The long-awaited arrival of warm spring days in mainland Russia means long sunny days, balmy white nights, lilacs and apple trees in bloom, and an inevitable advent of festival season. In recent years, Russia has seen a festival boom with new music, theatre, food, sports, land art festivals springing up all across the country. Here's our handpicked selection of the best Russian festivals for summer 2018. We’re here to take you on a journey through the never ending days in the Russian Arctic, Soviet industrial towns in search of a new cultural identity and sunflower fields filled with quaint land art objects.
Voronezh, Central Russia
Platonov Arts Festival takes over the city of Voronezh for nearly two weeks from June 6 until June 17. Launched eight years ago, it is the major cultural event in the region and arguably the best arts festival in Russia. The man behind it all is Mikhail Bychkov, an experienced festival director, and the head of the cool and offbeat Voronezh Chamber Theatre. The festival covers everything from music to theatre, dance, film, exhibitions and lectures. But the highlight of the two-week festival is the street theatre parade which turns the streets and squares of the city into a kaleidoscope of sound and colour. This year’s programme features Wayne McGregor’s latest choreographic work Autobiography, the Headwinds puppet show from Italy, DelaDap music project from Austria, pianist David Fray and Ballet Preljocaj from France, Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud, US indie folk band Tall Heights and Kronos Quartet, Berliner Ensemble and Derevo Theatre from Germany, Morgane Ji from Reunion, Saint Sister from Ireland, Lola Marsch from Israel, Swiss acrobatics, theatre and dance performers La Verità and many others.
Vyksa, Nizhny Novgorod Region, Volga Region
A three-day street art festival, Art Ovrag takes place in an industrial town of Vyksa, 180km southwest of Nizhny Novgorod. The festival aims to transform the town by creating new urban design and involving local communities. Each year the festival invites artists and urbanists from Russia and beyond to create new art objects and run workshops in Vyksa. The festival picked Useful Art as this year’s theme. The highlight of the 2018 festival will be the joint project by French artists Laurence Falzon and Bertrand Gosselin aimed to transform the museum square of Vyksa. The free events include workshops and talks, exhibitions and performances, music and sports.
10-11 June Moscow
4-5 August St Petersburg
Kolomenskoe Park (Moscow)
Yelagin Island (St Petersburg)
The largest hi-tech festival in Europe, Geek Picnic is dedicated to popular science and technology. For two days the Moscow’s Kolomenskoe Park and St Petersburg’s Yelagin Island are transformed into an amusement park of technology, science and arts showcasing robots, drone races, VR stations, lightening shows, talks, workshops and performances by famous scientists from all over the world.
Artplay, St Petersburg
This annual music festival based in St Petersburg focuses on alternative music, mostly indie rock, folk and hip hop. With headliners like Franz Ferdinand, London-based art collective and band HMLTD, Swedish singer Ionnalee, German folk band Milky Chance, and American noir Cigarettes After Sex, the fesitval promises big crowds and energetic dance floors. There's also an impressive lineup of new Russian musicians including Grechka, Mujuice, The Hatters and Obe Dve.
Perm, Ural Region
Inspired by the Ballets Russes, the festival is a major cultural event in Russia taking over the city of Perm in June. Named after Russian ballet impressario and founder of the Ballets Russes Sergei Diaghilev, who was born and raised in Perm, the festival features ballet, opera and theatre performances, classical music and jazz concerts, as well as talks, workshops and exhibitions. There're ten venues scattered around the city but the main performances and premieres will take place in one of the oldest and most famous theatres in Russia, the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre. This year's highlights include the world premiere of Camille by Alexei Retinsky, the premiere of Jeanne of Bucher by Arthur Honegger, Needles and Opium by Canadian ExMachina, and a night performance called Sleep Concerts. A Travel Into Self which will take place in Ural Hotel's concert hall.
1 1st Rybinskaya St., Moscow
An independent music and arts festival, Forma is known for its diverse programme featuring experimental music, poetry reading events, theatre performances, exhibitions, and workshops. This year, the festival is moving to a new location in an industrial neighbourhood just off the Third Ring Road. Don't miss the legendary Akhe theatre from St Petersburg, performances by Russian artist Oleg Kulik and graffiti by Misha Most. International line-up includes Japanese psychedelic rock band Acid Mothers Temple, American electronic musician Laurel Halo, UK techno artist Samuel Kerridge and Tuvan throat singing choir.
Teriberka, Murmansk Region, Northwest Russia
Set in a remote Arctic village of Teriberka on the coast of the Barents Sea, Teriberka New Life festival is aimed to transform the dying village featured in the award-winning Russian film Leviathan into a popular tourist destination. The festival is run by Moscow-based farmer cooperative LavkaLavka which set several eco-friendly projects in Teriberka. The festival showcases music, architecture and urbanism workshops and talks, birdwatching, eco tours, boat trips, diving and kitesurfing lessons, gourmet food masterclasses, arts & crafts fairs.
Nikola Lenivets Village, Kaluga Region, Central Russia
One of the most remarkable festivals in Russia, Archstoyanie is a land art event which takes place in the Kaluga region, some 200km from Moscow. Archstyoanie spans across several villages, fields and forests of the Ugra national park. There’s a different theme each year, which participating artists and architects must reflect in their objects. This year’s theme explores daily, local and global rituals of the Living Space. Currently, there’re around thirty large-scale art objects scattered around the park and the fields surrounding Nikola Lenivets, with a dozen of new artworks coming this year. The festival has a strong eco-friendly focus with all land art objects being made from natural materials, and food served at the festival being locally sourced and grown. Archstoyanie has a massive selection of activities including several music venues, an outdoor cinema, art performances, workshops, sports and board games. On-site accommodation options include camping, hostel and guest houses built as part of the festival's land art projects. Make sure you pack your wellies to survive the worst mud moments.
Kolomenskoe Park, Moscow
Afisha Picnic is one of Moscow’s favourite day festivals which consistently attracts some of the best Russian and foreign performers and DJs. Set in Kolomenskoe Park, the festival features a variety of musical styles including rock, pop, indie and electronic, as well as sports, lectures and workshops, designers’ market and food zone. This year’s lineup features Canadian Arcade Fire, Russian singer Zemphira, Scottish indie-pop Belle & Sebastian and King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard from Australia.
Nizhny Novgorod, Volga Region
Set in a secret Soviet airfield near Nizhny Novgorod, Alfa Future People is a technology-fuelled electronic music festival which consistently books some of the best DJ's and performers. This year's line-up features US electro house musician Steve Aoki, DJs Ben Klock, Tiesto, Afrojack and Alesso. The festival occurs over four stages which are going to host over 100 performers. Areas include tech zone, sports ground and art space where you can join a workshop run by famous Russian calligraphy artist Pokras Lampas.