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Entries / Popular Carnivals

Popular Carnivals

Categories / Population/Urban Living

POPULAR CARNIVALS, one of the forms of mass popular entertainment. In the 18th- 19th centuries up to 30 carnivals were arranged in St. Petersburg annually. Representatives of all the estates and even members of the royal family took part in them. Christmas, Easter, Trinity carnivals, and the carnivals of the 1st of May were the longest (lasting up to one week) and the most crowded (where up to some hundred thousands of participants were involved). Shrovetide carnivals were especially popular. Traditionally carnivals were held on Tsaritsyn Meadow (Field of Mars), Admiralteysky Meadow, Dvortsovy Meadow (Palace Square), Troitskaya Square and other places; in winter, festivals were set on the ice-covered rivers. Among main attractions were roller chutes, funfair booths, galleries (see Panoramas), creches, street acrobats, jugglers, bear-baiting, sleighing in winter and others. During popular carnivals there was a brisk market for sweets, pancakes, mince-pies, batter, fancy articles, toys and other things, which gave a funfair spirit to the carnivals. The Easter popular carnivals were the most celebrated. They began one week before Easter with a funfair by Bolshoy Gostiny Dvor, which was called willow (Russian verba): there one could buy willow twigs, artificial flowers, balloons and sweetmeats. On Easter day all around the city swinging boards, merry-go-rounds, funfair booths, different shows (like panoramas, rare shows, creche, travelling circus show, menagerie etc.) were laid open. During the May and Trinity carnivals people sung and danced in a ring, sang and played different games. The core of these carnivals were funfair booth shows, where circus actors and artists appeared and staged plays, operas, puppet shows, Chinese shadows were shown, etc. Carnivals were decorated with popular prints, posters, streamers, ribbons, flags etc. In the 19th century popular carnivals became an inherent part of the traditional urban way of life. Since 1900 the organization of most entertainment forms passed to the People's Temperance Ward. Beside traditional places, popular carnivals were held in city parks and gardens, according to their owners' will: in Alexandrovsky Garden, America Garden (on Glazovaya Street, now Konstantina Zaslonova Street) and others. After 1917 carnivals connected with religious festivals were banned and succeeded with carnivals in honour of state and revolutionary holidays, labour victories, beginning of top-priority projects and so forth. The spontaneous and funfair character of popular carnivals was followed by organized demonstrations, concerts, speeches of political campaign groups (in the 1920s) etc. After the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45 popular carnivals were arranged on holidays only: November 7, May 1, and May 9. After ceremonial military parade the files of marchers followed a neatly planned route. In exceptional cases carnivals acquired a spontaneous character (like on the day of the raising of the siege 27 January 1943, on Victory Day 9 May 1945, on the day of Y.A. Gagarin's space flight 12 April1961). After 1991, popular carnivals held on the days of former Soviet holidays still retained, although they lost the political sense they once embodied. Nowadays a great popularity is attached to mass carnivals of school graduates at the end of June (they have been called Red Canvas since 1968), and also to carnivals in marking the St. Petersburg foundation anniversary and carnivals of students building groups at the beginning of summer. Both types of popular carnivals have been held since the midst of the 1980s.

References: Некрылова А. Ф. Русские народные городские праздники, увеселения и зрелища, конец XVIII - нач. XX в. 2-е изд., доп. Л., 1988; Пыляев М. И. Старый Петербург. М., 1990. С. 214-217.

Y. N. Kruzhnov.

Gagarin Yury Alexeevich

Dvortsovaya Square/Saint Petersburg, city
Konstantina Zaslonova St./Saint Petersburg, city
The Field of Mars/Saint Petersburg, city

Некрылова А. Ф. Русские народные городские праздники, увеселения и зрелища, конец XVIII - нач. XX в. 2-е изд., доп. Л., 1988
Пыляев М. И. Старый Петербург. М., 1990

The subject Index
Field of Mars (Marsovo Pole), ensemble
Panoramas (entry)
Breaking of the Siege (1943)

City Holidays (entry)

CITY HOLIDAYS. In the early 18th century tsar Peter the Great established a new type of holidays which were divided into official (or state holidays) - victory celebrations, jubilees etc. and popular carnivals (see Popular carnivals)