Why Kirov Square is the Place to Go in Irkutsk
By Selene Palomo
Students! Are you looking for a place to picnic, take a break, or attend festivals? Kirov Square will definitely be able to offer you all of those things. Kirov Square is located between the streets of Lenin and Sukhbaatar, just across the street from the Irkustk State Linguistic University where SRAS programs in Irkutsk are based.
The Square is known for its long history. This beautiful walking area has been around for over 300 years and has been called by twelve different names, changing to reflect the changing city and the changing heroes of Tsarist, Soviet, and modern Russia. During the 17th century Kirov Square, was the center of trade fairs and entertainment in Irkutsk. Products like fur, timber, and tea were sold in in the square. However, now Kirov Square has become one of the main hangouts and event venues in Irkutsk.
The square holds numerous activities and festivities for, for example, Christmas Day, Victory Day, and small parades from local communities. Kirov Square is also a place students can go to enjoy themselves along with their friends any day, anytime. Below I will list various events, interactions and insights from local students from Irkutsk State Linguistic University (ISLU) as well things that my fellow colleagues, visiting ISLU on a faculty led term abroad program to study Russian and the local environment, found out or experienced.
One of the local students from ISLU told me that, on the 7th of January, for Russian Orthodox Christmas, dozens of Irkutsk residents come out to Kirov Square to celebrate. For several hours, residents perform traditional dances and sing songs, dressed in Russian national costumes. Everyone is cheerful, spending time with their loved ones and the whole Irkutsk community, and everyone wishes each other a wonderful Christmas and New Year.
I personally walk through the square on my way to the university every day and have noticed many interesting things there. I always see different types of faces. I see students speeding to the university and couples hanging out on the benches. A few weeks ago I was walking to school with my roommate and we saw a group of fourteen year olds doing street performance with rollerblades. After coming out of the university, I saw a group of friends sitting in the grass singing songs and playing the guitar. They all had smiles on their faces and it looked like they were having a chill, nice afternoon. You never know what to expect when you roam around Kirov Square!
- Cam Duval, one of my colleagues on my term abroad program, said that he also usually walks through Kirov Square on his way to the university.. He stated, “Now that the trees are budding and the fountains are starting to work, it looks like a really nice to place to hang out.” He and his roommate were once walking through the square and saw a group of people dancing and working out. It was a demonstration to inform people about being healthy. Cam said that, “there were three or four people on a stage with microphones and they invited people on stage to join them and follow their dance moves.” Overall, Cam enjoys Kirov Square as a place he walks through everyday.
Lacey Reimer, another colleague of mine, stated that she also walks through the square on her way to class. During her walks she has heard different music such as The Beatles playing over the park’s sound system. She once saw a wedding couple walking in the square taking pictures. How amazing is that! She also saw an anti-drug speaker giving a speech to a large crowd. Lacey really likes Kirov Square and thinks it is a beautiful place, in a great location where students can relax and enjoy themselves.
- Other local ISLU students mentioned to me how exciting the annual Carnival is which starts in the historic Irkutsk settlement and flows into Kirov Square. Thousands of Irkutsk residents attend the Carnival that occurs every June. There were over 100 performances at the 2013 carnival, which are then judged by the mayor of Irkutsk for prizes. Even though I have not attended a Carnival event I can imagine how fun and crowded Kirov Square gets.
- One cannot forget Victory Day, an annual celebration held on May 9th in Russia and marking the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany. This year I was able to attend this spectacular parade on Kirov Square where thousands of residents come and celebrate this memorial holiday. The whole square was filled with people eating, singing, performing and enjoying this memorable day.
Kirov Square has a lot to offer both residents of Irkutsk and visitors to Irkutsk. Especially in warm weather, you can be assured that you will encounter many festivities and people at the square. Now it is your turn to experience Kirov Square because it is the place to be.
Selene Palomo is a double major in Political Science and Russian and Eastern European Studies at Union College. She participated in a three-month-long study abroad program specially arranged for a group of Union College students by SRAS. Her goals after college is to join the Peace Corps and go to graduate school for Slavic Studies.