It’s important to start our post about classes in the first week of May with a little background on what happens in Russia during the first week of May. This is the first real week when the sun begins to shine more often than not. It’s the first week that the grass begins to grow and the snow is really gone. Moscow begins to wake up. For Russians, this is a very important week. May 1st, “Spring and Labor Day,” is a huge holiday here. There are parades and festivals. The parks open their attractions and cafes. The holiday is extended through the first days of May. As May 9th is another national holiday many people take the entire week for a vacation. It is not uncommon to take at least the first few days of May to leave the city. Just like in America, where many people spend Memorial Day weekend putting their boats in the water for the first time, in Moscow many people take the long holiday to go out to their dachas (summer cottages) to open them up and plant their gardens there. This year, Orthodox Easter (the biggest holiday for the Orthodox Church) also falls in this time frame (May 5).
As you can imagine, this is a very exciting time to be in Moscow. There is a lot to see and do. All schools and national offices were closed on Wednesday for the holiday so we had a bit of a break in our week. GITIS actually was not holding classes May 1-5 as an extended holiday, but our students chose to continue to work Thursday and Friday and our professors agreed to hold classes for them any way. Our students and professors alike understand that our time here is short and that our work is our passion. For us, it was the best way to spend the long holiday.
Because we had some unexpected class time, our students were asked what they wanted to study for the week. They chose to analyze and work on scenes from Uncle Vanya. It was such a great opportunity for them to take the analysis work that we had done earlier in the semester with The Seagull and apply it to this play. Of course, Alexei Litvin, who was directing the class dove right in with the students to stretch their range of thought about the text and to work beyond the text.
Don’t worry about these guys and think that they worked over the whole holiday! They had a day off on Wednesday and some extra free time on Thursday and Friday. Sure they spent some of it working on projects, learning Russian and going to the theatre, but they also got a chance to enjoy the sites of Moscow this time of year. That’s the beauty of international study!