Forrmalism Essay

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The Role of Traditional Russian Folklore in Soviet Propaganda Rachel Goff During the Stalin era in the Soviet Union, “Folklore... had a purpose--the destruction of the old way of life and the building of communism” (Miller, Folklore 13). This was in stark contrast to the prevailing Western idea of the study of folklore: to document the oral cultural tradition of a specific group of people. From the beginning of the Soviet Union in 1917 to the death of Stalin in 1953, the definition of folklore changed drastically. In the early part of the century, following the general Western view, folklorists collected traditional songs and stories from different parts of the country to preserve the traditions of various peoples. Folklore fell out of favor with the newly created Soviet government for a time, but as the government became actively involved in creating a new culture for their new society, they realized the potential of folklore as a means to achieve their goals. Soon forms, themes, symbols and devices of traditional Russian folklore were being used to glorify the lives of prominent leaders, praise scientific and technological advances under socialism, and indoctrinate the people with proletarian values. The definition of folklore in the Soviet Union was changed from a representation of the culture of a people to a prescription of what the culture should be in order to promote Soviet ideology. In the first two decades of the twentieth century, there were three prevailing schools in the study of folklore in Russia. Those of the historical school tried to find reflections of concrete reality in folk songs and stories, the Formalists studied the structure, style and language of folklore from different regions, and the Finnish school was devoted to reconstructing the complete history of a folktale by analyzing all available versions. The basic idea of each of these

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