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  Scientific Research in the Field of Folklore within Globalization and Integration Processes- Dr Oksana Mykytenko  


Scientific Research in the Field of Folklore within

Globalization and Integration Processes

 Oksana Mykytenko (Kiev)


          A Ukrainian magazine «Vsesvit» interviewed a famous public and cultural figure in Japan Daisaku Ikeda. Answering the question regarding prospects of our civilization, world culture and cultural wealth in the epoch of globalization, he mentioned that «the idea of globalization in full understanding of this word should mean rapprochement and unity of different cultures and creation of a common home for mankind without any borders and discrimination”. He believes that integration in spiritual aspect means “not monotony, but a harmonious unity of everything that this world is rich in”


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Scientific Research in the Field of Folklore within

Globalization and Integration Processes 


Oksana Mykytenko (Kiev)


          A Ukrainian magazine «Vsesvit» interviewed a famous public and cultural figure in Japan Daisaku Ikeda. Answering the question regarding prospects of our civilization, world culture and cultural wealth in the epoch of globalization, he mentioned that «the idea of globalization in full understanding of this word should mean rapprochement and unity of different cultures and creation of a common home for mankind without any borders and discrimination”. He believes that integration in spiritual aspect means “not monotony, but a harmonious unity of everything that this world is rich in”[1].

            The discussion of issues related to globalization has already lasted for years. What is it – dissolution of something national, specific, individual or integration as a necessary unification of equitable planetary system elements? To what extent such notions as “globalization” and “dialogue of cultures” can be related, can they be regarded as a system of thinking and existence? Scientists are unanimous in seeing globalization as an objective phenomenon, bringing to the forefront the issue of preserving smaller nations’ cultures in the present-day world.

            In the epoch of globalization, regarded as a modern process of public and cultural dynamics, and a global process interpreted as tendency to redistribution of power and creation of new elites and powerful centers[2], the issues of cultural identity acquire significant importance, and this cultural identity, in its turn, becomes the leitmotif of present-day postindustrial society’s social and cultural trends.

            The latest events, in particular, in Ukraine, bring out clearly that the present-day mankind lives in the space of a united global civilization. It won’t be able to resist various serious dangers that it runs, if it doesn’t realize full volume and depth of global context of everything it dares to do, as well as full volume and depth of the responsibility it bears. It is “the renaissance” of human responsibility that is able to make proposals regarding existence in the space of a united global civilization.

Origins and sources of such responsibility are in the breadth of society’s spiritual experience piled up for many centuries in the framework of different traditions and religions. In the period of open planetary commonwealth formation it is very important to see at the heart of different religions and cultures the unity of basic elements that compose the common property of mankind.

In present-day Ukrainian cultural life more and more attention is paid to folklore as to the spiritual basis of ethnic consciousness and national renaissance. It defines the urgency of different aspects of ethnology; it requires in-depth study of problems of national uniqueness, or identity on both methodological-theoretic and socio-cultural levels, and taking into account European scientific experience.

Modern civilization, often marked by “erosion of identity” and multi-cultural trait, shows allegedly respectful treatment to national differences, but in reality it supports growth of common standards and values, both cultural and social. Such reality defines the necessity of rationalization and search of new forms of influence on national cultures and spiritual traditions.

            From the time that K.Levi-Stros changed the notion of culture with the notion of cultural identity, the word “identity” became to appear in different contexts causing numerous misunderstandings, often being associated with something uniform and homogeneous that, in its turn, creates fear of mixing. In his report, considered by polite Europeans to be heretic, K.Levi-Stros said that “to every real creative work some deafness to the voices of other values is peculiar; it extends up to refusal to accept them or even up to denial. As it is impossible to get lost in somebody else’s pleasure, to identify yourself with someone else and to preserve your difference”. In his view, “fully realized complete mutual understanding with someone else will sooner or later begin to shatter the originality of creative work, both his and mine”.

            The source of such originality, nourishing culture and indicating its vitality, is folklore that together with language constitutes the index of cultural, ethnic and social identity. Each of these identities is defined by some certain links – ethnic, personal and religious. In both present and future processes of “Europeanisation” the preservation of folklore means the preservation of identity, as it is folklore that is one of sign symbols of every nation that exists as long as its culture and its language are alive, best pronounced in folklore. It’s worth mentioning here the words of a Serbian writer Milorad Pavić, who put culture in the first place among the most important values: state, nation and culture, as without culture neither nation nor state can exist.

