Red Square hosts a book festival

This was the festival’s second incarnation and the organizers have decided to hold it annually.

This was the festival’s second incarnation and the organizers have decided to hold it annually.

Mikhail Sinitsyn / RG
The country's main square turns into a fair for second year in a row.

Red Square just outside the walls of the Kremlin returned to its historical role: for four days (June 3-6) it hosted hundreds of commercial stalls. Approximately 400 publishers from various Russian regions arrived, bringing more than 10,000 books with them. The printed wares were available for purchase at a 25-percent discount off their retail price, which is why a huge line of people formed at the entrance to the square early in the morning. This was the festival’s second incarnation and the organizers have decided to hold it annually. 

“In Russia we are used to worshipping books and libraries, fussing over them,” says author Alexander Snegirev, winner of the 2015 Russian Booker prize, whom RBTH met in one of the stalls. “This is why I like the fact that in the last 10 years books have become a part of popular festivities. Here blinys are being made, books are being sold, there is a children's playground and you can even listen to a concert. I think this is the most correct way to preserve an interest in literature.”

Alexander Snegirev during the meeting with readers. Source: Mikhail Sinitsyn / RGAlexander Snegirev during the meeting with readers. Source: Mikhail Sinitsyn / RG

Sure, books were the protagonists of the festival. But besides the books, 400 events also took place: meetings with authors, presentations, performances and film screenings. From St. Basil's Cathedral to the State Historical Museum readers of all stripes could find a literary event that he or she liked. 

Besides the tents with books and lectures, the fair contained a cinema hall with soft ottomans, a lounge zone with deckchairs where you could leaf through your newly purchased books, as well as a food court with tables. 

                    Mikhail Sinitsyn / RG
                    Arkadiy Kolybalov / RG
                    Arkadiy Kolybalov / RG
                    Arkadiy Kolybalov / RG
                    Arkadiy Kolybalov / RG
 
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The festival opened with a performance by the famous violin player Vadim Repin and the Novaya Rossiya symphonic orchestra. Repin had prepared a special program for the festival based on Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. The performance was accompanied by episodes from various screen adaptations of the novel. Subsequently, he performed a violin version of Lensky's aria from Peter Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin, based on Alexander Pushkin's poem. Incidentally the last day of the festival is Pushkin's birthday (June 6), which is celebrated around the country as Russian Language Day. 

A screenshot from Soviet movie 'Anna Karenina' (1967) with Tatiana Samoilova as Karenina. Source: Vladimir Astapkovich / RGA screenshot from Soviet movie Anna Karenina (1967) with Tatiana Samoilova as Karenina. Source: Vladimir Astapkovich / RG

Throughout the festival the principal stage hosted experimental performances, such as a drama based on the poems of Vera Polozkova, which was enhanced through its use of cinematic tricks. Eugene Onegin was also updated with the use of live music and video art. A fragment from the Crime and Punishment rock opera was shown, which premiered in Moscow last spring. There was also a literary-musical composition based on the religious-themed bestseller, Unholy Holies, by Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov. 

Yevgeny Yevtushenko on the main stage of the festival. Source: Mikhail Sinitsyn / RGYevgeny Yevtushenko on the main stage of the festival. Source: Mikhail Sinitsyn / RG

Then there were the encounters with famous writers: poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko presented his new novel The Bering Tunnel. There was a meeting with Sergei Lukyanenko and the director who has adapted his novels to the screen. Writers such as Evgeny Vodolazkin, Andrei Gelasimov, Dmitri Glukhovsky and Sergei Shargunov also presented their new works.

The creators of the Live Pages interactive reading app presented a new book in their collection, Crime and Punishment.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has also visited the book festival. Source: Olesya Kurpyaeva / RGRussian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has also visited the book festival. Source: Olesya Kurpyaeva / RG

Photographs of the event can be found in social networks under the #redfest hashtag.

Read more: How much do we know about contemporary Russian writers?

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