Bonds, Bottles, Blat and Banquets


The birthday is one of the most important celebrations in Russia yet neglected as a topic of scholarly study. The article will focus on the birthday as a nexus of social interaction by analyzing structured diaries of twenty-seven teachers from St. Petersburg, Russia. The birthday is a highly valued celebration time with important ritual events (birthday presents, a sumptuous table, bottles and toasting, singing and dancing etc.). Celebrating the birthday, however, constitutes only one part of the myriad meanings of birthdays. In fact, birthdays mirror a distinct type of Russian sociability, molded by larger social and economic constraints and opportunities. Thus, the birthday has a significant role in building and maintaining social networks that can be further explained by the context of trust. Birthdays also illustrate the importance of informal exchange relations for daily survival in contemporary Russia and show how celebrations are connected to networks, sociability and exchange.

How to Cite

Salmi, A., (2000) “Bonds, Bottles, Blat and Banquets”, Ethnologia Europaea 30(1), 31-44. doi:

Publisher Notes

  • This article was previously published by Museum Tusculanum Press.


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Anna-Maria Salmi (University of Helsinki)



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