Last Expedition

Our group in the family of a local fisherman, V.V. Fidik

Investigating Traditions of Siberia
August 18 - September 4, 2004
   For more then 8 years we investigated the folklore traditions of the European part of Russia. This was our second experimental expedition in Siberia. It was located in Irkutsk province, Zima district, in the Russian villages Maslianogorsk (translated as Butter Mountain village) and Kimilítei. Me and Dr. Kyoko Tsukazaki from Sapporo University (Japan) spent 12 days in Siberian villages.

Maslyanogorsk was created at the beginning of the XXth century by pioneers who left their homes and moved 5000 km away to the dangerous and unknown Siberian countryside. These Russians mostly came from the South-West (Smolensk province) and North-West (Novgorod province and Pskov province) of Russia. They were encouraged by the famous Petr Stolypinís reform of cultivation of Siberian lands. According to this reform peasants had a chance to privatize a big piece of new land and were provided with special credits from the Russian government. Children of Siberian pioneers. Photo Kyoko Tsukazaki

 The settlement (Maslyanogorsk) was officially registered in 1908. The first pioneers who made such a long trip were full with enthusiasm. They cut thick forest (taiga), ploughed hectares of virgin lands for the new fields, and built new houses. After ten years of hard labor it was a big village with strong prosperous farms, church, school, and three stores. But after 1930 this area suffered during the communist collectivization of agriculture as the whole Russia. Thousands of thriving peasant farms were destroyed, and peasant families were exiled for life to Stalin's concentration camps. Almost one third of Siberians were sent to Siberia! They lost their houses, their farms, they were moved in thick forests and forced to cut trees 12 hours per day. These people know what the hunger is, what deprivation is. Many of them lost their husbands and children during repressions. Even so they are very hospitable and patient towards strangers. The numerous stories about the first pioneers, their heroic and tragic lives are still preserved in the memory of the modern villagers.

Baba Zonya. The famous local healar. Photo Kyoko Tzukazaki We managed to record several local songs rooted in South-Western music traditions. But we may confirm that traditional music is dying in this area. The grandchildren of pioneers lost musical heritage (which was part of their grandparentsí life) for ever. But the stories about witches and healers are really blossoming. Nowadays three healers practice only in one village. We recorded hundred beautiful stories about witchcraft.

The population of Maslyanogorsk is near 2000 people, and it is constantly growing. The rich land, beautiful landscapes, good road and opportunity to buy a cheap house attract more and more people from the whole area. Kimiltei singers. Photo Kyoko Tzukazaki

    Kimiltei was created at the beginning of the XVIth century by Cossacks whoís mission was to join Siberia to the Russian Empire. This is a very beautiful settlement with well-developed infrastructure. During two days we recorded local singers and narrators. The music traditions are represented by romances of late XIX-th century and songs from Soviet period. The process of collecting of mythological stories was very successful. We recorded numerous stories about evil eye, witchcraft and spirits of house.

Additionally to our research we had plenty of opportunities for mushroom hunting, bania (Russian sauna), fishing on the picturesque river Oka, which runs from the Saian Mountains on the Russian Mongolian boarder. The field site was in 400 km from the famous Lake Baikal, the biggest reservoir of fresh water in the world, and of course, we have visited this miracle of nature.

University
of Alberta
Dr. Natalie
Kononenko
University of
Wisconsin Dr.
James Bailey
University of
Colorado at
Boulder Dr.
Laura Olson
University of
Kentucky
Dr. Rouhier-
Willoughby