Bulat Shalvovich Okudzhava (May 9, 1924 – June 12, 1997) was a Georgian-Russian poet, writer, musician, novelist, and singer-songwriter. He was one of the founders of the Russian genre called "author song" (авторская песня, avtorskaya pesnya). He was born in Moscow and died in Paris. He was the author of about 200 songs, set to his own poetry. His songs are a mixture of Russian poetic and folksong traditions and the French chansonnier style represented by such contemporaries of Okudzhava as Georges Brassens. Though his songs were never overtly political (in contrast to those of some of his fellow bards), the freshness and independence of Okudzhava's artistic voice presented a subtle challenge to Soviet cultural authorities, who were thus hesitant for many years to give official recognition to Okudzhava.
Bulat Okudzhava was born in Moscow on May 9, 1924 into a family of communists who had come from Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, to study and to work for the Communist Party. The son of a Georgian father, Shalva Okudzhava, and an Armenian mother, Ashkhen Nalbandyan, Bulat Okudzhava spoke and wrote only in Russian. Okudzava's mother was the niece of a well-known Armenian poet, Vahan Terian. His father, a high-ranking Communist Party member from Georgia, was arrested in 1937 during the Great Purge and executed as a German spy on the basis of a false accusation. His mother was also arrested and spent 18 years in the prison camps of the Gulag (1937–1955). Bulat Okudzhava returned to Tbilisi and lived there with relatives.
In 1941, at the age of 17, one year before his scheduled school graduation, he volunteered for the Red Army infantry, and from 1942 he participated in the war with Nazi Germany. With the end of the Second World War, after his discharge from the service in 1945, he returned to Tbilisi where he passed his high school graduation exams and enrolled at Tbilisi State University, graduating in 1950. After graduating, he worked as a teacher, first in a rural school in the village of Shamordino in Kaluga district, and later in the city of Kaluga itself.