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Pancakes, Masks, And Fire: A Russian Farewell To Winter

Fistfights, fire, and stacks of pancakes marked the traditional farewell to winter known as Maslenitsa. We've selected 14 of the wildest moments from the mostly eastern-Slavic countries where the festival was held from February 20-26.

Russians leap over a bonfire during Maslenitsa celebrations near St. Petersburg on February 25. The festival pre-dates Christianity and marks the imminent end of winter. 
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Russians leap over a bonfire during Maslenitsa celebrations near St. Petersburg on February 25. The festival pre-dates Christianity and marks the imminent end of winter. 

A girl in costume during Maslenitsa celebrations in Kharkiv, Ukraine on February 26. The festival is celebrated primarily in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. 
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A girl in costume during Maslenitsa celebrations in Kharkiv, Ukraine on February 26. The festival is celebrated primarily in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. 

Pancakes being flipped in Moscow on February 26. Warm, golden pancakes recall spring sunshine -- and are the Maslenitsa food of choice. 
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Pancakes being flipped in Moscow on February 26. Warm, golden pancakes recall spring sunshine -- and are the Maslenitsa food of choice. 

Ethnic Russian women with stacks of pancakes and tubs of sour cream in Kyrgyzstan on February 26. Maslenitsa is also known as "Pancake Week" and it's recommended to eat "as often as a dog wags its tail" during the festival. In 2016 a man reportedly died after entering a Maslenitsa pancake-eating contest.  
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Ethnic Russian women with stacks of pancakes and tubs of sour cream in Kyrgyzstan on February 26. Maslenitsa is also known as "Pancake Week" and it's recommended to eat "as often as a dog wags its tail" during the festival. In 2016 a man reportedly died after entering a Maslenitsa pancake-eating contest.  

"Lady Maslenitsa" burns in Chisinau, Molodova on February 26. The burning of the effigy takes place on the last day of the festival and is seen as a fiery farewell to the darkness and cold of winter. 
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"Lady Maslenitsa" burns in Chisinau, Molodova on February 26. The burning of the effigy takes place on the last day of the festival and is seen as a fiery farewell to the darkness and cold of winter. 

Although the festival bids goodbye to winter, these women probably made good use of their samovar full of hot tea. On February 26, when this picture was taken, the temperature hovered around -5 Celsius in Moscow. 
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Although the festival bids goodbye to winter, these women probably made good use of their samovar full of hot tea. On February 26, when this picture was taken, the temperature hovered around -5 Celsius in Moscow. 

Masked revellers during Maslenitsa celebrations in Kyiv on February 26. As well as the food and samovars, Maslenitsa features some very rowdy events, most infamously mass fist-fights.
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Masked revellers during Maslenitsa celebrations in Kyiv on February 26. As well as the food and samovars, Maslenitsa features some very rowdy events, most infamously mass fist-fights.

An organised brawl begins with a roar in Moscow's Revolution Square on February 26. "Festive" fights like these were banned under Soviet rule, and are now seeing a comeback.
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An organised brawl begins with a roar in Moscow's Revolution Square on February 26. "Festive" fights like these were banned under Soviet rule, and are now seeing a comeback.

Another "wall-to-wall" brawl in Moscow on February 25. The uniquely Slavic spirit of these fights was perhaps best captured during the famous Maslenitsa scene in the 1998 film The Barber Of Siberia. 
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Another "wall-to-wall" brawl in Moscow on February 25. The uniquely Slavic spirit of these fights was perhaps best captured during the famous Maslenitsa scene in the 1998 film The Barber Of Siberia. 

Maslenitsa in 2017 took on a weirdly militaristic flavor in Belarus, where troops used the festival as an excuse to show off their abdominal strength (yes that is a flaming mallet and a block of concrete). 
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Maslenitsa in 2017 took on a weirdly militaristic flavor in Belarus, where troops used the festival as an excuse to show off their abdominal strength (yes that is a flaming mallet and a block of concrete). 

A Krasnoyarsk man moments away from claiming his prize after scaling a stripped tree-trunk as part of Maslenitsa celebrations on February 26.  
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A Krasnoyarsk man moments away from claiming his prize after scaling a stripped tree-trunk as part of Maslenitsa celebrations on February 26.  

A woman chooses a wooden gift at the open-air market during Maslenitsa celebrations near Minsk, Belarus.  
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A woman chooses a wooden gift at the open-air market during Maslenitsa celebrations near Minsk, Belarus.  

A woman dancing in front of Lady Maslenitsa near Moscow on February 26. Despite its pagan roots, the festival has been folded into Orthodox Christian traditions. 
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A woman dancing in front of Lady Maslenitsa near Moscow on February 26. Despite its pagan roots, the festival has been folded into Orthodox Christian traditions. 

A Maslenitsa bonfire in Nikola-Lenivets Village, Russia. Regardless of the religious significance of the events, Maslenitsa offers everybody an excuse to get outside and let off some steam as the long winter finally loosens its grip. 
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A Maslenitsa bonfire in Nikola-Lenivets Village, Russia. Regardless of the religious significance of the events, Maslenitsa offers everybody an excuse to get outside and let off some steam as the long winter finally loosens its grip. 

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