|Born||11 July 1826|
Boguchar, Voronezh Governorate, Russian Empire
|Died||5 October 1871 45) (aged|
Moscow, Russian Empire
|Occupation||Slavist, folklorist, literary critic, historian, journalist|
|Alma mater||Imperial Moscow University (1848)|
|Notable works||Russian Fairy Tales , Poetic Views of the Slavs on Nature|
Alexander Nikolayevich Afanasyev (Afanasief, Afanasiev or Afanas'ev, Russian: Александр Николаевич Афанасьев) (23 July [ O.S. 11 July] 1826 — 5 October [ O.S. 23 September] 1871) was a Russian Slavist and ethnographer who published nearly 600 Russian fairy and folk tales, one of the largest collections of folklore in the world. The first edition of his collection was published in eight volumes from 1855 to 1867, earning him the reputation as being the Russian counterpart to the Brothers Grimm.
Alexander Afanasyev was born in the town of Boguchar in the Voronezh Governorate of the Russian Empire (modern-day Voronezh Oblast of Russia) into a family of modest means. His mother Varvara Mikhailovna Afanasyeva came from common people. Alexander was her seventh child; she became very ill after giving birth and died by the end of the year. The children were raised by their father Nikolai Ivanovich Afanasyev, a Titular councillor who served as a prosecutor's assistant on probable causes and whom Alexander described as a man of high intellectual and moral qualities, "deservedly known as the smartest person in the whole uyezd".
In three years the family moved to Bobrov, Voronezh where Alexander spent his childhood. He became addicted to reading early in his life, having access to the well-stocked library left by his grandfather (a member of the Russian Bible Society), as well as to various magazines.
In 1837 he was sent to the Voronezh male gymnasium, and in 1844 he entered the Law Faculty of the University of Moscow which he finished in 1848.There he attended the lectures of Konstantin Kavelin, Timofey Granovsky, Sergey Solovyov, Stepan Shevyryov, Osip Bodyansky and Fyodor Buslaev. He published a series of articles on government economy during the times of Peter the Great, on the Pskov Judicial Charter and other topics in the Sovremennik and Otechestvennye Zapiski magazines. Despite being one of the most promising students, he failed to become a professor. The conservative Minister of National Enlightenment, Count Sergey Uvarov, who oversaw the final exams, attacked Afanasyev's essay which discussed the role of autocracy in the development of Russian criminal law during the 16th and 17th centuries.
In 1849 Konstantin Kavelin helped him to get a place at the Moscow's Main Archive Directorate under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Empire, and here Afanasyev worked for the next 13 years. During that time he met many people of science and culture, collected a lot of ancient books and manuscripts that formed a huge library. His articles, reviews, ethnographical and historical works regularly appeared in the leading Russian magazines, newspapers, almanacs and scientific periodicals. His essays on Russian satire of the 18th century and on the works of prominent writers and publishers resulted in an 1859 monograph "Русские сатирические журналы 1769–1774 г." ("Russian Satirical Magazines of 1769—1774"), published in 'Otechestvennye Zapiski' (Nos.3, 4 of 1855; No.6 of 1859).
In 1855 he headed the state commission responsible for publication of legislative, historical and literary works. From 1858 to 1861 he also worked as the main editor of the short-lived magazine "Bibliographical Notes" ( ru:Библиографические записки ) which actually served as a cover for collecting materials, censored and revolutionary literature for the socialist in exile Alexander Herzen. In 1862 the authorities arrested the Narodnik Nikolay Chernyshevsky, while other people associated with Herzen, including Afanasiev, came under suspicion. His flat was searched, and while nothing was revealed, he still lost his place at the Moscow Archives.
After his dismissal he couldn't find a stable job for several years and had to sell his library to feed his family. After that he worked as a secretary at the Moscow City Duma and at the Moscow Congress of Justices of the Peace while continuing his ethnographical research. He wrote a large theoretical work (three tomes of 700 pages each) – "The Poetic Outlook of Slavs about Nature" ( ru:Поэтические воззрения славян на природу ) – which came out between 1865 and 1869.In 1870 his Русские детские сказки (Russian Children's Fairy Tales) were published.
Afanasyev spent his last years living in penury. He died in Moscow aged 45, suffering from tuberculosis. He was buried at the Pyatnitskoye cemetery.
