The Mystery of the Firebird: Russian Folklore and Mythology


Illustration from Russian fairytale, The Firebird Overview:
This course you will explore the roots of Russian literature and the Russian national character through Russian myths and fairy tales. You will learn about the diversity and complexity of Russian folklore and share your favourite works with the group.

The discussions and lectures are in English. Tales to be shared will be chosen by each participant and by the teacher.

Target audience:
This course is suitable for anyone interested in Russian language and culture and who enjoys reading and discussing Russian literature and philosophy.

Learning objectives:
By the end of this course, you will have:

  • Learnt about the roots of Russian literature, main types of Russian fairy tales and myths, and the correlation between Russian folklore and everyday life
  • Read and discussed several well-known Russian bylinas and fairy tales
  • Shared your favourite passages from the Russian bylinas and fairy tales

Course outline:
Each session will include an introductory lecture with group discussion and opportunities for participants to share favourite Russian fairy tales they have chosen.

Session 1
Slavic tribes, their pagan beliefs and early Orthodoxy

Session 2
Monuments of Russian ancient literature. The Tale of Igor's Campaign (historical background and text). Bylina (Russian Bogatyrs – Ilya Muromets, Dobrynya Nikitich, Alyosha Popovich)

Session 3
Russian fairy tales (types, main characters in the paintings of Russian artists). Folk magic (magic objects in Russian fairy tales) and attitude to magic in Russian culture

Session 4
Nature and house spirits in Russian culture. Obereg- Slavic doll talisman workshop

Session 5
Animals in the Russian Fairy Tales. Symbolism and personification

Session 6
Rituals and superstitions in modern Russian culture.

There is a short break halfway through each session and you are welcome to bring your own refreshments if you wish.

Olga Suvorova has a PhD in Cultural Studies from one of the leading international universities, Lomonosov Moscow State University, and a Masters in Linguistics, Teaching and Interpreting/Translation (Hons, Distinction). She is the Vice President of the New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters.

“Olga is a natural teacher: engaging, energised, deeply knowledgeable and able to provide invaluable personal perspectives on themes. Her baking's pretty darn good too!”, The Vodka Room: Russian Book Club (2019)

“An enthusiastic and passionate and knowledgeable teacher. A very complete course”, The Vodka Room: Russian Book Club (2019)

“The course was varied in content & interesting for those with an interest in Russia. Olga is an engaging presenter who gave us a real feeling for things Russian”, Russia Today: Power, passion and pain (2017)

Relevant links:
School of Languages and Cultures
Russian Keys

For further information:
Continuing Education, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140.
Phone 04 463 6556,  Email:

Please note: Courses need a minimum number of enrolments to go ahead. If your course doesn’t reach the number required, we’ll have to cancel it. If this happens, we’ll contact you by phone or email about a week before the scheduled start date and arrange a full refund. Please check your emails regularly.