August is a month of great celebrations in the world’s largest country, Russia. The farewell to the Summer Festival is celebrated in late August and is a great day for families. Also, in late August Equiros takes place; this year horse lovers are in for a treat. Equiros is a leading equestrian trade fair, selling a range of horse-related accessories. Alongside these events, St. Petersburg annually stages an exciting sailing regatta, where hundreds of yachts sail from Vyborg to St. Petersburg.
Staging such multifaceted events is a perfect reflection of Russia’s great ethnic diversity and geography. This immense land, spanning from Europe to Asia, is home to 143.5 million people. Russia’s population features over 160 different ethnic groups and indigenous peoples. Russia is shared by ethnic Russians (with their Slavic Orthodox traditions), Tatars and Bashkirs (with a Turkic Muslim culture); Buddhist nomadic Buryars and Kalmyks, Shamanistic peoples (of Siberia and other northern parts of the country); peoples of the highlands of the Northern Caucasus and Finno-Ugric people (located in the North-West and Volga Region).
This ethnic diversity is also showcased by Russia’s linguistic wealth. Besides the official language, Russian, over 100 languages are spoken by its peoples. Ethnic traditions are just as manifold. Numerous ethnic groups have distinctive traditions regarding folk music, using typical Russian musical instruments such as; the gusli, balalaika, zhaleika and gramoshka. Many classical composers were inspired and influenced by Russian folk music. A group of composers that called itself ‘The Mighty Five’, headed by Balakirev, were committed to composing and popularising Russian national traditions through classical music.
Given the great importance of folk music, as an integral part of Russia’s culture, it is unsurprising that the International Folklore Festival takes place in Russia every year. The festivities usually take place in the second half of the year, starting some time between August and December. This year the festival will be held in St. Petersburg, from November 14-19th. It is considered to be the brightest folk event nationally, as well as internationally, and it lives up to its name, bringing together great folk artists from all around the globe. National and international music, dancing and singing ensembles present their art in various locations across the beautiful city of St. Petersburg, which used to be the imperial capital of Russia.
Besides showcasing international talents, the Folklore Festival is a great way to promote the interaction between cultures in the field of art and to further enhance international cultural cooperation. Another objective is to inspire younger audiences by demonstrating how multifaceted folk culture is. By doing so, national traditions are handed down to the next generation, which keeps the national heritage alive. This practice may lead to the development of new forms of inter-cultural dialogue and exchange in the future.
St. Petersburg, with its grand architecture, is a perfect location for such festive events. It was therefore chosen to stage yet another music festival, taking place in August, the International Festival of Choral Art. Choirs from all around the world, including a large number of Russian regions, come together to sing in some of the city’s most spectacular venues. One of these venues is the Kazan Cathedral, known as one of the most venerated icons in Russia. Alongside the Folklore Festival, the Festival of Choral Art is a fantastic opportunity to promote the art of choral singing. By doing so, the array of singing traditions and choral repertoire may be enlarged. Hearing and seeing international ensembles that have achieved artistic perfection is a special treat for any music enthusiast.
Both events have been mastered to beautifully showcase Russia’s musical traditions, alongside artists from every corner of the globe, all thanks to the unifying spirit of music.
Which aspects of Russia’s diverse cultural traditions would you like to discover first?