Theatricalized Holidays

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Theatricalized Holidays


in the USSR, mass theatricalized presentations consisting of many programs devoted to a specific theme. Theatricalized holidays are staged by a director on the basis of a scenario. Usually linked with important public events or significant anniversaries, they are most often presented on open-air stages, in stadiums, squares, or arenas, or on the paths and ponds of parks. Theatricalized holidays, derived from the mass celebrations of the French Revolution, owe their high level of development to the experience gained from the organization of similar holidays during the first years of the October Revolution of 1917. Theatricalized holidays involve all branches of the arts and are prepared and executed with the participation of the masses.

Theatricalized holidays have been organized in various cities of the USSR since the early years of the October Revolution. In 1920 two notable dramatizations were staged in Petrograd. “Toward a World Commune,” directed by K. A. Mardzhanov, N. V. Petrov, and S. E. Radlov, involved the participation of 4,000 workers and soldiers of the Red Army and was viewed by as many as 45,000 spectators. “The Storming of the Winter Palace,” directed by N. N. Evreinov, involved 8,000 participants and was witnessed by approximately 100,000 spectators. Theatricalized holidays were held in the 1920’s in Moscow, Kiev, Ivanovo, Tbilisi, Samarkand, and other cities. The tenth anniversary of the Revolution was marked by productions in Leningrad, Moscow, Voronezh, Kursk, Nikolaev, and other cities. A major theatricalized holiday was held in 1930 in Moscow’s Central Park of Culture and Rest during the Sixteenth Congress of the ACP(B). In 1934, Moscow and Leningrad held celebrations entitled “A Glorious Deed” in honor of the return of the Cheliuskin expedition participants and the Soviet aviators who had rescued them.

Theatricalized holidays have been held on a wide scale since the first five-year plans as a result of the construction of large public facilities for cultural events, including parks of culture and rest, open-air theaters, and stadiums. Many theatricalized meeting-concerts (theatrical rallies) and other presentations were held in the Zelenyi Theater of the Central Park of Culture and Rest in Moscow, which has a capacity of 20,000 spectators. In postwar years this park has been the site of numerous important events, including a theatricalized holiday in commemoration of the 800th anniversary of Moscow (1947). Every five years since 1950 the Baltic republics have held theatricalized festivals of song and dance with choral groups, orchestras, and dance ensembles numbering many thousands of people.

In 1957, Moscow celebrated 17 theatricalized holidays during the Sixth International Festival of Youth and Students. These events included opening and closing ceremonies at the V. I. Lenin Central Stadium, a water carnival on the Moskva River, and a girls’ day. Theatricalized holidays were held in honor of such important dates as the 250th anniversary of Leningrad (1957), the 950th anniversary of Yaroslavl (1960), and the 1,100th anniversary of Smolensk (1963). Theatricalized holidays and festive ceremonies were held extensively in 1975 to mark the 30th anniversary of the Soviet people’s victory in the Great Patriotic War (1941–45).

Theatricalized holidays gained great popularity as a result of the all-Union festivals of the 1960’s and 1970’s, which marked significant anniversaries in the history of the Soviet state; “Toward the Great October Revolution” (1964), the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution (1967), the 100th anniversary of the birth of V. I. Lenin (1969–70), and the 50th anniversary of the founding of the USSR (1971–73).

A special mass theatrical presentation is the theatricalized concert, consisting of thematically related performances of music, drama, and other branches of the theatrical arts. Although they were first held as early as the 1930’s as part of ceremonial evenings, ten-day art and literature festivals, and other celebrations, theatricalized concerts became especially popular in the postwar years. Frequently constituting the central part or climax of a mass holiday, the theatricalized concert became firmly established as an independent form of theatrical presentation in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Theatricalized holidays are also held outside the USSR. They often mark significant dates, for example, the formation of the republic in socialist countries, France (Bastille Day), the USA, Italy, and Canada, and Independence Day in countries liberated from colonial oppression. In France, Italy, Belgium, and other countries, tens of thousands of people take part in mass festivals of the Communist press, which propagandize Communist newspapers and journals.

Theatricalized holidays are also held to honor workers in specific occupations, for example, miners and shipbuilders (Poland), winemakers (Switzerland, Italy, France, Hungary), and fishermen (in many maritime cities). A special kind of theatricalized holiday is the water festival; popular in countries of Southeast Asia, especially Burma and Sri Lanka, this festival includes dramatized fairytales, dance performances, and sports events. Socialist countries regularly hold labor festivals to celebrate achievements in industry and agriculture, as well as festivals of friendship among peoples, featuring the exchange of outstanding theatrical presentations and performing groups.


Lunacharskii, A. V. “O narodnykh prazdnestvakh.” Vestnik teatra, 1920, no. 62.
Tsekhnovitser, O. Prazdnestva revoliutsii, 2nd ed. Leningrad, 1931.
Massovye prazdniki i zrelishcha. Moscow, 1961.
Rezhissura massovykh zrelishch. [Collections.] Moscow, 1963.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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