Resurrecting the Easter of Russia's Past
Two New Exhibits Examine the History of
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As Orthodox Easter grows nearer, an exhibit that opens Friday at the Peter and Paul Fortress aims to educate visitors on the checkered history of Easter celebrations in St. Petersburg from the 19th through the 21st centuries.
About 500 items, including graphics, cards, photos, billboards, books and applied art will tell visitors about Easter church services, traditional Easter gifts, meals, folk festivals held during the holiday, anti-religious Soviet propaganda and modern Easter celebrations.
Easter, one of the main Christian holidays, celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead three days after his crucifixion. Orthodox Easter, which falls on April 15 this year, after the seven-week-long period of Lent, is celebrated on the first Sunday after the spring full moon. Catholic Easter this year falls on April 8.
In 19th and early 20th-century St. Petersburg, Holy Week (the last week before Easter) traditionally began with the arrival of pussy willow markets where people could also buy other goods in preparation for the celebration such as Easter gifts, cards, toys, decorations, fabric and paper flowers. The exhibit at the Peter and Paul Fortress will feature pictures and engravings of traditional St. Petersburg pussy willow markets near Gostiny Dvor and on Sennaya Ploshchad.
During the last days of Lent, believers traditionally buy items for their Easter celebration and meal including painted eggs, kulich (a sweet Easter bread) and paskha (a cottage cheese dessert). Labels from Easter sets from the 1910s explaining how to make kulich and paskha and color eggs will also be on display.
Easter celebrations begin on the Saturday night with a late-night Easter church service. Pictures at the exhibit capture moments such as the Procession of the Cross and the blessing of the Easter bread and eggs. Priests’ ceremonial Easter robes dating back to the early 19th century can also be seen.
On Easter Sunday, Orthodox believers visit relatives and friends. During these visits they give each other gifts, the most popular of which are Easter eggs and cards.
Artist: Vladimir E. Makovsky (1887-1888)
The traditional Easter greeting is the khristosovaniye, when people kiss each other three times on the cheeks. As people often had many guests on Easter, the tradition gradually became a formality that turned into the subject of jokes in St. Petersburg newspapers. The exhibition also includes caricatures of Easter visits from the print media from those times.
After Lent was over, public festivals were again allowed in the city. These activities are reflected in engravings and photos of celebrations on the city’s Field of Mars and Alexandrovsky Garden. There are also posters of festival balls and performances from pre-revolutionary times.
A separate section of the exhibit is dedicated to the story of Easter celebrations after 1917. During the first years of Soviet power in St. Petersburg, then called Petrograd, people continued to celebrate Easter, as shown in pictures from the 1920s. In the 1930s, however, Easter and other religious holidays were banned. This is reflected in anti-Easter posters with captions such as, “No Absentees [from work] on Easter Day.”
However, in some churches, Easter services continued to be held. In a photograph taken in 1943, during the Siege of Leningrad, city residents are attending an Easter service at the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Cathedral.
The revival of Easter traditions in Russia began in the 1990s, and the exhibition is completed by documentary materials dedicated to celebrations during the post-Soviet period. There is also a modern Easter collection from the city’s Imperial Porcelain Factory including porcelain eggs, vases and Easter dinner services from the 2000s.
Artist: Viktor Kudrin (1925 - 1999)
The Alexander Blok apartment museum will also showcase an Easter-themed exhibit called “Easter in the Blok Family,” which will open on April 16 and run through May 18.
The family of the eminent Symbolist poet always celebrated Easter, with the poet himself often attending the service at St. Isaac’s Cathedral on Easter night.
The exposition presents books containing Easter poems from poets of the early 20th century. Among the writings are works by Blok, Ivan Bunin, Valery Bryusov and other poets of the time.
The “Easter in St. Petersburg” exhibit runs from April 6 through June 3
in the Nevskaya Kurtina of the Peter and Paul Fortress. M. Gorkovskaya.
Tel. 230 6431. www.spbmuseum.ru
“Easter in the Blok Family” runs from April 16 through May 18 at the Alexander Blok Apartment Museum at 57 Ulitsa Dekabristov. M. Sennaya Ploshchad / Sadovaya. Tel. 713 8616. www.spbmuseum.ru.
Source & Copyright: St. Petersburg Times
4 April, 2012