Folklore of Siberian Villages (100 hundred anniversary of Stolypin Land Reform)

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Folklore of Siberian Villages

(100 hundred anniversary of Stolypin Land Reform)
Leading organization "American Friends of Russian Folklore"

This corporation is organized for charitable, scientific, and educational purposes within the meaning of Internal Revenue code section 501(c) (3)

The specific purpose of this corporation is to support and promote American understanding of Russian folklore and traditional Russian life and culture. This purpose is accomplished by supporting research projects, educational activities, and cultural activities, specifically including, but not limited to: Scientific field research projects in Russia to collect data and make recordings; documenting, analyzing and archiving Russian folklore and oral histories; and presenting educational and cultural lectures and programs at universities, conferences, and festivals.
Dear Friends,
Welcome to the Folklore of Siberian Villages expedition! This project is devoted to the complex investigation of music, narrative traditions and rituals of Siberia. To successfully conduct this project's important cultural and scientific research, we urgently need the help of volunteers like you!

The reason for urgency is two-fold: non-native cultures now exercise a great deal of influence on the everyday life of the countryside. As a result of these external influences, compounded with modern urbanizaiton, the authority of folk traditions is decreasing in rural villages across Russia. For these reasons, it is of the upmost importance to document these native traditions before musical and narrative folklore is changed beyond recognition (if not all together lost and forgotten). Without an understanding of the earlier forms of traditional music and folklore in general, it will be impossible to make an informed assessment of the influence other cultures exert on these traditions. Moreover, many of those who have carried the musical traditions with them throughout the Soviet period, particularly older women, are dying before their knowledge can be recorded.

Since Russia is currently experiencing a very intense migration of the rural population to the cities, we can expect the total disappearance of authentic musical traditions in the very near future. This is a lesson learned both from Russian history and from the experience of other traditional cultures the world over, which have have been wiped out and assimilated into our globalised culture in the name of modernization and progress. Soon authentic folk songs will survive only in the sphere of urban amateurs; since they could very well be the last guardians of these ancient traditions, the transmission of musical knowledge from the original, authentic environment to amateur folk groups demands immediate and serious attention. To better asses this process of transmission, the Folklore of Siberian Villages project will explore the lineage of a particular European musical culture based in the cradle of Russian civilization – around the area of modern day Ukraine and western Russia. Thanks to Russian pioneers who settled the Empire’s vast eastern wilderness around the turn of the century, this musical tradition has survived in Siberian villages located in the very heart of Asia. Comparative analysis of these two traditions (that of the European native village and that of the pioneer village) provides the key to understanding the complicated processes of folk culture transmission and continuity.

While this project has no illusions of stopping the historical process of cultural change and extinction, it is designed to give present and future generations the chance to see and hear their cultural roots in the form of musical masterpieces recorded and preserved in a technologically sophisticated format.

Our team will tour Irkutsk and spend 3 days in the most beautiful and pristine place on Earth – Lake Baikal. Designated an UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996, Lake Baikal, or as it is sometimes called, ‘the Blue Eye of Siberia’, is the world’s deepest fresh water lake (1,637 m/5,371 ft deep), holding approximately twenty percent of the world’s fresh water. It is home to over 1,700 species of plants and animals, two thirds of which can be found nowhere else in the world. In addition to the mysterious and mesmerizing beauty of Lake Baikal, we will be happy to share with you the generous hospitality of the Siberian people as well as Irkutsk’s amazing wooden architecture.
Welcome to Russia!

Sincerely yours,

Yelena Minyonok

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Yelena Viktorovna Minyonok

Chief Curator of Folklore Archive,

Major Researcher

Institute of World Literature

Russia, 121069, Moscow,

Povarskaya, 25a

Tel. 7-495-952-6583

June, 25 - July,14, 2008


Country: Russia

Province: Itkutsk

District: Zima

Villages: Batama, Basalaievka

The Folklore of Siberian Villages project is the last stage of a larger body of field research which began in 2003. The project aims to preserve the masterpieces of folkloric musical traditions, rituals, mythological stories and oral history of the European peoples (Russians, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Chuvash, etc.) who pioneered Siberia more than 100 hundred years ago in accordance with the Stolypin Land Reform –
These traditions spread throughout Eastern Siberia and are still very much alive in the everyday life of the pioneers' decendents. Our expedition has two main goals:
a) to document the music, rituals and narratives the pioneers brought with them to Siberia using modern technology,

b) to compare the folkloric traditions existing in Siberian villages with those still practiced today in the pioneer’s natal European villages 100 years since their journey began.

Furthermore, the folk songs and dances which are still practiced in contemporary Siberian villages deserve to be included in the international catalogue of folk music masterpieces. Their conservation is the first and foremost goal of this project. In many places these masterpieces have not been investigated, let alone recorded. At the same time, we have a unique opportunity to record the oral history of Siberian settlements created by European peoples. What helped the pioneers build new villages? What did they bring with them to Siberia, both materially and culturally? How did they make houses and plough the land? How did they survive Stalin’s repressions and the hardships of the Second World War? Along with our cultural conservation work, the answers to these questions form the central and most important scientific goals of our research project.

Our team will work in two different villages (5 km distance from each other) in the Irkutsk province, Zima district, i.e. in Basalaevka (settled in 1907 by Russians who have moved from Vyatskays guberniya) and in Batama (settled in 1908 by Ukrainians who have moved from Zhitomir province).

