Folklore ‘a unique historical resource’ on lives of Donbass miners

Mining Folklore: Meeting of the “Researchers” club
NK Krupskaya Donetsk Republican Universal Scientific Librar

On August 28, a regular meeting of the local history club “Researchers” was held. This time, the topic of discussion was miners’ folklore. The choice of the topic was not accidental, since representatives of the glorious fraternity of miners celebrate their professional holiday on the last Sunday of August.

The meeting was held in a lecture-discussion format. The speaker, member of the “Researchers” club Ekaterina Ladnova, began her narration with the 18th century, when folklore began to emerge, primarily in the Urals. The oral tradition of that time was characterized by detailed descriptions of the production process, as well as condemnation of the “parasitism” of the authorities. After the reform of 1861, folklore began to spread among the wage-workers. They came from peasant backgrounds, so in their songs, poetry and tales, the heritage of peasant traditions was connected with the then-emerging urban romance genre. The main themes of folklore of the post-reform period were workplace injuries and social discontent, vividly expressed. 

Presentation by Ekaterina Ladnova.

Speaking directly about the folklore of Donbass miners, Ekaterina touched on its most common forms: legends, fairy tales, songs, poetry, proverbs and sayings. She stressed that folklore is a unique historical resource. On the one hand, this genre of folk art has preserved diverse facts about the working conditions of the miners, which allows us to create a detailed picture on the basis of archival materials. On the other hand, we can judge not only the external circumstances, but also the feelings, well-being, experiences, and thoughts of the workers.

Considering the thematic and genre novelty of songs created and common in the workers’ environment, the speaker stressed that one of the defining features of miners’ folklore is professionalism. Most common is the image of a young worker who came to work at the mine. Professional vocabulary was widely used. Typical working songs describe slice-of-life situations, such as “training and working in the mine,” “death of a miner,” and “conversations between miners.” This peculiarity of a work of folklore makes it an interesting source for the study of the living and working conditions of the miners. And the main theme that runs through the entire layer of Donetsk folklore is the incredible severity of the miners’ lives there.

The report was accompanied by audio recordings of miners’ songs, photographs of the working and living conditions of the miners of our region. 

At the conclusion of the meeting, there was a heated discussion, the most controversial topic being the use of female labor in the mines in pre-revolutionary Russia, as well as versions of the origin of miners’ legends.

The next meeting of “Researchers” will take place on September 11. The topic of discussion will be the process of monopolization of the Donbas coal industry in the early 20th century.

We invite all interested persons. Admission is free. For information call: 305-34-67.


Translated by Greg Butterfield

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