Promoting American understanding of Russian folklore and traditional Russian life and culture.
American Friends of Russian Folklore has supported expeditions to Siberia, the Don Cossack area, the Russian North, European Russia and Ukraine. Read the expedition reports below for the highlights!
January 2019: Old Style New Year with Malanca's Masked Performers
Republic of Moldova, Clocusna village
Two AFRF volunteers joined Dr. Svetlana Sorokina to study and document the masquerading, play-acting, singing, dancing performers who usher in the New Year in rural Moldova.
Our team recorded and filmed multiple troupes of performers, first as they rehearsed, then as they went house-to-house to perform ancient magical dances, songs and folk plays. Actors were costumed as soldiers, kings, brides and other stock characters. Others were 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.
In addition, groups of children sang Christmas carols in church and from door to door, guests were greeted with wheels of bread and the local homemade vodka equivalent, bands played and people danced in the snow-covered streets.Somethere along the way our team interviewed local residents about the history and meaning of Malanca over the years.
January 2013: Christmas in Russia Location: Russia, Smolensk province, Yelnya district
Dr. David Galloway (Hobart and William Smith Colleges) and 7 intrepid students braved the Russian winter to record songs, tales and holiday customs in villages near Yelnya. Along the way they did some sight-seeing, played tag in the park with an Orthodox church youth group, got steamy in a village banya and tried out the bunks on the overnight train. They report excellent food ("best I've ever had in my life!") everywhere.
Here is a note from expedition leader Dr. Yelena Minyonok:
I am back to Moscow after our wonderful folklore expedition with professor David Galloway. It was absolutely great trip. No single complain, no single problem, no single moment of sadness. David's students are wonderful. I am not tired at all. Thank you so much for this great opportunity to conduct expedition with professor Galloway and his students.
August 2011: Dynamics of Folklore Traditions - Belarus
Location: Belarus, Brest province, Pruzhany and Beriozova districts, Kabaki and Soshitsy villages.
One of the branches of our research program is investigation and documenting of folklore traditions in Siberia villages which were settled as a result of the Stolypin land reforms of 1906-1916. In 2010, our research group conducted an expedition to an amazing Siberian village - Turgenevka - settled by Belorussian families in 1909. In 2011 we traveled to Belarus to visit Turgenevka's two mother villages - Soshitsy and Kabaki, to document their songs, stories and oral histories and to compare them with the traditions of their Siberian offshoot.
Locating the villages proved to be something of a challenge, as administrative boundaries had changed since 1909. But the most dramatic development was this-- nearly everyone we talked to had grown up in one village and now lived in another. Even though most residents had stayed in the same region, the turmoil of war, occupation and frequent changes in government meant that very few current residents of Kabaki or Soshitsy had actually grown up there. Not surprisingly, we found almost no living memory of the emigration of 50 families 100 years ago from these villages.
We did record some excellent songs, as well as heart-wrenching oral histories from people who had lived through the worst of the the 20th century. And we documented a lively textile arts tradition (see our Folklore Archive section for examples). But finding the relatives of the Siberian settlers will require another trip to the Beriozova region of Belarus. We hope to do this in 2012!
Location: Rostov province (capital: Rostov-na-Donu), Belokalitvenskii district, khutor (village) Kakichev.
and nearby villages have been home to the Cossacks since the time of
Peter the Great. When Peter settled the Cossacks here to secure Russia's
borders, they inherited a struggle which had been underway for
centuries. The area's most famous battle was fought in 1185 when Prince
Igor led Russian forces against the nomadic Polovtsy Igor and the
battle were immortalized in "The Tale of Igor's Campaign" (Slovo o Polku
Igoreve), a monument of Russian medieval poetry.
was focused on recording the rich musical traditions in the area. We
found many, many fine singers who were happy to perform for us. They
knew far more songs than we had time to record! They also invited us to
return in January to document the local traditions for the period
between Orthodox Christmas and Epiphany (January 5th through 19th). Old
Style New Year's masquerades, bathing in the icy lake, more singing -- check our 2012 Expeditions to learn how to join the festivities!
January 2011: Winter traditions in Kaluga province
Location: Russia, Kaluga province, Liudinovo district, Verbezhichi village
We just returned from our most recent winter expedition, where our purpose was to record songs and document rituals about Orthodox Christmas and Old
New Year. We found a wealth of mythological stories about house spirits
and forest nymphs. For a first-person report from one of our volunteers, see A Journey Through Russian Folklore and Song, by Dr. David J. Galloway.
Dates: January 4-15, 2011
Chernovtsy choir from Liudinovo. Photo by David Galloway
Russian North Folklore Expedition - 2010
Location: Karelia, Sortavala district, Rio-Kolonsari Village
This was the second season of our project "Russian North Folklore Expedition." We documented oral histories, folklore and songs of those who emigrated into this area that had been a part of Finland before the Winter War (1939-40). We also spent a few days on the island of Valaam.
