The moniker ‘Silver Age’ refers to the epoch of early and high modernism in Russian culture, which began around the mid-1890s and was put to a rather abrupt end by the October 1917 Revolution. While the most fundamental feature of this time period is marked by its idealist philosophical revolution – a trend Russia shared with other European cultures – its most spectacular manifestation on the Russian scene undoubtedly belonged to poetry and art. In less than a quarter of a century, Russia produced a remarkable constellation of poets, quite a few of whom (Alexander Blok, Mikhail Kuzmin, Osip Mandelshtam, Anna Akhmatova, Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetaeva, Velimir Khlebnikov, Vladimir Mayakovsky) stood at the world-wide cutting edge of the poetic culture of their time. The very feeling of the era seemed to be saturated with poetry: even those authors whose main talent and achievements lay in the domain of prose – such as Andrei Bely, Dmitrii Merezhkovsky, Zinaida Gippius, Fedor Sologub, and Ivan Bunin – made significant contributions to the poetic landscape of the time as well.
The flowery name of the age was probably indigenous to the epoch itself, although it never surfaced in documents of the time, perhaps because it was just too obvious to be mentioned. It lay dormant in the collective memory for almost half a century, until it surfaced almost simultaneously in two venues – in the title of critic Sergei Makovsky’s memoirs, On the Parnassus of the Silver Age (Munich, 1962), and in a line in Akhmatova’s ‘Poem without a Hero’ (first published in 1965) which mentions ‘the silver moon hovering brightly over the Silver Age’.