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Chastushka battles and blini fair: Maslenitsa at VDNKh

The Maslenitsa festival, a harbinger of spring, is accompanied by merry gatherings whose participants sing, dance and eat blini. It has already become a marvelous tradition in Moscow. This year’s festival is scheduled to be held from 1 to 10 March at 23 local venues in various districts. Over 60 different varieties of blini with 150 fillings and toppings will be prepared during the event. Qatayef (a sweet delicacy traditionally served during the month of Ramadan), popular in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, will be served this year for the first time.

Over 200 plays and about 150 concerts will be performed. Puppet theatres from various Russian regions will present five plays under the Golden Mask project.

The atmosphere of a town from the late 19th - early 20th century, including improvised stalls with a butcher’s shop and a tea house, a bird farm and other facilities, will be recreated on Manezhnaya Square.

The Moscow Maslenitsa festival is part of the Moscow Seasons cycle of street events. The 2018 festival attracted 4.75 million people who bought about 250,000 blini and attended nearly 3,000 fun-filled events.

From 1 to 10 March, VDNKh will be the place to target for daily open-air events during the Maslenitsa festival. All venues will be located near the main-entrance arch, on Central Alley, in front of Pavilion No 57 and also close by to the entrance to Ostankino Park.

Eating chestnut blini and singing Chastushki

Folk groups will perform on Central Alley and people will get a chance to get involved in round dancing. Anyone taking part in Chastushka battles will have to try their luck while performing these witty musical quatrains.

The traditional Maslenitsa fair will become the main culinary event at VDNKh. Twenty brightly lit chalets will welcome foodies in front of Pavilion No 57, with their exquisitely crafted signature blini prepared from oatmeal, chestnut, buckwheat and wheat flour with a choice of masses of various delicious fillings, including king crab, duck and cowberry jam, French pate or fresh berries and whipped cream. Free cups of hot will be handed out. Theatrical companies will perform folklore plays and scenes from Russian fairy tales and epic sagas. Outdoor cravers will be able to join in the traditional Maslenitsa fun and games, including the tug-of-war and skipping with a giant rope.

A specially equipped fair pavilion will have ongoing workshops throughout the entire festival. On 8 March, people will be able to learn how to make wreaths and custom-made ornaments using flowers and bright ribbons and how to paint Matryoshka dolls. From 9 to 10 March, people will be offered a chance to try their luck at painting wooden toys and making felt hats. City Farm, Robot Station and other exhibition residents are also expected to hold free workshops and no prior registration will be required.

Round dancing and folk rhythms

The Raketa skating rink has prepared a special musical programme for visitors. On 8 March, ice dancing will be offered from 6 pm until 11 pm. The punk band Cheese People that frequents so many music festivals and often performs abroad will open the event. Erika Lundmoen, a Russian-speaking performer from Norway who combines soul, folk and hip-hop, will then take to the stage.

On 9 March at 6.15 pm, the Raketa skating rink will be the venue for a disco involving young but already famous performers, including the Komsomolsk band from Moscow. The ironic lyrics of their songs are inspired by online memes and news. A festive firework display, scheduled for 7.57 pm, will be followed by the Oligarkh band from St Petersburg whose electronic music blends nicely with folk songs, Tchaikovsky works and Russian rap.

Also on the same day, the skating rink will have festive costumed gatherings. A huge crowd will dance around a model of the Vostok launch vehicle. People will require tickets to enter the skating rink but there will also be concerts, dancing and contests with prizes.

The complete programme of festive events and open-air parties will be posted on the VDNKh website.

The 317-ha exhibition centre, Russia’s largest, boasts 49 cultural landmarks, including historical pavilions and fountains, and annually receives 30 million people. The city has been reconstructing it since 2014. Today, work is underway at almost 40 historical buildings and structures, and there are plans to complete the overhaul in 2020.

Chastushka battles and blini fair: Maslenitsa at VDNKh