Slot:       28A-5          Dec. 28, 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.                                                

Panel:     Issues in Slavic and East European Folklore

Chair:     Todd Armstrong, Grinnell College


Title:       Epithalamic Traditions in Slavic Folklore: Comparative Analyses of Wedding Songs of South and East Slavic People

Author:   Larissa Bondarchuk, The Ohio State University

In the present paper I provide a comparative analysis of traditional wedding rituals among Slavic peoples. In particular I focus on epithalamic songs (both texts and contexts) of the Russians, Ukrainians and Bulgarians.

The common origin of the Slavic people can be considered a potential basis for many similarities in their cultural traditions. Such evidence is found, for example, in many similar cultural elements, such as calendar holidays, religious beliefs, and, of course, linguistic commonality of all Slavic languages, and in particular, Bulgarian, Russian and Ukrainian.  However, the historical development of these Slavic nations reflects their unique, distinctive ways of cultural evolution. On the other hand, even differences in religion – Western Christianity (in West Slavic countries) vs. Greek Orthodoxy (in South and East Slavic lands) are reflected in the form of literacy these countries accepted.

In addition, within the Slavic world specific historical conditions brought about the distinctive characteristics in their culture. Thus, for example, Bulgaria was a part of the Ottoman Empire for over five centuries, which, evidently, left its marks in language, customs, and material and oral culture. Many vocabulary items (roughly 40 per cent), household items, traditions and even superstitions have Turkic origin. As Kaufman claims, “despite the closeness in the everyday of the rural population, the conditions under which the Bulgarian statehood was formed, historical fate of the people differed from that of East Slavs. Here we must include the [historical conditions of] Greek and especially Turkic yoke” (Kaufman 13).

I conclude that wedding songs of Slavic people have many common, similar features not only in their content, but also in the structure of the wedding rituals. Many questions raised during the analyses of this topic present an excellent opportunity for new discussions which might shed new light on the problems of folkloric traditions, politics in the study of folklore, national identity and national/nationalistic movements today.


Title:       A Relational Database of Macedonian Proverbs

Author:   George Mitrevski, Auburn University

This paper proposes a system for compiling a database of Macedonian proverbs using the technology of a standard relational database management system, and a set of thematic and linguistic classification systems that can reveal information and the characteristics of a body of proverbs on the formal, structural, linguistic and figurative levels. Unlike a flat database, a relational database is organized into tables, in which data is defined so that it can be reorganized and accessed in a number of different ways. It is a method of structuring data in the form of records so that relations between different entities and attributes can be used for data access and transformation. Using structured query language, reports and comparisons can be generated by selecting fields of interest from the original database.

All data which is stored in and retrieved from the relational database proposed here is cast in the form of relations. The databases does not have any predefined access paths;  data in the database is defined so that it can be reorganized and accessed in a number of different ways depending on the specific needs of the person analyzing the proverbs.


Title:       Pseudo-Slavic Aesthetics: Using Russian Folk Culture to Sell Fast Food

Author:   Eugenia Kapsomera Amditis, Dickinson College

American scholars have long been aware of marketing firms’ manipulation of folklore to sell their products.  In response to such practices, Richard M. Dorson and Priscilla Denby coined the respective terms “fake-lore” and “folk-lure.” This practice is not limited to American markets or even to strictly commercial purposes.  Slavists have been aware of the Communist regime’s misappropriation of Russian folk culture for some time.  In the post-Soviet period, internationally-known author and social commentator, Victor Pelevin, crafts a new term “Pseudo-Slavic aesthetics” to help articulate a modern form of an old practice.  This phenomenon acquires a “fresh currency” as more Russians gain the wealth needed to actively participate in the widespread consumer market which has taken root in Russia. 

Fast food and dining out has grown into a significant part of Russian consumer culture.  Blindonalt’s, a growing St. Petersburg fast-food chain, is an intriguing hybrid of Western traits blatantly stolen from the McDonald’s franchise and Pseudo-Slavic aesthetics designed to appeal to nostalgic and often nationalistic feelings expressed in contemporary Russian culture.  Christiane Bender and Gianfranco Poggi write of McDonald’s that while eating there, young people have an opportunity to participate in the “American way of life” (22).  Blindonalt’s recreates this same phenomenon, but instead draws from Pseudo-Slavic aesthetics in order to lure customers away from explicitly Western-oriented restaurants and into a way of life based on the Russian past.  Online customer feedback suggests that through their appeal to Russian consumers’ sense of the folk past, Blindonalt’s atmosphere makes diners feel that they are participating in or tied to their nation’s history whenever they dine out.

From a pedagogical standpoint, the Blindonalt’s phenomenon reveals some of the forces at work in Russian culture today.  Blindonalt’s encapsulates the often tenuous relationship between Western and Russian culture contemporary that Russians struggle with today.  Moreover, the Blindonalt’s phenomenon, because it is based on the ubiquitous McDonald’s restaurants, taps into a base of cultural knowledge that today’s college students, regardless of their personal backgrounds, can access.  



Bender, Christiane and Gianfranco Poggi.  “Golden Arches and Iron Cages: McDonaldization and the Poverty of Cultural Pessimism at the End of the Twentieth Century.” Resisting McDonaldization.  Ed.  Barry Smart.  London: Sage Publications, 1999.  22-40.

Denby, Priscilla.  “Folklore in the Mass Media.” Folklore Forum 4 (1971): 113-121.

Dorson, Richard M.  “Folklore and Fakelore.” American Mercury 70 (1950): 335-343.

Pelevin, Victor.  Generation “P”. Roman.  Moskva: Vagrius, 1999.

Sullenberger, Tom E. “Ajax Meets the Jolly Green Giant.” The Journal of American Folklore 87.343 (1974): 53-65.