Reportage

Bee Day: How the Russian Province Celebrates Folk Holidays

Ekaterina Solovieva has captured folk celebrations in a Russian province and showed how senseless and merciless are ‘village days’ and other street festivities.

Ekaterina Solovieva Age 39

Born in Moscow, lives in Hamburg. Graduated from Moscow State University, majored in Journalism. Participated in group and personal projects and exhibitions in Russia and Germany. Has worked for the Russian and foreign media since 2007. Published her work in BBC Russia, Russia Today, Leica Russia Blog, GEO, Leica Photography International, Lenta.ru, Dekoder, Pravoslavie i Mir (“Orthodoxy and the World”), Foma, Square Space Magazine, and other media outlets. Published two of her series as photo books.

— Village Day is a senseless and merciless holiday. You know in advance how the events will unfold. In the morning you have ponies and merry-go-rounds, happy kids, cotton candy, people selling Chinese plastic masks, horns, and hearts. In the afternoon there is barbeque and beer. And at night — a music show, fireworks, dancing, vodka, and street fights. Theme holidays are a bit more interesting: there is Cucumber Day, Onion Day, Sauna Day, Boat Day, or my personal favorite, Bee Day.

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Bee Day has been held in Sandovo, Tver oblast for many years now. Bees make an appearance several kilometers before the entry to the village — at the crossroads, there is a sign and rocks painted as bees. Then at the entry you find an emblem of the district with bees on it. In the village center you find a bee museum. At the door, the director of the bee museum wearing a bee costume is greeting the honorable guests. At the stadium near the stage there is a large inflated bee.

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Leopold, a cat from the well-known Soviet animation, is entertaining the kids from the stage. After him come women in black skirts and white blouses and read poems about war. Then there is a performance of a local cheerleading team. Finally, a very serious school principal and a village head have their speeches.

At the end, the director of the bee museum wearing a bee costume runs out to the field and cries: “Now let our wish tree fly up!” as she lets go of a bunch of balloons. A huge bunch hovers at three meters above the ground and is not planning to move any further up.

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People hit the beer and barbeque stands. The rare animals exhibition closes down. Two men are packing a paper ostrich into a GAZelle. A strange pig-nosed creature is running around the field. Teenagers dressed as characters from 19th century Russian novels are strolling slowly and with dignity. “I am Gogol’s Khlestakov, and she is Pushkin’s Tatyana Larina,” one of them explains. “2015 has been proclaimed Literature Year, haven’t you heard?”

In Vesyegonsk, there is Crayfish Museum. Sandovo Bee visits Vesyegonsk Crayfish in the summer, and they meet tourist boats on the pier together.

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