Human Flower Project

Day of Knowledge

September 1 in Russia is the hardest working holiday of the year.

imageRussian students

Sept. 1

Day of Knowledge

New Crimean Tatar schools, No. 42

Today the schools, colleges and universities of Russia open their doors. Summer’s over, it’s time to come back inside and dwell in the mind again. Students, especially the very young ones, celebrate Knowledge Day by dressing up and bringing a bit of the outdoors with them to the first day of classes: bouquets of flowers.

According to one source, “the ‘First Graders’ give a flower to the ‘Last Graders,’” who then escort the tiny scholars to their first class. (Seems like a beautiful custom that could spare everyone back-to-school tears.) Many more articles we’ve found suggest that the flowers are for teachers, much better than apples to make an amicable beginning.

This year, of course, the Day of Knowledge is day of mourning too, in remembrance of September 1 a year ago, when militants took schoolchildren and staff hostage at school No. 1 in Beslan. The siege lasted three days; 331 people were killed, half of them schoolchildren.


A girl brings flowers to her first day of school, September 1, 2005

Photo: Alexander Natruskin, for Reuters

Alexander Natruskin’s portrait of a Moscow schoolgirl on her first day of class this year brims with vulnerability and intelligence. Maybe they’re the same thing.

Best wishes to the students and teachers of Russia, for a peaceful Day of Knowledge and school year.

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