Tag Archives: russian

Russian Urban Legend

Name: Баба Яга

Transliteration: Baba Yaga

Description: Informant describes it as an Urban Legend that became a fairytale, but presented more like a legend. It is a witch who lives in a traditional log cabin. The cabin sits on either two or one giant bird feet. She is a cannibalistic witch. Her house is decorated with the decapitated heads of her victims. She flys in the sky on a butter churner. She lures children if they are not sleeping and kidnaps them. Described as an ugly old lady with a big hook nose. People have expressed memorates of how they have seen her and how disturbing she looks.

Background Information: Russian legend whose story is told by adults to children or spread from children to children. Also spread and kept alive through memorates.

Context: The informant had originally told me this story when we were children. She recently reiterated it to me through video call. She is of Russian and Armenian descent. She was originally introduced to Baba Yaga by her cousin who was living in a small town named Stary Oskol, which is located in Russia.

Thoughts: Classic example of stranger danger. This legend is used as a lesson to children to sleep and not to wander (especially into the woods). Informant told me that Russia is very forested, so Russians try to warn children to not go into the woods because it is very dangerous. Baba Yaga is used as a cautionary tale to not go into the woods because the witch lives there. Adults need to make a fear that the children will understand instead of telling them the reality of the danger of the woods. Fantasy is more effective for children in contrast to reality.

Russian Proverb about Work Ethic

Если вы спешите, вы будете смеяться всех

Transliteration: Yesli vy speshite, vy budete smeyat’sya vsekh

Translation: If you rush, you will make everybody laugh

You shouldn’t rush when working on something because you will end up being laughed at.

Background Information: Russian proverb used in colloquial conversations.

Context: The informant told me this proverb during a video call in which I asked her to tell me a popular Russian proverb.

Thoughts: I think that this proverb represent the kind of work ethic that Russians appreciate. It is not about the quantity of the work, but the quality. I also think that it is an example of the importance of self presentation in Russian society. It is more important to take your time and not look like a fool than to rush and embarrass yourself by being hasty.

Russian Holiday

Масленица

Transliteration: Maslenitsa

Translation: Butter Week

Description: This is a spring equinox pancake holiday. During the festival everyone eats pancakes, burns dolls made of hay (effigies). The burning of the dolls is mostly done in villages. They also jump over a pit of fire. Maslenitsa is a Pagan holiday. The holiday is a way of celebrating the coming of spring and a way to sacrifice to the gods for a fruitful spring/rest of the year.

Background Information: It is a Russian and Eastern Slavic religious and folk holiday. It is celebrated the last week before Lent.

Context: The informant told me this holiday during a video call in which I asked her to tell me about a Russian holiday that she knows about.

Thoughts: As a religious holiday I think it is celebrated to prepare for lent and to get ready for the spring. Russia has had a long history of war, government overturnings, famines, etc. I think this holiday was made as a way to ensure a safe and healthy year. As a pagan tradition, I think it is interesting to observe its lasting effects to the present day. It shows that life hasn’t become simpler and that people are still trying to ask for prosperity and peace.

Russian Proverb About Unreliable People

7 пятниц в неделю

Transliteration: 7 pyatnits v nedelyu

Translation: 7 Fridays in a week

Proverb used to describe a person who has a lot of plans, but they never get the work done.

Background Information: Russian proverb used in many parts of Russia. The informant told me that back then, Friday was the market day in which people could collect the goods one week and the next they would pay for them. Sometimes people would not pay and make excuses as to why they didn’t pay.

Context: The informant told me this proverb during a video call in which I asked her to tell me a popular Russian proverb.

Thoughts: I think this proverb is used to describe unreliable people who make too many excuses. I believe this shows that Russian’s appreciate reliability and detest fickle behavior.

Russian Spirit

Name: Домовой

Transliteration: Domovoy

Translation: Household Lord

Description: House spirit that exists for every household/ family. Spirit of hearth, family fortune, and mischief. Known to move things around the house such as furniture. Also known for breaking things in the house such as plates. If someone in the house is misbehaving, then he might bring bad fortune to the house/family. He can also protect the house. He is not usually seen. Has been described as gnome-like and made out of hay. Not described as a harmful spirit. If the Domovoy falls in love with a woman from the houshold, then she will not get married. Make sure you respect the Domovoy.

Background Information: Russian spirit whose story is told by adults to children or spread from children to children.

Context: The informant had originally told me this story when we were children. She recently reiterated it to me through video call. She is of Russian and Armenian descent. She was originally introduced to the Domovoy by her cousin who was living in a small town named Stary Oskol, which is located in Russia.

Thoughts: I believe that the Domovoy is used to explain weird occurrences in the home, such as a missing sock. Purpose is to bring a sense of comfort for the unexplainable things in life. Also used as a way to keep members of the family behaving and disciplined. This could especially apply to small children who are misbehaving. They are warned about the Domovoy to remind them to behave or else the spirit will bring bad fortune to them. When it comes to the idea of the Domovoy falling in love with a woman in the household, I think that this is done as a way to scare the woman into getting married.

For Another Version See:

Ivanits, Linda J. Russian Folk Belief, 51-62. M.E. Sharpe, 1992