Bulgaria: Over 10,000 Kukeri from the Balkans Chase Away Evil at the Surva Festival in Pernik (PHOTOS)Society | January 28, 2023, Saturday // 15:02| views
The 29th International Festival of Masquerade Games "Surva" begins in Pernik. It is held under the patronage of President Rumen Radev and with the financial support of the Ministry of Culture and the National Culture Fund. The "Surva" festival is the oldest festival of masquerade games in Bulgaria and one of the largest in Europe. President Rumen Radev attended the official opening yesterday.
For Pernik residents, "Surva" is like a religion, and the festival is the most awaited and largest event of the year.
The "Surva" custom and the masquerade tradition have been alive for thousands of years. Several thousand people from the Pernik region alone participate, says ethnologist Tsvetana Manova:
"Each of these several thousand prepares his or her own mask at home without showing it. Thus, the final result is a unique phenomenon - several thousand works of folk applied art. This is truly an unprecedented miracle, a miracle unseen in the world".
"Behind these scary masks are the smiles of many Pernik residents, secondly - of many guests who will come to our town. The energy that will be created and the attitudes of the people are for a purification. Let's reduce this envy, this malice, yes a significant beginning was made for a better Bulgaria, for a more united Bulgaria. As Pernik reisdents, in recent years we have shown it in a number of crises - that we can be together, that we can be in solidarity in various crises. And this festival, I am sure, that it can unite many people", added the mayor of Pernik, Stanislav Vladimirov.
Due to the record number of participants - over 10,000 people, for the first time they will be held during all three festival days. 158 masquerade groups will participate in the festival. 15 are groups from abroad.
The international festival of masquerade games "Surva" in Pernik, which is the largest in Bulgaria and the Balkans, is the loudest and most colorful place this weekend. The 29th consecutive edition of the festival gathers over 10,000 participants in one place.
Kristiyan Skrimov, public relations officer of the Pernik Municipality, told Bulgarian media BGNES that the first edition of the "Surva" festival was in 1966, and about 800 survakars from the Pernik region alone took part in it. "Currently, there will be over 10,000 participants at this festival, and today we expect about 4,200 people to pass through the chute, not counting the foreign groups," he noted.
The participants this year are mainly from the Balkans. Groups from Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, North Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia, Greece, Italy and many more are present.
Bulgarian kukeri come literally from all over the country. "We have survakars, kukeri, jamalari and all the derivatives of this custom. The most this year are from the Pernik region as always. 42 are the groups with over 4,000 participants. We have 10 groups this year who are coming to the festival for the first time, meaning that the tradition is developing all over the country," said Skrimov, who is extremely happy that there are many young people in the groups. According to him, more than 60% of all survakars and kukeri are young people up to 30-40 years of age.
"2,500 of them are children. We are not saying these numbers to brag, but to really show that Surva and the tradition will live on," he stressed.
The kuker Peicho Ivanov is from Yambol region. "We have been playing kukeri since we were little and this is our thrill," he told BGNES. The man explained that his group went to festivals dedicated to the Kuker and Survakar traditions and won many awards and gold medals. For the fourth time in a row, they come to the festival in Pernik and hope that they will take the gold again.
Georgi is from Kavadartsi, North Macedonia. He explained to BGNES that they have a tradition for Vasilitsa to chase away evil spirits from houses. The Jalamari tour the Balkans and demonstrate the ritual, and they come to the festival in Pernik for the eighth time in a row. The man thanked for inviting his group to be part of the event.
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