The villages where our team will conduct investigations are settled in the forest area, which is covered with birch trees, firs, and pines. The unique harmony of landscapes and cozy wooden houses is typical for Siberia in general.
Our team will take excursions to the local ethnographical museum (in Batama village), which preserves a wide range of folk costumes, ethnographical and historical data, etc., and will experience local cultural events during the

Expedition the most important of which is the 100th year anniversary of Batama village.


Principal Investigator

Dr. Yelena Viktorovna Minyonok was born in 1965 and raised in Moscow. She graduated from Moscow State University and is currently Professor and Chief Curator of the Folklore Archive of the Russian Academy of Sciences. A cultural anthropologist and folklorist, Dr. Minyonok has authored more than 60 fundamental articles about the verbal level of Russian folklore songs and the problem of correlation between text and context. Her theoretical articles and publications of

folklore collections offer essential input into the deep investigation of folklore traditions. She has been a supervisor of more then 40 expeditions in the different areas of Russia and will serve as the primary point of contact for volunteers on the project. She manages the logistics and volunteer tasks and serves as the primary translator.

Two projects of Dr. Minyonok have been included in the p[rogram of Earthwatch Institute (Massachusetts, USA) – The first one was conducted in 1995-2000 and was called “The Folklore of Rural Russia”, the second one was conducted in 2004-2007 and was called “Musis and Folklore of Russian Villages” -

During ten years of international cooperation with Earthwatch Institute Dr. Minyonok had the pleasure to work with more then 200 volunteers throughout

the world. In 2007 she won the Fulbright stipend and taught folklore and Russian language courses at the University of Kentucky (USA).
Depending on the number of volunteers (if we have more then 6 volunteers) our team could be split into two groups during the time we will spend in the villages. It could be problematic to host more then 6 people in one village. Large group could cause other logistic difficulties. To avoid these problems for the time of expedition we usually split big teams into two smaller research groups. All other time (during traveling by train, in Irkutsk, or on the Lake Baikal) we will spend as one group. In this case we will have an additional Principal Investigator, Dr. Andrey Sergeievich Kabanov and an additional translator.
Dr. Andrei Sergeievich Kabanov was born in 1946 and raised in Moscow. He graduated from Moscow State Conservatory. As an ethnomusicologist, Dr. Kabanov has dealt squarely with the problem of preservation of folklore musical traditions in all his professional activity. His research digs deep into the influence that context exerts over folk song performance. Many of his articles and monographs are devoted to the problem of working out the criteria that differentiate regional and group musical styles (such as southwestern, southern and Cossack) in the Russian

music tradition. His fundamental research projects were devoted to the history of musical instruments and to the problem of the development of folk harmony. Dr. Kabanov has worked out a unique methodology to investigate the interrelation of folk song and folk dance, and has applied this method on his expeditions to Russia’s southern and western provinces. Although along with his colleagues and students he discovered 17 centers where musical traditions are still well-preserved, all these traditions are on the verge of total disappearance. Besides his academic work, Dr. Kabanov is one of the founders of the youth folklore movement. This movement, consisting largely of university or music institute students together with lay

people interested in singing Russian folk songs, aims to preserve Russia’s rich folk music tradition, not only in written form and recordings but in living performance as well. He is leader of a folk chorus that has presented concerts in Russia, France, Great Britain and Spain. Under Dr. Kabanov’s leadership, folklore groups have published several albums, such as “Kazachii krug” and “Veretentse.” He has also written extensively on the youth folklore movement. Note that Dr. Kabanov will not participate in teams with less than six volunteers. While Dr.

Kabanov does not speak English, Dr. Minyonok and any additional translators present on the expedition will assist in communication. Please be aware that according to Russian custom, Dr. Kabanov should be called by his first and second names: Andrei Sergeievich.

Research Staff

This project is a full immersion into the life and culture of rural Russia, and translators will serve as a critical link between volunteers and singers. Translators will relate dialogue as the Principal Investigator questions singers about their history of singing, the context of the song and their experiences. Additionally, translators will be able to offer assistance with shopping and other interactions with Russians. Dr. Minyonok will serve as the primary translator.

If our teams will consist of more then 6 volunteers we will have one additional translator (to be determined).



If you intend to arrive in Moscow before the designated rendezvous time, you should contact Dr. Minyonok to arrange an alternative rendezvous time and place. Do NOT travel back to the airport to meet your team.

The first working day of our expedition will concentrate on briefing the volunteers on tasks and on the aims and expectations of the project. Team may visit local museums for a better understanding of the cultural and social situations in the research area. The day before departure will be devoted to analyzing the results achieved during the expedition. The ten days in between will involve intensive field study. Average days will consist of five to six working hours.
Day 1

June 25 (Wednesday) – arrival to Moscow, rendezvous place is the arrival hall of Sheremetievo-II airport. Time – 12 p.m. (afternoon)

The team members will have a dinner in Moscow and will take the night train to Zima (Irkutsk province)
Day 2-5

June 26-29 – traveling by Trans-Siberian train from Moscow to Zima train station (Irkutsk province), total 72 hours.

Sleeping compartments and a restaurant will be available. We will pass 4000 km and will cross one half of Russia.

