• Marina


Обновлено: 15 сент. 2019 г.

Today, many communities across Russia are gathering together in their local town squares to burn women - straw ones. Those straw dolls represent ‘Winter’, which is way too long in my country. People are so tired from cold, that they destroy these effigies to make a symbolic end to this tough season.

This is the final day of Maslenitsa week — the oldest surviving Slavic holiday. It pulled through both Christianity and Soviet times. It is still very popular and 88% of people in Russia still celebrate it according to the Russian Public Opinion Research Center survey in 2018.

Maslenitsa has its origins firmly entrenched in pagan tradition. In Slavic mythology, it is a sun-festival, personified by the ancient god Volos, and a celebration of the imminent end of the winter. The Church failed to get rid of it, so they adopted it in Christian practice and Maslenitsa is the last week before the onset of Great Lent. Maslenitsa was prohibited in Soviet Times as well as other religious activities, but people continued to celebrate it.

During the week of Maslenitsa, meat is forbidden to Orthodox Christians, and it is the last week during which eggs, milk, cheese, and other dairy products are permitted. This has lead to its name of "Cheese-fare week" or "Crepe week". The most characteristic food of Maslenitsa is bliny — thin pancakes or crepes, made from the rich foods still allowed by the Orthodox tradition that week. Also, Lent prohibits parties and other distractions from spiritual life. Maslenitsa is the last chance for Christians to have fun before sober and introspective Lenten season.

Most people nowadays don’t care about church complications and simply enjoy pancakes and burning dolls. I can understand the desire to symbolically destroy winter, but I never join this activity, as I’m concerned about burning women on a square, even straw ones. I do consume a couple of bliny though!

For the illustration for this post, I chose two of my old paintings in Tibet style. These are Red Tara and Guru Dragpur - 40x30 cm (15.7x11.8 in), tempera on board. Frankly, they have no real connection to Maslenitsa, except they depict fire. Both paintings are still available for €177/$200 each.

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