FORUM FOR ANTHROPOLOGY AND CULTURE

ANTROPOLOGICHESKIJ FORUM
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Antropologicheskij forum, 2018, no. 39

 

SIBERIA AND CENTRAL ASIA AS A REGION OF INNOVATIONS (FOLKLORE DATA)

Yuri Berezkin
European University at St Petersburg
6/1А Gagarinskaya Str., St Petersburg, Russia
Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera), Russian Academy of Sciences
3 Universitetskaya Emb., St Petersburg, Russia
berezkin1()gmail.com

Abstract: The statistical processing of the big data on traditional folktales (ca. 55,000 texts) demonstrates that Siberia with adjacent part of Central Asia was a more important source of innovations for Europe than India and possibly even the Near East. This was difficult to see because Siberia and Central Asia were insufficiently represented in folklore indexes. Stith Thompson practically ignored them. Factor analysis used for statistical processing of the material reveals several major tendencies in the area distribution of motifs (i.e. narrative episodes). These tendencies are obscured by hundreds of individual links between different traditions. The First Principal Component (PC1) differentiates rich traditions from poor ones, while the PC2 and PC3 contain the bulk of the information that can be used for conclusions about history. They point towards the transference of the episodes of adventure and trickster across Eurasia from East to West and seem to prove more important contribution of Southern Siberia and Central Asia to the formation of European folklore as compared with that of South Asia. The process of the transcontinental transmission of folktale episodes is illustrated by the spread of motif of objects thrown back by a pursued person. The objects turn into obstacles on the way of the pursuer, such as a whetstone into a mountain or a comb into a thicket. Such episodes are registered in North America and in Northern Eurasia but not in the regions around the Bering Sea, which makes the emergence of corresponding motif in Siberia during the Early Holocene (or earlier) highly probable. The absence of this motif in the early written sources on Western Eurasia and on Japan and its popularity there after A.D. 1800 implies that the motif had spread into these regions not before A.D. 500.

Keywords: cultural interaction in Eurasia, big data in folklore studies, the magic flight motif, thrown objects turn into obstacles.

Acknowledgments: This article is supported by Russian Foundation for Basic Research, grant no. 17-34-00018. I am grateful to S. Yu. Neklyudov for his comments and support.

To cite: Berezkin Yu., ‘Sibir i Tsentralnaya Aziya kak innovatsionnyy region (materialy folklora)’ [Siberia and Central Asia as a Region of Innovations (folklore data)], Antropologicheskij forum, 2018, no. 39, pp. 33–51.

doi: 10.31250/1815-8870-2018-14-39-33-51

URL: http://anthropologie.kunstkamera.ru/files/pdf/039/berezkin.pdf