Gorky Park’s first years: Looking back at documents of park director Betti Glan

August 16
Parks and pedestrian areas

On 12 August 1928 – exactly 92 years ago – the Maxim Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure opened. Posters went up all over Moscow announcing this event. The opening was expected to draw 15,000 ̶ 20,000 people, but in fact, more than 100,000 Muscovites flocked to the park. The Moscow Main Archive Directorate tells the story of what may be the most popular park in the capital.

Opening day and reviews by Romain Rolland and Herbert Wells

In March 1928, the Presidium of the Moscow City Council took the decision to create a park of culture and leisure in Moscow. Famous Moscow constructivist Konstantin Melnikov was appointed the architect of the future park. It was he who created the layout of the park's parterre, most of which has survived to this day.

In the 1930s, the Central Park of Culture and Leisure was a completely new form of organising recreation for Muscovites. Park Director Betti Glan pioneered the very idea of ​​creating such a park. The Main Archive Directorate keeps her personal collection of documents. Among them are articles and recollections about the work of the park and its holding of festive events.

Thus, the collection includes photos of the park, including those on the opening day, as well as photos taken during a visit to the park by Maxim Gorky, Nikita Khrushchev, Anastas Mikoyan and other guests. A large number of issues of the Park Kultury i Otdykha (Park of Culture and Leisure) newspaper from 1931 ̶ 1935 have also survived to this day.

One of the most interesting documents from Betti Glan's personal collection is a visitors’ book for guests of honour of the park, autographed by writers Romain Rolland, Herbert Wells and other famous culture and art figures. In this book, they left notes about their impressions after visiting the park.

“Mind Change” and “Happiness Factory”

Under the leadership of Betti Glan, the park became world famous. This time is considered the golden age of the park: many amusements, a day resort centre, a nursery, a playground, cinemas, theatres, a symphonic stage, a “corner of silence” with an alley of hammocks, a catering zone, tea-and-snack bars and much more were built there. At that time, a huge number of events were held in the park, and it was called “the mind-change factory,” “the happiness factory” and “a promoter of a new lifestyle.”

The famous sculpture Girl with an Oar became a symbol of the park, as it offered many types of water activities. The embankment accommodated a water station with stands for 8,000 spectators, a boat station and a catamaran, a beach, two 50-metre pools with a tower, a springboard and a trampoline. There was also a school where people were taught different swimming styles, diving, folk rowing and lifesaving skills.

In the pre-war years, one-day resort centres operated in the park. The centres, separate buildings for adults and children, were located in the southern part of Neskuchny Garden. Vouchers were often paid for by trade unions. This day of recreation in the park was a way of promoting the future lifestyle of the Soviet people.

The guidebooks and articles that have survived from the era of Betti Glan describe a day of leisure at these centres. The day began at 9 am with check-in, a shower and group exercise classes. Breakfast was at 10 am, followed by active outdoor activities, such as sports games and competitions, the Ready for Labour and Defence fitness programme, boating and cycling. People could also sunbathe, read, fish, go on excursions and ride the amusements.

Lunch began at 2 pm, followed by an hour of peace and quiet – an afternoon rest in sun loungers and hammocks on the verandas or in the shady alleys in the open air.

At 4 pm, there was an afternoon snack, after which people could visit the school of theatre arts and foxtrot, go to singing lessons, take part in numerous creative competitions, or listen to lectures on various topics in special pavilions.

After dinner, guests went to the theatre or cinema in the park or watched performances of the tent circus or the children's circus.

In the park, there was a pioneer and schoolchildren's town with amusements, sports grounds and a hall for interesting activities, where children sculpted, painted and did poker work. And on a specially designated field, children played various games and competed in relay races and stilt competitions. Schoolchildren could attend various clubs of interest: those for witty children, young nature researchers and literature readers.

In 1937, Betti Glan was arrested after the detainment of her husband, Milan Gorkic, the First Secretary of the Yugoslav Communist Party. She spent 17 years in forced labour camps. In 1954, she was released and subsequently rehabilitated. After that, Betti Glan continued to work on holiday concepts for parks, including Gorky Park. In 1988, she published her memoirs.

Source: mos.ru

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