September 11, 2021

Don't Forget Your Flowers and Bows


Don't Forget Your Flowers and Bows
Those bows! The first day of school in 2011 – but don't worry, the outfits have not changed since then. Panoramio user aadmitriew

The first day of school is a national holiday in Russia. Called the Day of Knowledge, every September 1 is met with great fanfare and the biggest bows you will see anywhere in the world.

The holiday is the biggest deal for children entering first grade and their families. After typically three years of daycare/preschool/kindergarten (detsky sad), six- and seven-year-olds head to school on September 1 as if they are starring in a beauty pageant. Boys wear their first suits (with ties!), girls wear black-and-white dresses with big white bows – the bigger the better – and all pupils bring bouquets of flowers for their teachers. We have no idea how teachers are supposed to get 30 bouquets home and into vases.

Those fancy clothes become the uniform for the rest of the year. According to statistics bureau Rosstat, a full set of school supplies for first-graders costs about 18,800 rubles ($255) for boys and 23,200 rubles ($315) for girls. For some families with one working parent, that is close to one full month's salary.

In the Soviet Union, the first day of school was elevated to the status of a religious holiday in another country. The Day of Knowledge became an official holiday in 1984. But a standardized first day of school, the first of September, was codified in the Soviet Union as early as 1930.

If September 1 falls on a Sunday, then the holiday will be observed on the following day. September 1 also marks the first day of fall, with government decrees choosing when the seasons change rather than the planet's cycles.

We just hope that you feel as positive about the start of school as this 1st grader, here.

You Might Also Like

Finding Her Russian Roots
  • July 18, 2021

Finding Her Russian Roots

How a conversation led one of 60,000 Russian adoptees in the United States on a journey to her past.
Tourism for Tykes
  • July 10, 2021

Tourism for Tykes

Youthful tourism ambassadors might be coming to a Russian region near you.
Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

Some of Our Books

22 Russian Crosswords

22 Russian Crosswords

Test your knowledge of the Russian language, Russian history and society with these 22 challenging puzzles taken from the pages of Russian Life magazine. Most all the clues are in English, but you must fill in the answers in Russian. If you get stumped, of course all the puzzles have answers printed at the back of the book.
The Best of Russian Life

The Best of Russian Life

We culled through 15 years of Russian Life to select readers’ and editors’ favorite stories and biographies for inclusion in a special two-volume collection. Totalling over 1100 pages, these two volumes encompass some of the best writing we have published over the last two decades, and include the most timeless stories and biographies – those that can be read again and again.
Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

This astonishingly gripping autobiography by the founder of the Russian Women’s Death Battallion in World War I is an eye-opening documentary of life before, during and after the Bolshevik Revolution.
Murder and the Muse

Murder and the Muse

KGB Chief Andropov has tapped Matyushkin to solve a brazen jewel heist from Picasso’s wife at the posh Metropole Hotel. But when the case bleeds over into murder, machinations, and international intrigue, not everyone is eager to see where the clues might lead.
A Taste of Russia

A Taste of Russia

The definitive modern cookbook on Russian cuisine has been totally updated and redesigned in a 30th Anniversary Edition. Layering superbly researched recipes with informative essays on the dishes' rich historical and cultural context, A Taste of Russia includes over 200 recipes on everything from borshch to blini, from Salmon Coulibiac to Beef Stew with Rum, from Marinated Mushrooms to Walnut-honey Filled Pies. A Taste of Russia shows off the best that Russian cooking has to offer. Full of great quotes from Russian literature about Russian food and designed in a convenient wide format that stays open during use.
The Latchkey Murders

The Latchkey Murders

Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin is back on the case in this prequel to the popular mystery Murder at the Dacha, in which a serial killer is on the loose in Khrushchev’s Moscow...
Moscow and Muscovites

Moscow and Muscovites

Vladimir Gilyarovsky's classic portrait of the Russian capital is one of Russians’ most beloved books. Yet it has never before been translated into English. Until now! It is a spectactular verbal pastiche: conversation, from gutter gibberish to the drawing room; oratory, from illiterates to aristocrats; prose, from boilerplate to Tolstoy; poetry, from earthy humor to Pushkin. 
Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

The Life Stories collection is a nice introduction to contemporary Russian fiction: many of the 19 authors featured here have won major Russian literary prizes and/or become bestsellers. These are life-affirming stories of love, family, hope, rebirth, mystery and imagination, masterfully translated by some of the best Russian-English translators working today. The selections reassert the power of Russian literature to affect readers of all cultures in profound and lasting ways. Best of all, 100% of the profits from the sale of this book are going to benefit Russian hospice—not-for-profit care for fellow human beings who are nearing the end of their own life stories.
Davai! The Russians and Their Vodka

Davai! The Russians and Their Vodka

In this comprehensive, quixotic and addictive book, Edwin Trommelen explores all facets of the Russian obsession with vodka. Peering chiefly through the lenses of history and literature, Trommelen offers up an appropriately complex, rich and bittersweet portrait, based on great respect for Russian culture.
Woe From Wit (bilingual)

Woe From Wit (bilingual)

One of the most famous works of Russian literature, the four-act comedy in verse Woe from Wit skewers staid, nineteenth century Russian society, and it positively teems with “winged phrases” that are essential colloquialisms for students of Russian and Russian culture.
White Magic

White Magic

The thirteen tales in this volume – all written by Russian émigrés, writers who fled their native country in the early twentieth century – contain a fair dose of magic and mysticism, of terror and the supernatural. There are Petersburg revenants, grief-stricken avengers, Lithuanian vampires, flying skeletons, murders and duels, and even a ghostly Edgar Allen Poe.

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Our Contacts

Russian Life
PO Box 567
Montpelier VT 05601-0567

802-223-4955