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Main page / "Knowledge. Understanding. Skill" Journal / Contents / 2014 / No. 4

Zakharova O. V. The Bylina in Russian Thesaurus: A History of the Word, Term and Category

The article was written within the framework of the state order of the Ministry of Education and Science of Russia (SBT No. 651-14).

(Petrozavodsk State University)

Abstract ♦ Russian folklore studies in their contemporary situation have actualized the issue of defining the genre of epic songs — the bylina, starina, piesnya or byl’. The article sheds a new light on the origin and evolution of the term ‘bylina’ in the thesaurus of literature and criticism.

Many dictionaries, encyclopedias and textbooks on folklore agree that this word was originally introduced by I.P. Sakharov, who devoted one of the sections of his “Songs of the Russian People” to “Bylinas of the Russian People” (1839). The word ‘bylina’, while having existed in Old Russian, had been previously re-actualized by the publication of “The Tale of Igor’s Campaign” in 1800 and reappeared in the title of the novel “Koshchei the Immortal. A Bylina of the Old Time” by A.F. Veltman (1833). Vladimir Dal’ followed this tradition in his “tale from the Rus’ of the bogatyrs” “Ilya Muromets” (1836). I.P. Sakharov himself mentioned a text he himself had forged (the Belsky manuscript) as the source for the “Bylinas of the Russian people” he published. However, in the 1841 edition Sakharov added the V.I. Dal’s collection as another source (“Russian Bylinas, Collected by the Honorable V.I. Dal’ from the Oral Tales of the Residents of the Kazan and Orenburg Gubernias”), as well as the renowned “Old Russian Poetry” collection by Kirsha Danilov.

V.I. Dal’ was a great expert on the folklore tradition — his collection was used by I.P. Sakharov and P.V. Kireyevsky in their editions. In mid-19th century the word was first recorded in oral use by V.I. Dal’ in his card catalogue for the “Dictionary of the Russian Folk Dialects” (one of the cards bears the date 1855). The word entered the active thesaurus of the Russian folklore studies and the literary language in general.

Thus the genre meaning of the term ‘bylina’ was established in the Russian thesaurus.

Keywords: bylina, term, thesaurus, genre, A. Veltman, V. Dal’, I. Sakharov, Russian literature.

Zakharova Olga Vladimirovna, Candidate of Philology, Associate Professor, Department of Russian Literature and Journalism, Petrozavodsk State University. Postal address: 33 Prospekt Lenina, Petrozavodsk, Russian Federation, 185910. Tel.: +7 (814) 271-10-54. E-mail:


Citation: Zakharova, O. V. (2014) Bylina v russkom tezauruse: istoriia slova, termina, kategorii [The Bylina in Russian Thesaurus: A History of the Word, Term and Category]. Znanie. Ponimanie. Umenie, no. 4, pp. 268–275. (In Russ.).

Submission date: 30.08.2014.



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