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28Jan/160

How to celebrate Russian Christmas in the Urals

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On January 9th 2016 our international team of tourists went to the village of Kostino (130km East of Yekaterinburg) where we celebrated Svyatki. Svyatki or saint days is a mixture of pagan believes and Christian traditions celebrated between Ortodox Christmas (Jan.7th) and Epiphany (Jan. 19th).

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The first week of Svyatki is called a saint week and includes celebrating of Christmas. The second week is called "scary". Slavic people believed that evil forces are particular dangerous during that week.  It includes fortune telling at night, carroling and playing outdoor games.

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Fortune telling is one of the traditions in January. Young girls got together in a banya at night to find out who they would marry and how soon. But first a girl had to take off her cross. Christian and pagan rites had to be separated.

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In Kostino we used candle wax and a bowl with water to predict the future. You can guess the meaning of the shapes made by the drops of wax.

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 When carrolling people wear masks of animals (bears, goats, bulls or geese etc) so that they can't be recognized   and one man should be dressed as a goat. If a host refuses to share drinks and treats with carrol singers, the goat can do some mischief. That's why we were treated well and our ‘goat’ – a French guest Gerard got a lot of drinks.

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We all agreed that Kostino is worth coming back in summer. So on July 9th we'll have another weekend tour to the village to celebrate a pagan slavic day of Ivan Kupala!

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9Special thanks to my Moscow friend Katya Sverchkova for the beautiful photos.

9Jan/150

Ice Town in Yekaterinburg 2015

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Traditionally after Christmas I’m posting the photos of the ice town of Yekaterinburg. In 2015 the theme of the ice town is the 70s anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War. The ice figures in the Square of 1905 were made by an international group of sculptors.

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The Brest Forest is the pavilion in the center of the ice town. 3D films about the Second World War are played inside.

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'Mystical animals - world protectors' by Japanese sculptors

'Mystical animals - world protectors' by Japanese sculptors

Of course, you will find an ice tank T34 in the ice town as the Soviet tank was produced in Yekaterinburg at the Uralmash Factory.

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Other ice sculptures are located in front of the Church on the Blood. Every year sculptors create here religious-themed figures for Orthodox Christmas on the 7th of January.

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This year the ice town works till January 25th only. So hurry up to see the ice beauty!

23Dec/140

Yekaterinburg city tour: Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent

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Novo – Tikhvinsky Convent on Zelyonaya Roscha st, 1 is one of the tourists’ attractions in Yekaterinburg. Since the reopening of its main church of St. Alexander Nevsky in 2013 it has become a part of every city tour.

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The convent was opened in the 18th century. Before the revolution it was the largest convent in Russia with 1000 sisters. The sisters received education and were taught crafts. There were six churches, residences for the sisters, and buildings where various workshops were located: gold-embroidery, iconographic, silk-embroidery, photographic, spinning, enamel, and the sewing one.

In 1920s the convent was requisitioned by the Bolsheviks and most of the sisters were killed. The territory of the convent was used as a park and partly given to the military hospital. The Church of St Alexander Nevsky was turned into a storage.

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In 1994 the convent was given back to nuns. However, the area is much smaller now so the nuns (today there are over 100 of them in Yekaterinburg) have to live in the outskirts of the city. They come to Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent every day for their obedience such as icon-painting, sewing, at the publishing house, souvenir obedience etc.

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The church of Alexander Nevsky is interesting from the mineralogical point of view. Inside it is decorated with various minerals, the so-called Ural gems.

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Another must-visit place in the convent is the souvenir shop. In winter the shop looks like a museum of pre-revolutionary Christmas decoration. You can buy Christmas decoration and toys made according to the traditional design of the 19th century.

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If you are looking for a unique hand-made Russian souvenir and not a corny matryoshka doll or shapka (Russian hat), Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent offers a good variety. This year I bought all New Year presents there

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photos of the church were taken from the website of Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent http://www.sestry.ru/eng

24Jul/130

Festival of Church Bells in Kamensk-Uralski

Last Saturday the regional Ministry of Tourism invited the travel agencies of Yekaterinburg to the Festival of Church Bells to the city of Kamensk-Uralski.

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Kamensk-Uralski is the third largest city in Sverdlovsky Region (Middle Urals). I doubt it will ever become a popular tourist  destination but it has beautiful river sceneries around and the festival is worth seeing too. The city of metallurgists holds the Festival of Church Bells every year in July. A local citizen Mr. Pyatkov opened his bell foundry here in 1991. Now it’s the largest bell producer in Russia and abroad.

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Our visit started at the bell foundry. There are excursions to the foundry held daily Mon-Fri. You can see how the church bells are made and of course try to make it ring!

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The festival held in front of the chapel included dancing, singing and lots of ringing.

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They say that bell ringing has an ability to heal people. Bell towers of Russian Churches are always located in the western corner. It is believed the bells can scare evil forces that always come from the west. Just like the communists used to say!  