Day 6

June 30 – arrival to Batama or Basalayevka villages

Day 7-14

July 1-8 – field work in Batama and Basalayevka
!!!Attention, please, July 6 or 7 will be the celebration of 100 anniversary of Batama village, which was settled in 1908 by Ukrainians from Zhitomir province, Volodarsk-Volynskii district, Krapivnya village

Day 15

July 9 – departure from the village and arrival to Irkutsk, we will spend a night in Irkutsk in the home bed-and-breakfast hotel

Day 16

July 10 – a tour in Irkutsk, we will spend a night in Irkutsk in the home bed-and-breakfast hotel

Day 17-18

July 11-12 – a tour to the Lake Baikal, we will spend a night in a village on a bank of the Lake Baikal

Day 19

July 13 arrival to Irkutsk, we will spend a night in the home bed-and-breakfast hotel
Day 20

July 14 – departure from Irkutsk.

Please, pay special attention to the point that THE END OF THE PROJECT WILL TAKE PLACE IN IRKUTSK. Volunteers are responsible for traveling back to their countries from Irkutsk.

In the villages, in Irkutsk and on the Lake Baikal our team will visit museums and local places of interest. You will be expected to cover your own costs for visiting

museums. If the museum is located far from the accommodations, you must cover your cost of transportation to the museum. Local museums typically charge US$10 admission or US$15 for an excursion with a guide.


Be aware that schedules can and do fluctuate. Your cooperation and understanding are appreciated. Western volunteers should note that the Russian sense of time will take some getting used to. The Principal Investigator will try to keep the project running on schedule; however, timeliness does not carry the same meaning in Russia as it does in the West. For instance, a "quick" meal will usually last at least an hour. Additionally, the Folklore of Siberian Villages project is an exploration into the existing folklore in particular Russian and Ukrainian villages. The reality of this exploration is that schedules are very flexible and often dependent upon the singers and narrators you meet, their experiences and additional singers that they may know. For instance, you may have a wonderful recording session with an individual singer and find out that she used to sing with her cousin who also lives in the village, but they can only sing together in the evenings because she is busy during the day with laundry, cows and fields. It is because of this organic process that the schedule below is very flexible. Volunteers are encouraged to relax, have fun and allow the project staff to concentrate on the schedule. The chart below shows an example of a research day from rising to retiring.

9:00 am Breakfast

10:00 am Daily briefing (staff members will explain daily tasks and how these tasks will integrate into the work of the whole team and into the work of the whole project)

11:00 am Walk or drive to the recording place

11:30 am Make audio and video records of musical performances and create pictures

1:30 pm Walk to the dining place

2:00 pm Dinner

3:00 pm Break

4:00 pm Walk to the houses of performers

4:30 pm Visit singers and make solo records, conduct interviews, fill out questionnaires, and check the English translation of song texts prepared for publication in English

7:00 pm Walk to the dining place

7:30 pm Supper

8:30 pm Summarize the results achieved during the work day



At the beginning of every expedition all team members will be trained in making video and audio recordings of music performances. Staff members will explain in detail what should be recorded in terms of genres, peculiarities of performance and poetic features (i.e. symbols and metaphors), the history of a song and its scientific and public significance. Since dances and special gestures accompany most of the songs, team members will keep track of emotional and theatrical aspects of singing in addition to the videotaping.
Staff members will cover the following topics in informal lectures (in English):
• The history of settlements in Siberia (made by peoples migrated from Europe)

• Social, aesthetic and communicative functions of Russian folklore from the 18th century to the present

• The comparison of folklore heritage of Batama village (Siberia, Irkutsk province) and Krapivnya village (Ukraine, Zhitomir province) from where the pioneers came to Siberia and started Batama village 100 years ago.

• The peculiarity of poetic language of Ukrainian folk songs and the problems of translation

• The specific aspects of making audio records of folklore songs and folklore narrations

• The specific aspects of making video records of folklore songs and folklore narrations

• The specific aspects of taking pictures during singing performances


Our volunteers will assist the researchers with making audio recordings, translations,

describing the theatrics of the performances, recording video and taking pictures. Folklore was created not for observing but for participation. Project staff members will maintain personal contact with a singer or narrator during his/her performance, while the volunteers will operate the audio and video equipment. Volunteers will also assist with taking pictures of each song performance to add to the photo gallery of singers in their everyday lives and during their performances.
Please note that the primary volunteer responsibilities will be observing, recording and translating.
Often, the most physical portion of the trip is handling your own luggage as in transit from Moscow to the research site, to Irkutsk, to the Lake Baikal and and back. For more information about the physical and emotional requirements of the expedition

see Section 10 'Project Conditions.' For information about luggage and packing, see Section 12 'Packing Considerations.'

Note that knowledge of Russian is not required for participation and neither is knowledge of the technical aspects of recording. However, this project is a full immersion into rural Russian life, so volunteers that speak Russian will have a much different experience than those that do not. For those that do speak the language, please be patient with the fact that information will need to be translated for others. Those that do not know Russian are urged to learn some basic phrases such

as greetings, "Goodbye," "Please," "Thank you," "I don't understand" and "I don't speak Russian." Basic phrases about family and eating are also helpful. A translator will be able to assist you, but you will often find them to be already occupied translating for someone else. When in doubt, smiling and miming your question/response is always useful. Volunteers will find that the most common form of communication with the villagers is via song. Your experience will be greatly enhanced if you are prepared to sing a song for the local villagers. They appreciate this reciprocity after having their own songs recorded by volunteers all day. Thus, please be ready to sing one or two popular or national songs such as your national

anthem, "Jingle Bells," "America the Beautiful," "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," etc.

