Oral tradition and its expressions, including language as a vehicle of intangible cultural heritage
Social practices, rituals and festive events
The Traditional Orthodox Wedding Ritual in the Parish of Pededze (2019)
Педедзская свадьба по старинному
Pededze Parish, Municipality of Alūksne. Local variations of the wedding ritual described here were documented in Alūksne Municipality. Until recently, the wedding ritual described here was widespread in the entire parish and familiar to almost everyone. In Balvi Municipality (Balvi Parish), Viļaka Municipality (Viļaka and Šķilbēni Parishes), Baltinava Municipality (Baltinava Parish), Kārsava Municipality (Goliševa and Mērdzene Parishes), and Ludza Municipality (Pilda Parish), the element was common only in specific places because overall the Orthodox and Russian populations in these areas are small.
The community comprises parish residents, members of a particular subethnic group, united by:
1. The local dialect which differs from dialects spoken by other groups (for example, nearby groups across the Russian border); vocabulary formed as a result of direct translation from Latvian, for example, žuravina (журавина)–kļukva (kлюква): dzērvene [cranberry], razoraļi (разорали)–raspohaļi (распохали): uzara [ploughed], burki (бурки)–banki (банки): burkas [jars], barkan (баркан)–morkovj (морковь): burkāns [carrot].
Several decades of historical, economic, and cultural change in the life of the community have not developed or changed the language. For example, the following words are still in use: korņevatka (корневатка)—koka lūku grozs [bark basket], drjanki (дянки)—dūraiņi [mittens], abrjažatsja (абряжатся)—apkopt lopus [tend livestock], tina (тина)—kartupeļu laksti [potato greens], srjašitsja (сряшиться)—neveikli pakrist [fall awkwardly] etc.
2. A distinctive sense of identity that is reflected in cultural realities, traditions, festivities, ritual, song, dance, and other forms of folklore.
3. Adherence to the Orthodox Church, which is reflected in both the social life of the community and its folklore.
Importance in Community Life
Historically, the Orthodox Church in Pededze included not only ethnic Russians and Setu but also a notable number of Latvian families. As a result, a unique wedding ritual along with a range of related activities came into being in the Pededze area.
Today, these wedding customs are of interest not only to parish residents but also to those who lived here in earlier times, and anyone who has ever participated in this kind of wedding.
Many residents of Pededze have partial familiarity with these wedding traditions; some elements of this ritual are still in use today.
Activities and Functions
The following elements continue to be used in many cases: the proposal (svatovstvo, сватовствo); the agreement (govor, сговор); and visits with the future relatives (smotrini, смотрины); altogether these are known as dimņičaņje (дымничанье). The marriage ceremony and a bridal dowry are almost mandatory.
Traditional wedding roles continue to be relevant at many weddings. These include the wedding hosts, the bride and bridegroom’s "družkas", the groom’s “brothers”, and the “girlfriends” or bride’s “sisters”.
The druškas, the brothers, and the hosts all wear wedding towels and belts crossed across their chests.
On some occasions, druškas still contribute their epigrams and adages, the bride and bridegroom receive blessings from their parents, (наделяют и благославляют), who recite a prayer while holding a round loaf of bread and an icon over the newlyweds’ heads. The bride is still often “purchased” from the bride’s sisters. As in ancient times, the newlyweds are guided to a rug and seated on cushions at the table.
The “wedding train” is not a procession of horse-drawn carriages but of automobiles. It is an ancient tradition that the wedding cortège never travels the same route (for example, they take one route to the church, another to the registry office, and return by yet another. They must also pass over one bridge).
This part of the tradition often involves setting up barriers to the “wedding train” and demanding ransoms.
In preparation for the couple’s return from the church, villagers erect and decorate a gate at the newlyweds’ home but block the path to the gate with a bench. The couple is sat down on the bench and lifted up with cries of "urā!". The groom’s parents greet them with bread and salt in outstretched arms. The bride is covered, then uncovered at the groom’s home with the groom’s mother removing the veil. If possible, the newlyweds approach the table by walking over benches and chairs.
Bride theft rituals are often employed, along with ransom demands for the return of the bride. On the second day, there is a purification ritual in the bathhouse; and, of course, the bride’s gifts to her new relatives.
Inheritance and Transmission
Although the traditional sequence is not always followed, many of these ancient wedding rituals continue to endure.
Even recently, pesnohorki singers (песнохорки), who know the tradition and the weddings songs, were still invited to many weddings.
At the moment, the most in-demand songs at a Pededze parish wedding are challenge songs, the baineičik song, circle dance songs, and congratulatory songs to the groom and bride after the ceremonial "urā!".
