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
“One of the tropes that everyone knows are stories about Ivanushka durachok (Ivan the dumb, Ivan the fool). It is actually quite telling of te Russian people as a whole. Russian culture in many ways relies on luck; that someone can do all kinds of things, but it wont turn out well unless he gets lucky. That’s where the Russian heroes originated from, as well as some proverbs. Ivanushka durachok is a character that can lie on the stone oven top (a common part of any Russian village home – the top of this stone oven would only be warmed a little, so oftentimes people would use it as a place to sleep, especially in the winter) and not do anything. Then he can get very lucky, and through a chain of events marry a princess. Or he does nothing, then he meets a pike and that fish grants him all of his wishes.”
This trope dates back to pre-Soviet folklore. According to the informant, it has to do with the fact that for more than centuries, Russia had this history of never fully being free. Then when serfdom came into effect, the serfs never really had a purpose, a way to advance in life. Therefore, this trope of folklore that portrayed characters reliant on luck and benefiting primarily from luck became very popular in Russia.
This is Russian folklore’s version of the fool character. This archetype appears in many cultures. Russian folklore tends to favor him, possibly because it gives the people hope that good things can happen to anyone, even a simple fool.