Moscow Nights

Moscow Nights is dedicated to the presentation and preservation of the best of Russian culture. Moscow Nights is a dynamic force bringing the riches of Russian culture to Louisiana audiences.


In 1998 Natasha Ramer, a Russian immigrant living in New Orleans, came up with the idea of hosting a festival that would celebrate the arts of her native culture. At the time, she had no idea that this lively event would give birth to an organization that would, in the years that followed, host a variety of concerts, plays, lectures, and festivals. Speaking about the organization's beginnings, she recalls the following:

“In the beginning of the fall of 1998 I went to see an Irish play at the Southern Repertory Theater.  During the intermission, Danny O’Flaherty went out onto the stage with his guitar and began to sing songs and talk about Irish traditions.  Danny O'FlahertyAt that very moment I was struck with the idea of having a Russian Festival.

It hit me like a bolt of lightning, as if I had awakened from a long sleep: THIS is what we should do!  And as it happens in fairy tales, it all fell magically into place. I left the theater, and before I even got home an entire program had taken shape in my head.

I wrote and called all of my friends and invited everyone to meet in the O’Flaherty’s Irish Center in the French Quarter." Everyone came: 

  • Ray Kane, a member of the Balalaika and Domra Association of America, a player on the Bass Domra, and a devotee of Russian music; 

  • Mikko
    – a talented actor, director, writer, teacher, and producer, with whom I had staged Evgeny Shvarts’ play “The Shadow” only a few months before;
  • Barbara Hayley – a dancer, choreographer, and artistic director of the New Orleans Dance Collective.  Barbara had recently returned from Moscow and St. Petersburg, where she spent her sabbatical leave for the first time in Russia.  Barbara is a master of modern dance and also a professor in the Music and Dance Department of Tulane University. 
  • And finally John Rodi and Daniel Gianfala – the founders of the remarkable Komenka Ethnic Dance and Music Ensemble. I had met them already sometime in 1985, and we immediately liked one another.  I began to perform with them, and they turned out to be irreplaceable dancers in (and choreographers of) my plays.

“Everyone worked, and worked hard. Danny O’Flaherty gave us his space to use for the festival.  Mikko brought actors with whom I could stage excerpts from our play.  Mikko also became an unforgettable Master of Ceremonies for this event.  John Rodi and Daniel Gianfala organized a number of performances by the singers and dancers of Komenka. Barbara Hayley staged special dances and danced a solo number she entitled No More Barricades. 

“I invited my musician friends from Atlanta:  Irene McCullough who plays balalaika, and David McCullough who plays guitar.  Misha Kachkachishvili, a Georgian musician who had settled in New Orleans, played bass guitar, and two famous young local musicians – Neti Vaan on the violin, and Bart Ramsey on the keyboard and accordion  -- joined in.

Larisa Ivakina, a talented artist, designed the festival poster and invitations.  Leonid Fridman brought a variety of Russian culinary delicacies to the festival from Washington, DC. 

“This is how “The First Russian Winter Festival of 1999” was born.  And, truly, this was the birth of Moscow Nights.”

Why Explore Russian Culture in Louisiana?

In the early 1900s, as thousands of Russian immigrants were winter festivalmaking their presence known in the North East, there was neither a large nor visible Russian population anywhere in the Bayou State. In the mid-70s, with the arrival of many immigrants from the Soviet Union, most of which were Jewish, Russian immigrants found their way to the port city of New Orleans. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, there was an increase in the number of immigrants to New Orleans from Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Georgia, and other countries of the former Soviet Union.

Today, there are over 9,000 people of Russian heritage living throughout Louisiana; prior to Hurricane Katrina the census for the year 2000 showed almost 4,000 people of Russian descent living in the greater New Orleans area alone. But, this said, a population’s presence is not necessarily a reason to study a culture. We study a culture not only to understand it in its own terms, but to see what it contributes to the broader community of all cultures.  Russian contributions to the arts, in the Tsarist and Soviet periods alike, have had a profound impact upon Western culture.

Who can imagine the literature of the nineteenth century without the works of Pushkin and Gogol, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, or Turgenev and Chekhov Balalaika Domra Association BDAAIn the twentieth century, confronted by tragedies that the nineteenth century could only imagine, writers such as Pasternak and Solzhenitsyn, Bulgakov and Grossman, Akhmatova and Tsvetaeva, Nabokov and Brodsky have time and again demonstrated the power of literature to interpret, commemorate, and ultimately redeem the human experience.

How would music have evolved had we not experienced the works of composers such as Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich?

What would life in this twenty-first century be like had not the twentieth century known the likes of Stanislavsky and Eisenstein, or Malevich, Chagall, and Kandinsky, or Diaghilev and Nijinsky, Pavlova and Baryshnikov?

These artists helped to shape our concept of the humanities. Through its lectures, concerts, festivals and plays, Moscow Nights is proud to bring examples of the best of Russia’s culture to audiences in the New Orleans area. We invite you to discover all we have to offer and to join us in our future endeavors.

BDAA Convention

Moscow Nights, Inc. arranged a GALA Concert by members of the Balalaika & Domra Balalaika Domra Association BDAAAssociation of America (BDAA) and served as local arrangements director for the 24th National Conference of the BDAA.

Click here to read more about the event in the Times Picayune Article by Maria Montoya

In a town known for its brass and woodwinds, it is not often that one hears the sounds of lively Russian strings, but in 2002 New Orleans audiences were treated to just that. A Gala Concert, staged in Loyola University's Roussel Performance Hall featured the members of the Balalaika and Domra Association of America, in town for their 24th annual convention. This national organization, which includes music lovers as well as
music makers, is famous the world over. In connection with BDAA's presence in the city of Moscow Nights staged a "Russian Summer Festival" that took place at the O'Flaherty's Irish Celtic Center; both the concert and Gala drew an audience of more than 1000 people.

Russian New Orleans

Click here To learn about Russians who are making (or have made) an impact on the cultural scene in New Orleans and Louisiana ...

Board of Directors

Click here to view Moscow Nights' Board of Directors

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