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 Applications closed Location: Republic of Moldova, Ocnita district, Clocusna village Expedition languages: Russian, English, Moldovan, Romanian *Projected fee: $2300
Altai village Shebalino
Russians in the Heart of Asia:
Songs, Stories, Beliefs
The remote village of Shebalino is populated by both indigenous Altains and descendents of Russian settlers who arrived in the 1800s. These very different cultures have lived side by side for 150 years. How has this affected local folklore? Team members will interview residents about holidays and ritual occasions like weddings and funerals, and collect local stories about the supernatural, all with an eye towards understanding the expression of Altain and Russian folklore in local traditions.
Expedition dates: July 1-14 Apply by May 1, 2019 Expedition starts and ends: Moscow Location: Russia, Altai Republic, Shebalinskiy district, Shebalino village
Expedition languages: English and Russian
Expedition leader: Dr. Yelena Minyonok
Expedtion fee: $3200 (projected*) (includes round-trip train ticket between Moscow and Biisk)
Excavated gate into the Bronze Age city of Arkhaim. Photo courtesy of Tatjana Saveljeva.
Places of Power in the Ural Mountains
Soon after archaeologists uncovered the the Bronze Age city of Arkaim in 1987, an array of prophets, mystics and pilgrims heralded the site as the Aryan homeland, a model of the universe, an astronomical instrument, Odin's Asgard and Zarathrusta's birthplace.
To the local people, Arkaim is just one of many "places of power" around here, including other buried cities, stone-age megaliths, and the lake where a meteor landed in 2013. Local legends, stories and beliefs about these places abound, some of them new and some passed down for generations.
Join Dr. Tatjana Saveljeva and students from Chelyabinsk State University as they record these stories – 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.
*Please note: we expect this expedition team to include about 8 Russian college students. While the team will have an official translator, some of the college students also speak some English. While in the field the team will live in tents in a campground, cooking over campfires, and using rustic sanitation arrangements.
Expedition dates: July 15 - 27 Apply by April 19, 2019 Expedition Location: villages Chebarkul and Turgoyak, Arkaim campground, Chelyabinsk province, Russia Expedition starts and ends: Chelyabinsk, Russia Expedition languages: Russian and English Expedition leader: Dr. Tatjana Saveljeva
Expedition fee: $800 (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 15 - 27 2019 Apply by May 17, 2019
Location: Villages Verkhnyi Uimon, Tikhonkoe, Multa and Ust-Koksa, Ust-Koksinsky District, Altai Republic, Russia Expediton starts and ends: Gorno Altaisk, Altai Republic, Russia
Expedition languages: Russian and English
Expedition leader: Dr. Alevtina Tsvetkova
Expedition fee: $2540 to $3300, depending on the number of volunteers (projected*)
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 (two or three weeks), 2019 Apply by May 23, 2019
Location: Arbore village, Suceava County, Romania Expedition languages: English, Romanian Expedition starts and ends: Cluj, Romania Expedition leaders: Dr. James Nyce, Dr. Alexandra Cotofana Expedition fee: $3,300 (3 weeks, college credit can be arranged)
$2,200 (2 weeks, no college credit)
About college credit:
This study trip comes in two options: two weeks and three weeks. Past experience strongly suggests that those requiring college credit should enroll for the three-week option. The extra week in the field helps to insure that you will be able to earn 6-8 college credits through your home university. (We will provide guidance on arranging this.)
Belarusian Traditions in the Land of Baikal
Meet your team in lovely Irkutsk, then travel by bus to the village of Blagodatnaya, founded over 100 years ago by Belarusian settlers seeking land and a new life. Interview the residents about local customs and beliefs, record their songs, hear the family stories about leaving Belarus for the untamed East. While you're at it, ask for the secrets of distilling vodka from birch sap. Your team will make a stop at scenic Lake Baikal before riding the fabled Trans-Siberian railroad to Moscow.
Expedition dates: August 20 - September 2 Apply by June 26, 2019 Expedition location: Blagodatnaya village, Zalari district, Irkutsk province, Siberia Expedition start point: Irkutsk, Siberia Expedition end point: Moscow Expedition leader: Dr. Yelena Minyonok
Expedition fee: $3,200 (projected*)
Coming in mid-October:
Join the Cossacks of Volgograd province as they celebrate their special holy day in honor of the "Protection of the Mother of God". After a period of relative obscurity in Soviet times, Cossacks and Cossack culture are enjoying widespread admiration and even political power under the current Russian government. How do these political forces affect Cossack traditions? Join our team and help uncover the answer!
Expedition leader: Dr. Yelena Minyonok
* 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.