The project staff realizes that team spirit among volunteers and staff members is the most important factor in achieving scientific results. A strong team spirit will develop through group discussion of overall goals, daily plans and results and through constantly sharing stories over numerous communal meals. Participation in the festival of Batama village and daily recordings will also strongly promote team solidarity.

The team will spend the day and evening in Moscow on July, 25th. You will be able to leave your laggage in a safe place. Then we will have a good Russian dinner in the nice Russian restaurant.

In Moscow

Team members choosing to arrive in Moscow early are strongly encouraged to communicate with Yelena Minyonok prior to the rendezvous via e-mail: or by telephone 7-495-952-6583. We may recommend you a nice and safe hostel with reasonable prices named “Asia” (20 minutes by metro from the Red Square). For example, the cost for a single with a shared bath is 55 Euro (US$85), and a double with a shared bath is 70 Euro (US$105). Other room options are also available. Note that prices are subject to change and could increase up to 30% for the next season. If you need to book a room for additional days, you can book with the hotel beforehand with a credit card, or you can contact Dr. Minyonok at for assistance. Note that if you intend to arrive prior to the official team rendezvous you will need to contact Dr. Minyonok in advance to

arrange an alternate rendezvous location and time.
In the Villages

While in the villages housing will be in the clean local homes of the singers and narrators being studied by the project. The villages where we will stay are called Batama and Basalayevka.

Rooms will be shared by three or four expedition members. Couples will have their own private space in an area curtained off from the main room. Beds, mattresses and pillows will be provided by local officials but volunteers will need to bring linens. Linens are the cultural norm and you may get strange looks if you pull out your sleeping bag. It is requested that you bring your own linens so the villagers do not feel responsible for providing and washing them for you; washing is not an easy process considering there is no running water. According to Russian cultural norm

it is very impolite to leave your used linens, towels or any other dirty or used clothes in the house where you stay. If you do not want to take your linens back home, please, give it to the project staff in Moscow. They will send them to the laundry where they will be washed, ironed, starched and nicely packed. If you wish they may send your clean linens back to the hostess.

The houses in rural Russia do not have showers but a bania (sauna) will be available every three-four days. The Russian bania is a clean house with hot and cold water in containers which the bather mixes according to his/her own desire. There is also a special place to steam in the bania. Women and men go to the bania separately (even husbands and wives). Team members will have daily opportunities to heat water over gas and bathe inside the bania individually. Electricity, gas and refrigerators are available at all accommodations. Every house will have its own pit toilet, found in a small wooden building. People squat when using the pit toilet as there is usually no seat above the pit. Laundry machines will not be available, so volunteers should

plan on hand-washing their clothing (after hauling water from the well, heating it on the stove and locating a spare dishpan).

Cultural Notes

Volunteers used to Western ways may be surprised by certain customs and norms in the Siberian (and Russian in general) villages. For example, men are served their meals first and are referred to first in conversation. Women smokers are encouraged to smoke in private when in the villages as this is considered inappropriate behavior by villagers. The staff members will be able to assist you with finding appropriate places to smoke. Because you will be staying in a villager's home, you will be included in the daily life of your hostess. You may find that your hostess has suddenly become very popular in her village because of her foreign guests, and the young men and women of the village may come to see and speak with you after your recording sessions. These young men and women may also invite you to join

them on a social event such as going to the local "club," on a forest walk, etc. Please do not go on any social outings without a staff member to accompany you.
The concept of privacy and personal time is very different in Russia than in the US or the UK. Because it is very unusual for foreigners to be in the Siberian villages, the local people will be interested in you, your camera, your music player, etc., and sometimes this may feel somewhat overwhelming - especially when you

are back at your hostess' house looking to relax after your day of recording. Pay attention to how you are feeling and feel free to tell the staff members that you need some personal time. They will be happy to work with you to accommodate your needs in such a way that will not affect the project's work efforts or schedule.

For information on how to take the Russian culture into consideration when packing for your expedition, see Section 12 'Packing Considerations.'

While staying in the villages team members will take turns assisting with cooking and cleanup. Meals will be eaten in a special room in the house where you are staying and will include the regional food that is in season. Russia is famous for its mild (not spicy), rich and various cuisine. Volunteers will be introduced to a wide range of traditional dishes such as borshch (traditional beet and meat soup), shchi (traditional cabbage soup) kotlety (rissoles), solianka (braised cabbage with meat and mushrooms), traditional desserts and baked goods. In the Siberian villages

available food will include bread, buckwheat, rice, millet, potatoes, milk, cottage-cheese, butter, sour cream, eggs, seasonable vegetables (carrots, cabbage, green onion, vegetable marrows and beets), fruits (apples and wild berries and apricots). Fresh meat and fish are available daily. There are local food markets filled with fresh, high quality food a short distance from each village.
Note that you should not drink tap water. Boiled water is always available and you are advised to bring a water bottle to fill. You may wish to buy bottled water in a local store. Please be aware that the cost of bottled water is not included in the expedition budget, nor is the cost of any alcoholic beverages volunteers may elect to purchase. These items must be purchased with your own funds. Please remember to follow the cultural guidelines you will be briefed by your Principal Investigator.
Below is a sample menu with food you might expect during the expedition. Please bear in mind that variety depends on availability and it is very important to be flexible.
Breakfast: Fried eggs with sausages, pen cakes, tea/coffee

