Student Blog

What’s Maslenitsa? - by Kyle Tucker (March 2019)

While many Americans may be familiar with Mardi Gras, fewer know about the Russian equivalent to the week before the Christian holiday of Lent: Maslenitsa! The name is derived from the Russian word for butter and is traditionally celebrated in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. While today it is an official holiday in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Maslenitsa has its origins in Slavic pagan mythology, where it honored the ancient sun god Volos and the beginning of spring.

During the festivities, Russians typically consume a lot of dairy with the most famous foodstuff being bliny—a type of crepe. There is also a ton of partying and merrymaking before Lent begins. Each day of Maslenitsa has a tradition associated with it. Popular activities throughout the week include sledding, snowball fights, carnivals, and “wall-to-wall” fist fighting, which honors Russian masculinity. The most famous custom is perhaps the burning of an effigy representing “Lady Maslenitsa” to herald the end of winter.

At IU, the Russian Language and Cultural Association hosts an annual Maslenitsa celebration in early March. This year we had a great turnout and visitors could try bliny for themselves with a wide array of jams and other condiments. Adding condensed milk was a favorite of mine. There were also presentations on the cultural traditions, a Russian riddles challenge, authentic Russian dancing, and more! Next year, we hope even more people can stop by and join us in celebrating this fascinating holiday!

The event was organized by the Russian Language Cultural Association (part of the Student Association at IU)
Students from level 3 Russian perform a traditional song led by their instructor Svitlana Melnyk (far left)
The crowd at 2019 Maslenitsa celebration
Russian blini

2019 Inter-Flagship Colloquium - by Sydney Way (May 2019)

On April 1st, Flagship students from across IU’s campus participated in the 2019 Inter-Flagship Colloquium. The Colloquium is a yearly opportunity for all of the language Flagship programs at IU to come together to share research, practice their speaking/research skills in their Flagship’s language, and connect with students from other Flagship programs. The event consisted of a student panel focusing on study abroad experiences, research poster presentations, and a delicious dinner featuring cuisine from every Flagship program.

As IU’s newest Flagship program, the Russian Flagship program was well-represented at this year’s Colloquium. Devlin Cook-Hines did a fantastic job on the student panel discussing her study abroad experience in Moscow. When asked about the panel, Cook-Hines said, “It was rewarding to share my experiences with my fellow Flagship students through the study abroad panel. No one ever lets me babble on about Moscow for that long.” Sharing her study abroad experience surely made other Flagship students in attendance excited about their future study abroad plans.

Russian Flagship students also partook in the research poster portion of the event. Sydney Way Anna Gourley created research posters about Russian vacation destinations and the cultural impact of Princess Anastasia in Russian culture respectively. The experience of conducting research and presenting a poster in Russian greatly improved their language skills and increased their confidence to do public speaking in Russian. The research posters were also a great opportunity for Russian flagship students to connect with students from other Flagships. Gourley thought that “it was so inspiring to see other posters that were made in different languages!”

The 2019 Inter-Flagship Colloquium proved to be a great opportunity for Russian Flagship students to share their cultural knowledge, improve their language skills, and connect with the greater Flagship community. In the words of Gourley, the Colloquium reminds students that “it’s cool to be a part of something bigger than yourself, like the Flagship.”

Anna Gourley and Sydney Way in front of Sydney's poster (pictured with Jeremiah Saxton, another Russian Flagship Student)
Posters created by Arabic Flagship and Turkish Flagship students
Devlin Cook-Hines shares her insights on studying abroad in Moscow
The HLS Atrium was filled with posters from the IU Flagship Programs
The colloquium concluded with an impressive international buffet