Promoting American understanding of Russian folklore and traditional Russian life and culture.
Old Style New Year
with Moldova's Masked Performers
Old Calendar New Year Folk Theater in Moldova
Assist Dr. Svetlana Sorokina and Dr. Yelena Minyonok as they study and document the masquerading, play-acting, singing, dancing performers who usher in the New Year in rural Moldova. The quirks of Old Calendar/New Calender timekeeping allow you to greet 2019 twice -- on January 1st at home and on January 14th in Moldova!
The Moldovan "Malanca" (Old Calendar New Year celebration) traditionally involves troupes of performers going house-to-house to perform ancient magical dances and folk plays. Actors may be costumed as soldiers, kings, brides or other stock characters. Dancers may be costumed as animals, particularly bears and goats. The performances are traditionally believed to bring good luck in the new year. Both the dances and the plays have roots going back for centuries.
The first days of the expedition you will interview villagers about the form and meaning of Malanca over the years. Our team will also shadow the groups of performers as they rehearse and perfect their costumes, and of course document the performances on January 14th.
Many villages support more than one team of performers, making it a challenge to record all of the New Year action. If you can shoot a video, take a picture, hold a microphone, ask questions, help wrangle equipment and be a good audience, you're welcome to join the expedition!
Dates: January 4-16, 2019 Apply by October 25, 2018 Location: Republic of Moldova, Ocnita district, Clocusna village Expedition languages: Russian, English, Moldovan, Romanian *Projected fee: $2300
In Romania's countryside, masks play an important role in everyday life. Photo - Alexandra Cotofana
Magic and Modernity in Rural Romania
Travel to the borderlands of Romania to study how modernization and traditional belief intertwine in 21st-century rural life. During your three-week stay, cultural anthropologists Professor James M. Nyce and Alexandra Cotofana Ph.D. will teach the basics of conducting fieldwork interviews (through a translator) in historic Suçeava County. This fieldwork will include interviews with a variety of magical figures (often called witches, folk healers, or shamans), their clients and families as well as members of the communities in which these different figures live.
This will be their fifth visit to the region. Guidance will be provided to college students to arrange credit (6-8 hours) through their home universities.
Dates: late July- early August (three weeks), 2019
Location: Arbore village, Suçeava County, Romania Expedition languages: English, Romanian Expedition starts and ends: Cluj, Romania Expedition leaders: Dr. James Nyce, Dr. Alexandra Cotofana Expedition fee: $3,300 (projected*)
Excavated gate into the Bronze Age city of Arkhaim. Photo courtesy of Tatjana Saveljeva.
Places of Power in the Ural Mountains
Local legends call them “places of power”--the Bronze Age city of Arkaim, the megaliths onVera Island, paleolithic cave sanctuaries, and other sites such as the lake where a meteor crashed in 2013. Join Dr. Tatjana Saveljeva and students from Chelyabinsk State University as they record these legends – ancient and modern – from the people who live near the sites themselves. What do the legends tell us about the places of power? What do they tell us about contemporary society? With the help of a translator you will interview the storytellers and help construct the answers.
Date range: A 10-day period between July 15-31 2019
Location: villages Chebarkul and Turgoyak, Arkaim campground, Chelyabinsk province, Russia
Expedition languages: Russian and English Expedition starts and ends: Chelyabinsk, Russia Expedition leader: Dr. Tatjana Saveljeva
Expedition fee: $2000 (projected*)
Russian Settlers of the Altai Mountains
The city of Gorno Altaisk is your jumping off point for Uimon Valley in the Altai mountains. Here your team will visit the descendants of popovtsy and bezpopovtsy Orthodox Christian Old Believers who fled Russia to escape persecution under the Tsars. Despite repression during the Soviet era, these religious refugees today preserve both religious traditions (an active church, spiritual poetry and songs) and cultural traditions such as folk beliefs about holy springs, special trees, and house and forest spirits, along with traditional maternity, funeral and wedding ceremonies. Expect to record lots of songs, collect lots of stories, and drink in the spectacular Altai scenery.
The expedition also includes a stop at the Nicholas Roerich Museum documenting the 1926 visit of the painter, theosophist, and archaeologist. Strongly influenced by Buddhism, Roerich came here to paint and to search for the Buddhism's mythical city of Shambhala, said to be somewhere in the mountains north of Tibet.
Dates: July 2-14 2019 (approximate)
Location: Villages Verkhnyi Uimon, Tikhonkoe, Multa and Ust-Koksa, Ust-Koksinsky District, Altai Republic, Russia Expedition languages: Russian and English Expediiton starts and ends: Gorno Altaisk, Altai Republic, Russia Expedition leader: Dr. Alevtina Tsvetkova
Expedition fee: $2000 (projected*)
And more to come! Check back for the details of these 2019 expeditions led by Dr. Yelena Minyonok:
1st half July
Altai region - Russian folk songs, stories, beliefs and rituals
2nd half August
Siberia (Irkutsk province) - Russian folk songs, stories, beliefs and rituals
Volograd province - Cossack celebration of the holy day "Intercession of the Mother of God"
* Expedition fees in uncertain times
We calculated our expedition fees in October 2018. We monitor the value of the US dollar against the Moldovan, Romanian and Russian currencies. 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.