Afanasyev became interested in old Russian and Slav traditions and stories in the 1850s ("folklore" as an area of study did not exist at the time). His early scholarly articles, including – "Ведун и ведьма" ("Wizard and Witch", published in "Комета", 1851); "Языческие предания об острове Буяне" ("Pagan legends of Buyan Island", published in "Временнике общ. ист. и древ. росс." of 1858 No. 9) – drew upon the so-called Mythological school that treated legends and tales as a mine of information for the study of more ancient pagan mythology (see his definitive work on the subject " Поэтические воззрения славян на природу " ("The Poetic Outlook on Nature by the Slavs", 1865—1869). In such an interpretation, he regarded the fairy tale Vasilisa the Beautiful as depicting the conflict between the sunlight (Vasilisa), the storm (her stepmother), and dark clouds (her stepsisters).A great archivist, his works provide copious information, evidence, documents, and passages of the old chronicles relating to Old Russian culture, history and tradition, as well as other Indo-European languages, folklore and legends, in particular German traditions (he knew to perfection German as well as all Slav languages and ancient ones).
In the early 1850s, being already known for his articles, Afanasyev began to think about a collection of folk tales. He was then asked by the Russian Geographical Society (ethnography section) of Saint Petersburg to publish the folktales archives that the Society had been in possession of for about ten years. These archives are at the start of his Collection. Afanasyev chose 74 tales out of these. He added to them the enormous collection of Vladimir Dal (about 1000 texts), from which he kept 148 numbers, finding the other ones too distorted, his own collection (of about 10 folktales from the Voronejh region), and a few other collections. He added already published tales (such as Maria Marievna, The Firebird, The Grey Wolf, etc.), a few tales coming from epic songs, stories about the dead, a few medieval satirical texts (such as The Shemiaka Sentence), and anecdotes.
He owes his prominent place in the history of Slavonic philology chiefly to these Russian Fairy Tales ("Народные русские сказки"), published between 1855 and 1863, and inspired by the famous collection of the Brothers Grimm. From the scientific point of view, his collection goes further. He had at his disposal a lot of contributors, he tried to give the source and place where the tale was told, he never tried to give any definitive version of a folktale: so, if he gathered 7 versions of one folk type, he edited them all (this is the case for The FireBird for instance). His collection was ahead of his time.
In 1860 a scandal was provoked following the publication of the «Русские народные легенды» ("National Russian Legends", 1860), a collection of folk tales from all over the country based on the lives of Jesus and Christian saints. The result was a unique blend of Christianity with paganism and social undertones. Some of them were labeled as unorthodox by the Most Holy Synod and the book was officially banned.He also prepared Заветные сказки ("Treasured Tales"), an assortment of redacted tales from "Русские народные легенды" plus other potential controversial stories – published as Russian Forbidden Tales in Switzerland anonymously because of their obscene and anticlerical subject matter.
Prior to Afanasyev's works in the 1850s, only a few attempts had ever been made to record or study the folk beliefs of peasant Russia. Though written Church Slavonic had existed since the 10th century, it was used almost solely by the church and only for parochial written works. It was not until the 18th and 19th centuries that a sizable body of secular literature developed in vernacular Russian. Thus, Afanasyev's collections made a highly valuable contribution to the dissemination and legitimization of Russian culture and folk belief. The influence of these folk tales can be seen in the works of many writers and composers, notably Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov ( Sadko, The Snow Maiden ) and Igor Stravinsky ( The Firebird , Petrushka , and L'Histoire du soldat ).
A legend is a genre of folklore that consists of a narrative featuring human actions perceived or believed both by teller and listeners to have taken place within human history. Narratives in this genre may demonstrate human values, and possess certain qualities that give the tale verisimilitude. Legend, for its active and passive participants, includes no happenings that are outside the realm of "possibility," but may include miracles. Legends may be transformed over time, in order to keep them fresh, vital, and realistic. Many legends operate within the realm of uncertainty, never being entirely believed by the participants, but also never being resolutely doubted.
In Norse mythology, Kvasir was a being born of the saliva of the Æsir and the Vanir, two groups of gods. Extremely wise, Kvasir traveled far and wide, teaching and spreading knowledge. This continued until the dwarfs Fjalar and Galar killed Kvasir and drained him of his blood. The two mixed his blood with honey, resulting in the Mead of Poetry, a mead which imbues the drinker with skaldship and wisdom, and the spread of which eventually resulted in the introduction of poetry to mankind.
In Slavic mythology, Ognyena Maria is a fire goddess who is the sister and assistant of the thunder god, Perun. Ognyena Maria originates as a conflation of the figures of Margaret the Virgin and the Virgin Mary, both regarded as sisters of Saint Elias.
The Leshy is a tutelary deity of the forests in Slavic mythology. The plural form in Russian is лешие, leshiye. As the spirit rules over the forest and hunting, he may be related to the Slavic god Porewit.
Vladimir Ivanovich Dal was one of the greatest Russian-language lexicographers and a founding member of the Russian Geographical Society. He knew at least six languages, including Turkic, and is considered one of the early Turkologists. During his lifetime he compiled and documented the oral history of the region that was later published in Russian and became part of modern folklore.
