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Russian Folklore: Words Transformed Over Centuries

An online lecture by Dr. Sibelan Forrester

Russian folklore is naturally intertwined with the environment, history, and politics of Russia and the Soviet Union, and then Russia again, beginning as shared oral stories and wisdom of all layers of Muscovite society, shifting to a province of “the folk” as upper classes turned toward Western European habits and narratives, facing huge changes in the Soviet period, and yet retaining its impact until the present.

This presentation will lay out the main genres of folklore in Russia, the background of calendar rituals and folk beliefs, the role of village society vis-a-vis scholars and collectors (including dissidents sent into exile who turned to collecting the tales and other lore they heard around them in exile), the persistent role of folk plots in other cultural forms – elite literature, visual arts, dance and music – and the retreat of village folklore with the arrival of modern media (radio, film, television, internet), education, population transfers, and transportation, especially trains. Contemporary forms of folklore include urban rumors and jokelore.

A more extensive bibliography will be offered for those who want to pursue further reading.

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About the Speaker

Sibelan Forrester is the Susan W. Lippincott Professor of Modern and Classical Languages and Russian at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. She has done research on folk healing and fortune-telling in the Northwest of the Russian Federation (Karelia), and has translated and introduced folktales about Baba Yaga as well as Vladimir Propp’s Russian Folktale (Wayne State University Press, 2012). She regularly teaches a course on Russian Fairy Tales and is frequently invited to review folklore scholarship or participate in conference panels on topics from folklore and folklife. She has also published on Russian poetry, women writers, translation theory and science fiction and translates fiction and poetry from Croatian, Russian, Serbian and Ukrainian.

Connecting With Zoom

This virtual lecture is presented live via Zoom. Registered users will be emailed a link to join this Zoom program. To get started, please download Zoom on your chosen device and explore the Frequently Asked Questions.

This program will be recorded and posted to the museum’s YouTube channel.


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