Научная статья на тему 'Politico-ideological criteria for the authenticity of Russian heroic epic in V. Y. Propp’s theory'

Politico-ideological criteria for the authenticity of Russian heroic epic in V. Y. Propp’s theory Текст научной статьи по специальности «Литература. Литературоведение. Устное народное творчество»

Ключевые слова
folklore / epic / bylina / bylinas / Propp

Аннотация научной статьи по литературе, литературоведению и устному народному творчеству, автор научной работы — Mironov Arseny S.

The article criticizes the criteria for testing the authenticity of Russian bylinas (heroic folk epics) offered by V.Y. Propp in his book “The Russian Heroic Epic”. The author of the article argues that Propp employs these characteristics for identifying what he considers as “the right” bylinas which are filled with the pathos of political struggle, offering, however, a one-sided definition of the epics as “songs about ‘fighting and a victory’, with fragments from bylinas and even whole bylinas being “culled” on the ground that they sing of some moral spiritual struggle, and not of the political one. Propp’s thesis that bylinas manifest “the people’s aspirations” is appraised by the author as a productive one as it poses the question about a correlation between historicism and propheticism in the Russian epic reflecting the spiritual meaning of historical events which was clear to the people as well as the people’s anticipation of its own historical mission.

Политико-идеологические критерии подлинности героического эпоса в теории В.Я. Проппа

В статье подвергаются критике признаки подлинности былин, предложенные В.Я. Проппом в его книге «Русский героический эпос». По мнению автора статьи, эти критерии Пропп использует для выявления «правильных» былин, исполненных пафоса политической борьбы, однако односторонне применяет выдвинутое им определение эпоса как «песен о борьбе и победе», «отбраковывая» фрагменты сюжета и целые былины, в которых поется не о политической, а о нравственной, духовной борьбе. Автор считает продуктивной идею Проппа о том, что былины отражают «чаяния» народа, поскольку она ставит вопрос о соотношении историзма и профетизма русского эпоса, отразившего не только очевидный народу духовный смысл исторических событий, но и его предощущение собственной исторической миссии.

Текст научной работы на тему «Politico-ideological criteria for the authenticity of Russian heroic epic in V. Y. Propp’s theory»

Новый филологический вестник. 2018. №1(44). ----

ТЕОРИЯ ЛИТЕРАТУРЫ Theory of Literature

A.S. Mironov (Moscow)


Abstract. The article criticizes the criteria for testing the authenticity of Russian bylinas (heroic folk epics) offered by V Y. Propp in his book "The Russian Heroic Epic". The author of the article argues that Propp employs these characteristics for identifying what he considers as "the right" bylinas which are filled with the pathos of political struggle, offering, however, a one-sided definition of the epics as "songs about 'fighting and a victory', with fragments from bylinas and even whole bylinas being "culled" on the ground that they sing of some moral spiritual struggle, and not of the political one. Propp's thesis that bylinas manifest "the people's aspirations" is appraised by the author as a productive one as it poses the question about a correlation between historicism and propheticism in the Russian epic reflecting the spiritual meaning of historical events which was clear to the people as well as the people's anticipation of its own historical mission.

Key words: folklore; epic; bylina / bylinas; Propp.

А.С. Миронов (Москва)

Политико-идеологические критерии подлинности героического эпоса в теории В.Я. Проппа

Аннотация. В статье подвергаются критике признаки подлинности былин, предложенные В.Я. Проппом в его книге «Русский героический эпос». По мнению автора статьи, эти критерии Пропп использует для выявления «правильных» былин, исполненных пафоса политической борьбы, однако односторонне применяет выдвинутое им определение эпоса как «песен о борьбе и победе», «отбраковывая» фрагменты сюжета и целые былины, в которых поется не о политической, а о нравственной, духовной борьбе. Автор считает продуктивной идею Проппа о том, что былины отражают «чаяния» народа, поскольку она ставит вопрос о соотношении историзма и профетизма русского эпоса, отразившего не только очевидный народу духовный смысл исторических событий, но и его предощущение собственной исторической миссии.

Ключевые слова: фольклор; эпос; былины; Пропп.