In the period of social changes, technological and informational progress and new virtual reality the notion of folklore becomes identical to the notion of nationality, national identity. Owing to folklore a person understands the difference of another person and carries on a dialogue with him/her. Variety of forms and displays of folk art becomes one of the main means of cultural identification and self-identification of an individual in a poly-ethnic community. The indices of such identification are traditional artistic images, symbols, notions and stereotypes which in the context of present-day conditions influence the formation of cultural and identification indices of nation on the basis of values that are traditionally peculiar to society. The present-day creative potential of public and cultural movement includes paraphrasing of traditional mythological views, metaphorical allegories or symbolic abstractions of folklore. At the same time functional changes of folklore become more important today, in particular ethnic-integration, social, domestic and utilitarian, communicative, educational and stimulating; that’s why the task consists in respectful treatment and comprehensive study of different displays of folk art.

Search of identity in the epoch of globalization requires answers on the following questions:

-         with which forms of intercultural communication should be shaped a new universal cultural model that wouldn’t be deprived of variety of separate cultural traditions;

-         what cultural traits guaranteeing dynamics and vitality of every separate cultural event should be like;

-         what are the main characteristics of inclusion of corresponding historically and geographically conditioned cultural differences in the contemporary general context?

 As a matter of fact, authenticity and authority of tradition, and thereby its legitimation in the context of present-day conditions are related not to the issue of existence of some imaginary traditional communities or revitalization of archaic cultural traits, but to the problem of mentality and range of cultural meanings describing phenomenon of present-day life. These indices are conditioned by some certain cultural tradition, and at the same time they influence modern social and cultural models. In such context global and local phenomena do not contradict, but are mutually complementary as interrelated spheres of human activity. It is interesting to compare mutual complementation of such notions as “global” and “local” with the technique of “bricolage” including imitation, citing and combination of some certain traits and elements. In such a way there appears a possibility of combining local, ethnic or national entity that is expressed in a certain folklore tradition, on one hand, and identity of global culture as “transnational” culture, on the other hand[3].

Folk culture can be studied as interpersonal, local, regional and ethnic. The process of creation is fundamental for this system, as exactly therein lies the striving to preserve, actualize and share gained experience and common artistic property of the nation[4].

In view of the processes of globalization with their rapid increase in culture contacts and culture conflicts, folkloristic narrative research is confronted with new tasks. It seems that everyday narration as well as the (traditional) narrative genres will not lose their importance, but will adapt their forms and functions to the changing conditions of the globalizing world. Narratives function not only as indicators of attitudes or behaviors towards (ethnic, religious, cultural) otherness, but also as means of coping with it. Personal narratives outline model-images for ethically evaluated behavior (on the level of family, kin, community, ethnic group). Cultural values, acquired through folklore, religious education and traditional competence, are dominant. The goal of modernized narrative research is to determine, what theories and findings of narrative research can be integrated into an (ethnological) Intercultural Communication and – vice versa – what approaches and findings of Intercultural Communication can be applied to folkloristic narrative research.[5]

In the ХХІ century we witness the world becoming more multi-polar and multi-cultural. Besides, we see that the guarantee of its existence is provided by mutual respect to will of cultural and civilization traditions. The understanding of uniqueness of your culture becomes the guarantee of another culture’s existence. Every integration process requires obvious difference even on the level of language and culture, where there are no “small” or “big” cultures, and each of them has its own uniqueness and originality.

             Universalism as a problem arising in the period of integration and globalization transformations represents a serious danger to any culture – to its individuality, indigenous nature and right of choice. Such dangers are mainly felt by “smaller nations”; they need such parameters of their folk art that define their national and artistic uniqueness to compose their own national, social and cultural identity. Thanks to folklore the community of “smaller nations” is able to self-identify and self-differ using the mechanisms of traditional culture and taking into consideration the necessity of evolution, when new cultural phenomena feel direct influence of tradition.

In the structure of cultural practice of different European countries folk art occupies an important place – despite all differences of attitude toward it in modern Europe that become obvious even on the level of defining the notion of folklore, when the matter often concerns only local traditional cultures. One of the main misunderstandings or even one of prejudices lies in the inconsistency between the term “folklore” in western and eastern cultural and scientific traditions, arising from attitude to traditional culture in eastern or western tradition. Insufficient knowledge becomes the basis for formation of stereotypes that some people use traditional culture only in the sphere of cultural heritage (and also historic past; so up to the moment of nation’s formation) and that are oriented on the future that will be defined by powerful technological civilizations, and others are still in the tight framework of archaism and myths creation, that, in its turn, leads to infantilism and impoverishment. Such statements are the dissonance where the idea is being formed that if for the West folklore is an anachronistic decoration, then for the East it is a constant primitive prison[6].

