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It is Time to Celebrate майские праздники Posted by on May 1, 2012 in Culture, Russian life


May 1st starts a calendar period commonly referred to as майские праздники (May holidays). Первое мая (May 1st), also known as Первомай, used to be a one of those propaganda-driven Soviet holidays, День международной солидарности трудящихся (International Workers’ Day).

Back then the schedule was pretty set – a government-organized демонстрация (political demonstration) or, in larger cities, парад (parade) followed by застолье (a holiday meal) with a centerpiece being миска салата «Оливье» (a bowl of Olivier salad). The following day was spent at an organized маёвка (May Day outing) or, sometimes, at a mandatory субботник or воскресник, a type of volunteer neighborhood clean-up and beautification project that would take place on a Saturday or a Sunday.

Now, the days of marching through the city square carrying плакаты (banners) with лозунги (slogans) such as «Мир! Труд! Май!» (Peace! Work! May!), «Да здравствует коммунистическая партия!» (Glory to the Communist Party!) and «Пролетарии всех стран, соединяйтесь!» (Workers of the world, unite!)

So what is going on in Russia on May 1st this year?

Коммунистическа партия Российской Федерации, КПРФ for short (Communist Party of the Russian Federation) continues the long-standing tradition of первомайская демонстрация (May Day demonstration) with somewhat updated slogans:

Требуем справедливого наказания виновных в фальсификации выборов! (We demand justice for those responsible for election fraud!)

Борьбу с криминалом и коррупцией начни со своего предприятия и ведомства! (Start the fight against crime and corruption at your own company and institution!)

Along with the old standby softened for the new times:

Наша историческая цель – социализм! (Socialism is our historical goal!)

Other политические партии и движения (political parties and movements) are organizing their own первомайские акции (May Day actions) including шествия (marches) and митинги (rallies).

On the lighter side of things, маёвки (May Day outings) are also planned since May Day is not just День труда (Labor Day), but also День весны (Spring Day). So expect plenty of пикники (picnics), шашлыки (shish kebabs), концерты (concerts), танцы (dancing) and such.

In the mean time, Moscow is gearing up for очередной Парад Победы (another Victory Day Parade) with the final night-time rehearsal on May 3rd and the grand daytime dress rehearsal on May 6th. So if you are in Moscow right now, take pictures, upload them to Facebook and share with us, please!

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  1. Rob McGee:

    an amazingly weird banner

    WOW, talk about культ личночти!

    The grammatical ambiguity of the Russian very nearly seems to suggest that Lenin was the Второе пришествие “Second Coming” (i.e., identical with Christ, not only analogous). And all of the language is incredibly messianic — people brought a catastrophe upon themselves not by abandoning the abstract Ideal Of Socialism, but by “slandering” Lenin personally!

  2. Rob McGee:

    And by the way, I like how you’ve redecorated!

    • yelena:

      @Rob McGee More changes are coming since this is just a temp fix for the issues we’ve had on the blog (don’t know which ones since that’s the techie side I don’t even pretend to understand). Unfortunately, for some reason I no longer get comments notification, so I apologize if it takes me a while to approve comments or respond to them.

  3. Sally:

    “Первое мая (May 1st), also known as Первомай, used to be a one of those propaganda-driven Soviet holidays, День международной солидарности трудящихся (International Workers’ Day).”

    You mean unlike July 4, Bastille Day, ANZAC Day/Australia Day or The Day of German Unity, or even Christmas or Easyer, which are, of course, “spontaneous outpourings of popular feeling”?

    (*rolls her eyes in exasperated irony*)

    On the other hand the post-Soviet banner is pretty silly – given how christianity has allied itself with the forces of oppression for a couple of millennia, I’d say the score on liberation is Lenin-1,Christ-0.

  4. Olga Tarn:

    “Всё смешалось в доме Облонских” )))
    Вот же каша в головах у некоторых “товарищей” ))) Судя по этому плакату, автору не помешала бы консультация психолога, если не психиатра.)))

    • yelena:

      @Olga Tarn Да, ну и с грамматикой там тоже большие проблемы. В общем, есть над чем поработать 🙂

  5. Rob McGee:

    Sally — I’m not sure about your scorekeeping method. I mean, if you dock points from Team Christ because followers of Jesus sometimes aided and abetted oppression, shouldn’t the mass liquidations of “kulaks” during the first Five-Year-Plan likewise reduce Team Lenin’s score?

    (But I have absolutely no interest in embarking on a Чья сторона “менее хуже”? debate, whether it’s about “Jesus vs. Lenin” or “Soviet vs. Western systems” — or rather, these are extremely interesting debates, but also extremely complicated with merits and evils on both sides, and thus difficult to resolve without some sort of TARDIS machine that lets us view different outcomes in parallel universes.)

  6. Vitaliy:

    Rob, Sally is right, 1st may is not a “propaganda-driven”. Celebrations of 1st may had started in times of Russian Empire, when workers and peasants fought for their rights. Also, the real spring comes to Russia usually in end of April or in start of May, so now 1st may officially called in Russia “День весны и туда” and it more looks like celebration of coming and warm weather, then International Workers’ Day.