V.Y. Propp's "The Russian Heroic Epic" (1955), a milestone conception

book over years opposed to the historical school of epic studies, is still on Russia's current university syllabus. Its author is "a recognized master of Soviet folklore studies and indisputable authority for most scholars" [Putilov 1995, 2]. Discussing vital challenges of Russian epos studies in the 21st century, Professor V.P. Anikin, back in 2000, urged "to reappraise V.Y. Propps's and B.A. Ry-bakov's most significant views" [Anikin 200o, 57]. However, given the high popularity of Propp's research in the field of the morphology of the fairy tale, particularly in the West, and his posthumous acclaim as a founding structuralist, one cannot but lack, over the past few decades, some critical research verifying Propp's achievements in his research of bylinas, Russian folk heroic epics performed as songs.

Propp was known to insist in his polemics with Rybakov and other representatives of the "historical" school that the epos tends to reflect political challenges realized and poeticized by the people at different stages of its history, rather than its memory about specific historical events. But he believes that the people's aspirations can only be manifested in bylinas in what he calls "state" period of their existence. The scholar supposed that in pre-state periods the Russian epic was characterized by archaic meanings common for the mentalities of many peoples. Among other things, there is a fight going on between human characters who are eager to start a family and monsters that personify the powers of nature.

V.Y. Propp was sure that "the essence of the epic was struggle and victory. The theory should determine what exactly drives this struggle. We can see that different historical periods reveal different content of struggle" [Propp 1999, 6]. During the "state" period in the history of the Russian bylinas Propp distinguishes among their three stages, or three "layers".

The first "layer" of the Russian epics of the "state" period manifests "centuries of the people's longing" for the political unity of Russian lands (with Kiev in the centre). The second group comprises the bylinas telling about the fight against the Tatar Yoke, the songs not so much reflecting the memories of Batu Khan's conquest or certain victories over the Tatars as the people's dream of overthrowing the yoke. Finally, Propp attributes the general political meaning of class hatred and hostility towards God to the third group of the bylinas [Propp 1999, 27].

The chronological consequence of "the people's aspirations" reflected in the epos can be explained, in my opinion, by the logic of social development typical of Soviet historical theory [Grekov 1949]. This sort of periodization of the byli-nas totally changed certain conceptions commonly shared in pre-revolutionary epic studies. For instance, the epic about Volga and Mikula, normally treated as an ancient one [Buslaev 1870], [Avenarius 1876] was ascribed by Propp to a later time as he sees in it a class hatred of Volga towards Mikula.

However, the list of the Russian people's "aspirations and age-long longings" is not used by V.Y. Propp for the periodization of the songs alone. The political meanings identified by Propp in the Russian epics which I find rather correlating with a party meeting agenda of the 1950s were employed by him as

criteria for selecting more "proper" bylinas imbued with more political struggle as well as for sorting the ones which he thought were tarnished and pejorated with "magical" and "religious" meanings.

Propp offers what he sees as an ideologically "correct" epic, free from the influence of the fairy-tale and spiritual verse, devoid of multiple poetic "outgrowths" which allegedly took root in the clerical, Old Believer and sectarian environments. Thus, two trips out of the three made by Ilya Muromets turn out to be "foreign" ones. The researcher culls the powerful introductory song about the aurochs as well as many other things, such as the assistance rendered to Sadko by St. Nicholas of Mozhaisk, the rescue of Zapava Putyatishna by Dobrynya, etc. Such actions as the fraternization between Ilya and Sviatogor and even the handover of Ilya's vigor to the latter are not treated by Propp as occurrences of epic scale.

V.Y. Propp argues that the bylinas about matchmaking which circulated as late as the "state" period are, in fact, no bylinas at all: they "acquire a semi-fairytale character" as "the protection of the state is not essential for them" [Propp 1999, 60]. To follow the scholar's logic means to acknowledge the fact that starting from the emergence of the Kievan state the Russian people lost the moral right and the very possibility to sing those bylinas that failed to promote the supremacy of Kiev among the Russian principalities.

Those amazing bylinas which do not tell about Russia's political unity, its fight against foreign invaders or class struggle, such as those about Potyk, Du-nai, Solovei Budimirovich, as well as "Dobrynya and Marinka", "Dobrynya and Nastasya", according to Propp, cannot be any longer considered as bylinas : those are "semi-fairytale songs".

Having given the happy definition of the epos as "songs about struggle and victory", the author of "The Russian Heroic Epic" offers a one-sided application for it. He seems to neglect the fact that bylinas fairly often narrate about a moral and spiritual struggle, and not a political one. Quite frequently a Russian epic bears on a hero's struggle with his own passions and weaknesses; such weakness in the epic about Potyk is the hero's exorbitant passions, his wine addiction, in the songs about Sadko it is his thirst for wealth and praise, in the tales about Dobrynya it is his disobedience and resistance to accept his mission of a bogatyr.

It is not surprising that the researcher confidently excludes "How Bogatyrs disappeared in Rus" from the Russian epics, which, in its turn, leads to the extortion of the wonderful finale in the bylina "The Slaughter on the Kama" from the epic resources: it describes how the bogatyrs fight against their own vanity. This plot, according to Propp, is not about fighting, but about humility and should, therefore, refer to "spiritual verses, but not to the epic" [Propp 1999, 77].

However, religious verses necessarily comprise such characters, as Christ, Godmother, angels and saints, the Old Testament patriarchs, tsars and prophets as well as characters of Gospel parables, Christian and apocryphal legends. But the bylinas about the battle against "some foreign forces" involve sinful people,

bogatyrs, not saint ones. Though in some versions, Godmother may come to the rescue of the bogatyrs, she is not the main character here, nor is St Nicholas of Mozhaisk in the song about Sadko. The two bylinas are similar in their inner spiritual meaning, with plots and characters being obviously different. The heroes yield to temptations and sin (Sadko is thirsty for wealth and vanity, the bogatyrs are marked with pride and superiority). Hence, Sadko, dazed at the sight of wealth, and the snotty bogatyrs find themselves on the verge of death and are saved due to their repentance [Markov 1901, 443] or the assistance from heaven [Камское побоище / Kamskoe poboishche 2003, 561-570]. Obviously, these two songs are not only about humility, but also about fighting against the evil in one's own soul. Thus, in terms of the epic mentality, the hero's humility does not mean the opposite of "fight", but it is its victorious result.

The story about the gusli performer who suddenly turned rich is also devoid of the pro-Kievan unity pathos, or struggle against the Tartars, or class hatred. The idea of "Sadko" (unlike its opera version by N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov which strongly affected the reception of the epic in the cultured environment) has nothing to do with the Russian people's political aspirations.

V.Y. Propp is in a hard situation: according to his definition of the epos, the bylina about Sadko should be referred to spiritual verses, whereas it is not the case. The only way to treat the "apolitical" songs about Sadko as an epic is to prove their "pre-state" character, and, consequently, it dawns on the researcher to present it as an archaic plot about matchmaking.

Propp provides the following proofs: this bylina is "the only one in which the hero descends into another, underwater world..." [Propp 1999, 36]. Further on the hero "meets there (also the unique case in the entire Russian epos) a lord of the water element - a sea king. The sea king is not unfriendly to the hero, which is a fairly archaic feature" [Propp 1999, 88].

It is noteworthy that Dobrynya "who reached the third stream" also finds himself in a hostile and strange world with the Serpent reigning there (Do-brynya comes to realize the borderline between the two worlds, an agreement is made between them not to trespass this border [Добрыня и змей / Dobrynya i zmey 1986, 79, verses 71-78]). The bylina about Potyk features the Kingdom of Podolyansk as another world with witchcraft, snake-shifters and bird-shifters, whereas the hostile "human" kingdoms - Lithuania, the Horde, etc. have nothing of the sort. In the tale about Vavila and jesters the "foreign world" has strange vivid features, with Sobaka (Dog) as a king who brings floods by playing the musical instrument of gusli [Путешествие Вавилы... / Puteshestvie Vavily 2002, 382].

It is not true that the sea lord "is not unfriendly to the hero". He acts as a devil should, in a deceptive way: he pretends to lure Sadko, first with wealth, then with the prospect of marrying the sea princess). Propp himself admits that "the sea king's offer is full of treachery" [Propp 1999, 107].