Lunch: Soup and buckwheat with salad (biggest meal)

Dinner: Potatoes with meat and mushrooms
Please alert Yelena Minyonok to any special dietary requirements as soon

as possible. Diabetic, low-fat and law-salt diets are possible. While most main meals will contain meat, vegetarians will usually be able to alter the main dish as there is a wide range of vegetable dishes. However, accommodating special diets is not guaranteed and can be very difficult due to availability, location and local conditions.

Special note to vegans and strict vegetarians: Please be aware that it is often difficult to accommodate strict vegetarians and vegans. It may be possible to get meatless meals but vegans and strict vegetarians may have a problem avoiding animal products altogether. If this poses a problem, then participation on this expedition should be seriously reconsidered.
Entry Requirements
NOTE: Please read this section carefully. Most travelers to Russia must have a valid passport and entry visa. Travelers without a passport or visa may be subject to large fines, days of processing requirements imposed by Russian officials and/or immediate departure by route of entry (at the traveler's expense). You may not be allowed to board the plane to Russia if you do not have a valid visa. The entire visa and letter of application process could take up to eight weeks, so you should begin the process immediately. You are advised to leave copies of these documents with a responsible person in your country of origin. See below for more information.

Most volunteers traveling from outside the host country will require a passport valid for at least six months beyond the dates of travel. Citizens of the US, EU, Australia and Japan also need a tourist visa for entry. Citizens of other countries should check with their travel agent or a visa agency for specific visa and entry requirements. Russian visas are issued based on support from a Russian individual or organization as a sponsor. Dr. Minyonok will be your sponsor only during the period of the Siberian folklore expedition. If you would like to travel before

or after your expedition, you must have an additional sponsor (typically a tour agency or hotel). You are encouraged to use a visa agency to obtain your visa. Be advised that visa agencies may be able to expedite the visa process for an additional cost. US volunteers are recommended to use Passport Visa Express and UK volunteers are recommended to use The Visaservice (see below for

contact information). Please note that you are required to have a letter of invitation in order to acquire a visa. The letter of invitation will be provided to you by Dr. Yelena Minyonok. If you live close to New York, Washington, Los Angeles or San Francisco you may apply for your visa personally.

Before you leave your home country, it is very important that you check the dates of your visa affixed inside your passport. It is possible that your visa agency could have made a mistake. Visitors to Russia who overstay their visas' validity by even one day may be prevented from leaving.
Registration of visas will be performed in Batama (Zima district, Irkutsk province) on the local post office. You will be assisted by Dr. Minyonok during the process of your visa registration.
If you come to Russia prior to the start of the expedition, please be sure that the

place where you will stay has a license to register foreign guests. Most hotels will take your passport temporarily upon check-in to process your registration. If you are staying with family or friends for three or more days prior to the expedition, be advised that you will need to arrange for registration independently within three days of your arrival. Once your expedition has begun and your team is settled in the research village, Dr. Minyonok will again register your visa with the appropriate local authorities. There is a possibility of random document checks by Russian

police or by rangers of Nature Reserves, so volunteers should carry their passport and registered visas (or photocopies) on their person at all times.
Type of Visa You must get a TOURIST VISA. It will allow you to stay in Russia up to 30 days. If you need to stay longer you must apply for a BUSINESS VISA. Please, consult with Dr. Yelena Minyonok for additional information.
You will need to send your passport (valid for at least six months beyond your

stay), a Visa Application and Immigration Form, 2-4 passport-size photos

plus payment to the embassy or visa agency (if applicable). Please be sure that

your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your stay.

Cost of a Visa Varies from country to country but usually up to US$180. A visa agency will charge an additional fee (depending on the amount of time it takes to process the application), which you can inquire about directly.
Visa Agencies

In the United States

1911 North Fort Myer Drive, Suite 503

Arlington, VA 22209

Tel: +1 888 596-6028, +1 703 351-0992

Fax: +1 703 351-0995


The Visaservice

In the United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 8708 900 185

Fax: +44 (0) 20 7278 8464


Thames Consular Services Ltd

Tel: +44 (0)20 8995 2492

Fax: +44 (0)20 8742 1285

Ask your travel agency if they can send your visa application on your

behalf. Reminder: The purpose of your visit is for vacation, holiday or travel. Foreign immigration officials do not always understand the concept of a "working vacation" or even "volunteering." Words such as "working"/"volunteering," "research" or a "scientific expedition" can raise questions concerning the country's foreign labor laws and/or prompt questions about official scientific research permits and credentials, etc., to which volunteers on their own will not be

equipped to respond. All required research permits for the project are in place and have been approved by the proper authorities.
For more information concerning entry and exit requirements, you can contact the Russian Embassy, Consular Section at or at the telephone number in your area.
Volunteers Under 18 Years of Age

Entry to Foreign Countries
In an effort to prevent international child abduction many governments have initiated

procedures at entry/exit points. It may be possible for 16- and 17-year-olds to participate in the project if accompanied by a parent or guardian. In this case, if the minor will be traveling with only one guardian or if for any reason they will be traveling alone, it may be necessary to have a notarized letter from all legal guardians stipulating that they may travel unaccompanied or in the presence of a single guardian. This letter must give an explanation for why only one parent or

someone other than a parent is signing the letter. For example, if one parent is deceased, only one parent has legal guardianship, or someone other than the parents are legal guardians, the letter should state that.
In addition, airlines may also have documentation requirements for unaccompanied minors. Parents of minors are responsible for checking with each airline that their child will be flying to ensure that sufficient documentation is provided. This could include a copy of a birth certificate or a notarized letter stating that the minor has his or her parent's permission to travel alone or with only one parent.

