The Bay Area's Russian-speaking community is small yet vibrant, with historic bakeries, shops and houses of worship serving a multi-generational, multi-ethnic group of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Every year, one of its cultural hubs, the Russian Center of San Francisco, opens its doors to the broader public to showcase the ways Russian speakers in the Bay Area are keeping traditions alive.
The Russian Festival, taking place Feb. 21–23, offers three days of folk music, dance, crafts and plenty of bliny, pirozhki and vodka infusions (with flavors like horseradish and pickle) spread out through the building's three floors. The opening night on Friday features an accordion performance by Dina Gutkina, Armenian music by the Yeraz Quartet, ballet performances and a dance party that goes late. The rest of the weekend showcases choral works, ballroom dancing, the San Francisco Balalaika Ensemble, face painting and games for kids and more.
In addition to food and performances, exploring the Russian Center is part of the fun at the festival. The building's top floor contains a museum, where event-goers can peruse folk costumes (like impressively intricate kokoshnik tiaras), artifacts and art from pre-revolutionary Russia, World War II memorabilia and other mementos that multiple generations of immigrants have brought from the old country.