            Tolerance in attitude to another culture when folk culture is preserved under conditions of an unauthentic environment and artistic reduction of tradition, i.e. talking about general trends – in the view of folklore, is a necessary and important index of folk culture’s existence on the whole. The specific character of folk culture’s existence, peculiar to the present time in general, is that “folklore, being included in the system of modern spiritual culture where non-folklore forms prevail, gains some secondary features (the so-called folklorism)[7], this is related to social, political, economic, cultural and informational changes in society. Nowadays when, according to T. Zhivkov, “traditional culture fades, but folklore remains”[8], the index of folklorism takes on special significance. Due to this index works get some peculiarities – they lose local differences, variation gets some non-folklore context. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, folklorism is determined by civilization processes, existing in Europe from objective and subjective points of view, and it extends not only to folk culture, but also to the whole global cultural heritage.

            An artistic component of folk art is gaining an increasing importance, which defines peculiarities of folklore’s existence. If according to the classic lexical meaning of folk culture it is “a complex system of artistic culture directly related to the traditional calendar and person’s everyday family life in the past, with its own inner meaning, its symbols reproducing ideas and human life notions”[9], then folklorism born in an urban cultural environment, first of all, as an unauthentic artistic creative work, offers better conditions for folklore’s realization/presentation. In T.Zhivkov’s opinion, “the more folklore is defined as an artistic immaterial wealth piled up from ritual everyday life situations, the more artistic creativity includes it into its repertoire” [10], gaining the meaning of its “savior”, according to an apt turn of phrase by R. Ivanova. Losing positions of basic means of human life artistic representation, folklore is becoming a more and more important means of artistic needs satisfaction. This aspect requires an increasingly urgent application of folklore policy for the purpose of its legal protection and ensuring the existence of folk art, as the loss of it would mean that folklore isn’t anymore an indicator defining social behavior of people belonging to a certain community – nation, region or state. In this aspect folklore exists not only as memory, but it also creates the base for coexistence of “now” and “here”, giving an opportunity for an integration and reintegration of different communities. Folk art is seen as the means of making “its own expression” in the world culture, continuing to exist not as an ancient artifact but as a factor of spiritual development and aesthetic needs satisfaction. Corresponding nowadays mainly to aesthetic needs, traditional cultural forms are realized as a source of authenticity, and they widely interact with modern professional creative work, proving the society’s willingness to understand the national origins of culture.

 During last decade we witness a renovated interest towards folklore everywhere. Apparently in contemporary situation folklore could not comletely fulfill its traditional functions; modern times generate new ideas of its operation and in this sense it acquires “utilitarian” characteristics. Folklore “goes up” on the stage – with a specific repertoire; folklore becomes basis of concert improvisations; new forms of performances are created on folklore melodious motifs, choreography and mystical plots; folklore enters organized tourism to serve its entertainment goals, etc. Modern times are a period of new creativity, to a certain extent building a bridge between folklore of different nations and creating links between folklore and other genres of art.[11]

       Speaking about new functions of folklore, we refer to its connection to the stage, and more precisely, to the stage of the folklore festival. Some authors reveal the specificity of folklore in the context of festivals and reject the popular conception of its authenticity. From their opinion, not folklore, but folklore festivals are a new, “invented” tradition now, which can be rightfully called authentic. This new tradition is a two-way process. The more the festivals are engaged with present day problems, the better they fulfill their role of a connection to the past and trace the way of national artistic culture in the future.[12] 


         If on the way to the downfall of a nation-state in the result of a number of demographic, financial, economic, informational and communicational factors there will be a merger of ethnic minorities of states, as a Scottish historian Paul Kennedy predicts in his bookPreparations for the ХХІ century”, then alongside with their full assimilation there will be cultural assimilation, too, and, therefore, the wealth of folk art will be lost. Researchers lay emphasis on the fact that such a danger can be posed by integration processes in Europe when new member-states of European Community and in particular, Slavic countries are under threat. Their cultural traditions, belonging to every separate European state, are spiritually, emotionally, linguistically and mentally deep-rooted in the big Slavic world, enriching the whole common global cultural tradition with such “double belonging”.