For centuries Pededze parish was almost never inside one territorial unit. Until 1782 it was divided between Russia, Poland, and Sweden; the Silenieki stone cross engraved with the date 1782 is evidence of this history.
From 1782 until 1917, the parish was part of the Russian Empire but divided between three provinces—Pskov, Livland (Vidzeme), and Vitebsk.
From 1920 until 1923, most of Pededze belonged to Estonia, while the rest was in Latvia.
The borders we know today were only established in 1924. These kinds of changes in borders and governmental affiliation left their mark on traditions, customs, and even social life, including the Orthodox wedding ritual.
Historically and culturally, the Orthodox wedding rituals of Latvia’s eastern region are closely related to wedding traditions in the Pechory region of Pskov province and those of the central Pskov region.
The wedding ritual with all of its forms of artistry, which includes speeches (prigovori, pričitaņija; приговоры, причитания), songs, and dances, has a predominant place in the traditional culture of the Russian Orthodox population of eastern Latvia.
Weddings, along with calendrical festivities like Christmas, Maļeņica, and Troica, through instrumental and choreographic culture, (gusli, accordions, fiddle; various men’s, women’s and mixed choreographic forms) are an important feature of Orthodox Russian subethnic uniqueness.
It is important to note that of all the traditions noted here, it is the wedding ritual that has endured with the least amount of change and many of its forms are still popular among the people of this region.
1. Women’s handicrafts are an integral part of the wedding ritual, including:
Woven fabrics (canvas, festive and everyday towels, rugs, belts).
Embroidered textiles (tablecloths, towels, women’s clothing, bed linens).
Knitted and crocheted fabrics (tablecloths, lace, mittens, gloves, socks, clothing).
Many of these function as ritual objects and as part of the dowry, etc.
2. There are also traditional wedding foods associated with the ritual, including special bread, beer, and moonshine.
3. The traditional tasks involved in preparing for the wedding were also important, including organizing the rooms, the horse and carriage, and constructing the wedding gate.
4. It was also important to know the rules and canons of the Orthodox Church.
5. Oral folklore. The entire process is led by the družka, in poetic language no less and in the local dialect, employing imaginative epigrams (e.g., ņevesta, utuška—невеста, утушка) and Orthodox scripture.
All of the rituals take place accompanied by songs or readings (pričeti—причеты). There is challenge singing and svadebnie veļičaļnie (свадебные величальные) chanting. Practically the entire ritual takes place accompanied by women’s circle dances. There is a large repertoire of circle dance chants and texts.
Traditional music. Accordion and balalaika players must definitely participate. Three-row accordions of the German type (pēterburģenes) were especially popular, as were the Ieviņš-type accordions (Петроградка, Ивушка).
6. Folk beliefs have always been an indispensable part of the wedding ritual.
It is a bad sign if someone walks between the newlyweds, steps on, or otherwise soils the bride’s dress or veil.
When the couple first meets, whoever first steps on the other’s toes will be right in their arguments.
As she enters the church, the bride must drag her heel across the threshold. To ensure successful childbirth, the bride must not tie a belt around her dress before the wedding.
During the marriage ceremony, looking at images of angels in the icons will make their children beautiful.
After entering the groom’s home and tasting the bread and salt, the bride must lay a pair of mittens across the bread as a gift for her mother-in-law to ensure her goodwill.
There must be enough mittens and socks in the dowry to last for ten years because in the early years after the wedding, children will be born and there won’t be time for knitting.
Wedding guests must try to not take the same routes, so the couple won’t tire of each other. Similarly, they must also drive over a bridge because as they do so, the bride must throw a belt into the river to ensure that she won’t need to weep during her marriage.
1. Tatjana Steklova (b. 1966) from Pededze,
2. Antoņina Girs (b. 1953) from Pededze,
3. Yevgenia Rozina (b. 1926) from Rīga
4. Yevgenia Illarionova (b. 1944) from Pededze,
5. Zinaida Kručkova (b. 1939) from Pededze,
6. Marija Pavlova (b. 1935) from Pededze,
7. Inese Volšteina (b. 1969) from Pededze,
8. Ludmila Uglovska (b. 1970) from Pededze,
9. Tatjana Krutina (b. 1969) from Pededze,
10. Antoņina Kaminskaja (b. 1944) from Pededze,
11. Inta Ņikitina (b. 1950) from Pededze.
Many people in Pededze are at least partially familiar with these wedding traditions.
