February 26 marks the Russian spring festival of Maslenitsa. Make like a Moscovite with our guide to celebrating the event in London…
1. What to say
Maslenitsa marks the end of winter and the start of spring, so why not exclaim: ‘Prazdnik solnca k nam prishel! Na dushe tak horosho!’ or ‘The sun is in the city! Feel happy!’ to get in the spirit of things. You’ll feel better, even if your fellow Londoners do give you strange looks.
2. What to eat
Finally, an excuse to have two pancake days: Russian pancakes (bliny) are also eaten at this time of the year. Spread with butter, honey or jam – or top with caviar. As they say: ‘Bez blinov – ne maslenitsa!’ (‘There’s no Maslenitsa without bliny!’).
3. What to drink
Even Russians will tell you that they can’t drink vodka all the time – which is why you might want to try another traditional Slavic beverage, kvas. It’s a wholesome drink (well, that’s their excuse) made with fermented bread and sometimes sweetened with fruit. Sample a cupful at Samovar Café (www.samovarcafe.ucoz. com) in Bayswater’s Queensway Market.
4. What to listen to
At more than 100 years old, the Pyanitsky State Academic Russian Folk Choir may be the longest-running folk ensemble in Russia – its first performance was in 1911. It’ll be performing in Trafalgar Square on February 26, along with a dance troupe and orchestra, as part of a week-long Maslenitsa celebration of Russian art, culture, music and food across the capital. There will also be a bazaar selling traditional foods, handicrafts and art from contemporary Russian artists. For info, see maslenitsa.co.uk.
5. What to visit
London’s Russian Culture centre, Pushkin House, occupies a terrace on Bloomsbury Square. It hosts events including lectures, music, film and exhibitions as well as a Russian reference library. Will Coldwell
For info, see maslenitsa.co.uk.