Embrace Tradition at the Sorochyntsy Fair

Every year in August, the village of Velyki Sorochintsy near Poltava hosts an event that was declared in 1999 by Presidential Decree to be Ukraine’s national trade fair. Known as the Sorochyntsy Fair, this event is a celebration of culture, history and ingenuity, attracting visitors from far and wide to join in the festivities which feature traditional and contemporary handicrafts, theatrical performances, music, dancing and plenty of tasty traditional food and drink.

Ukrainian-born writer and poet Nikolai Gogol spent much of his youth at the estate of his parents in Sorochyntsy, and many of his works are based in the region around Poltava. The first story in Gogol’s collection Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka is entitled The Fair at Sorochyntsy, set in August 1800. One of the features of the fair is to have actors dressed as Nikolai Gogol and some of the characters from his stories walking around among the visitors to the fair. ‘Gogol’ may be seen wearing a long old-fashioned coat, with a quill tucked behind his ear and carrying a notepad. He may stop and chat to passersby and make notes on his notepad as though gathering information and drawing inspiration for future literary masterpieces.

The main stage at the festival has a program packed with traditional dancing and singing, while real-life ‘statues’ and buskers move about entertaining the crowds. Huge figurines made from bales of straw become the backdrop for photographs of smiling festival-goers, and stalls laden with homemade delicacies of every description invite shoppers to buy and enjoy, while an assortment of locally made beer and other beverages quench every thirst. The fair is also a place for serious business to take place and everything from livestock to farm machinery may change hands here.

The fair at Sorochyntsy was originally started as an essential venue to sell or barter goods, and took place regularly throughout the year. It developed to include much-loved customs, and during the Soviet Era it was banned. Today, the Sorochyntsy Fair has restored many of the old traditions, while adding some contemporary flair. It is certainly worth spending time at if exploring the Poltava Oblast of Ukraine in August.