Team I, May 31 - June 11, 2012

Location: Smolensk province, Velizh district, Selezni village Cost:  $1400 (US dollars) Rendezvous point: Moscow End point: Moscow

    Tucked up against the Belarusian border, the region around the west Russia town of Velizh has preserved a rich variety of folk songs and ritual traditions. People still strongly believe in house spirits, forest nymphs and witches. We will be staying in the village of Selezni, home to a wonderful, authentic folklore singing group. As most of singers are in their 70s, one of our most urgent projects will be to record their songs.

In addition, we timed our expedition in order to document the important religious holiday of Trinity (Whit Sunday, June 3rd).  We expect to see both Christian and pagan elements in the local  Whitsuntide (Trinity week) observances. According to local belief,  during Trinity week you may meet a house spirit or a forest nymph, or have a prophetic dream.  We will document the Whit Saturday rituals for commemorating the dead, and record the holiday dancing and singing.

Our third major project in Selezni will be visiting local residents to collect their stories about house spirits, forest nymphs, witches and other magical personages.

On our way to Selezni we will visit the city of Smolensk, the “western gate” to Russia. Founded in 863, Smolensk has dealt with centuries of invasions from the west - Lithuanian, Polish, French, and German.   The city was burnt down 27 times, but its 12th century churches and large Kremlin still stand, along with more recent monuments and a modern city center.

In addition,  our team members will have an option to visit the wonderful museum-estate of the famous Russian zoologist and explorer Nikolai Przhevalskii  (1839-1888), a place where we can feel the atmosphere of that elegant epoch which the Russian revolution closed down with a crash.

This expedition is the part of American Friends of Russian Folklore program. Please, have a look at -
A detailed briefing and itinerary are if you send a request to:

of Alberta
Dr. Natalie
University of
Wisconsin Dr.
James Bailey
University of
Colorado at
Boulder Dr.
Laura Olson
University of
Dr. Rouhier-