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The research of the eminent Russian scientist, professor P. G. Bogatyriov (1894 - 1971) formed the methodological basis of our field studies. Folklorists and ethnographers observed the centenary anniversary of his birthday in 1994 all over the world. Professor P. G. Bogatyriov developed the collective and research synchronous and functional method of recording and studying folklore and ethnographical phenomena. This method is aimed at the poly-aspect research of living tradition, its inherited and item factors, and is aimed at deep comprehension in the structure of folklore text and its situational ties.

The preservation of folklore in its traditional environment and the study of each folklore and ethnographical phenomenon in the context of its functions are of the great importance for us.

Numerous research projects are designed to interpret folklore culture all over the world. But scholars pay rather small attention to a performer's interpretation of folklore materials. The problem of self-consciousness of traditional texts performers puts numerous questions in the contemporary epoch. For example, how does the world outlook expressed in traditional texts correlate with today's people consciousness; that is how do performers themselves regard what they sing and tell. Is the text's reflection increasing or decreasing when traditional cultures are dying away? What objects of consciousness are stable and what are changeable?

During the last two centuries the only way to preserve folk culture was in print. Folk texts and sometimes folk tunes were written down. Specialists began to use audio equipment only forty years ago. Video equipment is too expensive to be used on a regular basis. But traditional culture could not be presented as a collection of texts and tunes even if it would be large enough. Written down folk materials lose their expression forever. Having been written down, a song or a fairy tale loses its inner ties with the performer and with the audience for which it was performed. One can compare a printed folk text with a museum-piece, which has lost its functional connection with people and which has changed into a dead witness of living culture. Generally speaking, notes and audio records tear folk materials out of its real life context. If future generations have only books and audio tapes, they will have no opportunity to behold the inner life of a performer, the dynamics of his emotions, his creative power. There will be no opportunity for them to feel the deeply dramatic nature and atmosphere of the creative act. So they will have no chance to see the unique creation of folk performance, the essence of folk culture.

Our project will give them all these chances. From our point of view video recording is the single (if not universal), most perfect way to preserve folklore culture. The video camera allows us to record simultaneously a text, a tune, performer's gesticulation and facial expression, folk costume and the interior where a performance takes place. Video camera allows us to extend the volume of objective information about folklore and ethnographical traditions (not misrepresented by the interviewer's private perception). Thus, video recording enlarges the opportunities of not only recording and studying possibilities, but popularization of folklore materials also.

The main reason for the lack of interest in folklore among our contemporaries is the lack of knowledge of authentic traditional culture and incomprehension of the meaning of folk rituals, songs, fairy tales. Without such knowledge it is impossible to appraise at it's true worth artistic beauty and philosophical intensity. Folklore images presented in visual forms and in authentic performance of gifted folk singers, dancers and narrators can win the hearts of many persons who were previously indifferent to folklore heritage.

But using a video camera for all type of material is not reasonable. That is why we intend to use subsidiary methods such as audio records and photographs, measuring objects of material culture, questionnaires on different objects of material culture (ritual scarves, spinning-wheels, looms, buildings, etc.). From our point of view, complex recording of the folklore and ethnographical data (including audio, video records and photographs) could answer numerous questions of folklorists, ethnographers, dialectologists, etc.


1. The principle of complexity. We need to collect as much information on every folklore and ethnographical phenomenon as possible to produce useful and available material for different profiles specialists.

2. The principle of noninterference in folklore performance. It means the conservation of the integral structure of a rite, a mythological story or a song in the whole of its temporal extent. Any stylizations or anticipated folklore performance rehearsals are excluded.

3. The principle of the opening of the inner artistic potential of folklore material by means of video equipment and computer graphics. This includes the materialization of folk poetic notions and images, and the reconstruction of folk songs, mythological stories, legends, atmosphere, by using ethnographical and nature objects. If necessary we will reconstruct the objects or make scenery.

4. The principle of combining authentic documentary video records and artistic shooting on the basis of scripts. Such an amalgamation of two types of shootings allows us to create documentaries of high artistic potential.





University of Virginia Slavic Languages & Literatures Dept.Dr. Natalie Kononenko

University of Wisconsin Dr. James Bailey

University of Colorado   at Boulder Dept. of Germanic and Slavic Languages & Lits Dr._ Laura J. Olson 

Slavic and East European Folklore Association (SEEFA)

University of Kentucky Russian and Eastern Studies and Linguistics Dr. J.Rouhier- Willoughby

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Copyright 2001 Russian Folklore Expedition
Last modified: 09.27.2002