Growing up in St. Petersburg in an assimilated middle-class, Jewish family, Osip Mandelshtam was educated in classical studies. From 1907-1910 he spent most of his time in western Europe, where he encountered the French Symbolists and other contemporary writing of the day. Returning to Russia in 1911 to attend St. Petersburg University, Mandelshtam joined with poets Anna Akhmatova and Nikolai Gumilyov in establishing the poetic movement Acmeism. Following the Russian Revolution, however, his writing and the works of fellow Acemeists gradually came under scrutiny and he was exiled. Mandelshtam was ultimately imprisoned and died at a Vladivostock transit station en route to a hard labor camp.
Following his death in 1938, Mandelshtam's wife, Nadezhda, wrote her acclaimed memoirs about her life and her husband during the Stalin era, Against Hope (1970] and Hope Abandoned (197'4).
Tristia was Mandelshtam's second book. Along with his first collection, Kamen (Stones) and Stikhotvorenia (Verses), Tristia established his reputation as one of the greatest Russian poets of the 20th century.