BY SARAH LOFSTROM '19
On Friday, March 25, the Russian and Eurasian Studies department coordinated with the Russian Club to host their annual Blini Bash celebrating the end of winter. The event is referred to in Russia as the Spring Carnival or Maslenitsa. It features the pan-frying and eating of blini, Russian pancakes, before ceremonially burning an effigy of the witch of winter.
Faculty, staff, students and friends gathered together to pan fry homemade blini batter, which is a mixture of flour, butter and eggs that is fried to create a thin pancake. Fillings for the blinis ranged from fruit jellies and traditional Russian chocolates to salmon and caviar. Blinis are enjoyed in Russia in both sweet and savory forms and are often topped with sour cream.
According to professor Scotto, the Russian and Eurasian Studies department chair, the festival’s roots can be found
in ancient Slavic pagan mythology. He said that Maslenitsa roughly translates to “butter week,” referring to the consumption of the butter-heavy blinis. The festival celebrates the closing of winter and the coming of spring. The round shape of the pancake has often been said to represent the sun. The festival was eventually linked with the Christian calendar and since then has been traditionally celebrated before Lent. Because of scheduling conflicts, this year’s on campus festival fell during Lent.
The burning of the effigy took place after sunset outside of Mead Hall. It was prefaced by a toast from the current president of the Russian club, Sydney Vaughan ’17FP, in which she thanked everyone in attendance for sharing in the celebration.
The witch effigy is sometimes referred to as kostroma, which means that it embodies winter. Burning the effigy celebrates the close of winter and welcomes the incoming warmth of spring. Professor Scotto said, “the Russian de- partment has been celebrating this cultural event on campus
for at least 25 years. The very first time was in the Russian department office in Ciruti.”
The Russian club has been actively participating in the event throughout those 25 years. Vaughan said, “Our goal is to provide a space for Russian and non-Russian students to learn more about and participate in Russian culture. You don’t have to be a Russian speaker to participate in the Russian club!”
Some of the students who attended didn’t have any previous affiliation with the Russian department, while others had attended the event multiple times. Achaetey Kabal ’17, who has attended the event since her first year, said that she loves coming to the celebration because it’s “something I would have never experienced before. It’s also a really nice environment in which anyone can come and feel welcome.”
Rachel Dennis ’19 said that she appreciated the event because “as a Russian language learner, it’s really nice to be able to come to a cultural event, try the traditional Russian food and enhance my learning experience.”