Promoting American understanding of Russian folklore and traditional Russian life and culture.
Folklore Expeditions 2017
Usher in the Old New Year with door-to-door folk theater in Belarus
Explore the links between film, tradition and change in rural Russia
Discover layers of folklore traditions in spectacular Kamchatka
Uncover Belarusian songs and stories just west of Lake Baikal
Investigate how song links emigrants and their ancestral motherland
The "Christmas Tsars" of Semezhava
The Tsars Prepare
The Tsars Perform
Dates: January 4-16, 2017 Location: Belarus, Minsk province, Kopyl district, Semezhava village Expedition fee: $1520
"Tsar Maximillian" -- a folk drama centered around dueling heroes, death, and revival -- has played in villages and towns of the Russian lands since the early 1700s. Replete with poetry, music, slapstick, swordplay, home-made costumes, bawdy humor and lots of local references, "Tsar Maximillian" has survived to the present day only in the village of Semezhava in central Belarus, where it has merged with the local custom of house-to-house caroling during the Christmas/New Year season (celebrated here according to the "Old Style" Julian calendar, placing our expedition in mid-January.)
The extraordinary Semezhava rendition of "Tsar Maxmillian" is included on the UNESCO list of items of "intangible cultural heritage in need of urgent safeguarding."
As a volunteer, you will photograph, film, run sound equipment, ask questions and be a good audience. You will assist expedition leader Dr. Svetlana Sorokina as she documents some of the many neighborhood groups of "Christmas Tsars." You will also assist at interviews with residents of Semezhava as she probes the past and contemporary significance of the "Christmas Tsars" and uncovers the local lore connected to them.
Expedition leader: Dr. Svetlana Pavlovna Sorokina
This expedition begins and ends in Minsk, Belarus.
About Dr. Sorokina:
Svetlana Pavlovna Sorokina was born and educated in Moscow.Since 1994 she has held the post of Senior Researcher, Department of Folklore, Gorky Institute of World Literature, Russian Academy of Sciences. Dr. Sorokina’s current research focuses on folk drama and folk puppet theater. She is fluent in English and Russian.
Film, Tradition, and Change
"Rusalka" from "Dukhov Den" by Sergei Minyonok
Approximate Dates: May 29 - June 10, 2017 Location: Russia, Kaluga Province, Kiubyshev district,Troitskoye village Expedition fee: $2300
Apply by: March 10 Deadline extended!
A funeral lament. Bawdy songs. Water nymphs. A joyous procession with an overblown female effigy.All converge in Sergei Minyonok’s film “Day of the Holy Spirit” – a “cine-poetic ethnography” which captured the ancient Russian holiday “Dukhov Den.”
Minyonok shot his footage in the west Russian village of Troitskoye during the Dukhov Den (Day of the Holy Spirit) festivities from the 1990s to 2001.You can join him this summer as he returns to Troitskoye to film the current state of the ritual and engage residents in conversation about film, memory, tradition and change.Volunteers will live in the village, assist with the filming and with the recording of interviews, and view and discuss (through translators) the 2001 film with many of the people who appeared in it.
Expedition leader: Sergei Alexandrovich Minyonok
This expedition begins and ends in Moscow, Russia.
About Sergei Alexandrovich Minyonok:
Sergei Minyonok is documentary filmmaker specializing in Russian folklore. He holds advanced degrees in film directing from the Eastern-Siberian Institute of Culture (Ulan Ude) and the High Courses of Directors and Scenarists (Moscow), and studied folkloristics at the Gorky Institute of World Literature. Minyonok has served as videographer on numerous folklore expeditions supported by the Gorky Institute and the American organization Earthwatch.
Settlers of Kamchatka
Dates: July 1 - 14, 2017 Location: Milkovo and nearby villages, Kamchatka Peninsula Expedition fee: $3500*
Apply by: April 2
Travel to the small village of Milkovo on the Kamchatka Peninsula to document local songs, stories and crafts. Populated by indigenous people and descendants of three waves of government-sponsored immigration, Milkovo folklore is a complex fabric of Cossack, Belarusian, indigenous and other threads.
You can also count on an excursion to view some of Kamchatka's famous volcano-and-sea scenery, and plenty of local caviar (our 2016 team reported caviar at every meal!)
Expedition leader: Dr. Yelena Minyonok
The expedition will start in Moscow and end in Petropavolsk-Kamchatsky.
Belarusian Folklore in Siberia
Dates: July 16-30 2017 Location: Akhiny village, Irkutsk region,Siberia Expedition fee: $3000*
Apply by: April 18 2017
About 100 years ago, several families left their Belarus village to homestead the rolling grass-and-forest land west of Lake Baikal. A good deal of Belarus survives in their new village of Akhiny -- songs, textiles, and the art of distilling vodka from birch sap. A good deal of native Buryat culture is also found here, including herds of horses wandering freely between the open range and the village streets.
Join us as we return to Akhiny and neighboring villages to document the changes and the continuities of an immigrant culture among new neighbors. And of course we'll make a trip to wonderful Lake Baikal!
Expedition leader: Dr. Yelena Minyonok
The expedition will start in Moscow and end in Irkutsk, Siberia.
Connected by Song: the Emigrants' Return
Approximate Dates: August 3-16 2017 Location: Lyadovichi village, Brestskaya Voblast, Belarus Expedition fee: $2200*
Apply by: May 1 2017
Our 2015 trip to the Siberian village of Akhiny (see above) revealed that today's descendants of Akhiny's original Belarusian settlers had lost touch with families and neighbors back in Belarus. Some detective work eventually identified the village of Lyadovichi, in Brestskaya Voblast, as the Akhiny settlers' original homeland --an identification confirmed by the common song repertoire of the mother and daughter villages.
This expedition will document a momentous occasion -- the folk choir of Akhiny will travel to their ancestral village of Lyadovichi to find relatives, share stories, perform at the local fair, and join voices with the Lyadovichi folk choir. Team members will get a close-up look at the power of music to connect people separated by time, distance and forgetting. And it should be one great party!
Expedition leader: Dr. Yelana Minyonok
The expedition starts and ends in Minsk, Belarus.
* Expedition fees in uncertain times
We calculated our expedition fees in January 2017. As the year progresses, we will be monitoring the exchange rates of the US dollar against the Russian ruble and the Belarusian ruble. Exchange rates are affected by national politics, international politics, the price of oil and a host of other factors. We are unable to predict them.
AFRF reserves the right to add a surcharge to our expedition fees should the value of the dollar drop drastically against the value of the ruble. On the other hand, if the ruble drops drastically compared to the dollar, we pledge to return any "windfall" to you after we have covered our costs (outlined here).
American Friends of Russian Folklore is a California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation and a 501(c)(3) organization. Tax I.D. No. 26-0294873.