The Maslenitsa doll and actors.

Maslenitsa/Mасленица
Entry: 150 rubles general admission, 100 rubles for students
(Additional cost for food, souvenirs and some activities inside)
Transportation: 100 rubles for a marshrutka from Irkutsk to Listvyanka
(Taltsy is a stop about ¾ of the way to Listvyanka).

Last week was the Russian holiday Maslenitsa, and the week was full of different events and celebrations for it. One of the best places to find Maslenitsa events is at the local museums, which host traditional celebrations throughout the week with both fun and informative activities for learning about one of Russia’s oldest traditional holidays. On Friday, we went to the Irkutsk Regional House of Folk Art (Иркутский областной дом народного творчества) for a Maslenitsa celebration in their courtyard. Before the event began at 2pm, there was a small market set up with babushkas selling local crafts and gifts. We were on the lookout for the first appearance of bliny from the moment we entered the courtyard, and soon after we arrived a new table was set up for bliny and other baked goods.

The performance featured a troupe of comic singers and dancers and general entertainers. They were dressed along the lines of a clown slash elf, and served as hosts and general merrymakers to keep the atmosphere lively and joyful. Another troupe performed two dances in traditional costumes. They performed very well. The merrymakers performed skits, played games with the children and visitors, taught everyone to dance the khorovod (including with some modern variations) and everyone had a good time.

At Taltsy, the local open-air Museum of Architecture and Ethnography, the celebration was held on Saturday and Sunday. Starting in the late morning, the grounds of the museum were covered with booths offering games and contests, tables selling souvenirs and crafts, and most importantly, food. Central to Maslenitsa are bliny, which are the shape and color of the sun and represent the end of a long, hard winter and expectation of the coming spring. As you wait for your bliny (with a choice of condensed milk [сгущёнка], sour cream [сметана], or jam [варенье]) you are surrounded by the sounds of Russian folk music and traditional Maslenitsa songs playing while children and adults alike play games with some of the props lying around the grounds of the museum. Some try out walking on stilts, which is a lot harder on firmly packed snow, others join friends to glide (or collapse) forward on tandem skis, and still more gather large teams and play tug-of-war with a long, thick rope. Further on there is a tall platform set up over a giant pillow for jumping onto. Each jump is 150 rubles. And down by the river, people give innertube rides pulled by snowmobiles on the frozen ice also for 150 rubles. The Taltsy celebrations are full of activities, and full of people. If you consider going to Taltsy for Maslenitsa, it’s best to go earlier in the day (we went around 10:30 or 11) because you’ll hit some traffic as you get closer to the museum. On the way back, be prepared to wait a while to get on a marshrutka back to Irkutsk, or if you’re feeling adventurous, stick out your hand (just a wave will do, outstretched thumbs will just get you a thumbs up from passing cars) for a ride home from a friendly automobile. And with any luck, you’ll find some friendly road workers with an empty van, for a free ride back to the city!

For groups and faculty-led tours, this is a definite must if you will be the area during Maslenitsa. The dates vary, but are usually in February.

Danya Spencer

Danya Spencer

Danya Spencer holds a Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Languages – Russian & Chinese from Lewis and Clark University. She is currently studying in the year-long Home and Abroad Program with The School of Russian and Asian Studies. This program combines study abroad in Russia, an intensive professional internship focusing on translation, research, and writing.

Danya attended Home and Abroad
View all posts by Danya Spencer

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