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How did Russians celebrate ‘Knowledge Day’ last Wednesday?

How did Russians celebrate ‘Knowledge Day’ last Wednesday?
08 September 2021

Since 1935, every year on September 1st, children return to school across Russia, after three months of summer holiday. This day signifies the end of summer and the start of a new academic year, and is known as ‘Knowledge Day’ (День Знаний in Russian). The holiday went ahead as usual last Wednesday, with a special significance this year due to the disruption of the previous school year for some students due to the covid-related restrictions.

Schools in Russia began on this day since the 1930s, and it became an established festival in the USSR in 1984, and is still observed in every school in Russia. If the date falls on a Sunday it is usually observed on the 2nd, but if it is a Saturday, children still go in to school, although they do not have any actual lessons.

Knowledge Day

Russian children on their first day of school

So what does this day actually entail?

…Students often wear white ribbons on their clothes or in their hair, and give their teachers flowers (traditionally big bouquets of sword lilies), to show their appreciation. All students and teachers gather together to listen to songs, speeches and poems. In some prestigious schools, Russian politicians or celebrities may visit, including the president and prime minister, and an Olympic medallist in 2012. The song ‘Учат в школе’ (‘They teach it at school’) is also sung on this day, and as a result is well known by most people who attended school in Russia.

The first bell is rung to signify the start of the first lesson, often by a little girl who has just started, sitting on the shoulders of a boy in his final year. Guests and parents can observe lessons (many take the day off work), and children are allowed to leave early once the celebrations have finished.

 This day is meant to represent the value of education in Russia, as schoolchildren, teachers and parents all come together to mark the start of a new academic chapter. The following day, on September 2nd, school begins properly with a normal day of lessons without any celebrations.

Here are the first few lines of the festival’s theme song, if you want to impress any former Russian school children…

Учат в школе

Буквы разные писать тонким пёрышком в тетрадь

Учат в школе, учат в школе, учат в школе.

Вычитать и умножать, малышей не обижать

Учат в школе, учат в школе, учат в школе.

Вычитать и умножать, малышей не обижать

Учат в школе, учат в школе, учат в школе.

 

So, Russian children are now in full swing back at school, having enjoyed the celebratory traditions of Knowledge Day last week. I hope you now know a bit more about what they did, and will continue to do each year on September 1st to celebrate. 

Alice, currently studying at Liden & Denz St Petersburg

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