The fact that the bylina about Sadko involves the sea devil cannot signal its archaism. Demonic creatures are organic and essential elements of the Christian world picture of any century. In the 19th century the majority of those who per-

formed and listened to Russian bylinas believed that devils existed in reality. In Christianity the world of devils is not contained in a separate "lower cosmos", but is immanent for human existence: every listener of bylinas is prone to interact with a devil at any point of life. To meet the underwater lord, the epic Sadko does not have to descend to the bottom, into the lower world. He can easily appear in the "world of human beings" in order to offer the hero wealth and then to call on Veliki Novgorod for a dispute.

Using V. Belinsky's reference to the "protecting gods" who come to people's rescue, V.Y. Propp enlist the Sea Lord among such amiable lords [Propp 1999, 36]. However, the Sea Lord's "assistance" brings Sadko to the brink. Misled by the Sea Lord, the arrogant Sadko literally risks to lose his head in his argument with Veliki Novgorod and is saved only by St. Nicholas of Mozhaisk.

What is, according to Propp, the protection of the Sea Lord like? His halting Sadko's ship and claiming for his soul to attend to him can hardly be regarded as protection. In a way, Sadko's story is a story of the Russian Faust making a deal with the devil, similarly cunning. Finally, there is not even a faint hint to match-making. Propp's assumption contradicts the plot: the epical Sadko, unlike his opera version, is not in the least in love with the Sea Lord's daughter. Not a single image is left to signal his liking Chernavka (Blackhead) in any way. On the contrary, the hero is opposed to his marriage and, when left alone with his bride for the night, he does not get intimate with her.

V.Y. Propp admits that matchmaking "is not at present the main content of the song", but he aims "to show that this motif is the most ancient core of the song that later was changed" [Propp 1999, 87]. Unfortunately, this thesis is not proved by any fact. He argues that there are two opposite ideas in the song about Sadko: the oldest semantic "core" propagating the matchmaking (in the original version Sadko was alleged to set out for the sea bride) and a newer idea opposite to the heroization of the matchmaking ( the marriage with the sea zarina is interpreted as a fatal threat).

This interpretation by Propp may lead to the conclusion about a schizophrenic split of the epic mentality of the Russians. It emerges that one and the same people glorifies the marriage with a representative of another world and denounces it at the same time. It seems as though over centuries the Russian people would repeat the obvious nonsense, mechanically and without giving it a thought, like parrots or talking blackbirds. In Propp's opinion, in the course of centuries, the story-tellers might be some sort of a voice of the "collective memory" reverently safeguarding and translating a controversial message to new generations.

Hence, the question arises: Why should the Russian people pass over so carefully to their descendants a whole train of semi-faded contradictory meanings? One should mention that this very people did not deign to preserve in its collective memory, in the form of rites or songs, any of distinct features of pre-Christian cult, not a single hymn to Perun or Stribog, not a single image from the previous mythology. This must have lost its value and, therefore, was safely forgotten, excluded from the tradition. This ethnographic fact raises doubts as

to why the fragments of these devalued mythological meanings were sacredly preserved in epic songs.

V.Y. Propp argues that in the bylina about Sadko "we perceive an ancient familiar plot in a new form" [Propp 1999, 105]. One should mention that Sadko never was sent for the underwater kingdom, to the Sea Lord. He never sought any benefits for himself on the sea bottom; staying there against his will, he tried his best to leave the underwater lord. The ultimate difference of the original intention cannot be treated, in accordance with V.Y. Propp, as a simple "change of the plot". What is altered here is not "the shape" of the plot, but its content, its meaning, and the pattern of conduct. None of later additions can explain such a dramatic change in the "core" motivation of the hero. The ancient mythological plot here is not "overcome", to use Propp's words, it is a different plot.

V.Y. Propp sees in this bylina the remainder of ancient pagan offering to the sea creature. "An offering to the sea, "feeding" of the sea - is an ancient Novgorod ritual, as it is known to all peoples that depend on the sea for their life and wellbeing. Sadko throws his offering - barrels with gold, silver and pearl - into the sea. But the ships are not allowed to start. The Sea Lord needs a human offering [Propp 1999, 101]. If he, like a pagan deity, demanded a human sacrifice "in exchange for the passage", then any of Sadko's companions would do. But the devil needs no one but Sadko, and the hero understands that. Of all the people on board the ship, Sadko is the only one who struck a deal with the Sea Lord being lured by his wealth. The devil cannot claim for the souls of the sailors, as they are not his debtors.

