You might have walked by it at the Guy Mason Recreation Center playground and not even noticed. Glover Park is home to a memorial for Russian cultural achievements called the Alley of Russian Poets. The walkway is located on the north side of the rec center near the basketball courts, and is lined with a tree above each of ten marble markers resembling gravestones - each engraved with the name and dates of a famous Russian poet.
Uli Zislin, a Russian-born musician, songwriter and collector/preserver of Russian cultural history, came up with the idea two decades ago; and with the help of benefactors his dream became a reality in 2003. Uli, now 90, also maintains a museum of Russian poetry and music in his home in Rockville, Maryland and still welcomes visitors for private tours of his treasure trove. He felt it was important to preserve the history of Russian culture here for the benefit of Russian-Americans, and especially considering the oppression and suppression of such artists and artwork in Russia during the decades of communism.
The Alley of Russian Poets honors ten artists. Five are from the Silver Age of Russian literature – the 20th century figures who suffered for their craft under the oppressive regime. These poets include: Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetaeva, Osip Mandelshtam, Anna Akhmatova and Nikolai Gumilyov. Gumilyov was executed in 1921; Tsetaeva’s sister Anastasia (a novelist) was jailed for 22 years and smuggled a novel out of prison and her husband was executed; Madelshtam died in a gulag; Akhmatova’s poetry was banned for 20 years. The west side of the path represents the Golden Age – the 19th century when Romanticism and Symbolism became popular and these five famous lyricists expressed themselves through poetry: Aleksandr Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Fyodor Tyutchev, Afanasy Fet and Aleksandr Blok.
Uli added a red granite memorial marker for Russian composers to the Alley in 2006. The names of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Shostakovich and Prokofiev rest in the shade of the ten now-large European Hornbeam trees. The memorial was made possible by the donations and efforts of benefactors, including Chesapeake Monuments in Baltimore, Mark Leybson, The Friends of Guy Mason, the President of the American University in Moscow Edward Lozansky, the DC Department of Parks and Recreation and others.
Boris Pasternak (My Sister’s Life, Doctor Zhivago)
Marina Tsvetaeva (Mileposts, Separation)
Osip Mandelshtam (The Morning of Acmeism, The Stone)
Anna Akhmatova (Requiem, Evening)
Nikolai Gumilyov (The Quiver, Gondla)
Aleksandr Pushkin (The Bronze Horseman, Winter Morning)
Mikhail Lermontov (The Angel, The Hussar)
Fyodor Tyutchev (Silentium!, As in the Globe Embraced by Ocean)
Afanasy Fet (Upon A Haystack On A Southern Night, I Have Come To You Delighted)
Aleksandr Blok (Fabrika, The City)
Editor's Note 5/12/2021:
The expanded memorial now is more aptly named "The Walk of Russian Arts" and includes a memorial to Russian artists added in 2011: Kandinsky, Roerich, Malevich, Burliuk and Shagall. In 2019, a segment was dedicated to Russian writers: Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Gorgy and Chekhov.
Sources: Uli Zislin
Washington Museum of Russian Poetry and Music website
Radio Free Europe, Richard Solash
Museum Studies Abroad, Kristin Torres