Dates: August 17-27, 2010
Our team in Turgenevka
Folklore of Siberian Villages - 2010 Location: Irkutsk province, Ust-Orda Autonomic region, Bayandaievskii district, Turgenevka village
2010 expedition to the Siberian village of Turgenevka continued our
exploration and documentation of villages established over one hundred
years ago as part of the Stolypin reforms. One hundred years ago, a
significant part of the population from the Central and South parts of
Empire moved out to Siberia with the hope of creating a better economic
for their families. This
expedition documented Belorusian folklore, mythology and heritage
the Siberian village Turgenevka, founded by settlers from Belarus in
One participant observed:“As a non-Russian speaker, I was given
the opportunity to document the singers, homes, traditional clothing,
historical items, and village life through photography.This in turn allowed me to see first
hand Russian hospitality, humor, and a communal approach to life which would be
impossible to experience any other way.”
We continued to document and investigate the Don Cossack singing
traditions, by recording the traditions of three new choirs. Here is what our scholarship recipient, Michael Young, shared about his experience on this expedition:
"Thanks to Lena's passion for folklore and its preservation as well as her considerable research skills, we were able to record three new choirs in Serafimovich district in addition to collecting further information from the two choirs that AFRF worked with in January 2009 (in Ust'-Khoperskii and Rybnyi Khutor)....[W]hen I say that words cannot describe the experience I had, I hope you'll understand. In the course of ten short days, I went from being an American among a village of strangers to a (albeit short-term) member of a vibrant community. It never ceases to amaze me how open Russian hearts can be, giving their guests everything imaginable - housing, milk, transportation...even a 3+ foot catfish one day! AFRF's scholarship gave me the opportunity so meet some of the kindest and most generous people I will probably ever meet in my life."
This was our first expedition to the Russian North. What type of folklore was preserved here? From where did the people come who settled this area? What traditions did they bring with them? Our group lived in a small Karelian town, Khaapalampi, and collected mythological stories and oral histories.
During this expedition, our team members also spent three days on the
famous island of Valaam.
Dates: August 8-22, 2009
To read the briefing about this expedition, please follow the link below.
Location: Ukraine, Zhitomir province, Volodar-Volynskii district, Gatskivka village
This was the third season of the project "Dynamics of Folklore Traditions",
Krapivnya village, Ukraine. The first expedition was made in 2007, the
second in 2008.
One hundred years ago, a significant part of the
population from Gatskivka village and nearby villages (Krapivnya,
Lesobuda and Lesovshchina) moved out to Siberia with the hope of
creating a better economic life for their families. The first man sent
to Siberia for investigation of the unknown far land was from
Gatskivka. After him, twenty families crossed 4000 miles to the
unknown Siberia, establishing a new village in 1908 - Batama.
The purpose of this expedition: *To document the oral history of the villagers moved to Siberia; *To
find and record the authentic originals of folk music we have recorded
in the "daughter" village of Batama, during 2005, 2006 and 2008
expeditions; *To compare the repertoire of Ukrainian and Siberian villages; and *To investigate the effects of time and geography on the dynamics of musical traditions.
Dates: June 17-29, 2009
Photo by Anna Berman
Don Cossack Folklore Expedition
Location: Cossack village Ust-Khopiorskaya, Seraphimovich district in Volgograd province.
Our winter expedition to the Cossack village Ust-Khopiorskaya was completed in January 2009. We chose the winter
time for a special reason. This time coincides with the unique
time of the Russian folklore calendar "svyatki" which happens between
Russian Christmas (January 7) and Epiphany (January 19). These holy
evenings were full of special Christmas rituals, visiting guests,
greeting each other, games and fortune-telling. In Russian
tradition, time moves in circles and every New Year
could be happier then the previous one. Christmas rituals are full of
the ideas of leaving all evil and bad things behind in the previous year and
meeting the new year with hope for a better life. The purpose of our expedition was to collect folk memories about the rituals,
mythological stories, games, songs, fortune-tellings and just to enjoy
the wonderful Cossack area.
Dates of the project: January 2-12, 2009
If you are interested in reading the briefing, it appears below.
American Friends of Russian Folklore was pleased to be the lead organization for the 2008 "Folklore of Siberian Villages" Russian folklore expedition.
This expedition was to the villages of Batama and Basalayevka, in Zima District, Siberia. The principal investigator was Dr. Yelena Minyonok. The materials gathered during this expedition will be stored in the archives of the Institute of World Literature, Russian Academy of Sciences.
Dates of the project: June 25, 2008 to July 14, 2008.
If you are interested in reading the briefing, please click on the link below.
"Dynamics of Folklore Traditions," Krapivnya Village, Ukraine
Friends of Russian Folklore was also pleased to be the lead organization for
the "Dynamics of Folklore Traditions" expedition to Krapvinya Village. This expedition took place in Ukraine, Zhitomir province, Volodar-Volynskii district.
Dates of the project: July 23, 2008 to August 4, 2008.
One hundred years ago, a significant part of the population from this village moved out to Siberia with the hope of creating a better economic life for their families. Fifty families from Krapivnya settled in Siberia, establishing the new village of Batama. The purpose of the expedition was to compare the folk music repertoire of both these villages and to investigate the effects of time and geography on the dynamics of musical traditions.
Please click on the link below to read the briefing for this expedition.