Pushkin Statue

From GW Encyclopedia

The following is the news release announcing the dedication of the statue on September 20, 2000:

Washington, DC will officially become the home of the first monument in the United States to honor a Russian literary figure when Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and other Russian and U.S. officials gather today (September 20th) at 11:00am to dedicate a statue of the great Russian poet and writer Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837) at the corner of 22nd and H Streets, NW on the campus of The George Washington University.

“We think it is particularly appropriate that the Pushkin statue will be installed at The George Washington University, named for a great American patriot,” said GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. “This statue will serve as a great inspiration to our students who are drawn to the elegance, wit and lightness of Pushkin’s language, and the accessibility of his imagery.”

Foreign Minister Ivanov will be joined at the historic ceremony by Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Yuri Ushakov, officials from the cities of Washington, DC and Moscow, representatives from The George Washington University and other dignitaries.

“This initiative has the power to create enormous amounts of goodwill between our two countries,” said James Symington, Chairman of the American-Russian Cultural Cooperation Foundation and an initiator of the drive to bring Pushkin to the United States. “For almost two centuries, Pushkin has been the pride and glory of successive generations of Russians regardless of their ideological and political differences. For the Russian people, Pushkin epitomizes their country’s soul, heart and spirit. He created the Russian literary language and inspired artists, musicians and composers. Americans could show no greater respect for the Russian people than by honoring their beloved cultural icon - Alexander Pushkin.”

1999 marked the bicentennial of Alexander Pushkin's birth, a celebration that the city of Moscow began on the poet’s birthday - June 6, 1999 - and continued through June of this year. The dedication of the statue follows almost two years of planning and preparation by the American-Russian Cultural Cooperation Foundation as a way for the U.S. to join with Russia in the celebration of Russia’s most famous writer.

Sheldon Cohen, Chairman of The George Washington University Board of Trustees, will host the dedication ceremony. The statue will be presented by L. Schvetzova, First Deputy Chair of the Moscow City Government, as a gift from the city of Moscow to the city of Washington, D.C. and will be placed under the perpetual care of The George Washington University. Beverly Rivers, Secretary of the District of Columbia, will accept the statue on behalf of the people of Washington, DC.

The monument to Alexander Pushkin, created by Alexander Bourganov, one of Russia’s leading contemporary sculptors, is a bronze statue of the poet in a frock coat. The statue is more than 10 feet tall and crowned by the image of Pegasus, symbol of poetry.

An inscription on the pedestal of grey granite and bronze will note in part that, “Pushkin’s genius was devoted to the values of honor, freedom and individual dignity. He gave his life for them.” The plaque will also be inscribed with a verse from one of Pushkin’s poems, with a translation by two George Washington University professors.

How the Pushkin Statue became a Reality

In 1998, James W. Symington, Chairman of the American-Russian Cultural Cooperation Foundation, proposed the idea of erecting a monument to Pushkin in honor of the poet’s 200th birthday. Symington has a distinguished record of public service which includes serving as a Member of Congress from Missouri (1969 to 1977), working as an administrative assistant to Robert Kennedy in the Justice Department and serving as Chief of Protocol during the Johnson Administration. He obtained support for the Pushkin project from the Governor of the Russian region where Pushkin was born, from former Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Vladimir Lukin, current Russian Ambassador Ushakov, the Russian Academy of Arts, sculptor Alexander Bourganov, GW President Stephen Trachtenberg, and Stephen Strickland, Chairman of the National Peace Foundation, who has served as Director of the project.

Symington’s idea became reality when an agreement was reached for Symington and the Foundation to locate a site in Washington for the monument and to provide the pedestal, while Bourganov would create the statue and the Moscow City Government would present it as a gift to the City and people of Washington. The issue of finding an appropriate site was resolved when The George Washington University President Trachtenberg, whose parents are from the Odessa region of Russia, offered to dedicate university-owned property at the corner of 22nd and H Streets as a permanent home for Pushkin. On Pushkin’s 200th birthday, June 6, 1999, Symington and Trachtenberg, along with DC Mayor Anthony Williams, hosted a formal groundbreaking at 22nd and H Streets and declared the day “Alexander Pushkin Day” in Washington, DC. President Clinton sent a message of congratulation that was read at the ceremony.

To date, the American-Russian Cultural Cooperation Foundation has raised $35,000 to cover the costs of the pedestal and its installation from a wide array of sponsors, including the Kimsey Foundation, Ford Motor Company, Coca-Cola, the Congress of Russian Americans and the Association of Russian-American Scholars.

The American-Russian Cultural Cooperation Foundation (Executive Director, Alexander Potemkin) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting cultural exchange between the USA and Russia. Founded by a group of distinguished Americans in 1992, the Foundation promotes through its programs and cultural events the advancement of social, political, business and economic relations between the two nations.

About Alexander Pushkin

Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (1799-1837) was born into a noble Russian family in 1799. His mother was the granddaughter of an Abyssinian prince, Abraham Hannibal, an African captured in Constantinople and sent as a gift to Tsar Peter the Great. Pushkin entered the Tsar’s Lycee in 1811, where he received a liberal education and discovered his poetic talent. He began his career as a poet in 1812, inspired by Russia’s defeat of Napoleon.

Pushkin wrote both for official publication and for the underground press. Some of his work criticized the tsarist government, which led, at one point, to several years of exile. Pushkin died in 1837 from wounds suffered in a duel to which he was provoked by the intrigues of his enemies.

Pushkin is best known for works such as Ruslan and Ludmila, The Bronze Horseman, The Captain’s Daughter and Eugene Onegin. His many vivid short stories and poems have been used as the basis for a number of operas, including Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades and Eugene Onegin and Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov.

Document Information

Images: 0
Photographic Credit: n/a
Author or Source: RG0002/Board of Trustees;University Archives subject files
Document Location: University Archives
Date Added to Encyclopedia: December 21, 2006
Prepared by: Lyle Slovick, Assistant University Archivist

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