Russian folklore has fascinated scholars for ages, and maintains its right to the limelight to this day. Most scholars of Russian folklore focus on the collection of Alexander Afanasyev, who recorded and published over 600 tales in the 19th Century. A lesser-known fact is that a small portion of these tales were centered around subject matter not quite suitable for children, and though there is evidence that Afanasyev intended to publish them as well, this was done long after the folklorist’s death. Russkie zavetnye skazki, (Russian Censored Tales) as the collection is formally known, is just as relevant to the study of Russian folklore as the other, better-known tales. As such, over the years, Anglophone scholars have published various translations of the original text in an attempt to make the material accessible for study. Some of the works might have achieved this goal better than others.

This project, Russian Secret Tales, compares a handful of original Russian stories from Russkie zavetnye skazki to their translations in Russian Secret Tales; Bawdy Folktales of Old Russia, the first academic translation of the collection published in the United States in 1966. Though the introduction to the collection heralds the joy that its publishers feel at finally being allowed to discuss the folklore formally (thanks to the progressive and tolerant atmosphere of the 60s), the tales often take language and meaning that is explicit in the Russian versions, and make it implicit. This creates the ironic effect of censorship of the very material that the introduction so readily celebrated.

The user can interact with our findings by clicking on the “Tales” section of the header and selecting a tale of choice from that page. Due to copyright issues, we were limited to uploading only the Russian texts in full. However, one that is not familiar with the language can still find much that is interesting within the project by mousing over different areas of the text in order to see how they were dealt with in English translations.