Osip Mandelstam was a Russian poet who was born into a wealthy Jewish family in Warsaw in 1891. After moving to Saint Petersburg, Mandelstam attended the prestigious Tenishevsky School, the Sorbonne in Paris for a year, and then the University of Heidelberg in Germany. In 1911 he converted to Methodism so he could enroll at the non-Jewish University of Saint Petersburg. That same year he formed the "Poets' Guild" with a group of other Russian poets, and two years later his first collection of poems, The Stone, was published.
Mandelstam wrote several books and essays in the years that followed, and made no secret of his non-conformist, anti-establishment ideals. However, it was his 1933 poem Stalin Epigram, which openly criticised Joseph Stalin, that sealed his fate. Six months after the poem was published, Mandelstam was arrested; miraculously, he was exiled to the Russian city of Cherdyn with his wife, Nadezhda Yakovlevna, rather than sentenced to death or the Gulag (labour camps where prisoners were worked to death). However, such leniency was not to last. In 1938 he was arrested again for "counter-revolutionary activities" and sentenced to five years in correction camps. He died not long after in the Vtoraya Rechka transit camp, with an unspecified illness the official cause of his death.
In 1956 and 1987, Mandelstom was exonerated of his 1938 and 1934 charges, respectively. A new planet discovered by Soviet astronomer Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh was named after Mandelstom in 1977.