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White Nights Festival

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Ploshchad Vosstaniya in Saint Petersburg 28 June 2006 at 11 p.m., demonstrating the degree of sunlight still present during White Nights

The White Nights Festival is an annual summer festival in Saint Petersburg celebrating its midnight twilight phenomena due to its location near the Arctic Circle; each year between around April 22 and August 21, the skies only reach twilight and never reach complete darkness. Organized by the Saint Petersburg City Administration, the festival begins on June 11 with the "Stars of the White Nights" at Mariinsky Theatre and ends on July 1. However, some performances connected to the festival take place before and after the official dates. Numerous night-time cultural festivals, also called White Nights, have been inspired by this. It is located only about 6.9 km (4.3 mi) south of the 60th parallel north.

In Saint Petersburg, every date between August 22 and April 21 of the following year, the solar midnight have a complete darkness, because the Sun is at least 18°00'00" below the horizon. On the winter solstice, on about December 22, the Sun is 53°30'02" (-53.501°) below the horizon due north. On the spring equinox, on about March 20, or the autumn equinox, on about September 23, the Sun is 30°03'45" (-30.063°) below the horizon due north. But, on the summer solstice, on about June 21, the Sun is only 06°37'28" (-6.624°) below the horizon due north, so near the summer solstice have White Night Festivals because the Sun is less than 07°00'00" below the horizon.

No festival has been held since 2020.

Highlights of the White Nights Festival[edit]

Classical ballet, opera, music at the White Nights Festival[edit]

The "Stars of the White Nights" (Music festival "Stars of the White Nights") is a series of classical ballet, opera, and orchestral performances at the Mariinsky Theatre and the Mariinsky Concert Hall, as the essential part of the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg. The artistic director of the festival is Valery Gergiev.[1]

The "Stars of the White Nights" festival was originally started by the first mayor of St. Petersburg, Anatoly Sobchak, and has been held annually since 1993. Some of the stars who performed here include Plácido Domingo, Olga Borodina, Alfred Brendel, Anna Netrebko, Carlo Maria Giulini, Yuri Temirkanov, Gidon Kremer, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Alexander Toradze, Deborah Voigt, James Conlon and many other classical performers.[2]

Scarlet Sails celebration[edit]

The Scarlet Sails celebration in St. Petersburg is a public event during the White Nights, known in Russian as "Alye Parusa" festivity. The event is highly popular for spectacular fireworks and a massive show celebrating the end of the school year: "Scarlet Sails" celebration in St. Petersburg

The popularity of both the book and the tradition was boosted after the 1961 release of the movie titled "Alye parusa" ("Scarlet sails" in English), starring Anastasiya Vertinskaya and Vasily Lanovoy.[3]

Carnivals of the White Nights[edit]

A series of carnivals take place during the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg.

Star performances at the Palace Square[edit]

Palace Square with the Alexander Column view from the Winter Palace

Every summer in St. Petersburg the Palace Square becomes a stage for international stars of popular music.


From 1990 to 2019 and resuming in 2024, the festival has included the White Nights International Marathon and 10K run through the streets of St. Petersburg. More than 5,000 runners take part each year.[4]

White Nights Festival in the media[edit]

Several film festivals take place around the time of the White Nights Festival.


  1. ^ Mariinsky Foundation of America: About the Stars of the White Nights Festival
  2. ^ Mariinsky Foundation of America: About the Stars of the White Nights Festival
  3. ^ Film "Scarlet Sails" on the IMDb
  4. ^ "St. Petersburg is preparing for the White Nights marathon". spbdnevnik.ru (in Russian). Government of St. Petersburg. 5 June 2015. Retrieved 30 May 2017.

External links[edit]

Photos and videos[edit]