Živa, also Živena, Żiwia, Siva, Sieba or Razivia, is the Slavic goddess of life and fertility. She is worshiped throughout what is now Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Germany, before Christianity expanded into the area. Her name means "living, being, existing". Živa is mentioned in The Baptism on the Savica, an epic-lyric poem by the Slovene national poet France Prešeren.
Karel Jaromír Erben was a Czech folklorist and poet of the mid-19th century, best known for his collection Kytice, which contains poems based on traditional and folkloric themes.
Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin was a Russian illustrator and stage designer who took part in the Mir iskusstva, contributed to the Ballets Russes, co-founded the Union of Russian Painters and from 1937 was a member of the Artists' Union of the USSR. Ivan Bilibin gained popularity with his illustrations to Russian folk tales and Slavic folklore. His work was throughout his career inspired by the art and culture of Old Russia.
Snegurochka (diminutive) or Snegurka, or The Snow Maiden, is a character in Russian fairy tales.
"Once upon a time" is a stock phrase used to introduce a narrative of past events, typically in fairy tales and folk tales. It has been used in some form since at least 1380 in storytelling in the English language and has opened many oral narratives since 1600. These stories often then end with "and they all lived happily ever after", or, originally, "happily until their deaths".
Chort is considered to be an anthropomorphic demon of total evil of doom, with horns, hooves and a skinny tail. He is the son of the Slavic god Chernobog and the goddess Mara. In Ukraine, he is also known as haspyda, didko, irod, and kutsyi. In folk Christianity, he is considered a minion of Satan.
Nikita the Tanner, Nikita Kozhemyaka or Mykyta Kozhumyaka, is an East Slavic folk hero (bogatyr), a character from a legend. In some sources he is called Kyrylo the Tanner or Elijah the Tailor. The oldest prototype on it could be found in Laurentian Chronicle.
Mech-kladenets is a fabulous magic sword in Russian fairy tales and byliny, rendered "sword of steel", "hidden sword", or "magic sword" in English translations.
The Dancing Water, the Singing Apple, and the Speaking Bird is a Sicilian fairy tale collected by Giuseppe Pitrè, and translated by Thomas Frederick Crane for his Italian Popular Tales. Joseph Jacobs included it in European Folk and Fairy Tales. The original title is "Li Figghi di lu Cavuliciddaru", for which Crane gives a literal translation of "The Herb-gatherer's Daughters."
Russian Fairy Tales is a collection of nearly 600 fairy and folktales, collected and published by Alexander Afanasyev between 1855 and 1863. His literary work was explicitly modeled after Grimm's Fairy Tales.
Ptasie mleczko is a soft chocolate-covered candy filled with soft meringue or milk soufflé. It is called ptichye moloko in Russian, lapte de pasăre in Romanian, ptashyne moloko in Ukrainian, and linnupiim in Estonian. All these names literally mean "bird's milk" or crop milk, a substance somewhat resembling milk, produced by certain birds to feed their young. However, this is not the origin of the name; rather, "bird's milk" is an idiom of ancient Greek origin meaning "an unobtainable delicacy".
Deities of Slavic religion, arranged in cosmological and functional groups, are inherited through mythology and folklore. Both in the earliest Slavic religion and in modern Slavic Native Faith's theology and cosmology, gods are arranged as a hierarchy of powers begotten by the supreme God of the universe, Rod, known as Deivos in the earliest Slavic religion. According to Helmold's Chronica Slavorum, "obeying the duties assigned to them, [the deities] have sprung from his [the supreme God's] blood and enjoy distinction in proportion to their nearness to the god of the gods".
A Skazka – is a Russian word literally meaning "story", but used to mean fairy tale or a fantasy tale. The term can be used in many different forms to determine the type of tale or story being told. A volshebnaya skazka [fairy tale – волше́бная ска́зка] is considered a magical tale. Skazki o zhivotnykh [tales of animals] are tales about animals, and bytovye skazki [household tales] are tales about everyday life. These variations of skazki give the term more depth and detail the different types of fairy tales.
Yeruslan Lazarevich, also known as Eruslan Lazarevich or, in the Tatar original, Uruslan, is the Russian folk literature hero of The Tale of Eruslane Lazarevic, recounting the many military and amorous adventures of a young and beautiful hero, a tale which was much liked by the old Russian readers due to a variety of its content and by appearing frequently on the lubok, was widely spread among the people. Its influence is noticeable even on some retelling of tales about Ilya of Murom.
A Zmei Gorynich or zmey, in Skazka and Bylina, is a dragon or serpent, or sometimes a human-like character with dragon-like traits.
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