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Lenin and the communists on the wall of the town hall of Kamensk-Uralski

On that hot summer day not every one chose to listen to the bells

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boys swimming in the fountain

photos by Irina Loktionova

 

8Jul/120

New monument of family, love and faith in Yekaterinburg

8th of July is a new celebration in Russia –St. Peter and Fevronya’s Day, the day of family, love and faith. A brand new monument to patron saints of marriage and family was opened in Yekaterinburg near the Church on the Blood and it immediately became a popular spot for newly-weds.

Originally, it was a Russian Orthodox celebrated only in the town of Murom as Peter was the Prince of Murom. The day of love and family was proposed by Russian Orthodox Church as opposed to St Valentine’s. The church doesn’t like that young people in Russia celebrate a Catholic Day. In 2008 the Russian Government accepted the proposal of a new celebration and it was actively promoted by Svetlana Medvedeva, the wife of the former president D. Medvedev.

Interesting facts: In spite of the fact that Peter and Fevronya symbolize traditional Orthodox values, Peter, the Prince of Murom didn’t want to marry Fevronya. She was a commoner who cured him of leprosy. In return, Fevronya asked Peter to marry her but he refused. However, he later suffered a relapse and came to Fevronya again. After that he had to marry Fevronya. The couple was childless which isn’t a good example of a good Orthodox family either. At the end of their lives they both joined the clergy. He became a monk and she was a nun and both prayed to die on the same date which they did on July, 8th 1228.

When speaking about love and faith, it’s worth mentioning some statistics here. According to Demoscope Weekly, every second marriage ends in divorce in Yekaterinburg. The average age of newly-weds in Russia is 26-27 for men and 24-25 for women. Only 30% of Russian women and 56% of men marry for the second time after a divorce. As for faith, 90% of men and 85% of women in Russia think that adultery is a good reason to get a divorce.

There are no special traditions yet about buying chocolate or flowers on this date. But considering the statistics, it’s probably a good thing that we have a day in summer when people can think about the family values.

10May/120

Celebrating Easter in the country. Bym, Permsky Region

Permsky Region in Western Urals is doing its best to promote not only Ural cities but small villages. This spring a small village of Bym (30km to Kungur, 260 km to Yekaterinburg) welcomed tourists to celebrate Easter in a traditional Russian style. The village is planning to host similar fests every year. Their first try was certainly a success.

Very few people among those who arrived from Perm and Yekaterinburg knew folk songs and dances but everyone participated in a cheerful fest.

On that day everyone could go to the bell tower of the church to ring the bells and to enjoy a breathtaking view of the Urals.

The highlight of Bym is Belogorsky Monastery – a beautiful church up on the highest hill.

click here to see more photos:

13Apr/120

Happy Orthodox Easter! Churches of Yekaterinburg

On April 15th Russia is celebrating Orthodox Easter. Russian Easter has neither Easter bunnies nor chocolate eggs. Main symbols are hard boiled chicken eggs painted in different colors and kulich (Easter cake) Russians don’t have a day off on Monday after Easter Day but we have a nice tradition of ringing the bells. During a week after Easter you can go to any church up to the bell tower and ring the bells. This is good fun and the believers also say that it’s a healing activity, i.e. the sound of the church bells can heal you!

The most famous church to go is the Church on the Blood.

The Church on the Blood has 16 bells. The largest weighs 9 tonns

The Church on the Blood was consecrated on the 16th of July, 2003. It was in this place that the Royal Family of the last Russian Tsar Nicholas II was killed on the night of July 16, 1918. The inclusion of this place into the structure of the church makes it unique. The full name of the church is ‘the Church on the Blood in Honor of All the Saints Radiating in the Land of Russia’. The church consists of two chapels: the upper one is consecrated in the name of all the Saints Radiating in the Land of Russia, and after which the church itself was named, and the lower one is dedicated to the Holy Royal Martyrs.

Iconostasis on the ground floor

After the consecration of the church, Archbishop Vikenty, head of the local Orthodox diocese, made this address: “We all know that a violent crime occurred at this very place, and thus the unity between the church and secular authorities was destroyed. But now this church stands as a symbol of their reunion and puts an end to their enmity and destruction. From this day forward, this church will be a symbol of repentance, unity and revival of our homeland.”

But the main church in Yekaterinburg is not the Church on the Blood. It’s St. Trinity Cathedral on Kuybysheva st.

St Trinity Cathedral is the main church in the city

The Cathedral was lucky, the Bolsheviks didn’t destroy it like the rest of them. They only took away the golden dome and the bells from the tower. The body of the Cathedral was used a Soviet cinema ‘Rot-Front’ with 500 seats.

The only church that functioned in the city in the Soviet era was the Church of St. Iowan.

St Iowan Church on Repina st.

This small cemetery church was built in 1846. After the Revolution of 1917 the Bolsheviks demolished 43 churches in Yekaterinburg. However, during the Second World War Stalin decided to ease restrictions on churches to appeal to people’s patriotism. So the church wasn’t destroyed but, of course, Father Nikolay, the priest of the church had to be on friendly terms with the KGB.

Today, there are 28 Orthodox Churches in Yekaterinburg. So welcome to the bell towers on 16-22 of April!