Music of Russia

From Academic Kids

Template:Russianmusic Russia is a large and extremely culturally diverse country, with dozens of ethnic groups, each with their own forms of folk music. During the period of Soviet domination, music was highly scrutinized and kept within certain boundaries of content and innovation. After the fall of the USSR, western-style rock and pop music became the most popular musical forms in Russia. Some native artists broke through.


Classical, opera and ballet

Russia has a long history of classical music innovation. The first important Russian composer was Mikhail Glinka (1804-57), who added religious and folk elements to classical compositions, composing pioneering operas like Ruslan and Lyudmila and A Life for the Tsar; though these operas were distinctively Russian, they were based off the Italian tradition.

Glinka and the composers who made up The Mighty Handful after him (Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Balakirev, Borodin and CÚsar Cui) were often influenced by Russian folk music and tales. This same period saw the foundation of the Russian Music Society in 1859, led by composers Anton and Nikolay Rubinstein. The Mighty Handful and the Russian Music Society were rivals, with the former embracing a Russian national identity and the latter musically conservative. Among the Mighty Handful's most notable compositions were the operas The Snow Maiden (Snegurochka), Sadko, Boris Godunov, Prince Igor and Khovanshchina, and the symphonic suite Scheherazade.

Other prominent Russian composers include Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and in the 20th century Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Of these, Tchaikovsky remains the most well-known outside Russia, and his fame as the country's most famous composer is unquestioned. He is best known for ballets like Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.

During the 19th century, Count Uvarov led a campaign of nationalist revival which spawned the first professional orchestras with traditional instruments, beginning with Vassily Andreyev, who used the balalaika in an orchestra late in the century. Just after the dawn of the 20th century, Mitrofan Pyatnitsky founded the Pyatnitsky Choir, which used rural peasant singers and traditional sounds. By the time of the Soviet Union, however, it had become one of many groups playing sanitized folk music, now often called fakelore.

Soviet Era

In the 1910s romances (in exotic Russian, Caucasian, Gypsy and Italian styles) became very popular. The greatest and most popular singers of romances usually sang in operas at the same time. The most popular was Fyodor Shalyapin. Singers usually composed music and wrote the lyrics, such as Alexander Vertinsky, Konstantin Sokolsky, Pyotr Leshchenko.

The Soviet Era produced many prominent musicians in spite of oppression from the government. Some émigrés remained popular abroad, like pianist Vladimir Horowitz, whose 1986 performance in Moscow, the first in his native land, was a landmark event.

In the 1960s, Vyacheslav Shchurov organized concerts featuring folk singers from across Russia, beginning in 1966. Shchurov thus inspired a wave of singing ethnomusicologists who appeared among the urban intellectuals and recorded rural folk musicians. Perhaps the most important group to follow in Shchurov's wake was the Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble. A group of musicians called bards arose at the same time. Generally ignored by the state, bards like Vladimir Vysotsky helped lead a popular return to traditional music.

The same period saw the birth of Russian rock with the band Pojuschie Gitary who created a style called VIA and later released the first Russian rock opera, Orpheus and Eurydice. Other rock bands of the era included Tcvety, Sinyaya Ptica and Golubiye Gitary.

By the 1980s, popular folk-oriented groups had arisen. The Cossack Kazachy Krug and Pesen Zemli became most popular. A musical underground (magnitizdat) also arose, where poetic and satirical musicians like Bulat Okudzhava and Vladimir Vysotskiy gained black market fame playing their self penned songs.

Perestroika Music

Rock: Nautilus Pompilius, DDT, Aquarium, Kino and others. Years of perestroika was blossoming forth of Russian rock.

Post-Soviet Music

Pop Rock: Mumiy Troll, T.A.T.u., Zemfira

Electronic: Deadushki, Messer FM

Folk music


Main article: Music of Adygea

In recent years, Adygea has seen the formation of a number of new musical institutions. These include two orchestras, one of which (Russkaya Udal), uses folk instruments, and a chamber music theater.

Adygea's national anthem was written by Iskhak Shumafovich Mashbash; music—by Umar Khatsitsovich Tkhabisimov.


Main article: Music of Altai

Altai is a Central Asian region, known for traditional epics and a number of folk instruments.