The devil's "rights" over a sinful person cannot be regarded as a trait of an ancient pagan myth. This is a Christian concept which is still valid for modern Orthodox mentality (E.g. Holy Paisius the Athonite said in late 20th century: "Jesus Christ has deprived the devil of the right to commit evil. But the devil can commit evil only if man himself gives him the right to do it" [naHCHH cba-тогорец / Paisios Agioreites 2015, 2].

Throwing gold and pearls into the water, Sadko makes a desperate and hopeless attempt to pay off the devil. Pagan deities wanted offering whereas the devil in the Christian world picture needs only the human soul. The hero is in for eternal slavery on the sea bottom playing the gusli and glorifying the Sea Lord, which is Sadko's sacrifice.

It is noteworthy that, as the Sea Lord is dancing and the sea is storming, the sinking sailors do not come up with the idea to please him with offerings, including a human one. They never throw barrels of gold, silver and pearls into the depth, but they pray to St. Nicholas of Mozhaisk who comes to rescue immediately and appears in front of Sadko, the victim.

It is an act of love and pity for the drowning sailors arisen in Sadko's heart that helps the hero forget about himself and lose fear for the Sea Lord: he tears up the strings and stops working for the devil. This affection touches the epic St. Nicholas making him save Sadko out of slavery. On his return to the human world Sadko builds a votive church to St. Nicholas.

This is a logical and cohesive story of the hero's spiritual struggle. One

single plot comprises two parts which were performed separately as the bylinas were being fixed. Unfortunately, its single spiritual meaning does not satisfy V.Y. Propp. He prefers to subdivide this meaning into layers belonging to different time periods only to see a contradiction in Sadko's songs: the opposition between the ancient and new meanings for the realization of which there were neither logical nor contextual grounds (the acceptance and rejection of the bride from "another" world).

An audacious reconstruction of archaic meanings is employed by V.Y. Propp whenever he has to explain why this or that epic fails to fit in his concept of the three main epic aspirations of the Russian people. It should be mentioned that a particular attention is paid by V.Y. Propp's followers to the part of "The Russian Heroic Epic" which deals with "the pre-state" bylinas. According to B.N. Putilov, Propp "skillfully revealed a complicated archaic layer in epics, explained its character and existence and, what is most important, managed to read epic plots, solving different puzzles about them and explaining specificities of epic heroes" [Putilov 1995, 2-6] ...

How does Propp "reveal the complex archaic layer" in other bylinas? He identifies three traits of the most ancient mythological plots.

Firstly, it is the presence of "another world" and its inhabitants who are friendly to the hero (see above).

Secondly, argues V.Y. Propp, the presence in a bylina of a monster that personifies hostile forces of nature manifests an archaic trait. Applying this criterion to the world of Russian epic, the author treats Tugarin, Idolishe and Solovei-the Robber as monsters: "since ancient times the Russian bylinas have inherited such mythological monsters as the serpent Tugarin, Idolishe and Solovei-the Robber" [Propp 1999, 35].

One can hardly regard Tugarin as a monster standing for wild forces of nature, the very Tugarin who has feasts and talks over the prince' table, seduces Princess Apraxia and, above all, uses sort of advanced technologies of the epic world (a horse with paper wings). The image of Tugarin does not go back to a mythological archetype. In Russian epic mentality the serpent (Zmievich) is a fairly antropomorphic creature. For instance, "The Story about Pyotr and Fev-ronia" tells about "an ugly serpent" who was sent by the devil to the princess "for fornication". This serpent appeared in human form ("he looked to people as though he were a prince and her husband) [Сочинения Ермолая-Еразма / Ermolai-Erasmus' Works 2000, 250].

