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Seven Summer Russian Arts Festivals

These great events are worth the travel time

Voronezh celebrates. Andrei Muchnik / MT

The weather looks like it will be a bit cool and rainy this weekend in Moscow — how about getting out of the city and enjoying one of the great arts festivals outside the capital? Here are some picks through the end of July.

Platonov Festival 

Voronezh June 6 -17 

Named after Soviet writer and poet Andrei Platonov, who was born and lived much of his life in Voronezh, the Platonov Festival was launched eight years ago. It started out as a theater festival, but now there are also music and arts programs. This year’s highlights include “100% Voronezh,” a performance by German-Swiss documentary theater pioneers in the group Rimini Protokoll, where city residents play out the statistics about Voronezh instead of professional actors (June 6-8); “The Old Man and the Sea,” a production directed by one of the patriarchs of the Russian theater, Anatoly Vasiliev; as well as the ballet “Autobiography” by one of the world’s leading choreographers, Wayne McGregor from the U.K. Some events are free of charge and open to the public, like the famous street theater parade (June 12), while others require tickets. There’s also a book fair, an ethnic music festival outside of the city and several exhibitions. Some of the projects are traditionally based on Platonov’s works. 


Vyksa, Nizhny Novgorod region June 9-11 

Art-Ovrag (Art Ravine) will be held for the eighth time in a small town of Vyksa, 360 kilometers east of Moscow. Many public art objects presented during the festival stay in Vyksa for good, turning parts of the city into an open-air museum. This year one of the best known Russian street artists, Timofei Radya (aka T-Radya), will create a neon installation, while a French artist Laurence Falzon will install a 100-meter long table on Museum Square. There will also be a theatrical program, curated by Moscow director Yury Muravitsky. The highlight is a performance at the open-hearth furnace of Vyksa Steel Works directed by Golden Mask winner, choreographer Anna Abalikhina. 

Tolstoy Weekend 

Yasnaya Polyana, Tula Region June 9-12 

This third edition of the Tolstoy Weekend festival will take place in Yasnaya Polyana. As the estate of Leo Tolstoy, the most famous Russian writer of all time, Yasnaya Polyana has had a long connection with theater. Almost all of the theater productions at the festival are based on the works of Leo Tolstoy. This year’s highlight will be an immersive production “War and Peace” based on the diaries, letters and memoirs of Leo Tolstoy and his wife Sophia, as well as fragments of the eponymous novel. “War and Peace” will also be available for Yasnaya Polyana visitors after the festival is finished. Ballet “Moskva” will show its interpretation of Tolstoy’s novella “The Kreutzer Sonata,” while Le Cirque De Charles La Tannes will perform “Who Killed Anna?” based on Tolstoy’s novel “Anna Karenina.” There will also be a program for kids and teenagers, as well as an arts program. 


St. Petersburg June 10-11 

STEREOLETO (Stereo Summer) this year will move from its traditional spot on Yelagin Island to the newly established ARTPLAY design center, a creative cluster in a former industrial space on the outskirts of the city. The headliner this year is the Scottish band Franz Ferdinand, one of the most popular post-punk bands in the world. Other international guests include the German Milky Chance, whose debut single “Stolen Dance” exploded the Internet several years ago; the American ambient pop band Cigarettes After Sex; British electronic musician Squarepusher and Estonian rapper Tommy Cash. Poshlaya Molly, pop-punk band from the Ukrainian industrial city of Kharkov, newcomer Grechka and St. Petersburg synth-pop duet Electroforez will also perform.

Italy on the Oka River 

Polenovo, Tula Region June 21-July 14 

Prominent Russian painter Vasily Polenov, a member of the “Wanderers” (Peredvizhniki) group of realist painters, settled on the Oka River near Tarusa in the 1890s. He designed all the buildings on the estate, as well as their interiors and even some of the furniture. Today the Vasily Polenov Estate is a museum, run by the artist’s' descendants. For a third summer in a row, Polenovo Estate will host an arts festival. This year it’s devoted to Italy, and the program’s centerpiece is the exhibition “Italian Impressions of the Polenovs.” The exhibition, housed in a picturesque Fachwerk Exhibition Hall, explores the influence of Italy and Italian art on two Polenovs: Vasily and his younger sister, Elena. This summer’s program also includes theater performances, classical and contemporary music concerts and lectures.

										 					Catch a bit of Italy on the banks of the Oka River (Courtesy of Polenovo Museum)
Catch a bit of Italy on the banks of the Oka River (Courtesy of Polenovo Museum)


Nikola-Lenivets, Kaluga Region July 27-29

The Archstoyanie Festival has been taking place near the village of Nikola-Lenivets in the Kaluga region, 200 kilometers southwest of Moscow, for more than a decade. The theme of the 13th edition of this land art festival is “Build Together.” Founded by Nikolai Polissky, one of the leading land artists in Russia, Archstoyanie showcases the latest achievements in architecture and land art. This year’s headliner is Alexander Brodsky, famous for his “paper architecture,” who will present a new object: a villa built out of concrete fence elements. The theme of 2018 World Championship will be reflected in ArchiPEOPLE’s project “ArchiFootball,” which will mix architecture in sports. Leveldva, a popular Moscow club with its own record label, will be responsible for the music program.

										 					Architecture, nature and humans at Archstoyanie (Courtesy of Archstoyanie)
Architecture, nature and humans at Archstoyanie (Courtesy of Archstoyanie)

Present Perfect Festival 

St. Petersburg July 27-29 

Present Perfect Festival (PPF) has been around for just four years, but since the cancellation of the Outline festival in Moscow, it has become the major authority on Russia’s electronic music scene. This year it will move from its regular spot at the Street Art Museum to “Sevkabel,” a new creative cluster that sprang up on the site of abandoned industrial port. This year's headliners are Larry Heard, aka Mr. Fingers, a real pioneer of Chicago-based house music; Nina Kraviz, originally from Russia, who was recognized as the world’s best DJ by Mixmag last year; and Ellen Allien, founder of BPitch Control music label. The complete line-up includes 40 artists, among them: Ellen Allien, Lena Willikens, Aux 88, Broken English Club, Hessle Audio, Move D, and Ron Morelli.

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