A Russian author, poet, actor, and director, he is best known for Babiyy Yar, a political poem. His other notable works include Nasledniki Stalina (The Heirs of Stalin) and Stanciya Zima (Zima Station).
He was born into a family of Siberian peasants and had written his first poem by the time he was ten years old.
He played the lead role in the 1979 film Vzlyot (Take-Off).
He was married four times, to Bella Akhmadulina, Galina Sokol-Lukonina, Jan Butler, and Maria Novikova, and he fathered five sons.
He and Andrei Voznesensky were Russian literary contemporaries.