Note: Requirements by specific countries and airlines vary and change frequently. You MUST keep informed of the requirements on your own to avoid problems at immigration. If a letter is not available, the volunteer under 18 can be refused entry into the country. There is nothing we can do to help in this circumstance.

Other Advice / Information

• Local currency: Russian rubles (US$1= approximately 24.3 rubles at time of printing, but please keep in mind that many banks may sell rubles at a higher rate).

• Language: Russian
• International dialing code: +7
• Electricity: 220 volt, two-pronged European-type plug. Volunteers can charge cameras and other electronic equipment in the villages.
• Time zone: GMT + 3
• Personal funds: Volunteers should have approximately US$100 for souvenirs, sundries, alcoholic beverages, visits to local museums, etc. Museum entrance tickets average US$10-15.
If volunteers wish to go to museums that are far away from the research area, the team will need to split the cost of the transportation which could be close to US$50 each.
Credit cards are accepted in Moscow and infrequently in other larger cities such as Irkutsk Credit cards are NOT accepted in smaller towns or villages. Traveler's

checks are not advised as converting them to cash usually takes a long time and you may need a translator. The best way to exchange money is to do it in Moscow before the team's departure for the villages. You can easily exchange money at the airport and many other banks in Moscow but not in the villages. Volunteers will not be able to access ATMs once in the villages. Withdrawing funds via ATM in Moscow may also prove difficult. You may only be successful at one out of 10 ATMs. Note that tipping is not a custom in Russia; exceptions are very fashionable restaurants and expensive hotels.

• Moscow subway/metro: The mass transportation in Moscow is fast and efficient. If you are spending time in the city beyond the expedition, you are encouraged to bring a subway map that lists both the Cyrillic and Latin names. You will rarely find any Latin posted in the stations although you will find some inside the trains. The Cyrillic spelling is critical in order to find your correct stop and the Latin is useful to help you pronounce the name of the stop.
Please be aware that there is limited time to get on or off the subway in Moscow. Be prepared to board as soon as the train arrives and to disembark as soon as the train reaches your station.
• Tours: Capital Tours (; +7 495 232 2442) offers daily, three-hour Moscow city tours (US $45) and three-hour Kremlin and Armory Museum tours (US$65) in English, every day except for Thursday. Their office is located very close to Red Square.
• Luggage: If you are checking your luggage for an international flight with one or more connections, it will be necessary to collect your bags at the airport and have them rechecked after proceeding through Customs. Also note that luggage weight and size will be restricted on this expedition. See Section 12 'Packing Considerations' for advice on packing appropriately.

Please show this section to your physician when he/she is completing your health statement. Be sure to discuss inoculation requirements with your physician well in advance of your departure date. See Section 11 'Health Information' for inoculation information.

To the examining physician:

Your patient has volunteered to join a field research team that has specific physical demands of which you and your patient should be aware. We need your accurate evaluation of your patient's ability to meet the conditions detailed below in order to safeguard his/her health and safety and ensure that he/she can participate fully and effectively.
General Conditions of the Research Site

Summers in the Siberian area can be quite hot. The

average temperature in June is 21°C (70?F) and 25°C (77?F) in July. The high temperatures in summer can be up to 32°C (102F). The area has little rainfall, no strong winds and no earthquakes. It is possible, however, to have thunderstorms in the summer season. Mosquitoes in this area can be a nuisance; however they do not carry known diseases. It is strongly advisable for volunteers to bring repellent. Flowers and herbs blossom from early May to the beginning of June, and those with

allergies may be affected. Humidity 80% to 100%

Physical Demands

The physical demands of this project are very minor and volunteers of a very wide age range are welcome. The greatest physical demand is often the rapid loading and unloading of your luggage (and yourself!) when traveling. Please be prepared to quickly handle all of your luggage. The team will stay within walking distance of the performers being studied. Volunteers should be prepared to walk from site to site and to sit for long periods of time during interviews and music recordings (up to four hours!).

Below are the expected demands of the project, but please keep in mind that conditions may change and the project could potentially be more or less strenuous than the chart indicates.
Activity Workload/Intensity

Lifting All of your own personal luggage for several minutes during Days 1, 2, 6, 7, 15, 16, 18, 19 and 20.

Sitting During interviews and recordings for 4-6 hours per day on most days

Walking From site to site, 3-5 kilometers/2-4 miles for 1-2 hours per day on most days

Emotional Demands

Living in shared rooms, using pit toilets and the absence of every-day showers will be the main discomforts of this expedition. While the project is open to a variety of individuals, there are certain important requirements for participation. Everyone should be prepared for limited privacy, snoring roommates, etc. All team members must be able to maintain a stable emotional level during fieldwork. If you could be described as "moody," this experience is not for you.

