Folklore (oral national poetry) is an initial foundation, a predecessor of literature and its companion throughout the history of written language; it is also a permanent source of poetic word, genre forms, plots and the first creator of nationally-orientated types. The Folklore Department became an integral part of Pushkinsky Dom in 1939 «completed» it as a full-fledged scientific centre of national literary studies in 1939.
The activity of the Department embraces research of Russian folklore as an independent field of artistic culture, publication of the Russians' national poetry, studying its links with literature. The Folklore Department is «an institute within an institute», a most significant unit in historical and philological structure of the Russian Academy of Sciences with a specialization «Folklore Russian Studies».
Many-sided work of the Department is represented with a whole series of famous folklorists' names of the older generation, specialists of the world standard in the field of studying bylinas, fairy tales, ethnic music, history and folklore genres theory, collectors and publishers, such as: M.K. Azadovsky, A.M.Astakhova, V.Y.Propp, N.P.Andreev, F.A.Rubtsov, N.P.Kolpakova, E.V.Gippius, A.V.Evald, V.G.Bazanov, M.O.Skripil, B.N.Putilov. They influenced the development of the Department scientific research.
Creating a fundamental source base of Russian folklore-studying was conceived as the most important aim of the collaborators of Pushkinsky Dom. In the 1930s after a publication of the most significant folklore editions in the Academy of Sciences, Leningrad, an idea - originating from the epoch of Pushkin - of creating a united national library of «centennially accumulated Russian folklore», according to A.N.Tolstoy's evidence, appeared among «the local folklore specialists».
An important step in creating such a library - «Code of Russian Folklore» («Svod Russkogo Folklora») - was a periodical series «Pamyatniki Russkogo Folklora». The main role in realizing this project was played by Doctors of Philology M.O.Skripil and B.N.Putilov (the head of the Folklore Department in 1954-1957 and 1958-1967).
A high scientific output of the Department was proved with more than 30 volumes of various academic editions of Russian folklore issued in the 1960s, such as: «Byliny v Zapisyakh i Pereskazakh XVII—XVIII vv.» — 1960; «Istoricheskyie Pesni» (4 volumes) — 1960—1973; «Severorusskie Skazki v Zapisiakh A.I.Nikiforova» — 1961; «Velikorusskie Skazki v Zapisiakh I.A.Khudyakova» — 1964; «Chastushki v Zapisyakh Sovetskogo Vremeni. Sever»— 1965; «Zagadki» — 1968 and others. Among the latest publications three volumes of a continuous edition «Pesennoe Sobraniye P.V.Kireevskogo» (1977—1986) - a fundamental anthology of Russian XIX century songs - were issued. At the same time a well-known theoretical annual edition «Russky Folklor» was being published, as well as collections of documentary materials «Iz Istoriyi Russkoi Folkloristiki» and a cooperative monograph «Russkaya Literatura i Folklor», and a directrory «Russky Folklor: Bibliografichesky Ukazatel».
Full-scale expedition work is gradually done contributing annual supplements of different regions' folklore to archival collections.
Collaborators of the Department have created important works on folklore concerning topical problems of ethnography. The Department role in popularization of scientific knowledge is also significant.
This experience gave an opportunity to revive the initiative of creating a Code of Russian Folklore. After an article «Soedinyaya Vremena» («Uniting Past and Present») (1973) by the Department head A.A.Gorelov and a special volume of the annual edition «Russky Folklor» (volume XVII, 1977) the decision of starting the work on the Code of Russian Folklore was made. Since 2001 the methodical issuing of a Code series «Byliny v 25 Tomakh» («Bylinas in 25 Volumes») has been started. This is a full course of national epos represented in publications only partially before.
An unexampled - judging by the richness of included materials - critically checked complex of the Code texts will become a basis for research in the field of East-Slavic culture and history, will help attract new generations of Russian people to the originals of oral poetry. The creation of this series of bylinas is an important event in the «biography» of the Folklore Department of Pushkinsky Dom, which poses serious problems of further coordinated work to all Russian folklore-science.
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The “Phonogram Archive” is a special and essential part of a scientific and organizing structure of the Department being one of the leading ethnic music repositories of Russia. Its aims are storing sound materials of native ethnic studies systematical recording and analyzing folklore samples, as well as their propaganda by means of publishing (including sound editions). In 1931 the largest folklore gramophone record collections of Leningrad and Moscow (including those of the former phonogram archives of the Imperial Academic Library) were united for their centralized storage and usage. The Phonogram Archive is the only encyclopedic collection of sound materials from native ethnological sources. Along with these fund-organizing collections of Russia and abroad it preserves an important part of international legacy of oral traditional cultures.
Historical collections of the Phonogram Archive are included in the Memory of the World Register (UNESCO). The earliest records refer to 1889. They were made almost in the same time as those of the oldest archives - in Vienna and Berlin. At that the number of records referring to the earliest period of using phonograph in the practice of folklore-collecting (before 1910) is quite large.
The historic collections of the Phonogram Archive reflect the process of developing oral traditions before they were influenced by urban tendencies of the XX century. Constituting a basis for extensive publications, these materials provide the edition Code of Russian Folklore with unique supplements. Many elements of certain cultures (especially the nations of Siberia and the Far East) could have been lost without these sound evidences. Sound documents of the 1890s-1930s, preserving the rarest samples of oral creation activity, fully illustrate stylistic variety of national cultures, which is represented with significant simplifications in modern records.
In the beginning of the XX century the Phonogram Archive was founded in the First Slavic Department of the Imperial Academy of Sciences - due to Academician A.A.Shakhmatov. The basis of the fund was constituted from expedition notes on wax cylinders made by Academicians A.A. Shakhmatov and N.S.Derzhavin and supplemented with the notes by Magister of Phililogy E.A. Volter - the first custodian of the archives. However, the work base of the Phonogram Archive was formed only in 1926 by an effort of E.V.Gippius (a custodian in charge from 1926 till 1944) and A.V.Evald.
The repository of folklore records had officially existed in the structure of the Academy of Sciences since 1931. Since 1938 the Phonogram Archive has been a part of the Institute of Russian Literature. In post-war decades the Phonogram Archive lived through a period of «second formation» (custodians in charge - F.A. Rubtsov, A.N. Dmitriev, F.V. Sokolov, B.M. Dobrovolsky, V.V. Korguzalov, nowadays - Y.I. Marchenko). Since 1971 the Phonogram Archive has had a status of Central Fund of Folklore Records of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR with a regime of matrix conservation of collections.
Scientific and cultural potential of the Phonogram Archive caused its significance as a temporary source base for research and publications. From 1983 to 1995 a series of gramophone records «Iz Sobraniya Fonogrammarkhiva Pushkinskogo Doma» («From the Collection of Phonogram Archive. Pushkinsky Dom») with full texts and printed music of folklore melodies. Two series of CDs: «Non-Russian Traditions», «Russian Folk Traditions» (realized in cooperation with musicologists Y.I. Marchenko and A.Y.Kastrov, sound engineers V.P. Shiff and G.V. Matveev - 2000) - are the newest important accomplishment of the Phonogram Archive in the field of popularization of unique folklore records.