The Moscow Book Festival
Red Square, Moscow
Friday to Monday, Annually during the first weekend in June
10:00am – 11:00pm
Budget maybe ~$5 for food and ~$5-25 for books
The Moscow Book Festival (книжный фестиваль) is a new annual event that takes place in Red Square. The festival usually begins in the first week of June and lasts for just four short days. However, those four days are absolutely packed with more than enough books, people, food, and entertainment to last the rest of the year. The weather was cold and rainy on the day I attended, yet the square was packed full of people. From what I saw, Muscovites seem to tolerate inclement weather without complaining or slowing their daily routine. To give some rough numbers, over two hundred thousand people attended last year’s event, which works out to more than fifty thousand people a day walking through Red Square. And if that wasn’t enough, the books for the festival were supplied by over three hundred publishers from fifty different regions in Russia.
For those of you that like books, you’ll understand me when I say I felt like a kid in a candy store. Tents were set up throughout the square, and each group of tents had a specialty. Some dealt in children’s literature, others in biographies and scientific non-fiction, and many in the classics, fantasy, sci-fi, and artistic works (e.g. coloring books, decorated journals, etc.). Most of the books were in Russian, but ones in English could be found here and there, so I think it’s still worth going even if you’re just starting your Russian education. Every hour, different authors were speaking in specially designated tents, and anyone could watch and listen to them for free.
Behind the tents, a stage was set up near St. Basil’s Cathedral, and different artists were playing and singing there throughout the course of the festival. When I walked past, the Orenburg State Philharmonic children’s choir was singing to a full crowd and receiving lots of applause. I’ve never been a big fan of children’s choirs, but these kids were good. Really good.
To the side of the stage, food vendors had set up shop and were serving everything from blini to burgers. As I had come to Russia to study and experience the culture, I decided on blini. I had an excellent one folded and filled with meat and mushrooms followed by one with jam for dessert. The piroshki also looked delicious, but I was too full to try them so I can’t offer any recommendations. All things considered, the festival only cost me about 1000 rubles (about $15 at the time) and could have been free if I didn’t buy a book and food. I would highly recommend the book festival to any SRAS students coming to Moscow on the summer program. It’s definitely a great way to dip into Russian culture and this crazy city without going overboard in your first or second week.