Maslenitsa – Russian Shrovetide festival

The Electric Fencepost

Humans burning things is deeply entrenched in many cultures, religions and folklore. The Russian festival of Maslenitsa is no different. Held just prior to Lent, the 40 day fast preceding Easter observed by Christian and Orthodox followers, the event has been celebrated for centuries.  

It features the making, and subsequent eating of an unlimited supply of pancakes (yum!) and other goodies, and culminates in the burning of an effigy of the Lady Maslenitsa. This was traditionally a scarecrow-like figure made of straw and rags, with the ashes buried in the snow to aid fertilisation of new crops.

More recently, the scarecrow has been replaced by magnificent works of sculpture by artist Nikolay Polissky at the Nikola-Lenivets Art Park (which he also founded), about 200km outside of Moscow. This year, a wooden tower was burned to the ground and in 2018 it was this gothic cathedral made of sticks. Ummm… Kiwiburn Effigy anyone? Pretty spectacular!