Moscow (AsiaNews) – Moscow Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) and Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin on Monday visited Revolution Square, one of the venues of the Easter Gift Festival, across from the Bolshoi Theatre. The two also took part in the casting of a bell.
The bell factory foundry at the Danilov Monastery is in Revolution Square. Festival visitors can see how bronze bells are cast. Each bell weighs about 16 kg, engraved with the words: "Easter gift in the Luminous Week, Moscow, Year 2017" (in the Byzantine liturgy, the Week in Albis is called luminous).
"Thank you for visiting our Easter Gift Festival, and giving us your Blessing," the mayor told the patriarch. "This event has been on for some days with great participation of people. Products and goods from various regions of the country are presented here, from various monasteries and churches actively involved in the celebration." Moscow’s mayor explained that the Easter gift will be followed by a whole season of city festivities: Spring Festival, 1st May celebrations and Victory Day on 9 May.
For his part, Patriarch Kirill thanked the organisers of the festival, which is associated with the main Christian solemnity. For the first time, it is held across the whole city. "People living in big cities are very scattered and divided,” the patriarch said. “Sometimes they live in the same building and don’t know each other. Not a lot unites people. Easter, Christmas and the other celebrations you organise in these wonderful spaces are of great help in bringing people together without formalities."
The Easter Gift Festival is held from 12 to 23 April in 24 squares in central Moscow and 19 parks across the capital. More than 340 businesses applied to participate in the festival. About 143 commercial firms are operating at festival venues, including 25 that belong to different Orthodox churches, monasteries and charities, like the Trinity Lavra of St Sergius and the stauropegial monastery of Danilov.
"There are beautiful gazebos, a lot of joyful music. One can go on amusement rides . . . If we had a little more time, Sergey Semenovich and I too would gladly take a ride on the carousel," joked the head of Russian Church.
The festival’s main exhibits are the ten model bells of Moscow churches. In Orthodox spiritual tradition, and generally Russian folk culture, bells are one of the most beloved symbols. In Pushkin Square, at the Novopushkinsky public garden, and on Tverskoy Boulevard one can see the three-metre models of the bells of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (the Great Festive and the Sainted bells); the Ivan the Great bell tower with the Bear, Reut, Korsunsky and Nemchin (German) bells; the Assumption cathedral belfry in the Kremlin (Seven Hundredth and the Great Assumption bells), the Great Bell of Danilov Monastery, and the Alarm bell in the Armoury Chamber.
In addition, festival participants can buy souvenirs and items from many Russian regions. Farmers from the regions of Moscow, Lipetsk, Smolensk, Ryazan, Nizhny Novgorod and Vladimir brought milk and cheeses, showing Muscovites that it is not necessary to waste time and money on the much-vaunted Italian and French cheeses, now virtually inaccessible due to Western economic sanctions.
Producers from Volgograd, Kursk, Tambov, Saratov, Voronezh and Moscow regions brought honey, the "sweet gold" with which Russians made their way into Europe in medieval times along the ‘Trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks’, together with the wax and beekeeping products. The Kulich, a popular Easter bread, is the traditional Easter cake in Russia and comes in more than 50 varieties.
Major Sobyanin, 60, assumed office in 2010 on the initiative of Russian President Vladimir Putin after he removed the once all-powerful Yury Luzhkov, who ruled the city for 20 years after the collapse of communism. Sobyanin, from the distant Asian oblast of Tyumen, is one of Putin's most trusted allies, a former head of the presidential administration who brought the spirit of national pride to capital in lieu of the frenzied westernisation of his predecessor. In the 2013 election, he was re-elected but without the desired landslide. Although he won an absolute majority, his main rival, blogger Alexei Navalny, put up a good fight. With more than 25 per cent of the vote, the latter is the most popular "not aligned" Russian politician.
In recent weeks, the big Easter Festival got more money as a result of protests against the corruption of the prime minister and members of his cabinet, which led to Navalny’s arrest, as well as the St Petersburg Metro terror attack, and international tensions contributed. Top government officials with strong backing from the Church hierarchy want to turn spring festivals into a great opportunity for national pacification, and a show of “soft power” against anti-Russian feelings in the West and among Muslim radicals.