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Post details: Calling All Slavs

Calling All Slavs

Panslavism was a mild mid 19th century movement attempting to unite all Slavic people in a defense against various overly expansive European Empires. The first Pan-Slavic congress was held in Prague in the revolutionary year 1848. It was meant to give wings to young Slavic nations, but - due to some unplanned rioting - for Czechs it actually meant subsequent tightening of the Austrian rule. The next century, plagued by the prolonged illness of communism, took away some of its allure. The vision of a Slavic "melting pot" was too frequently abused by the Soviet Union. But old ideas never really die: communism eventually fizzled, but pan-slavism is alive and kicking.

At last according to the Slavic Cultural Festival Committee (SCFC) of the George Washington University. This venerable body channeled the efforts of several Slavic embassies into an afternoon filled with the authentic spirit of Eastern Europe. The University square was besieged by a platoon of booths and stalls offering a peek into traditional crafts and pottery as well as samples of local cuisine and photographic travel baits.

The culinary component actually made me realize that I needed new glasses. As we were passing the Russian table I saw a mound of wild strawberries, which I assumed were freshly picked in Siberian woods, and transported here by one of those bulging Antonov planes that my brother-in-law is mortally scared to fly on. I just could resist - so I persuaded Leona that for the next 15 minutes the coolest place to be is in the line winding patiently towards the sweet ambrosia. We found the end of the line and waited and waited and then waited some more, and when we finally snailed to the table - bummer! - the cone of strawberries had mysteriously transmogrified into a heap of minced beet. But hey - the accompanying pirozhki themselves were worth the wait. And with the spring seeping through the cherry blossoms, nothing short of a major asteroid hitting the campus could dampen our mood.

The podium had quite a few tasty morsels of its own: a Russian ensemble with a bass balalaika that was so big you could smuggle ironing boards in it; a group of acrobatic Ukraininan dancers with uncanny ear-to-ear smiles that looked as if they were painted on their faces; a little girl choir whose affected and animated choreography had a slight problem with timing, so most of their gestures were launched into the surrounding space with a humorous one second delay; and best of all - a Byelorusian version of Michael Jackson - a guy in black pants and a worn-out reddish frock, who held a small piece of a paper (apparently torn out from an old notebook) and often consulted it to brush up on lyrics.

But most of the time, the podium belonged to folklore. To dances that originated in Ukraine or Croatia, yet looked so similar to the ones I used to see in Moravia or Slovakia. That itself clearly showed that there was more to the idea of pan-slavism that just similarity of languages.



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