Friendly and considerate behavior toward all team members and villagers is a very important factor for the success of the expedition. Unfriendly, impatient and/or eccentric (by village standards) behavior is unacceptable.
After the first day of work, please be sincere and tell project staff about concerns you felt during the day. They realize very clearly that your ideas about comfort and discomfort can be different from theirs. Your ideas about quality of food and accommodations could differ also. Please, tell staff about all your concerns and potential discomforts. If you do not share your complaints and concerns, it will be assumed that you are satisfied with the activities and logistics of the project.
Potential Hazards

Hazard Type Associated Risks and Precautions

  • Transportation/ Be aware that most vehicles will not have seatbelts. Volunteers will not be permitted to drive during the expedition.

  • Terrain/ Village roads are usually not paved and may be very dusty or muddy (if it is rain) in the summer. Overall, the terrain is uneven. Comfortable shoes without heels will minimize risks while walking.

  • Animals/ Be advised that you will stay with families who may have household pets such as dogs and cats. These village homes are also usually subsistence farms with chickens, goats and other farm animals. If you are allergic to any such animals, please bring appropriate medication.

  • Climate/ All volunteers should have sunscreen and protective clothing.

  • Swimming/ Volunteers on summer teams may have the option of river swimming. Please be advised of river hazards such as currents, obstacles and debris. Do not swim alone.

  • Medical Conditions of Special Concern/ Volunteers with medical conditions capable of causing even mild or infrequent discomfort should bring their own medicine, as there are many differences between American, European and Russian pharmacological treatments and prescriptions. Volunteers should also bring necessary medications for basic ailments, such as head, tooth and stomach aches and corns or blisters.

A certain amount of agility is required for this expedition. While most of the

time you will be moving at a leisurely pace, you will still need to be able to

get on and off transportation quickly while handling your luggage on your

own. Additionally, you may need to carry your luggage for several hundred

feet, from vehicles to trains or buses. Walkways and paths are not always

completely stable and may be rocky or sandy. Volunteers with walking aids

will not be able to participate.

Back ailments Due to the walking and long periods sitting, volunteers with back ailments should consult with a medical professional before participating.

Knee ailments Those with limited knee flexibility/mobility should consult with a medical professional prior to participation as squatting in pit toilets may be difficult.
Medical decisions are the responsibility of each volunteer. Note that health conditions around the world are constantly changing, so keep informed and consult your physician, a local travel health clinic, the US Center for Disease Control (, the World Health Organization ( or the resources in Section 15 'Helpful Resources' for the latest health information for travelers. Please consult your physician for guidance on inoculations if you intend to travel to

other parts of the country.

General Considerations

Please note that the size and portability of your luggage is very important on this trip. The luggage compartments on the trains and buses will be very restrictive and will be unable to accommodate large pieces of luggage. Be advised that you will need to board subways, trains and buses with your own luggage very quickly - often in less than three minutes. Russian transportation moves on a tight timeframe and delays are not tolerated. You may also need to carry your luggage for several hundred feet from a vehicle to a bus or train, as well as carry it up and down stairs. The project staff will have their own luggage and recording equipment to carry and will not be able to assist you with your luggage. For the reasons above, you should plan to pack light and avoid bringing large pieces of luggage. Two small pieces is better than a single large piece. Each individual piece of luggage should be close to 65 by 40 by 30 centimeters (25 by 16 by 8 inches). The best types of luggage are rolling carry-on sized bags and small rolling duffle bags. This may not appear to be enough for two

weeks in the field, but you will be best off if you do as Russians do and bring only a few changes of clothes to wear over and over during the trip. There are a great number of stores in Moscow and in Irkutsk, and one or two in Batama and Basalayevka villages, and in extreme situations (e.g. lost luggage or forgotten

essentials) you will have the opportunity to purchase some items while traveling.

In addition to whatever luggage you choose to check in during your flight(s), you are encouraged to pack a carry-on bag with an extra set of field clothing and personal essentials in the event that your luggage is lost and/or takes several days to catch up with you.
Cultural Considerations

Please do not bring revealing clothing or shorts that are too short, as such clothing would be considered inappropriate by the villagers. You will have the opportunity to visit local churches, and women are expected to wear a skirt (not pants) and cover their heads with a scarf when entering an Orthodox church. Note that Russians do not wear street shoes inside houses. It is very important to have slippers or thick socks to wear inside the house. Your outdoor shoes should be convenient and comfortable for quickly removing and putting back on, as you will leave them in front of every porch. Comfortable walking shoes (e.g. sandals or Birkenstocks) are

You are encouraged to bring photographs representing your home, family, city and/or country to show to Russian villagers. The performers are very interested in the life stories of their guests.
You should consider bringing small gifts for the villagers being interviewed and the singers and their families, as well as people who host or cook for your team. Colored sewing thread, flower seeds, scarves, caps, small toys for children, souvenirs from your hometown, etc., are all appropriate gifts.
Essential Items

Make sure to bring this Briefing with you. It includes essential information to which you may need to refer during your expedition, as well as during your

journey to and from the project site.
Please see the Expedition Packing Checklist for a complete list of what you will need to take with you. You are encouraged to go through the list with a pen or pencil and mark off each required item right before you leave for your expedition. This list conveniently tears out from the briefing, so you can take it with you when shopping and preparing for your expedition. Make sure to bring the list with you on your expedition so you can check it again before you return home.
Below are recommended materials for those interested in further preparing for the expedition.