            Present-day research works pay attention to the “bi-identity” of a number of ethnic unities, in particular, Slavic ones. ”Syndrome of re-recognition” is fixed among re-emigration community after its returning home. For instance, in 1990 there was founded an Association of Slovaks from Bulgaria in Bratislava. The very fact of creation of such an organization after forty years (1945-49) of returning to the native country is significant and it is the evidence of linguistic, cultural and public adaptation of people who were accepted by native community as “foreigners”, as “Slovaks from Bulgaria” who “sing Slovak folk songs which they remember from Bulgaria”, who’s wedding rituals and traditions are rituals and traditions of “Slovaks from Bulgaria”[13].

 It is known that on the European continent there are three main cultural centers – German, Romanic and Slavic, each of them is marked by identity of its own cultural tradition. In different times the idea of Slavic community was the subject of political speculations. And, instead, it is the idea of European cooperation that can unite our continent, and that is why in the ethnic and cultural aspect the idea of Slavic community has wide perspectives.

            The works of Slavic scientists are extremely actual and promising for modern ethnology and cultural anthropology. In these works the comparative analysis of artistic culture is held in the context of national, social and local identity. In Mila Santova’s work “Culture and traditions of a small town” (Sophia, 2001) she studies historical, social, religious and cultural peculiarities of two small European towns – the town of Bansko in Bulgaria and the town of Binche in Belgium. The author examines the typology of cultural and identity indices of a small town which model the identity of communities of Eastern and Western Europe by means of culture and tradition.

            Present-day integration processes put in a claim that comparative research works, in particular, Slavonic ones should sequentially adhere to the basic principles of both national and international approach. In contrast to the political and ideological dogmatism of the past, special attention has been focused for a long time on some certain disciplines and on the contribution of national schools into the development of Slavonic researches. It considerably stimulated the development of such directions as Ukrainistics, Polonistics, Bohemistics etc.; it also allowed to present issues for Slavonic researches of such European scientific centers as Vienna, Graz, Budapest etc. Of course, the thesis that exceptionally national approach can block Slavonic scientific developments, which are of general importance for Slavic countries, does not reject the necessity of the phenomenon’s thorough investigation in every separate ethnic tradition and national culture. This is the basis of a real scientific comparative analysis.

          During many centuries with the help of folk tradition there was marked out not only the most important, but generally the only possible way of cultural development. It is folklore that reflects characteristic features of national cultures. Folk tradition was and still remains to be the creative process on the level of which there has never ended a fruitful creative dialogue. A contemporary creator will use and reproduce his own creative experience with the help of traditional artistic models not just for the reason that without his own expression he wouldn’t be noticed in the general cultural mosaic of Europe, but also for the reason that such an expression is a synonym of his own original cultural tradition.

         Cultural integration, on the one hand, and ethnic and national differentiation, on the other, – these two diametrically opposite trends mark today scientific research and is reflected in it.

Intent interest and attention to folklore in Ukraine determines the urgency of ethnological and folkloristic research in institutions engaged in traditional culture. Besides the programs directed on the investigation of the transnational nature of traditional cultures and communities, we meet with another important scientific problem – he problem of identity and the necessity to reveal the pithy ideas of certain ethnic and national distinguishable traditions in the regions.

         Among main directions of the Institute of Art Studies, Folklore and Ethnology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine today are:

- publication of national anthologies of traditional culture and folklore, encyclopaedias and reference books ("Ukrainian oral folklore" in many volumes; "Ethnological encyclopaedia of Ukraine", “Encyclopaedic dictionary on artistic culture of Western and Southern Slavs” etc.);

- the historical-comparative studies of the Ukrainian national and ethnic culture and folklore in the context of European and global culture and under conditions of social transformation (“History of Ukrainian culture”, “Ethnic and ethnocultural history of Ukraine”, “History of Ukrainian music”, “History of Ukrainian theatre” etc.);

- regional research of material and intangible traditional culture;

-traditional culture and folklore and professional art in the past and today.

From this point of view the scientific activity in the field of traditional culture and folklore can be conditionally divided into two trends: (l) on the horizontal level meaning the synchronous research and (2) on the vertical line that touches upon the questions of diachronous analysis.

Among important tasks of these two trends we should mention the following:


- traditional culture and folklore in the present;

- modern processes in folklore and the phenomenon of folklorism;

- traditional culture and folklore and professional art today; problems of functional ties, mutual interaction and development;

- traditional culture and folklore and modern popular culture;

- the model of anti-culture and anti-behavior; the phenomenon of “postfolklore”;

- fates of traditional culture in the 21st cent, (prognostic aspect), etc.


