Voices from Russia

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Russians Celebrate Maslenitsa This Week


All during this week, Russians celebrate the festival of Maslenitsa (“Butter Week”). This tradition came to us from time immemorial. The celebration of this festival began many centuries ago, to the pagan Slavs, it symbolised the end of the cold days of winter. Therefore, the main food eaten during the festivities is blini (leavened buckwheat pancakes), round and golden as the sun. Maslenitsa was always celebrated, come what may, there was even a saying, “Indeed, no matter what, we swear to observe the Butter Week!” With the advent of Christianity, this tradition took on new meaning. True, at first, the Church struggled against the festivities, but, then, it decided to change its anger at a pagan holdover into an acceptance of a native folk custom.

“Today, the Orthodox Church sees Maslenitsa as a holiday with significance for all mankind”, said Fr Georgy Ryabykh. “Maslenitsa is, first of all, a time of meetings, contact, and rehabilitation of long-sundered relationships. It is a time of reconciliation, it strengthens ties of kinship and friendship, and it overcomes loneliness, old grievances, and differences. The festival is only a form; it is just a means to achieve these goals. Moreover, it would be correct and important to emphasise this facet of the celebration of Maslenitsa, reconciliation, friendship, and harmony”.

Although it was originally pagan, Maslenitsa has a solid place in the calendar, including for those who are deeply religious, for it heralds the beginning of the Great Eater Lent. During Butter Week, or, as it is called in the Orthodox canons, “Cheese Week”, believers abstain from meat, preparing themselves for the 48-day Lent, during which the Church strongly advises against the use of any animal-based food (i.e., animal oils, milk, cheese , eggs and other things, not to mention wine). Maslenitsa became an occasion to have some fun before the rigours of the long weeks of abstinence.

In Moscow, “Great Maslenitsa” is marked in a big way. Vasilievsky Spusk in Red Square beomes the centre of the holiday festivities, and the “Pancake Town” is located here. According to folk tradition, every day of Maslenitsa has its own name and meaning. Therefore, there is a special and distinct programme carried out in the Pancake Town for every day of the feast. For example, on Monday, they glorify the coming of Maslenitsa, singing song and dance round dances, so, the first day is called “the meeting”. The merriest and most fun day, the fourth of the feast, is called “Rowdy Thursday”. This day begins with fun competitions, such as the pancake speed-eating contests.

Maslenitsa ends on March 1, “Forgiveness Sunday”, when, according to Russian custom, we ask forgiveness from everyone for all the sins we committed during the past year, whether we did so wittingly or unwittingly, resulting in offence and distress. On Sunday, a Maslenitsa Parade shall pass on the central streets of the capital with orchestras, drummers, clowns on stilts, circus performers, acrobats and organ-grinders. By the way, the Moscow festival “Great Maslenitsa” officially listed in the catalogue of famous international carnival celebrations. Meanwhile, Maslenitsa is expanding its reach; the first Maslenitsa festivities in London will take place on 1 March (all those who want to eat Russian pancakes and party in the Russian style will be able to do so on to the square in front of the London City Hall). Next year, Maslenitsa will be noted in other European cities, as well.

24 February 2009

Voice of Russia World Service


Editor’s Note:

Did your parish note “Rowdy Thursday?” If not, shame on you! Orthodoxy is not just canon-quoting, severe fasts, and long faces. Orthodoxy is joyous and FUN! This is why neophytes should stay away from reading for at least a year or two, at the minimum. Live our life; enter into the rhythms of it all. You won’t learn our life and faith by sticking your nose in a book. Attend the services (and leave the service-book at home, please, it shall not help), do good to those about you, help bake the kulichi and make the paskha, and hoover out the church-hall. God shall honour all of that far more than any prideful and arrogant reading of things beyond you.


It’s what God expects from you, after all. We are His beloved children; we are not His oppressed prisoners…



Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Leonid Kravchuk calls on Yushchenko to Step Down


Leonid Kravchuk (1934- ), Ukrainian President from 1991 to 1999

Leonid Kravchuk, the first president of the independent Ukraine, urged the current president, Viktor Yushchenko, to step down as head of the country on Ukrainian television. On Tuesday, in a live address to Yushchenko on the TV channel Ukraina, Mr Kravchuk said, “The true patriotism of a president… also means understanding a situation from within and making a responsible decision to step down. Such a step could stop an avalanche of problems, calm society, and give hope for a real way out of the crisis”. Kravchuk was elected the first president of the Ukraine in 1991 with 61.6 percent of the votes cast.

