Everyone knows an important part of learning about another culture is the stories. Taking time to learn what and why these stories get passed down through generations. It’s a big part of Russian children’s books. So, settle in and get ready to learn Russian children’s stories and fairy tales.
A (very) brief history of Russian Stories
Russia’s earliest fairytales were based on the pagan beliefs of the ancient Slavs. They focused on the importance of agriculture and rainfall. Women were also major players.
Once Christianity came to Russia, things shifted. Christianity gained in popularity, but many ideals coexisted with pagan counterparts either directly or indirectly.
These stories were under scrutiny during the Soviet age. They were threatened to be dismissed. However, once the decision was made that they still held value there was still worry that “bad” stories would leak. Government offices tried to prevent that. Simultaneously, storytelling in the Soviet Union grew. The stories were used to promote patriotism. The government used the idea of a “New Soviet Man” as heroes citizens should try to emulate.
Many of the newer stories that emerged during that time died with Stalin.
Important Russians and their impact on Russian children’s stories
Alexander Afansyev: Inspired by the Brothers Grimm
Alexander Afansyev did to Russian fairy tales what the Grimm Brothers did to German fairy tales. From 1855-1867 he collected and published over 600 Russian stories.
His work is very detailed and organized. He provided more information about the stories he collected than the Brothers Grimm. For example, he noted the place of origin when he could and edited various tales that others may have considered one story.
Maxim Gorky: Saved Russian Fairy Tales
During the beginning of the Soviet Union, the leaders didn’t care for Russian Fairy Tales. They felt the tales went against communist ideals. Maxim Gorky convinced them otherwise. Not only did he save those old stories, but there was also a rebirth of interest in storytelling as a result. The newer fairy tales exemplified communist morals and helped spread Soviet propaganda.
Recurring characters in Russian children’s stories and fairy tales
In Russian fairy tales, the narrative flows a little differently. In those stories, you won’t find a tale for Cinderella, one for Snow White, one for Rapunzel. Instead, a peculiar cast of characters recurs over and over, in nearly every story, performing different acts and suffering different sorrows, but remaining the same. Ivan the Fool. Yelena the Bright. Baba Yaga. Vasilisa the Brave. Koschei the Deathless.”
― Catherynne M. Valente
Depending on the story Baba Yaga is either a witch or someone who helps the hero. She appears in many stories.
Kikimora is an evil spirit who appears different depending on who its spouse is.
Ivan the Fool
He is the youngest of a peasant’s family. No one takes him seriously.
You can read about other popular characters in Russian stories here.
Alexander Afanasyev’s Russian Fairy Tales Book
While the online versions are great, don’t rule out an actual book. Here is one book available, in English, of his stories.
This book includes the following stories:
- Vasilisa the Beautiful
- Maria Morevna
- The Feather of Finist the Falcon
- The Frog-Tsarevna
- Tsarevich Ivan, the Firebird and the Grey Wolf
Other Russian Children’s Stories
Below you’ll find some of the children’s stories available. Vasilisa the Beautiful and Baba Yaga, The Tale of the Firebird, The Frog Princess, Babushka Baba Yaga, and Fairy Tales of the Russians and Other Slavs.
Read Russian Fairy Tales
- There are many fairy tales available, free at Faireytalez.
- More children’s books set in Russia.
- Kids travel books
Do you want to join other like-minded families who are interested in learning about other cultures via books and travel? Join our Facebook Group. I approve new members daily. It’s still small but growing.