Golovnev A. Russian Northerness According to the Epics of the Novgorod Cycle

A. Golovnev
Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences
St. Petersburg, Russian Federation
ORCID: 0000-0002-5716-655X
E-mail: Andrei_golovnev@bk.ru


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ABSTRACT. Russian culture is often presented in the north not as indigenous, but brought in from the south. The article substantiates the opposite on the materials of the epic: it was the North that became the cradle of Russian culture, and it is no coincidence that the epic traditions are best and longest preserved in the Russian North. Folklorists divide the Russian epic into Novgorod and Kyiv cycles. The Kievan tradition is represented by bogatyrs who serve the prince and fight against enemies “for the Christian faith”, while the Novgorod heroes do not serve princes, they are called not bogatyrs, but lionhearts, merchants, guslars, while the name “bogatyr” is not typical for the Novgorod epic. The north is represented by Sadko and Vasily Buslaev, whose characters and deeds are reduced to the scheme of an “epic Novgorodian”, different from the scheme of a “Kyiv hero”. There is much in common in the epics about them: both consist of scenes of competition (in Novgorod) and travel (on the sea or overseas). Features of the Novgorod north are clearly distinguishable against the background of the Kyiv south. The epic tradition is the heritage of Russia and, above all, of its North; there is no such epic in Belarus and Ukraine. The Russian north initially includes the epic and the epic values inherent in it, including the “Novgorod dream” with its belief in oneself and in a miracle, the cult of personal freedom, freethinking up to the theomachism, readiness for risk and the “great pledge”, prowess in battles, fidelity to the squad (combat and business friendship) and home (mother), education, adherence to music and songs.


KEYWORDS: northerness, Russian North, epic song, Novgorod cycle, Sadko, Vasily Buslaev


DOI 10.31250/2618-86 00-2022-2(16)-47-73
УДК 39



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