Trafalgar Square unites with Red Square, Moscow for London’s own Russian Maslenitsa Festival:  19 – 26 February 2012

  • Say goodbye to winter with Vodka and pancakes, music and song at the London Maslenitsa Festival - a traditional Russian festival to welcome the spring
  • London Maslenitsa Festival is the largest celebration of Russian culture, art, music and food anywhere outside Russia.
  • Events take place across London from 19-26 February culminating in a day-long spectacular in Trafalgar Square on Sunday, 26 February
  • A live video link will connect Maslenitsa revellers in Trafalgar Square with those in Moscow’s Red Square
  • Festival supported by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London
  • Press images:

LAUNCH PARTY: 26 January, 18:30 – 20:30. Samarqand, 18 Thayer Street, London, W1U 3JY.

An evening of Vodka, Blinis and Central Asian food with the performers, artists and organisers behind the London Maslenitsa Festival.

RSVP: Jack Hickmott at Kallaway PR by Tuesday 24 January.  Telephone:  020 7221 7883.

The London Maslenitsa Festival is the world’s biggest celebration of Russian culture outside of the country itself and will be taking place in London from the 19 - 26 February 2012. 

The second annual London Maslenitsa Festival will bring venues across the city to life with a week of performances, food, exhibitions and events that will transport this important celebration of Russian culture to the heart of London.  Highlights include a fashion show from leading and up-and-coming Russian designers at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a children’s production performed by the renowned Moscow State Gogol Theatre at Shaftesbury Theatre, and master-classes with celebrity Russian Chefs exploring authentic Russian cuisine, including the quintessential Maslenitsa delicacy: the Blini.

The events build to the climax of the Festival, 26 February - the day of Maslenitsa itself - when Trafalgar Square will be transformed into a bustling bazaar offering traditional Russian foods, handicrafts and souvenirs and original art from contemporary Russian artists. At the same time performances from some of Russia’s most acclaimed dance, theatre, folk, pop and jazz artists will entertain the audience from the Festival’s main stage. Entrance is FREE and events run from 1300-1900hrs.

All events will be listed on

London’s Maslenitsa Festival takes place at the same time as Maslenitsa festivals across Russia including Moscow’s Red Square.  Londoners will able to exchange traditional Russian Maslenitsa greetings with Muscovites via giant video screens that will connect both Festivals taking place a thousand miles apart. [Start practicing with the traditional Russian sayings and their English translations below].

Trafalgar Square performance highlights include:

  • Folk State Academic Pyatnizky Choir, laureate of the “National Treasure Award” which this year celebrates its 100th year.
  • Russian Pop-group Balagan Limited
  • Pop-star Valery Syutkin
  • Legendary Rock band Chaif
  • Unique prize-winning vocal ensemble A’Capella ExpreSSS
  • Siberian folk music and dance ensemble Ülger – one of Russian’s most famous groups and experts in the art of throat singing.

[Full details of these acts below]

Full listings for the Festival will be announced in January 2012 and available on the Festival website:

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London said: “In 2012 London will welcome the world for the Olympic and Paralympic Games and throughout the year fantastic events like the Maslenitsa festival will vividly illustrate why London is the most exciting international city on earth.

Olga Balakleets, The Maslenitsa Festival Artistic Director said:Maslenitsa 2012 will not only feature the most exciting line-up of Russian artists performing a spectacular programme of music and dance, but this year, for the first time, there will be a week of events around London leading up to the big celebration on Trafalgar Square. This is the biggest event showcasing Russian culture and talent outside Russia, where the world can learn about the new Russia while also enjoying Russia’s rich cultural heritage.”

The Maslenitsa celebration is a centuries-old Russian tradition that bids farewell to the bitter winter months and welcomes the beginning of the spring.  It also marks the last feast before Lent in the Russian Orthodox calendar, when rich foodstuffs must be used up before the Lenten fast; just like Shrove Tuesday in the UK, the traditional Maslenitsa meal is a Pancake but served with a Russian twist: instead of the usual lemon and sugar, Maslenitsa pancakes, or Blinis, are traditionally served with Caviar and Vodka.

The 2012 Maslenitsa Festival will build successes of previous years.  In 2011 Maslenitsa Festival was held for the first time in Trafalgar Square and over 90,000 attended. London boasts one of the largest Russian populations anywhere in the world outside of Russia, with over 160,000 Russians living in the Capital, and the city is the second most popular destination for flights from Moscow after St Petersburg.

London’s Maslenitsa Festival has been created in cooperation with the Mayor of London, the Greater London Authority and The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, and is supported by Moscow City Government.

