Bulat Okudzhava was born on May 9, 1924 in Moscow, into a family of communists who had come from Tbilisi. 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 served as a political commissar during the Civil War and as a high-ranking Communist Party member under the protection of Sergo Ordzhonikidze. His uncle Vladimir Okudzhava was an anarchist and a terrorist who left The Russian Empire after a failed attempt to assassinate the Kutaisi governor.
Shalva Okudzhava was arrested in 1937 during the Great Terror, accused of trotskyism and wrecking and executed shortly after, along with his two brothers. His wife was also arrested in 1939 «for anti-Soviet deeds» and sent to a labor camp of Gulag. Bulat returned to Tbilisi to live with his relatives. His mother was released in 1946, but arrested for the second time in 1949, spending another five years in labor camps. She was fully released in 1954 and rehabilitated in 1956, along with her husband.