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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a singer of byliny (epic folk songs) or historical songs. Originating among the people, the term was adopted by Russian scholarship.

Epic songs were first performed during primitive times and entered the repertoire of the Old Russian skomorokhi (itinerant performers). In the mid-19th century, P. N. Rybnikov ascertained that byliny were widely sung among the peasants of the Russian Far North. The art of the skazitel’ includes folkloric, verbal, and musical aspects and is based on a lengthy and persistent tradition whose bearer and continuer is the individual singer. A. M. Astakhova distinguishes three types of skaziteli: those who imitate their predecessors, those who create original versions, and those who improvise. Instruction in singing by ear within a living community gave rise to schools and families of skaziteli, such as the Riabinins and Kriukovs. Most skaziteli are nonprofessionals of peasant origin. During the present century, the art of the skazitel’ is gradually dying out. The concept of the skazitel’ is also applicable to non-Russian folklore, where it is expressed in such national terms as bards and zhyrshi (Kazakh folktale narrators).


Astakhova, A. M. Byliny: Itogi i problemy izucheniia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1966.

IU. I. IUDIN [23–1453–]

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