The Olivier Show (Оливье Шоу) is an annual variety show broadcast on Channel One Russia on New Year’s Eve. It premiered in 2010 and was originally based on the Soviet classic holiday program, The Little Blue Light which featured popular Soviet artists and figures, including Heroes of Socialist Labor and cosmonauts, all of whom gathered at TV Cafeterias to sing songs, play sketches, and celebrate the new year.

The Olivier Show takes its name from the traditional salad that appears on nearly every Russian tabletop for New Year’s Eve. Olivier features peas and finely chopped meat, potatoes, and usually carrots all held together with mayonnaise. The program is usually shown without commercial interruption – instead it relies on one major sponsor that gets product placements and endorsements sporadically throughout the hours-long variety show. The sponsor has typically been… you guessed it… a mayonnaise brand.

Throughout the years, interesting sketches, performances, and jokes keep audiences entertained throughout the night. The show features popular actresses and musicians, such as Ekaterina Andreeva, Anastasia Zavorotnyuk, Lev Leshchenko, Ivan Urgant, Iosif Kobzon, Pavel Volya, and Alla Pugacheva. The Olivier Show is also known for surprises; in 2010 folk healer Gennady Malakhov made an appearance on screen to share jokes with Russian citizens, and British singer, Sting (former member of the band “The Police”), teamed up with the State Academic Chamber Orchestra of Russia for a performance in 2011. The show usually touches on political events of the previous year and regularly features cartoon versions of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev dancing and singing satirical songs. Major European and American leaders are also usually featured in the animated sketches.

The New Year is one of Russia’s largest celebrated holidays, generally celebrated at home with family and friends. Annual television programs such as the Olivier Show often play in the background of these events to bring color, music, and humor to the occasion. The Olivier Show is Russia’s top rated such program and reaches millions of Russian homes every year. The show’s recording by Mosfilm typically occurs several days prior to its screening on New Year’s Eve, and decorations, such as the handmade chandelier weighing half a ton used in the 2011 celebration, continue to add to the the show’s cultural grandeur.

Check out the clips below to get a taste of Russia’s New Year’s Eve television tradition!

Watch a half-hour excerpt from the 2010 broadcast:

Watch a half-hour excerpt from the 2011 broadcast:

Rylin McGee is a junior at the University of Richmond studying International Relations – Development and Change, with a focus on the environment and a minor in Russian Studies. Currently a SRAS Home and Abroad Scholar, she is working to improve her language skills and learn about Russia’s environmental history and policies by attending SRAS’s Russia and the Environment program in Irkutsk during the spring 2018 semester. Beyond studying, Rylin enjoys hiking, yoga, painting, coffee/tea, and exploring.