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Well Known Russian Sayings for Maslenitsa and their English translations:

Russian:  Без блинов – не масленица

Phonetic: Bez blinov – ne maslenitsa

English: No Maslenitsa without Bliny

Russian:  Праздник солнца к нам пришёл! На душе так хорошо!

Phonetic: Prazdnik solnca k nam prishel! Na dushe tak horosho!

English:  The sun is in the city! Feel happy!

Russian: Масленица, угощай!

Phonetic: Maslenitsa, ugoshay!

English: Maslenitsa entertains! / Maslenitsa serves!

Russian:  Все заботы бросьте, Приходите в гости

Phonetic: Vse zaboty broste, prixodite v gisty!

English: Put aside all your cares (Put your cares behind) come to visit Maslenitsa!

Russian:  Широкая Масленица. Весёлая Масленица. Честная Масленица.

Phonetic:  Shirokaya Maslenitsa. Veselaya Maslenitsa. Chestnaya Maslenitsa.

English:  Maslenitsa the Generous / Merry Maslenitsa / Straight-arrow Maslenitsa 

Russian: Весёлая Масленица

Phonetic:  Veselaya Maslenitsa

English: Merry Maslenitsa

Russian: Честная Масленица.

Phonetic:  Chestnaya Maslenitsa

English: Straight-arrow Maslenitsa 

Russian: Масленица семь дней гуляет

Phonetic: Maslenitsa sem dney gulyay

English: Maslenitsa has 7 days off / Have 7 days off with Maslenitsa / Enjoy yourself with Maslenitsa

Press contacts: Kallaway PR

Maxim Bendall e: t: 0207 221 7883

Susannah Glynn e: t: 0207 221 7883

Follow us on Twitter: #MaslenitsaLondon

Notes to editors

London Maslenitsa Festival

19 – 26 February 2012

Maslenitsa is a traditional Russian celebration marking the end of winter and celebrating the arrival of spring, which normally takes place just prior to Lent.

Maslenitsa 2012 will host a range of events across London culminating in the Festival’s headline event in Trafalgar Square on 26 February. Entry is FREE.

Full listings for the Festival will be announced in January 2012 and available on the Festival website:

The Maslenitsa festival is organized by Ensemble Productions in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, Mayor London, the Russian Embassy in London, the Moscow City Government, Russkiy Mir Foundation, the Russian Cultural Centre, here in London, Pushkin House, The Russian Speaking Council of Great Britain and the organisation Russians UK.

Olga Balakleets: Artistic Director

Olga Balakleets developed an interest in organising concerts while a student at the Conservatory in St. Petersburg, which eventually led her to her first project – the "Dimensions Festival" at London's South Bank Centre in 1997. In early 1998 she created Ensemble Productions, which became an active initiator and promoter of international cultural projects, including London’s Maslenitsa Festival.  Olga has also acted as an adviser on cultural matters to various governments and Ministries of Culture and works closely with the Mayor of London, British Parliament, Russian State Duma and Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. For her services to Russia she has been given a number of prestigious awards including a Special Medal from President Medvedev (September 2010) and an Order "For the Services to the Fatherhood" of St. Prince Dmitry Donskoi and St. Sergey Radonezhsky" (December 2010). Olga has been an Artistic Director of the British-Russian Cultural Association from 2005, from 2008 a Vice-President of the Swiss-Russian Cultural Foundation and in November 2009 was elected a member of the Russian Speaking Council of Great Britain where she was re-elected in November 2010.

Ensemble Productions

London based company Ensemble productions specialises in organising and promoting high quality classical, jazz, world, pop and rock concerts, opera, ballet and contemporary dance productions in the UK and internationally. It has initialised many international cultural ventures and festivals and has worked on behalf of governmental bodies around the world.
As well as Russian Maslenitsa in London they organise annual events such as the Russian Ballet Icons Gala (Sunday 4 March 2012) at the English National Opera and the Cyprus-Russia Gala, as well as one off shows and spectaculars including the WWII Commemoration Gala Concert at the Royal Albert Hall and the Italia-Russia Gala at the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome.

February 26, Trafalgar Square Confirmed Artists:

  • Pyanitsky State Academic Russian Folk Choir:  Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year Pyanitsky Choir is probably the most significant and oldest folk ensemble in Russia, boasting a choir, dance troupe and orchestra. The history of the Choir began on 2nd March 1911, when a peasant chorus established by Mitrofan Pyatnicky held its first performance at the Small Hall of the Moscow Nobility Club. The chorus received high praise from Russian musicians Sergei Rachmaninov and Fyodor Chaliapin. The ensemble was expanded to include a dance group and orchestra of Russian folk instruments in the 1930s, now led by Vasily Khvatov and T.Ustinov.  Today the chorus is a large creative laboratory, having as a main goal the preservation, propagation and development of all kinds of national popular culture. The choir's performances are a synthesis of song, music, and dance. The chorus has been awarded numerous state awards, including the Order of Friendship of Peoples and a Patriot of Russia medal.
  • “Balagan Limited” Band: “Balagan Limited” are a popular Russian band who have released several albums.  “Balagan Limited” have also collaborated with major Russian artists and singers such as Arcady Arcanov, Filipp Kirkorov, Vyacheslav Malezhik, Alisa Mon, Natalia Vlasova, Organic Lady, Nikolay Burlak, the group "Pary". They are the recipients of major awards including Laureate of the "Chanson Year", Award Winner "Our song" (Ukraine), Winner of the television contest "Silver Drive", Laureate of the "Favourite of Olymp Festival 2004" (Ukraine) as well as numerous diplomas for social and charitable activities.
  • Valery Syutkin: One of the most charismatic figures on the Russian pop scene, Valery Syutkin is an Honoured Artist of Russia, a winner of the National Prize "Ovation", and recipient of the "STAR" award and a "Golden Gramophone" – true symbol of national recognition in Russia. His discography includes more than 20 albums, videos and DVDs. Valery has presented TV programmes "two piano" ("Russia TV” channel) and "Hit Again" ("Culture” TV channel ).  Valery took part in the cultural programs at the Olympic Games in Seoul 1988, Athens 2004, Turin 2006, Beijing 2008 and Vancouver 2010. Valery is also a permanent member of the annual arts festival, "Cherry Orchard" and the art director of the Department of pop MNOPU of Sholokhov, since 2004.
  • Chaif: It is impossible to imagine Russian rock music without “Chaif” – a band loved throughout Russia who have conquered the hearts of hundreds of thousands of fans. “Chaif” ​​performs on the biggest stages and venues both in Russia and internationally. “Chaif” ​​began with the friendship of Vladimir Shahrin and Vladimir Begunov. They met in 1976 at high school, in Sverdlovsk, Russia. To date the band has released 33 albums, has taken part in all the major Russian festivals and performed across Russia. Their first international tour took place in 1991 in the cities of northern Italy. “Chaif” ​​became the first Russian rock group to be formally invited to perform in the UK.
  • A’Capella ExpreSSS: Vocal band A’Capella ExpreSSS are a vibrant group with amazing vocal abilities that allow them to perform across multiple genres, including jazz, folk, pop and classical. Formed in 2003, A’Capella ExpreSSS is made up of Narine Dzhinanyan, Maks Kostra, Kate Nadareishvili, Anton Kasatkin, Ksenia Penkovskaya and Andrey Tunik. Their versatility has allowed them to collaborate on a diverse range of projects including rock-opera ‘Perfumer’, ‘Songs About Love’ with Andrey Makarevich, the big bands of G.Garanyan, I.Butman, S.Zhilin, M.Finberg and movie soundtracks for motion pictures including ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’, ‘Rio’ and ‘Hoodwincked!’. International recognition has come from their highly successful tours across the world in USA, Russia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Israel, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Switzerland and Luxemborg. They are winners of the Ward Single Award for “Best jazz-vocal group in Europe” and the CARA Award (Association of Acapella popular music, USA) for “Best Jazz Album in 2004”.
  • Ensemble Ülger comes from Khakassia, a country of endless steppe and taiga, at the foot of the Sayan-Alta Mountains in southern Siberia. The ensemble was formed in 1989 by young musicians who were dissatisfied with the existing Soviet music folklore, and remained the leading ensemble for Khakas folk music and dance ever since.  Year after year, Ülger’s musicians remain involved in reinterpreting the old songs and instrumental tunes for a wider audience. Staying close to the age-old traditions in colour and tempo, the musicians search for an authentic sound by using diverse khay (Khakas throat-singing) styles and the whole range of traditional instruments: the chatkhanzither, khomys lute, yykh fiddle, khobrakh flute, pyrghy sucked wooden trumpet, and tüür shaman drum. The sonorous, energetic, and charming music is complemented with amazing choreographies based on traditional Khakas dance practices. Always self-renewing, Ülger keeps creating vivid and stunning programs. - A performance of Ülger always leaves a profound impression on the audience. Ensemble Ülger participated of many festivals and competitions, both within Russia and abroad. They excelled in Belgium, Switzerland, Poland, and The Netherlands; in 2005 they took the Gran prix price at the Third Sayan Ring Siberian Festival for World Music; and since 2006 they frequent the South of France, most recently at the Russian Art Festival 2011 in Cannes.  Since 2003 Ensemble Ülger works under the artistic direction of Vyacheslav Kuchenov –an exceptionally gifted musician, virtuoso of throat-singing, and bright multi-instrumentalist.