“Until recently, I thought the presidential elections should be held according to law. But, today, I have a different opinion. I have seen clearly that you are not giving most of your attention to the Ukraine’s problems, instead, you are thinking of how to stay in power”, Mr Kravchuk said. He also accused President Yushchenko of betraying the nation’s confidence and support, and destroying both the government and the parliamentary coalition. “The government has been almost destroyed. It is impossible to overcome the crisis without the government’s effective participation”, Mr Kravchuk said, adding that the only way out would be to hold early elections.

Vladimir Litvin, the speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament, told another TV channel on Tuesday that he did not think that early parliamentary elections would be held in Ukraine and said Mr Kravchuk’s comments could “provoke another spiral of political confrontation in Ukraine”. President Yushchenko has been at loggerheads with Prime Minister Yuliya Timoshenko for several months as the former allies in the “Orange Revolution” jostled for position ahead of presidential elections due next year. The Ukraine is struggling with the global economic crisis and had gas supplies from Russia cut off for much of January after failing to agree a new gas contract. Although a 10-year supply agreement was signed barely a month ago, the state-run Ukrainian energy corporation Naftogaz has already warned Gazprom that there may be problems paying for deliveries due to non-payment by local utility companies.

25 February 2009



Editor’s Note:

Yushchenko is in the deep kimchi but good. Wanna take bets on how long he is for this world (politically-speaking, of course)? Everyone smells the obvious… with the neocons out of power in Washington, Yushchenko’s Foggy Bottom sugar daddies (and his sweet sugar mama, Rice) are not in the picture anymore. Look for the Orangies to be tossed out by the locals. Yuliya Vladimirovna shall take the top spot, and watch her make a sensible accommodation with the Kremlin. The hardcore nationalists shall be given le sabot, and Yuliya shall save the Ukraine’s bacon by making a closer alliance with Russia. Give her credit… she is not only the foremost female politician in the world today; she is one of the best politicians full stop. Don’t sit down to play poker with her unless you have your wits completely about you… or you’ll end by wearing only your raggedy old socks and a smile. It’s not nice to fool Mama Yulienka….


Tuesday, 24 February 2009

“Maslenitsa at the Mariinsky” Musical Festival


Maslenitsa at the Mariinsky is a festival staged every year at the famous Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg. Today, the musical festival opens on 23 February for the fifth time. The buffet of the theatre offers blini (buckwheat pancakes), whilst a fairy tale about the daughter of Moroz (Frost) and Vesna (Spring), the opera Snegurochka (The Snow Maiden) by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov is presented on the stage. This is a tradition of at the Mariinsky Theatre at the start of Maslenitsa, or Pancake Week. It reflects the ancient sense of a feast of a send-off to winter and a welcome to spring through the offering pancakes. Indeed, the round pancakes symbolise the sun.

Russian Maslenitsa has always been marked in different ways. It is a mixture of various folkloric and religious traditions. In fact, it is the last week before the rigorous and great Easter Lent, which is observed by many Christians. Concerning the peculiarities of the feast, Valery Gergiev, the head of the Mariinsky Theatre, noted, “We wish to revive and affirm the secular traditions of this holiday, Maslenitsa, with balls, dramas, and moderately-priced concerts”. Maestro Gergiev went on to say, “It seems to me that the Maslenitsa holiday is quite promising and it should be appropriately linked with the musical and theatre panorama of St Petersburg. We plan to celebrate the festival with gusto”.

This tradition, which is being revived by the Mariinsky Theatre, was marked in a grand manner for centuries, especially when St Petersburg was the capital of the Russian Empire. Some of the secular aspects of Maslenitsa were masked balls at the palaces of the city and the most renowned actors appeared on the stages of all the theatres. At present, the Mariinsky Theatre is capable of satisfying the highest demands for the feast. Amongst these is presenting as many performances as possible during the one week of Maslenitsa! Among the exclusive offerings by Valery Gergiev and his ensemble are 14 presentations and concerts on the stage. One of them is one of the best productions of the theatre, the opera The Magic Flute by Mozart, during which audience sits on the stage and the actors walk in the hall. Another item in the programme is a performance by the world famous violinist Maksim Vengerov and the famous group Virtuosi Moskvy. The festival also includes the revival of the age-old Russian tradition of student balls. The Mariinsky Theatre is staging a ball at St Petersburg University. Its programme includes not only music and dances, but, also food and fireworks at night!

23 February 2009

Olga Bugrova

Larissa Roshchina

Voice of Russia World Service


Piazzola. Tango. Virtuosi Moskvy, directed by Vladimir Spivakov

Filed under: art music,music,performing arts,Russian — 01varvara @ 00.00

Here is one of the musical ensembles referenced in the above article. It is a short piece with an accordion solo.

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