22 April 2007


Today, 22 April, is Lenin's birthday. During soviet times, the Saturday closest to Lenin's birthday was spent in an annual subbotnik--working to clean up the city. Groups of workers and school children would be given the tasks of cleaning up parks, courtyards and communal areas. (All kinds of things might have been festering away under the snows of winter...)

This subbotnik pre-dates Lenin. Lenin himself is said to have been a big fan of "voluntary" communal work on Saturdays. "Saturday" in Russian is Subota--from "sabbath" which, ironically, means "rest". Lenin was reputed to be captured by the idea of workers giving up their free time on Saturdays to work for the good of the community. Random subbotnik-s were scheduled throughout the year as the need arose. My friend N was telling me how her school days were filled with subbotnik. She and her classmates were often "given the opportunity" to sacrifice their Saturday for the greater good.

Yesterday, as we drove to IKEA, we noticed many people were out doing a spring clean of the city. Walls were being painted, parks were being readied for spring. A notice appeared plastered to the front door of my building on Tuesday. The inhabitants of my building were invited to participate in cleaning up a street nearby.

I declined. Had I known that this was the BIG, annual, Lenin's birthday subbotnik, I might have gone along for the experience. But, not having had Lenin's birthday drilled into my head since childhood, I didn't realize that. I just thought they were having some sort of neighborhood clean-up. And, since it's a few streets over and not really my neighborhood, I declined. Actually, when I was over there yesterday evening, I didn't notice that street looking any cleaner... Perhaps the fireworks later last night were considered celebration enough.


6blessings said...

Thanks for sharing these things with us. It is so neat to hear about Russian tradition and culture.

Anonymous said...

I suppose I could say that I scrubbed my bathroom floor for Lenin...maybe that's pushing it.

Deb said...

That is an interesting tradition.
Maybe I should participate at home and clean my house in remembrance of Lenin!

Rachael said...

Weird coincidence, April 22 is my son Jack's birthday. As a result of his birthday, and all the other craziness going on at our house right now, instead of clean, our house looks like a tornado blew threw!