* The date of the 17th Nika national film awards ceremony has been announced. It will be held at Moscow's International House of Music on April 23.
The 20-day festival programme will include a record number of films: 132 Russian feature and animated films and documentaries, as well as five CIS and Baltic films, will be competing for the prestigious awards.
According to Nika artistic director Yuli Gusman, it will be a charity event. Indeed, 10,000 free tickets have already been sent to people of different ages and professions. The films will be judged by members of the Russian Academy of Cinematographic Arts, who will select the nominations for each of the 16 categories and choose the winners by secret vote.
The winners in the most prestigious categories, "Honour and Dignity" and "Contribution into Cinematographic Sciences, Criticism and Education", will be announced a month earlier, on March 23.
* The exhibition "Traces of Bygone Times..." has opened in the main administrative building of the Pskov museum-reserve (Russia's north-west) as part of the celebrations of the Estonian Independence Days.
"This exhibition is the first-ever attempt in the history of Russo-Estonian relations to present the cultural heritage of an ethnic group, which has linked the Slavs and Estonians for centuries," the museum's senior researcher Tatyana Oginskaya said.
The showpieces, in particular, examples of the Seto ethnic group weaving, have been provided by the Estonian National Museum, several Russian museums and private collectors.
According to Tatyana Kalashnik, the director of the Isbork reserve, which is home to Russia's only Seto museum, the first record of the Seto appeared in official documents in 1838. 16,000 Seto people lived in the Pechorsky district of the Pskov region at that time. "But official data mean nothing, as 400 years of history connect the Seto people with Russia. They were often called Chukontsy or Poluvertsy (semi-believers). The Seto language has a lot in common with Estonian. Unlike Estonians, though, their religion is a mixture of Orthodoxy and paganism," Kalashnik said.
In her words, "the Seto people have always been independent, though they lived on the periphery of territorial repartition, first tsarist Russia, then bourgeois Estonia, the Soviet Union and now Russia".
The Seto people have always been self-sufficient. Each village had a smithy, a mill, and a pottery and all men could work there. All household items, from beds and utensils to fine linen curtains and festal boots were made by hand.
There are about 400 Seto people in the Pskov region today. However, the local authorities believe that they are leaving not because of national discord, but because the closure of the Russo-Estonian border threatens ties between those families that have ended up on different sides.
* Moscow's Gallery in Solyanka Street is hosting an exhibition featuring the work of celebrated Russian emigrant photographer Alexander Gusov.
"This is Gusov's first exhibition in Russia in the fifteen years since he left the Soviet Union," said project manager Olga Sartakova.
The exhibition is entitled "Gusovstars", just as like his expositions in the West. Luciano Pavarotti, Jude Law, Gary Oldman, Martin Sheen, Ewan McGregor and Maya Plisetskaya are just a few of Gusov's celebrities. "To be in 'Gusovstars' is like winning a prestigious award confirming your star status," the manager noted.
* The 10th Russian film festival "Literature and Cinema" has opened in Gatchina (the Leningrad region). Its programme includes over 70 screen versions of literary works.
The festival is well known for its special, bohemia-free atmosphere and free screenings, while stars can often be seen in attendance. Famous Polish film director Krzysztof Zanussi has already visited Gatchina on this occasion.
The jury will judge seven feature films, including Vitaly Melnikov's "Poor, Poor Pavel", Stanislav Govorukhin's "Bless the Woman", Irina Yevteyeva's "Petersburg" and some directors' debuts.
A contest for best script will be held as part of the festival.
* The international festival marking the 155th anniversary of the publication of the complete edition of the world famous Karelian-Finnish epic "Kalevala" has opened in Karelia (a republic in Russia's North-Western Federal District). The festival "Kalevala Marathon" is being sponsored by the Russian Culture Ministry and will run until April 9. The programme includes concerts by folklore ensembles, a theatre performance based on "Kalevala", and art exhibitions. Petrozavodsk (Karelia's capital) will host a meeting with Karelian poets and writers and a soiree of Finnish poetry. "Kalevala" collections in different languages will be exhibited in the Karelian National Library. An art exhibition dedicated to the epic's anniversary will open in the republic's centre of national cultures.
* The 2nd International Children's Old Music Festival, initiated by Russian violinist Igor Rukhadze, has opened in Moscow. The event's main aims are to popularise old music and allow music teachers to gain a deeper insight into the best European traditions of old performances. The festival's organising committee regularly holds seminars, master-classes and free concerts with leading old musicians. The project consists of three parts: an open children's contest, master-classes and festival concerts with outstanding Russian and foreign old music performers. Young musicians, laureates and prize-winners, will have a unique chance to perform with stars.
* Russian underground writers are holding an open abusive language and graphomania championship. "Famous and little-known Russian writers using bad language in their poetry and prose works will participate in the championship. An honorary jury will adjudicate on the skills of using obscene words," the festival's organiser Oleg Ulyanov-Levin told journalists.
"A graphomania championship will be held in the second part of our performance. Almost all contemporary literary works, especially, post-modernist ones, fall under this definition, because literature today is secondary, in effect. There will be rather decent, candid and funny graphomaniacs among the participants," Ulyanov-Levin said.
Intellectual fights without rules will be held: two poets will write their works on naked girls with body-art paints. "Members of the jury will read these poems. The contest will be judged from the points of view of poetry and beauty," Ulyanov-Levin noted.