Since the days of Imperial Russia, remote river valleys of the Altai mountains have sheltered runaway serfs, escaped prisoners and Old Believer religious dissidents. On the banks of the Cheremshanka River you can find villages founded by Old Believers in the eighteenth century. Some of their descendents still live here, with memories of the rituals, songs, beliefs and customs of their grandparents’ day.

To document these traditions, our team members will rendezvous in Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan, where the first order of business will be to attend the Ivan Kupala (summer solstice) folk festival sponsored by the Ust-Kamenogorsk folklore museum. After this will come two days of study with museum staff for an introduction to the region’s traditional song, music and dance. Then a long, scenic drive to the villages of Cheremshanka and Bystrukha for a week of field work — recording songs and documenting family histories, local architecture, holiday customs, life-cycle rituals, and traditional beliefs of the local population.

expedition starts and ends at:

Ust-Kamenogorsk, East Kazakhstan, Republic of Kazakhstan

About This Expedition

  • Dates:

    July 5, 2023 to July 17, 2023

  • Location:

    Glukovskii district, Ust-Kamenogorsk province, Kazakhstan

  • Expedition Languages:

    Russian, English

  • Team Size:

    2-6

  • Projected Fee:

    $2309 - $3440 (depending on number of volunteers)

  • Apply By:

    April 6, 2023

Meet The Team

  • head shot of woman, trees in background

    Dr. Alevtina Tsvetkova

    Professor of Russian Philology, specializing in Folklore, at Pavlodar State University in Pavlodar, Kazakhstan

    Dr. Tsvetkova has been making folklore expeditions to Siberia and the Altai Mountains (on both sides of the Russia/Kazakhstan border) since 1983. Her special interests include family folklore, family life-cycle rituals, and the contemporary role of folk legend and belief.

  • head shot Yelena Minyonok

    Dr. Yelena Minyonok

    Major Researcher and Chief Curator of the Folklore Archive
    Gorky Institute of World Literature, Moscow

    Lena Minyonok is a philologist, folklorist, and Principal Investigator of the American Friends of Russian Folklore. Dr. Minyonok graduated from the Philological Department of the Moscow State University, where she received her M.A. degree from in 1988. Her postgraduate studies were at the Gorky Institute of World Literature (Russian Academy of Sciences, 1988-1991). She received her Ph.D. in Folklore (Moscow, 1998) and now serves as Chief Curator of the Folklore Archive and Major Researcher in the Folklore Division of the Gorky Institute. Dr. Minyonok has been a Principal Investigator for countless folklore expeditions and has published over 60 articles about Russian folklore traditions. Most recently, she has led expeditions for the American Friends of Russian Folklore (PREEEF’s former name) in conjunction with the Institute of World Literature at the Russian Academy of Sciences. She was a visiting professor at the University of Kentucky in 2007, as a Fulbright scholar.