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(a ditty), a literary and musical genre of Russian folklore; a short song usually having four lines and performed at a rapid tempo.
The chastushka, which became established as an independent genre in the last third of the 19th century, is historically related to traditional songs, especially those with a quick tempo. It achieved its greatest popularity in the first half of the 20th century. Composed primarily by rural youth, chastushki are performed in a series to a single melody; they may be accompanied by an ac-cordian or balalaika or sung a cappella. Chastushki are sung at parties and usually communicate an emotional buoyancy. They generally deal with love or everyday concerns, but even before the October Revolution there were topical chastushki, usually with satiric overtones. In the Soviet period the proportion of such songs increased, and the range of subjects expanded. A response to events of the day, the chastushka is generally improvised.
Chastushki, which are addressed to a particular person or to the audience as a whole, are characterized by their simple idiom, their concern with everyday reality, and their expressiveness. Written in a trochaic meter, they generally follow the pattern abcb, although sometimes paired rhymes or alternate rhymes are used. The melody, usually for one voice but sometimes in two-part harmony, either is sung or is partly sung and partly spoken. In recent decades the output of chastushki has declined somewhat.
Literary chastushki, influenced by folk chastushki, have been composed by such writers as D. Bednyi, V. V. Mayakovsky, and A. A. Prokofiev. Chastushki are often created by amateur arts groups. Although they originated in Russian folklore, chastushki subsequently spread to the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and other republics of the USSR.
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S. G. LAZUTIN