

Russian writing sometimes tends to gloom to the point of hopelessness, but Yablonskaya, though her depiction of life could be severe and unsentimental, held fast to a compassionate outlook and the belief that things could turn out for the best. The critic Pavel Rudnev observed that, in her plays, somehow "the depressive, dehumanising world reverses itself, like a falling cat, and lands solidly on its feet." Her last blog entry, a poem, mused about attempts to find order in the world:

Book-keeping has drowned in chaos, grief,


The same signs always mean different things

Regularities are illusions. The rain falls


Soon there'll be a holiday. Holidays must be


Friends noted that she had, recently seemed sombre. Her blog entry of 21 December read: "It seems to me that I have very little time left." A month later she died in the terrorist explosion at Moscow's Domodedovo airport, having flown in to collect an award from the journal Iskusstvo Kino for a film adaptation of The Pagans. Her non-appearance was ascribed to travel problems and it was only when her husband's phone call was answered by a member of the security services that the truth became clear.

Last summer she spent a month at an international writers' workshop at London's Royal Court Theatre, where the director, Elyse Dodgson described her as "one of the most brilliant, promising writers we have ever worked with." In April the theatre will give a reading of The Pagans in the International Playwrights season.

Anna Grigoryevna Yablonskaya, playwright: born Odessa 20 July 1981; married Artem Mashutin (one daughter); died Moscow 24 January 2011.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living