Folk culture and cuisine, National holidays and symbols
Folk culture and cuisine
There are over 160 different ethnic groups and indigenous peoples in Russia. Ethnic Russians with their Slavic Orthodox traditions,Tatars and Bashkirs with their Turkic Muslim culture, Buddhist nomadic Buryats and Kalmyks, Shamanistic peoples of the Extreme Northand Siberia, highlanders of the Northern Caucasus, Finno-Ugric peoples of the Russian North West and Volga Region all contribute to the cultural diversity of the country.
Handicraft, like Dymkovo toy, khokhloma, gzhel and palekh miniature represent an important aspect of Russian folk culture. Ethnic Russian clothes include kaftan, kosovorotka and ushanka for men, sarafan and kokoshnik for women, with lapti and valenki as common shoes. The clothes of Cossacks from Southern Russia include burka and papaha, which they share with the peoples of the Northern Caucasus.
Russian cuisine widely uses fish, poultry, mushrooms, berries, and honey. Crops of rye, wheat, barley, and millet provide the ingredients for various breads, pancakes and cereals, as well as for kvass, beer and vodka drinks. Black bread is rather popular in Russia, compared to the rest of the world. Flavourful soups and stews include shchi, borsch, ukha, solyanka and okroshka. Smetana (a heavy sour cream) is often added to soups and salads. Pirozhki, blini and syrniki are native types of pancakes. Chicken Kiev, pelmeni and shashlyk are popular meat dishes, the last two being of Tatar and Caucasus origin respectively. Other meat dishes include stuffed cabbage rolls (golubtsy)usually filled with meat. Salads include Olivier salad, vinegret and dressed herring.
Russia’s large number of ethnic groups have distinctive traditions regarding folk music. Typical ethnic Russian musical instruments are gusli, balalaika, zhaleika, and garmoshka. Folk music had a significant influence on Russian classical composers, and in modern times it is a source of inspiration for a number of popular folk bands, like Melnitsa. Russian folk songs, as well as patriotic Soviet songs, constitute the bulk of the repertoire of the world-renown Red Army choir and other popular ensembles.
Russians have many traditions, including the washing in banya, a hot steam bath somewhat similar to sauna. Old Russian folklore takes its roots in the pagan Slavic religion. Many Russian fairy tales and epic bylinas were adaptated for animation films, or for feature movies by the prominent directors like Aleksandr Ptushko (Ilya Muromets, Sadko) andAleksandr Rou (Morozko, Vasilisa the Beautiful). Russian poets, including Pyotr Yershov and Leonid Filatov, made a number of well-known poetical interpretations of the classical fairy tales, and in some cases, like that of Alexander Pushkin, also created fully original fairy tale poems of great popularity.
National holidays and symbols
There are seven public holidays in Russia,except those always celebrated on Sunday. Russian New Year traditions resemble those of the Western Christmas, with New Year Trees and gifts, and Ded Moroz (Father Frost) playing the same role as Santa Claus. Orthodox Christmas falls on 7 January, because Russian Orthodox Church still follows the Julian calendar and all Orthodox holidays are 13 days after Western ones. Another two major Christian holidays are Easter and Trinity Sunday. Kurban Bayram and Uraza Bayram are celebrated by Russian Muslims.
Further Russian public holidays include Defender of the Fatherland Day (23 February), which honors Russian men, especially those serving in the army; International Women’s Day (8 March), which combines the traditions of Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day; Spring and Labor Day (1 May); Victory Day; Russia Day (12 June); and Unity Day (4 November), commemorating the popular uprising which expelled the Polish occupation force from Moscow in 1612.
Victory Day is the second most popular holiday in Russia; it commemorates the victory over Nazism in the Great Patriotic War. A hugemilitary parade, hosted by the President of Russia, is annually organised in Moscow on Red Square. Similar parades took place in all major Russian cities and cities with the status Hero city or City of Military Glory.
Popular non-public holidays include Old New Year (New Year according to Julian Calendar on 14 January), Tatiana Day (students holiday on 25 January), Maslenitsa (a pre-Christian spring holiday a week before the Great Lent), Cosmonautics Day (in tribute to the first human trip into space), Ivan Kupala Day (another pre-Christian holiday on 7 July) and Peter and Fevronia Day (taking place on 8 July and being the Russian analogue of Valentine’s Day, which focuses, however, on the family love and fidelity).
The Matryoshka doll is a recognizable symbol of Russia, and the towers of Moscow Kremlin and Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow are main Russia’s architectural icons. Cheburashka is a mascot of the Russian national Olympic team. St. Mary, St. Nicholas, St. Andrew, St. George, St. Alexander Nevsky, St. Sergius of Radonezh and St. Seraphim of Sarov are Russia’s patron saints. Chamomile is the national flower, while birch the national tree. The Russian bear is an animal symbol and a national personification of Russia, though this image has a Western origin and Russians themselves have accepted it only fairly recently. The native Russian national personification is Mother Russia.