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Orthodoc
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Those who ignore history tend to repeat it.


« on: February 13, 2004, 12:12:05 PM »

>2004.02.13 Moscow Times:

Friday, February 13, 2004
  Pancake Party

By Alexander Osipovich


For centuries, Russians have celebrated Maslenitsa by gorging themselves on
pancakes and knocking back industrial-sized quantities of vodka. So the
weeklong festival marking Orthodox believers' last chance to eat dairy
products before Lent might not seem like the best time to promote physical
fitness and sportsmanship. Nonetheless, the Moscow city government has
decided that pancakes and sports are a match made in heaven. From Monday to
Feb. 22, the city will host the world's first-ever Olympic Maslenitsa Town
on Vasilyevsky Spusk, the stretch of land between St. Basil's Cathedral and
the Moscow River, to promote Moscow's bid for the 2012 Olympics.

"This year, Maslenitsa will have an athletic character," declared Tatyana
Kokoryova, a public relations manager for the upcoming festival. Asked what
sports have to do with a holiday best known for gluttony and debauchery,
Kokoryova pointed out that Russians once celebrated Maslenitsa by sledding,
fistfighting, riding in troikas and climbing poles.

  In keeping with tradition at Monday's opening ceremonies, Olympic
athletes will light a Maslenitsa flame -- in a giant frying pan, of course.
The flame will burn for seven days overlooking the Olympic Maslenitsa Town,
where visitors can eat pancakes, listen to music and watch traditional
Punch-and-Judy shows.

  The highlight of the show will come on Thursday, when Moscow will attempt
to enter the Guinness Book of World Records by building the world's tallest
stack of pancakes. The organizers hope to build a stack 15 meters high,
promising that "famous politicians" will be involved in the effort. After
the greasy heap of pancakes has been measured and immortalized by Guinness,
it will be eaten by children from Moscow orphanages.

This is the third year in a row that the Moscow city government has
sponsored a public celebration of Maslenitsa. According to Kokoryova, over
2 million people visited Maslenitsa Town in 2003. But for many Russians,
Maslenitsa is a private holiday best celebrated with friends. Orthodox
believers take the opportunity to squeeze in some socializing -- and some
calories -- before the 40-day fast of Lent.

Yet many Maslenitsa traditions date back to pagan Russia, when the early
Slavs held a similar holiday to mark the end of winter. Even back then,
pancakes magically ushered in the spring; fried up on the pan, they
symbolized the sun, while their ingredients -- grain, flour and eggs --
represented fertility.

  Pagan roots can also be detected in today's tradition of forcing
newlyweds to kiss (to promote fertility) and burning a scarecrow (to bring
the winter down in flames). The Orthodox Church has never quite approved of
these pagan traditions. Instead, church doctrine states that the week of
Maslenitsa should be used to prepare oneself mentally for Lent.

Many Russians take a different approach altogether -- back in the mid-17th
century, the Englishman Samuel Collins, court doctor to Tsar Alexei
Mikhailovich, observed that 20 to 30 Muscovites drank themselves to death
each Maslenitsa. "During Butter-week, before the Great Lent, Russians give
themselves over to all sorts of amusements and unbridled excesses," he
wrote. "They drink as if they were fated to drink for the last time in
their lives."

Reining in the unruly holiday has proved a chore; Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich
tried to ban fistfights, games of chance, and, curiously, swinging on
swings. Peter the Great loved Maslenitsa -- in 1722, he celebrated it with
a mock naval procession, standing on the deck of the largest ship as horses
pulled it through the streets of Moscow. The Soviets tolerated Maslenitsa,
but they renamed it the Send-Off of Russian Winter, to eliminate any
religious connotations.

With Mayor Yury Luzhkov and the Moscow City Hall taking a new approach to
Maslenitsa, the golden hue of this year's pancakes may conceal the glint of
an Olympic medal.

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« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2004, 04:32:17 PM »

How's everyone celebrating Maslinitsa this year?  
We're doing it in true Russian style, at the Russian Embassy next Friday night.
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« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2004, 04:59:16 PM »

How's everyone celebrating Maslinitsa this year?  
We're doing it in true Russian style, at the Russian Embassy next Friday night.  

With the traditional fistfights and everything?  Wink

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« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2004, 05:14:51 PM »

Well, I don't know yet... quite possibly, you never know with them crazy Russians.  Last year we did almost have a fist fight at the Blini party we went too... thankfully it was averted as the towtruck driver saw the error of his ways (he wanted to tow cars parked on the road that wasn't cleared very well after a snow storm) after being confronted with 5 angry (and rather inebraited) Russians and 2 angry Persians.
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Now where were we? Oh yeah - the important thing was I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn’t have white onions because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones...
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« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2004, 05:59:51 PM »

With the traditional fistfights and everything?  Wink



Gee!  We just all sit aound nd get fatter eating Bilini!

Orthodoc
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« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2004, 01:13:32 AM »

My wife makes the best blini.

When we lived in Moscow we used to sit on the Church steps and eat blini that we bought at the nearby "Teremok" kiosk. The little sparrows that nested around the Church were so tame they would come up and take pieces of blini right out your hands.

Like a little slice of heaven . . .
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« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2004, 06:39:20 PM »

"The Englishman Samuel Collins, court doctor to Tsar Alexei
Mikhailovich, observed that 20 to 30 Muscovites drank themselves to death each Maslenitsa. "During Butter-week, before the Great Lent, Russians give themselves over to all sorts of amusements and unbridled excesses," he wrote. "They drink as if they were fated to drink for the last time in their lives."


I love this - it kills me.  But I think I might start calling this week "butter week" -- I like that too.

What is "blini" (for us non-Russians)?
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« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2004, 10:46:35 AM »

Masla = Butter
Maslenitsa = Butter Week
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Now where were we? Oh yeah - the important thing was I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn’t have white onions because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones...
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« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2004, 10:49:31 AM »

Blin = Pancake
Blini = Pancakes

Even though officially the week is Maslenitsa, a lot of Russians just call it blini (exmpl: What are you doing for blini this year?)
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Now where were we? Oh yeah - the important thing was I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn’t have white onions because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones...
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« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2004, 04:21:54 PM »

Gregory,

Is this the same English doctor to the Tsar's family that later converted to Orthodoxy?  Or was that an English tutor?
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« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2004, 04:44:42 PM »

Quote
Is this the same English doctor to the Tsar's family that later converted to Orthodoxy?  Or was that an English tutor?

Different person. I think you're thinking of Sidney Gibbs, the tutor for Tsar Nicholas II's children, who escaped the Communists, made it back to England and ended up a Russian Orthodox priest and monk (Fr Nicholas?).
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« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2004, 09:03:39 PM »

ania, thanks for the definitions!  

ambrose, I copied that quote from Orthodoc's post above... it looks like it's from the Moscow Times and was talking about a 17th century English doctor living in Moscow.  The English tutor to Tsar Nicholas II and family is a fascinating story -- i bought the book from conciliar press and read it - called "An Englishman in the Court of the Tsar" about Charles (later Father Nicholas) Gibbes, by Christine Benagh.
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« Reply #12 on: February 17, 2004, 06:04:44 PM »

Yes, it's the tutor of whom I was thinking.  Thanks; I'll put that title on my birthday gift list!
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« Reply #13 on: February 20, 2004, 12:42:33 AM »

Blini are pancakes, but they differ from the typical American flapjack. They are much thinner and taste way better. They are usually served with some filling, anything from caviar or fish to fruit and other sweet stuff. I prefer the sweet ones myself.

As for those Russians who drink themselves to death during Maslenitsa: I almost did that during one of my first few nights in Moscow. I made the classic American mistake: I tried to keep up with a veteran Russian drinker.

Not a mistake I will make again.
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« Reply #14 on: February 20, 2004, 12:16:16 PM »

Linus, LOL, never compete with a Russian, and if you do, best thing to do is drink a 1/2 glass of water per shot of vodka.  

I made my first attempt at blini last night, and I just wanna say, they were AWESOME (patting self on back).  Only had to call mom twice for advice.
Best blini filling combos:
Sourcream, red caviar, chives, hardboiled eggs, rolled up, w/ melted butter poured over.
or if you like sweet ones:
Sourcream, sugar, and chunks of dark chocolate, rolled up, w/ melted butter poured over (this one you stick in the microwave for about 30 to 45 seconds to melt the chocolate & sourcream together).
Yummmmmmm...  we had both.  Generally back home we ate them breakfast lunch & dinner, nothing else, the first one for main course, the second for desert, for the entire week.
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Now where were we? Oh yeah - the important thing was I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn’t have white onions because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones...
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