September 01, 2006

Back to School

Russian schools, empty and forsaken during the summer months, come back to life on September 1 with the start of a new school year. Hundreds of students pack the schoolyards, the halls and classrooms, filling the air with a buzz of agitated, young voices, recounting stories of their summer. Meanwhile, teachers sag under the weight of flowers received for the first day of school.

To pay tribute to the long-living tradition of official openings, the whole school gathers for a lineyka, a standing meeting with everyone lined up in the schoolyard. There will be a speech by the principal, and then another vital component: the symbolic first bell, jointly rung by a boy from a graduating class and a first-grade girl. This marks the start of a new school year, after which everyone retreats, reluctantly, to their classes to get down to work. 

In some ways, school traditions are little changed from Soviet times. In others the changes are dramatic.

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