aaus-list @ ukrainianstudies.org -- [aaus-list] IEU Features Ukrainian Folk Songs and Oral Literature(January 2009 newsletter)

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(January 2009)

Ukrainian folk oral literature, poetry, and songs (such as the dumas) are
among the most disctinctive ethnocultural features of Ukrainians as a
people. The particularly vital role of folklore in the formation of modern
Ukrainian culture and national consciousness was the result of an unusually
important role that peasantry played in the history of Ukraine. Not only
did peasants make up the overwhelming majority of the Ukrainian population
until the 1930s, but they also contributed much to the preservation and
development of the Ukrainian language and traditional way of life. Their
conservative attitude toward traditions, language, and faith--in short,
their fostering of national and ethnic characteristics, some of which
extend back to pre-Christian times and even to Indo-European roots--was of
great importance for the Ukrainian nation, which had been subdued by
powerful neighbors and, particularly in the case of the upper classes and
the urban strata, exposed to assimilatory influences. In the 19th century,
folk songs and folk oral literature not only served as the basis for the
reconstruction of the Ukrainian literary language, but also provided
Ukrainian writers, composers, and intellectuals with the components for the
creation of a modern national culture...

Learn more about Ukrainian folk songs and folk oral literature by visiting:
or by visiting:
and searching for such entries as:

FOLKLORE. In Ukrainian folklore scholarship there is an overwhelming
tendency to equate folklore with folk oral literature. In this discipline
folk tales (tales of magic, animal tales, legends, anecdotes, etc), folk
songs (ritual songs and non-ritual songs), and items of the minor verbal
genres (proverbs and riddles) are collected and studied. Some of the above
(animal tales, some songs and games, and certain types of proverbs and
riddles) are children's folklore. Oral literature consists of variant texts
whose authorship is unknown, the texts being passed along by word of mouth
and in the process changed to some degree by each performer. Pre-Christian
Ukrainian folk customs and rites were described in Arabic and Byzantine
sources. Other documentation of Ukrainian folklore is found in the earliest
of literary monuments in Ukraine (ie, the chronicles and Slovo o polku
Ihorevi), where instances of folk prose, proverbs, and ritual songs can be
found. Christianity introduced into Ukraine not only dogma but also
apocryphal and classical folklore traditions...

FOLK ORAL LITERATURE. The sum of oral works, both poetry and prose, which
are produced usually by anonymous authors and are preserved in the people's
memory for a long time by being passed on orally from generation to
generation. Ukrainian folk oral literature has its distinctive artistic
qualities, its unique poetic devices--metaphors, similes, epithets, and
symbolism. The poetic folk literature consists mostly of folk songs, which
are subdivided into various genres: ritual songs (songs associated with
spring rituals, including vesnianky-hahilky, carols, Kupalo festival songs,
harvest songs, wedding songs and funeral songs), historical songs and
dumas, lyrical songs and dance songs. Folk prose can be divided into
fables, fairy tales, stories, legends, and anecdotes. Poetic-prose folk
literature consists of spells, proverbs, sayings, and riddles. In the 19th
century the works of folk oral literature were held to be the products of a
collective popular mind. Contemporary folklorists favor the theory that
individuals are the creators of the oral tradition...

FOLK SONGS. The song is one of the oldest and most prevalent forms of
folklore. It unites a poetic text with a melody. Songs usually have a
well-defined strophic structure: all stanzas are set to the same melody as
the first stanza. Each stanza is often followed by a refrain. Folk songs
are usually monodic choral songs, but Ukrainian folk songs are exceptional
for their rich polyphony. The folk songs express the common experience of
the Ukrainian people: all the important events in life from the cradle to
the grave are accompanied by song. By their content and function folk songs
can be divided into four basic groups: (1) ritual songs, such as carols
(koliadky and shchedrivky), spring songs, songs about nymphs, and Kupalo
festival songs; (2) harvest songs and wedding songs; (3) historical songs
and political songs, such as dumas and ballads; and (4) lyrical songs, such
as family songs, social class songs, and love songs. Chumak songs,
recruits' and soldiers' songs, wanderers' songs, and cradle songs belong to
separate groups...

HISTORICAL SONGS. A genre of folk songs that presents historical events and
individuals in a generalized, artistic manner with details, names, and
facts that may be inaccurate. Ukrainian historical songs appeared at the
same time as the dumas, and perhaps even preceded them. They differ from
the dumas in that they describe concrete historical events and figures;
their story line is less developed, their emotive range is greater, and in
them the lyrical element prevails over the epic element. The oldest cycle
of historical songs dates back to the 16th century and depicts the
Cossacks' struggle against the Tatars and Turks; the best known are the
songs about Baida Vyshnevetsky of 1564 and the siege of the Pochaiv
Monastery of 1675. A second cycle consists of songs about the Cossacks'
struggle against Poland. A third cycle deals with Russian oppression and
includes songs about construction work on the Saint Petersburg canals, the
destruction of the Zaporozhian Sich, and the death of a Cossack in Russian

RITUAL SONGS (obriadovi pisni). Folk songs that accompanied important
changes in a person's life and the seasonal cycles in farming. Calendric
ritual folk songs include carols or koliadky and shchedrivky (on Christmas
and Epiphany), Shrovetide songs, vesnianky-hahilky and ryndzivky (on
Easter), tsarynni and rusalka songs (on the Rosalia), Saint Peter's day
songs, haymowers' and rakers' songs, Kupalo festival songs, harvest songs,
vechernytsi songs, and songs to Saint Nicholas. The ritual songs of family
life include christening songs, wedding songs, and funeral hymns and
laments. At one time ritual songs were believed to possess magical powers:
they could ensure a bountiful harvest and the well-being of the persons
mentioned in them. Eventually they lost their magical meaning and were
regarded simply as entertaining or expressive. All ritual songs contain
some ancient pagan elements mixed with more recent, mostly Christian,
elements. The majority of them are tied to ritual acts, games, dances, and
folk customs...

The preparation, editing, and display of the IEU entries dealing with
Ukrainian folk songs and folk oral literature were made possible by a
generous donation from ARKADI MULAK-YATSKIVSKY of Los Angeles, CA, USA.

ABOUT IEU: Once completed, the Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine will be the
most comprehensive source of information in English on Ukraine, its
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over 20,000 detailed encyclopedic entries supplemented with thousands of
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Ukraine and Ukrainians to the world.

At present, only 15% of the entire planned IEU database is available on the
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Dr. Marko R. Stech
Managing Director, CIUS Press
Project Manager, Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine
Project Manager, Hrushevsky Translation Project

Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies
University of Toronto
256 McCaul Street, Rm. 302
Toronto, ON, M5T 1W5
tel: (416) 946-7326; fax: (416) 978-2672

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