Select language:

Easter for Everyone

 / Главная / Russkiy Mir Foundation / Publications / Easter for Everyone

Easter for Everyone


“They say that it’s forbidden to visit a cemetery on Easter,” my grandmother told me recently. How should I respond? Of course, the Church teaches us to remember the deceased on Radonitsa, the ninth day after Easter, but it views Easter visits to the cemetery as something of a Soviet-era holdover. The practice does not contain anything specifically Soviet, however. More likely than not, it reflects on a rather archaic layer of human consciousness, an echo of the “people’s Christianity” that the government found so difficult to control. My grandmother has been going to the cemetery for more than 70 years. Not because the grave served as an alternative, closed church in the Soviet Union, but couldn’t be any different. Interestingly, in Ancient Rome, during the period of persecution, Christians also gathered in cemeteries.  To tell people they shouldn’t do that brings about a certain discomfort, if not frustration.

Any holiday brings society together, whether the family, a community or the nation. This is even more the case if we talk about Easter, without a doubt the main Christian holiday. But therein lies the question. How does an archaic consciousness picture society? Who makes up society? The answer is that both the living and the dead make it up. While death changes a person’s “status,” it does not take away his right to take part in the Easter meal. Cakes and decorated eggs are placed at the grave. The Easter egg is not merely a symbol of the holiday (the shell covers a tomb from which a chick awaits its resurrection); rather, it is also a means of communication. There is a legend which states that placing an egg atop a grave will allow the deceased person to hear what is taking place “on this side.” The living use eggs to make toasts at the Easter table. The egg is also a traditional Easter gift, and a gift, as we know, is itself a means of communicating.

Another obstacle further reminds us of the archaism associated with Easter traditions. The second half of spring is considered by many couples to be the ideal time to get married or engaged. This tradition is tied to nature’s cycle. Huge seesaws have usually been erected on Easter, which are enjoyed not only by children but by young couples as well. This swinging – “new life” – is, of course, connected with ancient rites of eroticism and fertility rituals. In cities today it is difficult to imagine seasonal construction of seesaws, however, the Church, as the repository of traditions, reminds us of “correct” and “incorrect” times for getting married. During Lent, the sacrament of marriage is not celebrated.

Easter, like any holiday, breaks with linear time and juxtaposes “today” and “Yesterday.” The central event in the Christian story – the Resurrection of Jesus Christ – is one that takes place in the “here and now.” And it turns out that the holiday occurs during that period when it is culturally most needed. Could it be any other way? The authorities in the Soviet Union certainly felt that, which led to attempts to transform May Day into an alternative Easter. May Day rituals in a way duplicated Easter traditions: demonstrations took the place of processions of the Cross, and portraits of leaders took the place of church banners and icons. But tying Easter to the new holiday didn’t work out so well. Copying the rituals’ form and introducing a “labor aspect” had a limited effect, as May Day in large part ignored all of antiquity, which Christianity absorbed into itself, thus becoming a true “people’s holiday.”  Today, we are legally able to celebrate two holidays at once, which has it’s own irony, as it is unclear what May Day really means now.

Perhaps it is Easter for the nonbelievers? Hardly. Nonbelievers don’t refuse to join in with the Easter cake, instinctively responding, “Christ has Risen! – He has Risen indeed!” May Day, on the other hand, is occupied either by sleep or a trip to the dacha. First of all, we have a tendency toward “ritualistic” behavior. Secondly, we have a need for the stimulus of everyday routine actions (for example, contact with family). Thirdly, the “genetic” need for a spring holiday requires organization. In several Western countries, Easter is regarded as a completely secular family holiday, as an excuse for a trip into the country or a picnic. Traveling through Moscow’s courtyards on Easter, one can see improvised picnics with simple food purchased at the nearest store. The main concern is having nice weather, which generally happens as a rule. Incidentally, ancient Rus viewed the sun in a clear sky on Easter as an omen for a good harvest. Archaisms won’t ever leave us. They simply take on new forms...


New publications

More than 190 nations live in Russia. They write and read in 60 literary languages. But what do we know about such literatures besides the Russian one? Meanwhile, work of modern authors representing various nations of Russia embraces a wide range of styles and genres, such as poetry, prose, folklore, and children's literature, realism, postmodernism and even rap poetry.
A son of a Russian emigrant and a Frenchwoman was born in Lyon and lived his whole life away from Russia. At the same time, Alexandre Zelkine sings in perfect Russian, and his singing is absolutely charming. Today, Alexander Vladimirovich lives with his wife in the French city of Le Mans. He agreed to talk about his life, and such the cultural phenomenon as Russian soul.
BRICS Reality 29.08.2019
The Chairman of the BRICS NRC board, Chairman of the Committee on Education and Science of the State Duma of Russia and Chairman of the Board of the Russkiy Mir Foundation Vyacheslav Nikonov has delivered a lecture to the participants of the BRICS International School, which opened in Moscow. The politician has shared his thoughts on what really unites the BRICS countries, the values ​​of this organization and how BRICS challenges the liberal world order.
On August 23, 1939, Moscow signed a sensational non-aggression pact and a secret protocol to it with Berlin. Nowadays, many Western historians and the media consider this agreement almost an evidence of the criminal union of Stalin and Hitler, who divided Eastern Europe between themselves. But did the Soviet leadership have a choice? This is discussed by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Russian Military-Historical Society Sergey Ivanov.
The American Sean Quirk, who is one of musicians and the manager of the well-known in Russia and beyond Tuvinian Alash ensemble, speaks four languages. On foreign tours, he announces the songs of the ensemble in English and sings Tuvan folk songs to the public and for himself. He can please the audience with a ditty in Russian when he is asked to. Besides that, Quirk reads books in the language of his ancestors - Old Irish.
A round-the-world expedition of three Russian sailboats - the frigate Pallada and the barges Kruzenshtern and Sedov is going to start this autumn. All three sailing ships of Russian Federal Fisheries Agency have already been on the round-the-globe trips but an event of such a grand scale takes place for the first time.
How to motivate students to learn Russian language, especially if this is an extra one? Ireland teachers invented an unusual way to put together Russian classical literature and cuisine. As a result, kids don't only read Gogol and Pushkin, but also learn old recipes described in those books. They try to cook at home dishes described by great Russian writers. One of the authors of the Inspired by Food project Alexandra Puliaevskaya shares the “delicious reading” recipe.
Aloi Pilioko, a Russian Polynesian who was a longtime friend with Nicolai Michoutouchkine, a French artist of Russian origin, lives on the distant island of Vanuatu in Melanesia. Nicholas Miklouho-Maclay is still remembered in Papua New Guinea; and even Russian words are used there in speech. However there is even more surprising fact: the Papuans’ life is somewhat similar to life in remote Russian villages. We spoke to Andrey Tutorskiy, an ethnographer, associate professor of the Ethnology Department of the History Faculty in the Lomonosov Moscow State University, about this distant and exotic region and about its links to Russia.