Promoting American understanding of Russian folklore and traditional Russian life and culture.
Get off the tourist track and make a positive difference!
Our teams of volunteers are headed for Romania, Belarus, Moldova and Siberia to document both the traditional ways and the changing scene in rural villages. If you can take a picture, ask questions, help wrangle equipment and be a good audience, you're welcome to join.
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Modernity and Traditional Belief -- Romania
Travel to the borderlands of northern Romania and study how modernization, especially in belief systems, has changed rural lives. During your three-week stay, cultural anthropologists Professor James M. Nyce and Alexandra Cotofana ABD (IUB) will teach you the basics of conducting fieldwork interviews (through a translator) in the villages of historic Suceava County. This will be their fifth visit to the region. Participants can arrange college credit (6-8 hours) through their home universities.
Expedition languages: English and Romanian. Local language: Romanian.
Approximate dates: July 19 - August 9, 2018 (3 weeks) Apply by May 19, 2018 Location: Romania, Suceava County, Arbore Commune Start/end point: Cluj, Romania Team size: 5-10 *Projected fee: $2910 - $4136, depending on number of volunteers. Airfare not included.
Meet the Expedition Leaders
James M. Nyce (PhD, Brown 1987) is Professor Emeritus of anthropology at Ball State University. He is an affiliated professor in Lund University’s Master’s Program in Human Factors and System Safety. A docent (in informatics) at Linköping University, Sweden, he is also an affiliated researcher at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm.
He is interested in how tradition, rationality and modernization play out today, especially in Romania.
Alexandra Cotofana is a doctoral candidate in Sociocultural Anthropology at Indiana University Bloomington, with research interests geographically focused on Romania. Her interests include the ontological turn, anthropology of the state and political elites, religious studies and magic, secondary economies, the anthropology of secrecy, documentary-making and visual identities.
More than 100 years ago, the Siberian village of Cherchet was settled by Belarusian migrants leaving their crowded homeland for homesteads in Russia's distant East. This summer our team will live among the descendants of those original settlers to investigate the role their Belarusian heritage plays in their lives. Do the villagers tell stories from their great-grandparents' day? Are they in touch with their relatives in Belarus? What has happened to the Belarusian language, food, customs, songs, beliefs and handicrafts in the Siberian setting? More broadly, how do culture and migration influence each other? This expedition is one of a series looking for the answers.
Expedition languages: Russian and English Local languages: Russian, perhaps Belarusian
Dates: July 1 - 13 2018 Apply by May 1, 2018 Location: Irkutsk province, Taisher district, Cherchet village Starting point: Moscow Ending point: Irkutsk, Siberia
*Projected expediton fee: $3300 Airfare not included.
Expedition leader: Dr. Yelena Minyonok
Settlers of the South Altai
Dr. Tsvetkova in the South Altai mountain range
Here at the conjunction of Russia, China and Kazakhstan, you'll find rugged mountains, remote valleys and the hardy folk who call it home. Many people here are descendants of the Russian religious minority known as Old Believers, who came here seeking refuge from persecution. Join Dr. Alevtina Tsvetkova as she documents the traditional songs, rituals and customs associated with life-cycle events (birth, marriage, death) and two important holidays -the Day of St. John the Baptist and the Day of Sts. Peter and Paul.
These traditions live mainly in the memories of the older generation, but Dr. Tsvetkova has found that they are enjoying a renaissance as young people get involved in re-enacting the old ways. What meaning do these rituals have now? What social forces are at work? How do traditions change in passing from one generation to the next? With your help in photographing, videoing and interviewing, Dr. Tsvetkova will look for answers.
Expedition languages: English and Russian. Local language: Russian
Expedition dates: July 3-14 2018 Expediton full. Waitlist available.
Start and end point: Barnaul, Russia
*Projected expedition fee: $1450-$2350, depending on number of volunteers. Airfare not included.
Expedition leader: Dr. Alevtina Tsvetkova
Meet the Expedition Leader
Dr. Alevtina Tsvetkova grew up in Russian and Kazakhtan. Her doctoral dissertation (Folkloristics - Lomonosov University, Moscow) focused on Russian oral mythological prose in Kazakhstan. Since 1991 she has taught Russian language, literature and folklore at Toraigyrov State University in Pavlodar, Kazakhstan. She has years of experience leading folklore expeditions in the South Altai, with a special focus on Old Believer groups in both Russia and Kazakhstan.
Songs of Belarus
Tyschkovichi village church
The village of Tyshkovichi is more than 500 years old -- help us record the songs handed down over the generations.
Expedition languages: English and Russian. Local languages: Belarusian and Russian.
Approximate Dates: July 24 - August 4, 2018 Apply by May 24, 2018 Location: Belarus, Brest province, Ivanava district, Tyshkovichi village Start/end point: Minsk, Belarus *Projected fee: $2300 Airfare not included.
Expedition leader: Dr. Yelena Minyonok
An Old Calendar New Year Ritual in Moldava
Lots of time to get ready for this one! Malanca in Moldava -- January 2019! Assist Dr. Svetlana Sorokina and Dr. Yelena Minyonok as they interview villagers and document the masquerading, play-acting,singing, dancing processions that mark the start of a New Year in rural Moldova. The quirks of Old Calendar/New Calender timekeeping let you greet 2019 twice -- on January 1st at home and on January 14th in Moldova!
Approximate Dates: January 4-16, 2019 Apply by October 25, 2018 Location: Republic of Moldova, Ocnita district, Clocusna village *Projected fee: $2300
* Expedition fees in uncertain times
We calculated our expedition fees in November 2017. Over time, we will be monitoring the value of the US dollar against the currencies of Russia, Romania, Belarus and Moldova. 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 relevant foreign currency. On the other hand, if the foreign currency 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.