Celebrating Maslenitsa in Transnistria

I must admit- I am not at all a fan of Mardi Gras, Carnival, Fasching, or whatever one calls it.  I was a fan of these types of holidays when I was a child, but as an adult, I just can’t be bothered.  The fluorescent synthetic wigs and piles of vomit have me gagging at the thought of even writing about it.  So, when I found out it was Maslenitsa in Transnistria while I was there, I didn’t quite know what to think.  Could this possibly be as ridiculous as the way other nations celebrate it?  The tradition in Slavic lands has had a vacillating history, depending on which regime was in power, so I had no idea what to expect from it in post-USSR 2016 in a country that aspires to be independent but hasn’t received a memo that the USSR is no longer in existence.  That made no sense to those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Transnistria.  I do apologize.

The streets of Tiraspol were rather reticent when I was there, but showed evidence that something was going on somewhere in the city.  Pobeda Park, on the other hand, was quite the opposite.  This was where the party was at.

Pobeda Park in Tiraspol, Transnistria for Maslenitsa

Pobeda Park in Tiraspol, Transnistria for Maslenitsa

Pobeda Park in Tiraspol, Transnistria for Maslenitsa

Pobeda Park in Tiraspol, Transnistria for Maslenitsa

Pobeda Park in Tiraspol, Transnistria for Maslenitsa

Maslenitsa is a rather controversial ‘holiday’ or celebration in much of the former Soviet Union.  Figuratively speaking, it is similar to Carnival, Mardi Gras, or Fasching.  But it is celebrated in a very dissimilar manner.  ‘Maslenitsa’ actually means butter or pancake week.  We will stick with ‘pancake week’ as I didn’t see anyone eating sticks of butter, but rather hoards of pancakes.  Maslenitsa is celebrated the last week before Lent, or the eighth week before ‘Pascha’ (Eastern Orthodox Easter).  This year it was held from March 7-13.  Much of this time I was in Ukraine where the celebrations certainly occurred, but not in an overwhelming or extremely noticeable manner.  In a way, this is a pagan celebration welcoming spring, but associated with the religious holiday of Easter.  It is kind of weird and looking up information about it will possibly confuse one even more.  During Soviet times, the celebration was not officially observed like most other religious ceremonies and holidays.  But many families still celebrated it inside their own groups and homes.  After Perestroika, the celebrations began to take place openly again, but many felt as though the tradition had already died.

Pancakes on Maslenitsa in Tiraspol, Transnistria

I have heard varying summarizations of the event from people.  I’ve heard everything from ‘this is the time where we eat as much meat as possible before Lent‘ to ‘it is a springtime celebration‘ to ‘this is when we celebrate Russian culture‘.  Whatever the reason is, I don’t particularly care as I don’t need a valid excuse to join in on a massive party involving shashlik and brilliant karaoke to Russian songs.

Karaoke in Pobeda Park in Tiraspol, Transnistria for Maslenitsa

Shashlik grilling in Pobeda Park in Tiraspol, Transnistria for Maslenitsa

Maslenitsa celebrations in Tiraspol were everything I had hoped it would be.  Delicious pancakes and grilled food, skunked Russian Baltika beer, dancing in fur coats and knee-high boots, teenagers taking on Transnistrian celebrity status in the form of karaoke and synchronized dancing, lumberjack games (I really don’t know how else to refer to this?), face-painting, dogs in Adidas tracksuits and fancier clothing than I own, and all situated idyllically in the middle of a park with a Soviet amusement park as the backdrop.

Pobeda Park in Tiraspol, Transnistria for Maslenitsa

Face painting in Pobeda Park in Tiraspol, Transnistria for Maslenitsa

Pobeda Park in Tiraspol, Transnistria for Maslenitsa
Karaoke in Pobeda Park in Tiraspol, Transnistria for Maslenitsa

<L:  Dog had serious fashion envy over a dog dressed in full-Adidas nearby.  Can you blame him?  R:  Karaoke>

Pobeda Park in Tiraspol, Transnistria for Maslenitsa

Shashlik in Pobeda Park in Tiraspol, Transnistria for Maslenitsa

Pobeda Park in Tiraspol, Transnistria for Maslenitsa

<A very pissed off dog.  You’d be pissed if you didn’t get to don any amazing clothing as well.>

Pobeda Park in Tiraspol, Transnistria for Maslenitsa

Pobeda Park in Tiraspol, Transnistria for Maslenitsa

Pobeda Park in Tiraspol, Transnistria for Maslenitsa
Pobeda Park in Tiraspol, Transnistria for Maslenitsa

Pobeda Park in Tiraspol, Transnistria for Maslenitsa

Pobeda Park in Tiraspol, Transnistria for Maslenitsa
Pobeda Park in Tiraspol, Transnistria for Maslenitsa

In retrospect, I think I picked the perfect week for a trip to Tiraspol and Transnistria.  While I still don’t understand the peculiarities of Maslenitsa, I would gladly partake in the festivities again and again.

I had the opportunity to celebrate and learn about Maslenitsa in Tiraspol, Transnistria in March 2016. The festivities were anything but dull...

Comments (6)

Another fascinating read, Megan. I think the biggest difference between a celebration like this and, say, Carnival in Rio is probably that this one is strictly put on for the people, as opposed to put on for spectators. With festivals that fall into the latter category, they more often than not lose some of that special flavor that made the festival special in the first place.

I guess another difference might be the outfits, but I’ll take Soviet chic over Brazilian bikinis (almost) any day. :)

hahahah me too!!!! it was a blast :)

I had never even heard of Transnistria until about a month ago and I find it all so fascinating! What a fun time to visit.

thanks emily! definitely a unique place in our little world :)

This looks amazing! They usually have something for Maslenitsa in London, but with a serious lack of dogs in tracksuits. This one looks much better.

dogs in tracksuits is never a bad thing. my dog has a pittsburgh steelers jersey and hates it on the other hand. it kind of frustrates me.

but yes, maslenitsa is such a cool celebration…. even though i dont fully know what it is haha!

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