Pancakes with lavender and A Haute Couture Fire kick off the Moscow Maslenitsa festival

Pancakes with lavender and A Haute Couture Fire kick off the Moscow Maslenitsa festival
Guests of the festival will sample about 120 varieties of pancakes, have fun participating in traditional Russian folk events and help the Spring warriors defeat Winter.

The Moscow Maslenitsa festival has opened in the city with concerts, performances, culinary workshops, and fun and games. The events were held at festival sites in the city centre.

“Hopefully, there will be plenty of pancakes,” said Alexei Nemeryuk, Head of the Department of Trade and Services. “Over 120 varieties will be offered at our festival sites. In addition to pancakes made according to traditional recipes, there will also be a variety others made of buckwheat or gluten-free flour, as well as Guryev pancakes, while some pancakes will even be brought from France.”  

Nemeryuk added that the festival might become an annual event. He said: “This is the first time we’re holding the Maslenitsa festival and we’ll see how Muscovites and tourists will receive it. If the festival goes down well with them, we’ll make it an annual event.”

Where to go and what skills to learn   

Today, a musical fairytale, Royal Maslenitsa, will be shown in Manezhnaya Square while guests of Tverskaya Square will be able to enjoy the traditional Russian game Wake the Bear. Skomorokhi [buffoons], stilt-walkers and carol singers will treat viewers to sweets and baranki [mini-doughnuts].

In Novopushkinsky Public Garden, one can learn how to make mozzarella and sample it afterwards. The Book Market on New Arbat will feature an art performance, during which members of the public will decorate one of the 40 Maslenitsa figures. In all, over 1,000 workshops will be held during the festival.  

A spectacular fire show, A Haute Couture Fire, will be performed in Novopushkinsky Public Garden on the first weekend of the festival. At the workshop in Klimentovsky Pereulok, anyone can learn how to paint pryaniki [ginger bread biscuits] shaped as window-cases and at a workshop on Novy Arbat Street, how to make triangle and square pancakes of various sizes and colours. In the underpass from Manezhnaya Square to Revolyutsii Square, graduates of the Boris Shchukin Theatre Institute and actors from the Vakhtangov Theatre will show a new musical and poetic battle performance, 12 Months, Or The Arrival of Spring.   

Tverskoi Boulevard serves as the main venue for all sporting events included in the festival’s programme. Go to the monument to Kliment Timiryazev to learn how to play croquet, jump on a trampoline, play basketball or test your agility in the Hunting Geese event, in which players throw a hoop over the neck of a “goose” to “catch” it. Sports grounds are open every day from 12 noon until 8 pm. Those who prefer to play curling with “pancakes”, throw flying “pancakes” (frisbee) or test out their skills at a “pancake” shooting range, by throwing shells into the “stove” with the help of a catapult, are invited to visit Revolyutsii Square. 

The festival will feature over 30 tours. Sightseers will be taken to old streets and pereulki [lanes] and learn how coachmen used to decorate horses in the 19th century, which bakeries made the tastiest pancakes, why all the churches on Varvarka Street were only built on the right side of the street and the conditions in which the first book was printed on Nikolskaya Street.

Pancakes to sample

This year, over 30 stalls in the city centre will be selling the main Maslenitsa dish, including buckwheat, chocolate pancakes and Guryev pancakes and even pancakes made with celery.

People with a sweet tooth are expected to like thick pancakes with peanut oil, chocolate ice cream, baked apples, condensed milk, marshmallow or caramel. They can go on a minor gastronomic tour and sample pancakes made from recipes of various countries: Chinese pancakes made from pastry, prawns and tomato sauce; French pancakes with oranges and raspberries; a Japanese variety with vegetable marrow and sesame; and Abkhazian achachkvas from corn flour. 

Connoisseurs of exotic food can sample blue pancakes with strawberries and basil, black pancakes with vanilla sour cream and fine chocolate flakes, pancake rolls with bamboo charcoal or lilac lavender pancake rolls.

Gourmet cheese, fish, pryaniki and other products brought in from across the country can be bought at 34 shopping chalets.

Storming the Winter Fortress

With over 170 people participating, a re-enactment Storming the Winter Fortress will be the festival’s most ambitious event and will be staged as Moscow Maslenitsa draws towards a conclusion. Actors and entertainers will wear unique costumes, reported quoting Ratobortsi, a historical re-enactment agency in charge of the programme.

“We’ve developed a special project, A Winter Kingdom,” an agency staffer explained. “We want to produce a new interpretation of Maslenitsa and put aside some of the more traditional themes, but at the same time preserve the sentiment shared by anyone who can’t wait for the arrival of spring.”

According to the plot, skomorokhi, the Warriors of Spring, will be fighting Winter. They will wear bright red costumes. By contrast, the Warriors of Winter, will wear costumes of cooler colours made of white fur; also, they will have decorations made of iron especially designed just for them. Entertainers will wear homespun woolen puttees and stylised leather boots.   

“We added authenticity to the costumes from the 10th– 11th centuries,” they said at the agency.   

Some characters will wear hand-carved wood masks but who exactly will wear them is still kept secret.

A costume designer Anastasiya Leonevskaya has created the image of one of the most remarkable members of the Spring Host – the Roma Gypsy man. It took her some time to come up with an idea for his costume.

“I’ve found photographs of Romania’s Gypsy people of the early 20th-century on the Internet and these images have inspired me,” Leonevskaya said, showing the costumes that are all but finished. She added that it was important for her to design a costume that will not make the actor look like an ordinary carol singer. More importantly, the actor must have charisma. He is Iranian and so more closely resembles a native Gypsy.

In the workshop, where preparations are also being made for the re-enactment programme, we were shown a peculiar device – an electrical snowball cannon made from an ordinary garden air blower. It works as follows: rolled snowballs are placed in a wooden magazine where they are blasted with a strong stream of air, which sends them hurling in the required direction. Two such snowball cannons will be used to storm the fortress.  

People involved in the project are already building a snow city in Revolyutsii Square where the final battle will be held.