The season of Maslenitsa (aka Butter Week, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrovetide) is a great time to be in Russia. Everywhere people celebrate the end of winter and the promise of spring with music, merriment and a festive procession led by an effigy of Lady Maslenitsa (who is later burned up on a grand bonfire). It is also a good time to meet with the excellent traditional singers in the Yelnya district of Smolensk province. These singers learned their repertoire directly from previous generations, preserving the songs’ archaic language, vocal production and musical style. This expedition will concentrate on recording songs and old tales of local spirits and other mythological beings, as well as documenting the Maslenitsa festivities.

You can hear some of Yelnya’s singers here:

Photo by Vasilisa Minyonok

Applications are now closed. Please view our other upcoming trips!

About This Expedition

  • Dates:

    February 19, 2020 to March 3, 2020

  • Location:

    Yelnya District, Smolensk Province, Russia

Meet The Team

  • 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 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.

Applications are now closed.
Please view our other upcoming trips!