Short History of Russian Folk Music

Russian folk music has been developing for several ages and it still is. It left beautiful traces of unique folk culture in Russian history.


Russian folk musical art included humorous rhymes, ritual song, wedding songs, dance songs and lyrical songs. The roots of folk music in Russia lie deep in pagan traditions of Slavonic tribes and many other nationalities. In Russian folk songs they sing about Russian epical heroes, defenders of the mother land and characters from Russian legends. Most of these songs disappeared with time because they were written before written language appeared in Russia and they could not be recorded. However, some of them went from mouth to mouth and passed from one generation to another. Finally they were recorded and remained very similar to their original versions.

The most common instruments were psaltery, tambourine, pipe and later balalaika*. Balalaika is also the most popular instruments mentioned in many Russian legends and tales.

When towns and cities started growing in Russia, music created by people who lived there was different from folk music. After this tendency was appreciable enough, people started paying more attention to folk music and collecting folk songs in the 19th century. Russian composer, Mikhail Glinka, was the one who introduced folk music from Russia to the western world.

 During the 20th century Russian folk music was supported by soviet governors, which helped keep the musical folk tradition alive. During that period there were many Russian folk bands or bands that sang some Russian folk songs: Samotsvety (Самоцветы), Pesnyary (Песняры) and Zolotoye Koltso (Золотое Кольцо). A picture of some Russian folk instruments was even printed on a Soviet postal stamp in 1989.


*Balalaika - a stringed musical instrument, usually having a triangular body and three strings: used mainly for Russian folk music.