On March 13, 1964, Joseph Brodsky, a young Soviet poet, was sentenced to five years at a labor camp for "social parasitism." His work, in the eyes of the Soviet authorities, provoked anti-government and anti-communist sentiments among the younger generation. His verses did not include the "normal" ideas of collectivism or high patriotic feelings; they spoke instead of individualism and were independent of official ideology.
A famous scene from Brodsky’s trial in the Soviet court was released to the Western press:
Court: And what is your profession, in general?
Brodsky: I am a poet and a translator.
Court: Who recognizes you as a poet? Who enrolled you in the ranks of poets?
Brodsky: No one. Who enrolled me in the ranks of humankind?
Court: Did you study this?
Court: How to become a poet. You did not even try to finish high school where they prepare and teach?
Brodsky: I didn’t think you could get this from school.
Court: How then?
Brodsky: I think that it… comes from God.
The public prosecutor’s conclusion was univocal: “Our great nation is building communism. Only the society that has no idleness will prosper. Brodsky is far from being patriotic… For many years now he has lived the life of a parasite… He belongs to a group of people who, in a satanic way, laugh at the word ‘work’… Brodsky needs to be forced to work. He is a parasitic, rude, twerp and a dirty person. He needs to be moved out of the hero-city…”
Brodsky was sentenced to five years hard labor but was released 18 months later, after protests from many prominent Soviet literary figures. In 1972 he was exiled from the Soviet Union and lived thereafter in the United States. He became hugely popular and his poems, interviews and essays appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker, Newsweek and many more. Brodsky won many awards including the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987 and was a Poet Laureate of the United States. He died in New York in 1996 and was buried in the San Michele Island cemetery in Venice, Italy.