- the ecology of traditional culture;

- the reconstruction of archaic forms and features in traditional culture and in folklore; investigation in the field of Ukrainian and Slavonic mythology;

- the local, national and regional folk cultural traditions;

- semantics and pragmatics of ethnic traditional culture;

- impacts of oral and literary traditions;

- traditional spiritual and social-normative culture; problems of ethnic psychology and   stereotypes;

- individuals in traditional culture;

- traditional culture of ethnic minorities and social communities;

- traditional culture and folklore of migrators and indigenous population, problems of interethnic and intercultural reciprocity, etc.

          Speaking about modern folklore process in Ukraine today we must mention so called Orange folklore, i.e. the folklore of Orange revolution, which took place in November-December, 2004 and shows that folklore process is rather important part of mass political movement, as well as an organic and important part of everyday communication. Political events were immediately reflected and appraised in folk texts. The most popular genres closely linked to such kind of communication, became anecdotes, short satirical poems, slogans and graffity. The folklorists and ethnographers of the Ryl’skiy Institute collected most of the recorded and photographed texts[14]. This study shows that modern folklore process is a spontaneous manifestation of folk interests and as such it depicts all characteristics of traditional folklore communication. Thus, mass appeal, oral transmission and variation turn to be the decisive factors, which define a particular text as folklore also today.

          Of course, all these aspects are closely interconnected and their differentiation can be made only conditionally. Nevertheless when even choosing a certain aspect it is absolutely important to undertake the complex, polyfunctional and interdisciplinary approach oriented towards the ethnological principles of analyses, as well as to carry out the comparative study of different aspects of national culture and folklore.



Mykytenko Oksana

I work at the Rylsky Institute of Art Studies, Folklore and Ethnology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine as the leading scientist in the department of art and folklore of foreign countries. I have been working in the Institute after graduating from the Kiev Shevchenko University (Slav philology department) in 1978., and after post-graduate course in the Institute for Slav and Balkan Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

My scientific interests are in the field of Slav mythology, poetics of folklore, ethno-folklore links, particularly Ukrainian-Serbian, contemporary folklore process, folklore and literature interactions. I am the author of the monograph “Serbian Folk songs of lamentation: poetical, historical and geographical analysis” (Kiev, 1992) and articles in scientific editions in Ukraine, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro, Macedonia and Hungary.

I maintained the thesis and was conferred the Doctor’s degree in 1988.

I took part in different international conferences and congresses on folklore and Slavistics. I am the member of the Commission on folklore of the International Congress of Slavists and the member of World Presiding Board of the International Organization of Folk Art (IOV) and the Vice-chairwoman of the Commission I. being  the member of the IOV from 1991.


[1] Daisaku Ikeda. Global ethics unites souls of different nations // «Vsesvit», 9-10, 2004.

[2] Antoinella Petkovska. Some sociological aspects of folklore // Makedonski Folklor, 58-59. - Skopje 2001. – p.245.

[3] Antoinella Petkovska. Some sociological aspects… – p.248.

[4] Iskra Arsenova. Folklore – Identity – Integration // Macedonian folklore 58-59. – Skopје, 2001. – p. 155.

[5] Klaus Roth. Narrating between cultures: possibilities of co-operation between narrative research and interccultural communication // Фолклор, традиции, култура. – София, 2002. – С.126.-

[6] Antoinella Petkovska. Some sociological aspects…– p.249.

[7] Chistov К. Expression of ethnic culture in folklore and the role of folklore in ethnic culture // Methodological problems of ethnic cultures studying: Symposium materials. – Yerevan, 1978. – p.69.

[8] Zhivkov Т. Folklore and the present-day life. – Sophia, 1981. – p.321.

[9] Radost Ivanova. Folklore in the post-socialist Balkans forms of preservation and development // Macedonian folklore, 58-59, Skopje 2001. - p.288.

[10] Zhivkov Т. Folklore and the present-day life. – p.315.

[11] Evgenia Mitseva. Trends in the development of folklore (A certain point of view) // Фолклор, традиции, култура. – София, 2002. – С.338.

[12] Radost Ivanova. Folklore festivals – a new tradition // // Фолклор, традиции, култура. – София, 2002. – С.330.

[13] Vladimir Penchev. Folklore as a factor of (bi)identity// Macedonian folklore. – 58-59. – Skopje, 2001 – p.132.

[14] O.Britsyna and I.Golovakha. The Folklore of the Orange Revolution // Folklorica, Vol.X, Num.1, 2005. – S.4.