Domovoi and Barabashka


The informant is my father. He is a 55-year old white male and spent the first 26 years of his life in the Soviet Union (Moscow). He, like many others in the USSR was raised as an atheist, and his whole family (including himself) has a background in the sciences; therefore he is a very logical, analytical individual. 

The following conversation took place as a part of a larger conversation about Russian folklore during a road trip from Southern Utah to Las Vegas.

Transcribed and translated from an interview held in Russian

“The idea of home-dwelling ghosts is not very popular in Russian. But in older fairy tales, like from the pagan times there is the character of Domovoi. It’s this small creature, that you can’t really see – or can’t see at all – but it lives in the house and does all kinds of unexpected things”

Unexpected how?

“Honestly, I cannot really remember…he’s definitely more of a mischievous character, wreaking all kinds of havoc.”

“In later Soviet times, a more common character was Barabashka. Barabashka was like a Domovoi, but he doesn’t really do anything that’s bad or good, you can just hear him sometimes. And if you hear a sound coming from somewhere at home, they say that it’s the Barabashka making that noise”

Is it Barabashka because it sounds like the word baraban (drums)?

“Probably, yeah. But you see, because in the Soviet Union, people didn’t really own houses, unless it was in the country-side somewhere, the concepts of “ghosts haunting a castle” or something weren’t really a thing.”


Due to the political ideologies of the Soviet Union, it was uncommon to openly believe in religious or mythical stories or superstitions. This did not completely stop people from spreading folklore, but what it did do was make the resort to folklore from a pre-Soviet, even pre-Christian Russia, making pagan folk figures some of the most popular in Russian folklore in the late 20th century.