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(băləlī`kə), Russian stringed musical instrument, with a triangular body and a long fretted neck fretted instrument. Usually there are three strings, which are generally plucked with a pick. The balalaika is made in various sizes, and several may be combined to make a band or orchestra. A similar instrument, the bandura, is found in Ukraine and Russia, and other types are to be found in the countries of the Middle East, where the balalaika almost certainly originated. The instrument did not appear in Russia until c.1700. Like the guitar, it has been much used to accompany folk songs and country dances.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



Russian stringed pizzicato instrument. As a rule the body is triangular in shape; the neck has frets and three strings (in earlier models, two). The sound is produced chiefly by strumming all strings with the index finger of the right hand and by plucking separate strings. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was widely used as a solo and ensemble instrument and to accompany singing. In the 1880’s it was perfected by V. V. Andreev and the instrumental masters F. S. Paserbskii and S. I. Nalimov. The family of balalaikas created later forms the basis of Russian folk instruments orchestras. Outstanding performers on the balalaika were V. V. Andreev, B. S. Troianovskii (1883–1951), N. P. Osipov (1896–1945), and P. I. Necheporenko (born in 1916). Major works for balalaika written by Soviet composers include concertos for balalaika and orchestra by S. N. Vasilenko, M. M. Ippolitov-Ivanov, and others.


Babkin, B. “Balalaika: Ocherki istorii ee razvitiia i usovershen-stvovaniia.” Russkaia muzykal’naia gazeta,1896, nos. 6–7, 9.
Sokolov, F. V. Russkaia narodnaia balalaika. Moscow, 1962.


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


a plucked musical instrument, usually having a triangular body and three strings: used chiefly for Russian folk music
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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