These resources can be found at most libraries and book stores. Many can be purchased online through popular vendors.

Highly Recommended

• Performing Russia: Folk Revival and Russian Identity by Laura J. Olson

• The Russian's World: Life and Language by Genevra Gerhart (third edition published in 2001 by Slavica Publishers in Bloomington, Indiana, USA) offers an entertaining introduction to Russian daily life and social norms. It is packed with highly specific information such as how to behave while waiting in line and how many flowers to bring as a hostess gift, as well as useful generalities such as how Russians view Americans.

• The Russian Context: The Culture behind the Language, also by Gerhart and published by the same agency, is an extremely important book for understanding Russian culture and social life. Other Recommended Resources

• The website

• A Singer of Tale by Albert Lord (Harvard Press, 1967)

• Echoes of a Native Land. Two Centuries of a Russian Village by Serge Schmemann (New York, 1999)

• Lord and Peasant in Russia. From the Ninth to the Nineteenth Century by Jerome Blum (New York, 1967)

Professional Literature

• Three Russian Lyric Folk Song Meters by James Bailey (Slavica Publishers, 1992)

• An Anthology of Russian Folk Epics by James Bailey and Tatyana Ivanova (New York, 1999

• A Collection of Russian Folk Songs by Nikolai Lvov and Ivan Prach, edited by M.N. Brown (Ann Arbor, 1987)

• Folksongs in a Bosnian Muslim Village (Slavica Publishers, Inc.)
The Siberian area have health clinics run by the government with doctors of

different specialties. Every village has a nurse center with a pharmacological store and medical staff working seven days a week. These centers can be visited for consultations if necessary. In medical emergencies a First Aid car will transport the patient to the local hospital. The distance to the nearest hospital will be 10 to 20 kilometers and transportation will take 30 minutes to an hour. First Aid and medical emergency help is free for Russians and for foreigners.

With any serious health problem volunteers will be evacuated from the field site to Irkutsk which has many big hospitals. In Moscow volunteers could be placed in the American Medical Center -

Grokholskii pereulok, house 1

Prospekt Mira, 26/6

The closest subway station

“Prospekt Mira”


+7 (495) 933-77-00, 933-77-03, 933-77-05
Working hours:

24 hours, 7 days

Project-Related and Principal Investigator Websites

• Russian folk music library:

• Links to books on Russian culture by Genevra Gerhart:

  • Site about Irkutsk -

  • Site about Lake Baikal -

Useful Visa Information

• General:

• Passport Visa Express (for US citizens):

• The Visaservice:

• Lonely Planet travel guidebooks and online travel site:

• The Rough Guide travel guidebooks and online travel site:

• Amazon:

• World Travel Guide:

• Cheap Flights (worldwide): or

Essential Items

This Expedition Briefing

Photocopies of important documents (e.g. passport, visa, letter of invitation, flight

itinerary and credit cards) in case the originals are lost or stolen; the copies should be

packed separately from the original documents

Passport and visa

Certification of inoculation (if necessary)
Required Items

Clothing/Footwear for Fieldwork

Well worn-in and comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots

Long-sleeved shirts

Short-sleeved shirts (e.g. t-shirts)

Pants/Jeans for men and women (no shorts please!)

Simple cotton dresses and/or skirts of reasonable length for women (a dress/skirt will be required for entering Orthodox churches and cemeteries)

Head covering for women (also required for visiting churches and cemeteries)

Sweater or a jacket

One nice set of clothing for evening in town or to keep clean for end of expedition

Sandals, slippers or thick socks to be worn in the houses
Field Supplies

Insect (fly and mosquito) repellent (very important!)

Small daypack/rucksack

Drybag or plastic sealable bags (e.g. Ziploc) for protecting equipment such as camera from dust, humidity and water

One-liter water bottle(s)

Flashlight/Torch or headlamp with extra batteries and extra bulb to find your way to the pittoilet in the dark

Bedding and Bathing


Bed linens (pillowcase and sheets are preferable to a sleeping bag)
Personal Supplies

Spoon, fork and knife and unbreakable cup, bowl and plate

Personal toiletries (biodegradable soaps and shampoos are recommended)

Roll of toilet paper

Antibacterial wipes or lotion (good for "washing" hands while in the field)

Personal First Aid kit (anti-diarrhea pills, antibiotics, antiseptic, itch-relief, pain reliever, bandages, moleskin, etc.)

Sunscreen lotion with SPF 30 or higher

A song to sing that represents your country

Spending money (see Other Advice / Information in Section 9 'Before You Leave')

Small umbrella

Camera, film/memory card(s) and extra batteries (Polaroid cameras are very useful)

Regular audio cassettes (not mini format)

Note: You may make your own records on tape recorders and video cameras but you are requested to send copies of all materials to the project staff to add to their archives.
Optional Items

Swimsuit if your team is located on the bank of a river (Teams II and V)

Small gifts for villagers (e.g. colored sewing thread, scarves, caps and small toys for children, souvenirs from your hometown, etc.)

Earplugs and eye mask for sleeping

Personal fan

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