Yakov Kozlovsky was born in 1921 in the town of Istra (Moscow Oblast), in a Jewish family.
Yakov went to school in Moscow. Having developed a passion for poetry, he began to attend the Moscow House of Pioneers, where two famous Soviet authors, the writer Konstantin Paustovsky and the poet Mikhail Svetlov, were teachers.
In 1939, immediately after completing the tenth grade, Kozlovsky was drafted into the Red Army. That same year, he took part in the Soviet invasion of Poland, which resulted in the annexation of the eastern regions of that country to Soviet Ukraine and Belorussia. Yakov was stationed on the San River, which marked the eastern border of the USSR. He saw action from the first days of the Soviet-German War in late June 1941. Kozlovsky served as junior commander in one of the rifle divisions. A month after the outbreak of war, Yakov was seriously wounded. However, he returned to active duty after undergoing medical treatment, and was appointed company sergeant. At that time, Yakov also began to write poetry about the war. In 1942, he became a special correspondent of the Krasnoe znamia newspaper, where he published his poems, sketches, and short stories. In March 1944, Yakov Kozlovsky was seriously wounded for the second time. After being hospitalized for six months, he was discharged from the army. In the course of the war, Yakov was awarded the Order of the Patriotic War, 1st class, and some medals.
In 1944, after his demobilization, Kozlovsky returned to Moscow and enrolled in the Literature Institute. However, after graduating from it in 1949, he was forced to work as a translator of poetry by the peoples of the Caucasus. In the late 1940s, with the USSR being in the grip of the "anti-cosmopolitan" campaign, Soviet Jews (of whom Kozlovsky was one) had limited prospects of getting published. Nevertheless, he continued to write poetry in those years, and the subject of the war was particularly prominent in his work. He also wrote some ostensible children's poems, which actually conveyed "adult" messages. His poems began to see print in the early 1960s.
Yakov Kozlovsky was a prolific translator of the poetry of his friend Rasul Gamzatov, an Avar-language Dagestani poet who enjoyed popularity in the USSR. Gamzatov once remarked:
"He translates me in such a way that later, when I translate him back into Avar, I get a totally different poem – one that is much better than my original…"1
In 1985, Kozlovsky became a member of the presidium of the Union of Soviet Writers. In 1994, he was admitted into the Supreme Artistic Council of the Union of Russian Writers. In 1999, he joined the editorial board of the Literary Eurasia newspaper. He published a total of more than twenty poetry collections, and won numerous prestigious awards.
Yakov Kozlovsky died in 2001, and was buried in Moscow.