Institutions and Organizations
Pededzes Nākotne [Future of Pededze] Society
Pededzes Tautas nams [Pededze social and cultural centre]
Pededzes bibliotēka [Pededze library]
FPC Tradīcija [FPC tradition] Society
Strengthening the Tradition
1. In 2014, with the support of the Alūksne Municipality Pededze Social and Cultural Centre (Tatjana Steklova) and Alūksne Municipality Pededze Musem (Inese Volšteine), a research paper was prepared on “Russian wedding traditions in Pededze Parish at the turn of 19th and 20th centuries”.
The research included collecting old wedding photographs, memories of old-time residents, identifying and restoring a wedding dress from the early 1900s, as well as a groom’s shirt, and other items of clothing, including belts, towels, mittens, and other older artefacts that were part of the exhibit “Everyday Life in Pededze” and the photo exhibit “Latvia is 100 Years Old”.
2. In 2014, the society Pededzes Nākotne [The Future of Pededze] and Pededzes Tautas nams [Pededze cultural and social centre] organized a performance representing a traditional Pededze wedding, as part of the project “Historical Wedding Traditions of Pededze yesterday and today” supported by the Valmiera Municipality Foundation and the Ministry of Culture.
This performance was recorded on DVD and is available from the association and the cooperating partners.
3. In 2015, the Pededze Library and the Pededze Cultural and Social Centre (T. Steklova, A Ģirs) created “the must unique dictionary of the local dialect". A copy is available at the Centre.
4. FPC Tradition Society (director S. Oļenkins) has carried out several folklore collection expeditions in Pededze. The material collected by FPC Tradīcija is available on audio and video in their archive.
In the course of the expedition, folklore material was identified and documented, including parish wedding folklore that has been partially preserved until today. The expedition materials are partly published in S. Oļenkins' book Russian and Belarusian Folk in Latvia at the Turn of the Millennium (“Русский и белорусский фольклор в Латвии рубеже тысячелетий на”).
5. A documentary film has also been made “A Russian Wedding in Latgale. The Morning at the Bride’s House”. The script was written by S. Oļenkins and directed by N. Stratanoviča. Filming took place in Alūksne Municipality Pededze Parish.
The folklore ensemble “Iljinskaya pjatņica” has accumulated considerable experience in reconstructing, learning, and performing the traditional wedding folklore described in the ritual.
Their activities have inspired parish residents to take an interest in their own folklore as well as in the wedding ritual.
Please see Textual Resources for the Plan for the Safeguarding and Development of the Element.
Threats to the Tradition
At this time, safeguarding the traditional wedding rituals of Pededze parish will not be possible without academic research, the support of researchers, an organization that would be interested in safeguarding this intangible cultural heritage, and financial support.
The absence of this kind of support will pose a threat to the survival of this traditional wedding ritual and its ability to be passed on to future generations.
It is important to note that people are constantly moving away from rural areas resulting in a decline in cultural activity for the remaining community. Additional efforts are, therefore, needed to facilitate cultural life in the parish, organize traditional festivities, folk group concerts, etc.
We are convinced that by researching and introducing these traditions to the people in the parish, the song repertoire demanded at weddings would increase considerably.
Unfortunately, local residents who are fluent singers are no longer able to participate in weddings because of their advanced age.
There are women of the middle and younger generation who would like to study the wedding traditions and acquire the singing skills needed for traditional weddings.
The director of the FPC Tradīcija [Tradition] Centre Sergejs Oļenkins and members of the authentic folklore studio and folklore group "Iļjinskaja pjatņica" are prepared to organise training sessions on wedding customs and masterclasses to teach traditional wedding singing skills.
"Pededzes Nākotne" [The future of Pededze] Society, reg. no. 40008051202
Народная традиционная культура Псковской области: Обзор экспедиционных материалов из научных фондов Фольклорно–этнографического центра: В 2 т./Сост., науч. ред. А. М. Мехнецов. – СПб.; Псков: Изд–во Псковск. обл. центра народного творчества, 2002. Т. 1. – 688 с.; Т. 2. – 816 с.: нот.
Фридрих И. Д. Фольклор русских крестьян Яунлатгальского уезда. Кн. 1. Песни: Детские, хороводные, беседные, обрядовые, заговоры и духовные стихи и др./Собраны И. Д. Фридрихом; под ред. П. Шмита; фоногр. записи мелодий на ноты переложены М. Гривским – Riga: issued cultural foundation, 1936 – 527 с.
И.Д.Фридрих “Русский фольклор в Латвии: песни, обряды, детский фольклор”. Рига. “Лиесма”. 1972 г. 485 стр
М.Шпис “Свадебные песни и обряды”. Собственное издание. 1936 год
С.А.Оленкин “Русский и белорусский фольклор в Латвии на рубеже тысячелетий”. Рига. “Golden autumn”. 2017 г. 300 стр. нот.