Ozarka College Class Holds Russian Cultural Event

Ozarka College, in conjunction with the Arkansas Craft School, held an event for students in an Introduction to Russian Culture course offered this semester at Ozarka in Mountain View. 

This event, a Maslenitsa celebration, provided students an opportunity to experience a variety of foods and cultural activities associated with the Russian festival preceding the time of fasting which leads up to Easter. Maslenitsa in Russia is similar in comparison to what most Americans recognize as Mardi Gras.

The Arkansas Craft School arranged special guest, Bob Byers from Garvan Gardens in Hot Springs for a pysanky display and demonstration. This folk art of decorating Easter eggs was developed in the Ukraine.  Russians as well as Ukrainians take great delight in these beautiful objects.  Byers offered a presentation featuring vintage pysanky from Ukraine and also shared techniques for producing the splendidly ornamented treasures.

Students and guests were also offered traditional dishes for Maslenitsa. Russian pancakes, also called blini, are rich in butter and symbolize the sun and approach of spring.  Also served was Borsht, a soup made with beetroot, beef shank, cabbage, onions, potatoes and dill topped off with a scoop of sour cream; ohotnichi kolbaci (hunter’s sausage); marinated herring; kolacky (sweet pastries filled with fruit or chocolate); black breads and a selection of sweets.  Beverages included kvass, a dark (non-alcoholic) drink made from rye bread, yeast, sugar and water.  Tea was prepared in the traditional manner with an antique charcoal-fired samovar.  Many of the ingredients for the evening meal were imported from Russia.

Ozarka’s Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Michael Delong attended the event and was presented a framed agreement which was entered into last year between Ozarka and Gorno-Altaisk State University (GASU).  GASU is located in the Altay Republic of the Russian Federation.  Faculty and staff members of Ozarka College and GASU have worked in partnership to allow students to engage in cultural exchanges between the two institutions. 

Russian music was provided by Anthropology instructor for this course, John Van Orman who plays 7-string guitar.  Toasts were made to Lady Maslenitsa, a straw effigy representing winter; and Director of the Craft School, Terry Van Orman, who served as hostess for the event.

For more information about upcoming courses for these cultural exchanges contact Ozarka College in Mountain View at 870-269-5600, or visit the website at www.ozarka.edu.