Thursday, November 1, 2007

Window on Eurasia: Halloween is Not ‘Kowtowing’ to the West, Russians Assured

Paul Goble

Destin, FL, October 31 – Over the last two decades, ever more Russians have marked Halloween in much the same way that young people in the United States routinely do, but some Russians and especially some religious and educational leaders there have warned against its celebration.
But according to a commentary on a website media throughout the Russian Federation regularly draw on, Russians should not view this holiday as a form of “kowtowing” to the West but rather simply as an occasion to dress up or to make money on those who do (
According to Moscow essayist Vladimir Nemira, Halloween has had a complicated history. Long associated with the Church as All Hallow’s Eve, Halloween assumed its current form as a result of the actions of Irish immigrants to the U.S. who stressed its tricks and the Boy Scouts who stressed the treats.
From the U.S., it spread to Russia, but that is largely irrelevant, Nemira says, because “the majority of Russians do not have any idea what they really are celebrating” and would be quite prepared to mark the Chukchi Day of the Whale if they had heard of it – as long as that meant partying.
In short, the way in which people mark this holiday in the Russian Federation is virtually identical to the ways in which people in the West do so. There is only one major difference, Nemira says: Russians always commemorate the day during the weekend before October 31 rather than on the day itself.
Such a permissive attitude toward this entirely secular day has not been the rule in Russia even in recent years. In 2003, Nemira recalls, the Russian Orthodox Church sought to ban any commemoration of Halloween. And responding to the church, the Moscow city educational department actually prohibited its celebration in schools there.
Supporting their cause were a group of psychologists who warned against what were supposedly the baleful influences of images of ghosts, goblins and witches. But as the Moscow writer argues, most Russians now have decided to lighten up and just have a good time.
(This more enlightened approach in Moscow was anticipated by support for the holiday in smaller Russian cities in Siberia earlier in this decade. On that, see the discussion in “Vecherniy Novosibirsk,” October 29, 2005, which is posted online at
But there is one problem that the celebration of Halloween may exacerbate: It may lead ever more Russians to believe in magic as a force in their lives. According to a recent poll, one Russian in three – and many Duma members --believe that magic affects people’s lives (
However that may be, Happy Halloween!

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