1280px-Maslenitsa_kustodievWhat? Maslenitsa (“butter week”) is a half-Christian, half-Slavic pagan celebration of the soon-to-come end of winter that takes place for a week before Lent. Think Mardi Gras, or carnivals of Rio de Janeiro and Venice, but instead of ball gowns, beads and nudity you get traditional Russian games, folk music and dance concerts, a lot more snow and horse sleigh rides. You also get piles and piles of bliny – Russian crepe-like pancakes that are THE traditional Maslenitsa food, representing the sun – and everyone gets a little tipsy on medovukha, the honey-mead.

Where? Suzdal is a small town about 5 hours from Moscow and a must-see destination for anyone curious about the real old Russia because of its stunning examples of medieval churches and fortresses and traditional wooden houses of Russian villages.

Why? Although Maslenitsa festivities take place throughout Russia, including all over Moscow, Suzdal is particularly known for its Maslenitsa celebrations. It is a good match of atmosphere: medieval setting plus pagan traditions of the Russia of yore equals a very authentic feel.

How did I fare? Oiiiii…I was a bit overwhelmed, but had a great time. It seemed like the entire population of Moscow has descended onto this town of 10,000, helped by the fact that “peak Maslenitsa” – the Forgiveness Sunday – fell in the middle of a three-day weekend this year. The weather was pleasantly mild at around 0C/32F, but walking was nearly impossible because melted snow covered sheets of ice with ankle-deep puddles. By the end of the day my feet were soaked. Although during the pre-Lent week meat is already forbidden in Russian Orthodoxy, the lines for pork and lamb shashlik outside were an hour long. You couldn’t get a seat in any restaurant, and mead tasting, which I have been looking forward to for weeks, was for pre-booked tourist groups only.

BUT. The mood was amazing. Everyone was super-cheerful, from the frolicking children to the local craftsmen selling their work, to the women dressed-up in traditional Russian folk garb making bliny in the central market square. I warmed up with a couple of shots of vodka and some mulled wine and enjoyed myself till the last bus home.

Festivities in Suzdal’s central market square: games, concerts, costumes, shashlyk barbeque, home-made treats and a big straw doll to be burned in effigy to end Winter. Maslenitsa in Suzdal 2Maslenitsa in Suzdal 1 Maslenitsa in Suzdal 3

Maslenitsa in Suzdal 6 Maslenitsa in Suzdal 7 Maslenitsa in Suzdal 8 Maslenitsa in Suzdal 9 Maslenitsa in Suzdal 10 Maslenitsa in Suzdal 11 Maslenitsa in Suzdal 12 Maslenitsa in Suzdal 13 Maslenitsa in Suzdal 14 Maslenitsa in Suzdal 15 Maslenitsa in Suzdal 16 Maslenitsa in Suzdal 17 Maslenitsa in Suzdal 18 Maslenitsa in Suzdal 19 Maslenitsa in Suzdal 20Suzdal’s endless market sells everything from traditional Russian headdresses to rolled wool boots called valenki, from picked vegetables to medovukha, from branch bunches for the banya to hand-crafted quilts to wrap yourself into afterward. What would you buy?

Maslenitsa in Suzdal Market 1 Maslenitsa in Suzdal Market 2 Maslenitsa in Suzdal Market 3 Maslenitsa in Suzdal Market 4

Maslenitsa in Suzdal Market 7

Maslenitsa in Suzdal Market 7-1 Maslenitsa in Suzdal Market 8 Maslenitsa in Suzdal Market 9 Maslenitsa in Suzdal Market 10 Maslenitsa in Suzdal Market 11 Maslenitsa in Suzdal Market 12 Maslenitsa in Suzdal Market 13 Maslenitsa in Suzdal Market 14 Maslenitsa in Suzdal Market 15 Maslenitsa in Suzdal Market 16Plus snow rides, horses, sleds and other merriment!Maslenitsa in Suzdal Market 18-1 Maslenitsa in Suzdal Market 19 Maslenitsa in Suzdal Market 20 Maslenitsa in Suzdal Market 21 Maslenitsa in Suzdal Market 22 Maslenitsa in Suzdal - last oneHappy Maslenitsa to All!


    • Hm… So, I am not sure how much of the GR I have visited, I do vaguely remember some field trips in middle school, but nothing specific aside from Sergiev Posad and New Jerusalem. I actually plan on going to Vladimir maybe next weekend? Here’s the thing tho – Suzdal is by far the smallest and the most isolated of the GR towns, it doesnt even have a rail station! So I’d guess it’s the most immersive in terms of “real Russia” experience. And btw, I plan on going back for a weekend in the summer.

    • I didnt! I day-tripped this sucker, can you imagine? It was all pretty hectic though, so I want to go back for a proper weekend over the summer. And finally do the mead tasting!

    • Oh man, if you love pickles, Russia is a place for you! Actually, every other weekend in the summer Suzdal had a cucumber/pickle celebration! For real!

  1. Hi Anna,

    This post doubled my nostalgia syndrome! I absolutely have to go back to mother Russia…soon))
    Thank you for good reading and great pics – will be your new follower, if you don’t mind 🙂


    • Right? And here is PLENTY of bread and bread-adjacent, baked goods to go along with it. I kind of regretted eating on the train there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s