The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



ancient Slavic ceremonies of prayer to rusalki (or vily), spirits of rain, vegetation, and fertility, who were depicted as winged maidens (sirens). Rusalii were observed four times a year. The two winter periods of observance—December 25 and January 6—were associated with incantational magic for the new year. The two summer periods—rusal’naia nedelia (Rusalii Week), beginning on June 4, and kupala, on June 24—were associated with prayers for rain.

Both men and women took part in the rituals and masquerades of rusalii. The rituals were accompanied by music, singing, and dancing, which provoked harsh attacks by the church. Rusalii may be compared to Western European carnivals. Similar rituals were also known among the ancient Romans (rosalia) and a number of other peoples. Rusalii were recorded by ethnologists in Bulgaria in the early 20th century.


Maksimov, S. V. Nechistaia, nevedomaia i krestnaia sila. St. Petersburg, 1903.
Rybakov, B. A. “Rusalii i bog Simargl-Pereplut.” Sovetskaia arkheologiia, 1967, no. 2.
Marinov, D. Narodna vera i religiozni narodni obichai. Sofia, 1914.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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