Voices from Russia

Saturday, 31 May 2008

Human Unity in the Culture of the Carnival

Filed under: popular life and customs,Russian — 01varvara @ 00.00

Residents of St Petersburg had a grand time last weekend, revelling in a traditional carnival that brought together guests from 12 countries, including Argentina, the United States, Britain, the Netherlands, and Australia. For a city that is located on the banks of the Neva River on the spot where it flows into the Gulf of Finland, one that is criss-crossed by 308 rivulets and canals, rightfully called the “Venice of the North”, the motto of the Festival, “Water, Water – All Around Us”, sounds rather fitting. For this very reason, jellyfish, dolphins, mermaids, and many other undersea characters marched through the streets and squares of St Petersburg. Even classical music was performed on wineglasses and glasses filled with water. For the eighth time, the chief organiser of the event was Igor Garvyushkin, who represents Russia in the European Association of Carnival Cities. Even in the most difficult of times, there was room for nationwide festivals where people expressed themselves, Mr Gavryushkin said. Now, it seems, festival culture is witnessing a resurgence as never witnessed before, as there is danger of our society degenerating into a consumer society. Carnivals are designed to thwart this dangerous process by recreating local cultural traditions and involving many people in a culture-friendly environment that largely determines the quality of life.

Scene from an older Soviet film set in a carnival during tsarist times

Carnivals are amongst the most loved pastimes, popular since ancient times. a carnival has its own face depending on the location, be it the Great Orange Battle in Ivrea, Italy, “A Tribute to the Cucumber” in the old Russian town of Suzdal, the Carnival of Cultures in Berlin, the Samba Carnival in Brazil, the New Year Parade in China, or the Goa Carnival in India. This year, the European Association of Carnival Cities placed the Petersburg Carnival in Category A, making it equal in rank with the Venetian one and acknowledging it as a specific cultural tradition. Other candidates seeking the European carnival status include a wide range of cultural centres in Siberia, the Urals, and the Volga.

29 May 2008

Olga Bugrova

Voice of Russia World Service



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