Main article: Music of Armenia

Duduk is likely the best-known feature of Armenian music, due to the popularity of Djivan Gasparyan. Though Armenia is an independent country, there are numerous ethnic Armenians in Russia itself. Christian music is very important to these people, especially melismatic chanting written in khaz notation. In addition to duduk, instruments like the kanon, oud, shawm, tar and davul are popular.


Main article: Music of Bashkortostan

The first major study of Bashkir music appeared in 1897, when ethnographer Rybakov S.G. wrote Music and Songs of the Ural's Muslims and Studies of Their Way of Life. Later, Lebedinskiy L.N. collected numerous folk songs in Bashkortostan beginning in 1930. The 1968 foundation of the Ufa State Institute of Arts sponsored research in the field.

The kurai is the most important instrument in the Bashkir ensemble.


Main article: music of Belarus

Pesniary was the best known Belarusian band in the Soviet times and was very popular in USSR for several decades, especially in early 80's.


Main article: music of Buryatia

The Buryats of the far east is known for distinctive folk music which uses the two-stringed horsehead fiddle, or morin khur. The style has no polyphony and has little melodic innovation. Narrative structures are very common, many of them long epics which claim to be the last song of a famous hero, such as in the Last Song of Rinchin Dorzhin. Modern Buryat musicians include the band Uragsha, which uniquely combines Siberian and Russian language lyrics with rock and Buryat folk songs.


Main article: Music of Chechnya

Chechnya best-known folk tradition is the polyphonic choir, similar to traditions in neighboring nations of the Caucasus, especially the Georgians. Alongside the Chechen rebellion of the 1990s came a resurgence in Chechen national identity, of which music is a major part. People like Said Khachukayev became prominent promoting Chechen music.

The Chechen national anthem is said to be "Death or Freedom", an ancient song of uncertain origin.


Main article: Music of Dagestan

Dagestan's most famous composer may be Gotfrid Hasanov, who is said to be the first professional composer from Dagestan. He wrote the first Dagestani opera, Khochbar, in 1945, and recorded a great deal of folk music from all the peoples of Dagestan.

There is a Dagestani folk dance called the lezginki.


Main article: Music of Karelia

Karelians are Finnish, and so much of their music is the same as Finnish music. The Kalevala is a very important part of traditional music; it is a recitation of Finnish legends, and is considered an integral part of the Finnish folk identity.

The Karelian Folk Music Ensemble is a prominent folk group.


Main article: Ethnic Russian music

Archeology and direct evidence (such as the frescoes at the Sophia Cathedral in Kiev) show a variety of musical instruments in ancient Russia. Authentic folk instruments include the livenka (accordion) and woodwinds like zhaleika, svirel and kugikli, as well as numerous percussion instruments: buben, bubenci, kokshnik, korobochka, lozkhi, rubel, treschetka, vertushka and zvonchalka.

Chastushkas are a kind of Russian folk song with a long history. They are typically rapped, and are humorous or satiric.


Main article: Music of Sakha

Shamanism remains an important cultural practice of the ethnic groups of Siberia and Sakhalin, where several dozen groups live. The Yakuts are the largest, and are known for their olonkho songs and the khomus, a Jew's harp.


Main article: Music of Tatarstan

Tatar folk music have rhythmic peculiarities and pentatonic intonation in common with nations of the Volga area, who are ethnically Finno-Ugric and Turkic. Singing girls, renowned for their subtlety and grace, are a prominent component of Tatar folk music. Instruments include the kubyz (violin), kurai (flute) and talianka (accordion).


Main article: Music of Tuva

Tuvan throat singing, or xoomii, is famous world-wide, primarily for its novelty. The style is highly unusual and foreign to most listeners, who typically find it inaccessible and amelodic. In throat singing, the natural harmonic resonances of the lips and mouth are tuned to select certain overtones. The style was first recorded by Ted Levin, who helped catalogue a number of different styles. These are include borbannadir (which is compared to the sound of a flowing river), sygyt (similar to whistling), xoomii, chylandyk (likened to chirping crickets) and ezengileer (like a horses trotting). Of particular international fame is the group Huun-Huur-Tu.


Main article: Music of Ukraine

Though Ukraine is now an independent country, Ukrainians constitute the second-largest minority in Russia. The bandura is the most important and distinctive instrument of the Ukrainian folk tradition, and was utilized by the famous 15th century kobzars, a kind of wandering performing who composed dumy, or folk epics.


  • Broughton, Simon and Didenko, Tatiana. "Music of the People". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp 248-254. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0

External links


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools