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Art and Culture in Russia: A Guide to the Top Ten Autumn Events
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Art and Culture in Russia: A Guide to the Top Ten Autumn Events

Picture of Eleanor Cunningham
Updated: 9 February 2017
While many of Russia’s holiday events are similar to Western traditions, there are some that are uniquely Russian; for example, Cosmonaut Day celebrates Russia‘s achievements in space exploration. Celebrating their rich cultural heritage, we pick ten autumn and winter festivals and events to experience in the world’s largest country.

Moscow International Book Fair

Moscow: 4 – 9 Sept

The Moscow International Book Fair is an annual event and has become the most representative and largest book forum in Russia since its launch in 1977. It has been considered the most significant promotion of Russian authors, with more than 200 authors participating, both well known and emerging. The fair includes performances not only of prose writers and poets, but also journalists, actors, producers, scientists, musicians, TV anchor persons, cooks and fashion designers. In 2012, the 25th Moscow International Book Fair attracted more than one and a half thousand participants from 45 countries and its programme included over 500 events.

Moscow City Day Festival (Den’ Goroda)

Moscow: 7 Sept

This annual event is celebrated during the first weekend of September in the streets of Moscow and was introduced by the former Russian president Boris Yeltsin in 1986 when he was the Secretary of the Moscow City Committee. This two day festival is held in honour of the birth of the Russian capital with a series of parades and events including live music and firework displays. The celebrations begin on the Saturday with a procession of floats parading along Tverskaya Street and finishing at the Kremlin. Other events take place around the city, including fun fairs, street entertainers and sports contests.

Ryazanskiye Smotrini (Showing-off in Ryazan), International Puppet Festival

Ryazan: Sept 7 -11

Since 1989, the Ryazan State Puppet Theatre has become the leading initiator and organiser of the International Festival of Puppet Theatres. With ‘Ryazanskiye Smotrini’ translating as ‘Showing-off in Ryazan’, this puppet festival is internationally renowned and is a unique way to experience one of the many art forms that have become established in Russia.

2012 Festival film, Love Likes Coincidences/Aşk Tesadüfleri Sever
2012 Festival film, Love Likes Coincidences/Aşk Tesadüfleri Sever | Böcek Yapım

St. Petersburg International Film Festival

St. Petersburg: 13 – 22 Sept

This newly established festival started in 2012 and is dedicated to showcasing art cinema oriented towards a wider audience. With the aim of increasing cultural exchange, international communication and collaboration between filmmakers from all over the world, the programme features a mix of world-class filmmakers alongside debut films of lesser-known directors. The goal of the festival is to exhibit outstanding pieces of cinema that reflect current trends in the world of film. This year’s included works come from Serbia, Romania, Poland, Czech Republic and the USA.

Art Moscow

Moscow: 18 – 22 Sept

Art Moscow is an international art fair designed for young galleries and curators. The fair is unique to most art fairs as it is only interested in showcasing innovative and experimental works. The guidelines for galleries wanting to participate are strict: the galleries should be less than three years old, must have never participated in Art Moscow before and must not sell artwork for more than £5000. Art Moscow also extends to non-commercial projects, contributing to the spread of contemporary art knowledge and to promote art accessibility for society. The fair will host an extensive programme of conversations, talks, seminars, lectures, presentations and discussions with leaders of the art world, as well as exhibiting students’ works, installations and performances.

5th Moscow Biennial

Moscow: 20 Sept – 20 Oct

Russia has shown a growing interest in contemporary art in recent years. In 2005 Moscow held its first Biennial, and this major art event has been a success ever since. The sole aim of the Biennial is to strengthen relationships between curators, art historians, artists, the mass media and, most importantly, the public, focusing on contemporary art both in and outside Russia. This year artists are investigating issues concerning the increasing lack of time and the corporate intrusion on space, following the title and theme Bolshe Sveta / More Light. With almost one hundred artists from over 40 countries participating, including India, Australia, Azerbaijan, South Africa, Belgium and Indonesia, the exhibitions will reflect on these issues and question our time in society.

Message To Man Film Festival

St. Petersburg: 21–28 Sept

The XXIII International Documentary, Short and Animated Film Festival, Message To Man, is the oldest Leningrad–St. Petersburg film festival. The aim of the festival is to showcase films that focus on humanistic ideas and highlight the strength of cinema as a medium. Featuring other cultural events as an integral part of the festival’s programme, Message To Man Film also includes various exhibitions, theatrical and musical performances, meetings and workshops, and provides an opportunity to screen feature films outside of film competitions.

Moscow Forum

Moscow: October/December (dates to be announced)

The international festival of contemporary music, Moscow Forum, was organised for the first time in 1994. Its sole aim was to bring the integration of contemporary Russian music into an overall European cultural context, creating a dialogue between diverse cultures. Following tradition, the programmes of the festival bring together Russian music and music from one chosen European country. In previous years these have included Germany (1995), The Netherlands (1996), Austria (1996), Italy (1997) and France (1990, 2010). Each year’s programme is integrated by relevant themes, usually timed to crucial events in the history and cultures of both countries, such as ‘Retrospective – Perspective’ in 1995 with Germany (coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II), ‘Contemporary music: Freedom or Engagement?’ in 1996 with The Netherlands (coinciding with the 300th anniversary of the sojourn of Peter I) and in the same year ‘Music of the Time of Twilight of Empires’ with the Austrian-Russian festival.

IV International Jazz Festival

Novosibirsk: 14 – 17 Nov

After being interrupted during the 1990s, 2009 saw the revival of this international jazz festival, as it re-launched under the name ‘Jazz in Jeans’. Taking a new name in 2010, SibJazzFest, the festival has continually grown throughout the years, and in 2012 the headliners of the festival included John Mclaughlin and the famous violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. For this year’s festival, four concerts will take place on the stage of the Palace of Culture of Railway workers, and the programme will include its traditional jam-session at the restaurant of the Azimuth Hotel Sibir.

December Nights Festival Moscow

During the latter half of December and the first couple of weeks of January, the city of Moscow holds its most prestigious music event. A series of classical concerts by Russia’s most celebrated musicians can be experienced at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, accompanied by an art exhibit on a related theme. This venue is the largest museum of European art in Moscow, and is located on Volkhonka Street, opposite the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The festival has been held in this iconic setting since 1981.

For an extra event to experience in August, a visit to the historical town of Veliky Ustyug is recommended, known to be the official home of Ded Moroz – the Russian equivalent of Father Christmas. In addition to this, from the 18th November to the weeks leading up to the new year, one can find several ‘Father Frost’ (or ‘Old Man Frost’) festivals taking place all over Russia.

By Eleanor Cunningham