Birobidzhan Hosts the “Many-Sided Russia” Cultural Festival

Oct 9, 2014 by

[This post was originally published in April 2012]


Paradoxically, Birobidzhan, the capital of the Jewish autonomous oblast in the Russian Far East, will host a Russian cultural festival “Many-Sided Russia”, timed to coincide with the Day of Slavic Writing and Culture on May 25, 2012. The festival will include performances by soloists and musical groups from the Jewish autonomous oblast, as well as from the neighboring Khabarovsk and Primorsky krais, and Chita and Novosibirsk oblasts further west. The most widely advertised part of the festival is the filming of a TV program dedicated to garmon, a quintessentially Russian kind of button accordion, which traditionally accompanies Russian folk songs and ditties. The program will be shown across Russia on TV Channel One. Numerous professional and amateur musicians and singers have participated in the screening stage of the competition. Another important performance will be by the Russian Folk Orchestra, which includes such traditional Russian folk instruments as several types of domra, bayan (another type of accordion), gusli (the oldest Russian multi-string plucked instrument), and several types of balalaika (a familiar-looking triangular three-stringed instrument). Honorary guests of the festival will be greeted by groups of Cossacks from Khabarovsk krai and Amur oblast. The Cossack teams will compete in running, horse riding, marksmanship, and other militarized sports. Besides musical performances and sports activities, other offerings include street theatrical performances, art and crafts exhibits, as well as religious programs organized by the local Russian Orthodox eparchy and events celebrating Russian settlers’ roots in European Russia.

No Jewish-themed events are planned. Ironically, the festival will be covered extensively by Birobidzhaner Stern, the local newspaper originally published entirely in Yiddish (today, only a few columns still appear in Yiddish). Even in its heyday, the Jewish population of the Jewish autonomous oblast was no more than 16% of the total. Today, the Jews constitute only 1% of the region’s population. A forthcoming post will be dedicated to the history and current status of the Jewish autonomous oblast.

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