The image of Idolishe has nothing to do with hostile forces of wild nature. Idolishe is a fairly civilized creature, even coming from the capital city, belonging to the world of people. In bylinas we meet him amidst servants and guards, which would be impossible in the case of the Learnean Hydra or Grendel. His hostility is a matter of confession: Idolishe personifies the aggressive power of some foreign religion that oppresses Christianity, at large, and desecrates the institution of Christian marriage, in particular.

One can hardly call Solovey-the Robber a wild beast as well. He sends the entire loot to his "Kutuzovo villages", where his family lives in a fenced settle-

ment, with his treasury kept and his prisoners held in captivity.

Finally, the third trait of an archaic plot is the absence of the hero's evident motivation. Propp notes that the epic Svyatogor "is normally depicted as aimlessly riding his horse" and "such composition is typical of very early epics" [Propp 1999, 79].

Nodding to this feature of an archaic epic one has to admit, illogically enough, that the bylina about Ilya Muromets' three trips (Ilya does not know for what purpose he is riding and takes different paths, one by one) is a very early one. Younger Dobrynyushka who was expelled by his countrymen for being "a freak" leaves his native town without any specific purpose as well. Alyo-sha Popovich with his servant Yakim also leaves his home without any clear purpose until they reach a stone at the crossroads where they have to choose between Chernigov with its "nice girls" and Kiev.

Having identified the above three qualities of archaic epics, V.Y. Propp, according to his disciple B.N. Putolov, finds "lots of traces" left over in the "new" epics by the ancient epic tradition which once really existed as the "ancient Slavic" epos [Putilov 1995, 5-6]. However, it should be mentioned that the author of "The Russian Heroic Epic" is prepared to discover these "traces" not in all bylinas wherever they are present, but only in those songs which he needs to ascertain as more ancient , "pre-state" ones.

Thus, V.Y. Propp's method can be summarized as follows. If there is not a single hint at political "aspirations", then the bylina is classified as a spiritual verse or a fairytale, e.g. "Forty and One Kaliki (Pilgrims)". If such sort of matching looks absurd then the bylina has to be "made old", declared "a pre-state" one, which, in this case, accounts for the absence of a political idea ("Sadko").

But what if an epic only partly possesses political meanings? In such cases V.Y. Propp sees the negative influence of "the peasantry's religious environment", or even that of "Raskolnik (sectarian) circles" and offers different text divisions and amputation of "extra" elements of the plot.

Likewise, he does not think that the end of the epic titled "Volga and Mikula" is "good enough" in ideological and artistic aspects as the two main characters calm down the population of three towns going on a robbing spree. V.Y. Propp argues that the ideological and artistic intention to show the monumental image of Mikula in his opposition to Volga does not require that the beginning of the song (Volga inherits three towns and goes to take them over) should be brought to the respective end (Volga arrives in these towns)". The researcher believes that "intrinsically, the song is complete even without such ending", as "the essential meaning is rendered by the opposition between the peasant and the prince" [Propp 1999, 386].

For the sake of bringing out some political "idea" the researcher is ready to turn a blind eye to the fact that the conflict between Volga and the inhabitants of the three towns is not a class fight between aristocracy represented by the prince's druzhinas and peasants, but a legitimate act of suppressing rebels and robbers. In his book Propp himself quotes the epic Mikula say the following


"I was in the town the other day, and all muzhiks are robbers..." [Byliny Pudozhskogo kraya / Bylinas of Pudoga Region 1941, 8].

The robbers are equally hostile towards Prince Volga and to the peasant Mikula who had to "push them off' in order to stay alive. The message of the epic is peasant Mikula's eagerness to collaborate with the prince to restore order in the three townships (Mikula sympathizes with young Volga who faces death being trapped by the muzhiks). However, this interpretation does not suit V.Y. Propp and he chooses to state that the inhabitants of the rebel towns are victims of feudal Volga.

The political meaning ascribed to the epic by V.Y. Propp runs counter to the finale in which Volga and Mikula set off to pacify the rebel muzhiks. To this end V.Y. Propp prefers other options, stripped off such content as the cooperation between Mikula and Volga.

In this case, like in the bylina about Sadko, V.Y. Propp is ready to sacrifice the delightful make-up of epic elements for the sake of bolsheviks' transient political goals.

As the epic's fabric tends to resist Propp's ideological efforts, he has to account for obvious discrepancies saying that the bylinas maintain contraver-sial, often opposing semantic layers left over from different epochs. In fact, the author takes this approach from the classics of the mythological school in epic studies who, in their turn, had difficulty proving with epic material that Russian bylinas preserve ancient mythological meanings.

O.F. Miller, in particular, explained that certain contradictions in the character of Ilya Muromets could be explained by the fact, that some of the bogatyr's traits remained intact "from mythological times". To identify them, a researcher "had to see an original mythological fight behind every bogatyr's fight" [Miller 1869, 804]. As a result, O.F. Miller arrived to the conclusion that the epic characters sewn of ideological fabrics of different epochs were intrinsically controversial.

F.I. Buslayev, A.N. Afanasyev and V.V. Stasov also tried to find in Russian epics certain traces of ancient mythological meaning long forgotten both by singers of bylinas and the public. V.Y. Propp noted this weakness in the position of the mythological school: "Some scholars treat the meeting of Volga and Mikula as a meeting of two deities: the god of hunt and the god of agriculture. If this were true it would be unclear why this epic is so popular" [Propp 1999, 375]. It should be said that V.Y. Propp can be asked the same question: if bylinas can keep reflections of logically inconsistent political "aspirations" of different epochs, then why are these songs so popular?

"An epic, being polished and improved over centuries, contains sediments formed throughout these ages" [Propp 1999, 27], says Propp. However, his analysis of the Russian epics shows that they were allegedly disintegrating and degrading, rather than "were being polished and improved", as different layers appearing at one time or another made them lose their integrity, cohesion and intelligibility for a common listener. Propp argued that it was only epic

researchers who were able to "read" them and explain the apparent semantic contradictions arising with time.

Thus, the above analysis of V.Y. Propp's argumentation enables us to arrive at the conclusion about the inconsistency of his theory of Russian heroic epic (which may have resulted from his involuntary orientation at political order existent at that period of the soviet state. The power desperately needed to reinforce its political programme with images and patterns of conduct related to intangible cultural heritage of the Russian people. By way of identifying political meanings allegedly penetrating the entire corpus of epic songs, V.Y. Propp, voluntarily or involuntarily, offered what complied with this order. The country's priorities on uniting around a powerful centre and a single dictator, focusing on defense against external threats, class hatred and atheistic pathos were, by far, "the aspirations" of soviet ideologists rather than cognitive dominants of the Russian people's epic consciousness at the time when "alive" epics were current. At the same time, it is necessary to mark a lot of Propp's subtle and pertinent observations that often contradict his own theses. For instance, the researcher rightly points out, that "the proposal made by the Sea Lord was full of cunning. Having married one of his daughters Sadko will never be able to return to his native Novgorod: Sadko "is not tempted by the beauty of sea tsarinas or mermaids", he chooses Chernavushka. V.Y. Propp justly considers this scene one of the most beautiful and poetic moments in the entire song [Propp 1999, 107].

The list of specific "aspirations" of the people identified by V.Y. Propp in Russian epics cannot be considered satisfactory enough, though his idea that bylinas are but the reflections of the people's "aspirations", of its own historical mission is true. This idea gives a clue to understanding the spiritual meaning of such epic plots as the liberation of Tsargrad (Constantinople) from Idolishe, the salvation of Tsar Solomon from his treacherous wife, etc. One cannot but regret that, posed as it was by V.Y. Propp, the problem of correlation between historicism and propheticism in Russian bylinas which reflected not only the spiritual content of historical events, so obvious to the Russian people, but also the latter's anticipation of the future, did not get the respective elaboration in the works of V.Y. Propp's followers.


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REFERENCES (Articles from Scientific Journals)

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Mironov Arseny S., Moscow State Institute of Culture.

Candidate of Philology, Rector. Research interests: theory and technologies of modern journalism; inheritance of culture; axiology; folklore; heroic epic poetry.

E-mail: arsenymir@yandex.ru

Миронов Арсений Станиславович, Московский государственный институт культуры.

Кандидат филологических наук, ректор. Область научных интересов: теория и технологии современной журналистики; наследование культуры; аксиология; фольклористика; героический эпос.

E-mail: arsenymir@yandex.ru