Baba Yaga comes from Furmanov
Russia’s most popular fairytale character – Baba Yaga – comes from the small textiles town of Furmanov in the Ivanovo Region, local historians say. Baba Yaga is a witchlike character who lives in a hut that stands on chicken legs. The Furmanov authorities have even built Baba Yaga’s hut on the town’s outskirts and the hut has become one of the most frequented tourist locations.
Historians Andrei Vorobiev and Lev Uliev came to the conclusion that Baba Yaga came from Furmanov while tracking the etymology of the name of their hometown, which used to be called Sereda in the old days. Pagan traditions were strictly under lock in Soviet days and no one doubted that the town was named Sereda because it used to stand at the hub of various trade routes and there was a trade fair in it on Wednesdays. In Russian, Wednesday is “sreda”. Local historians insist, however, that Sereda was the name of one of Baba Yaga’s daughters.
The Slavic Mythology Encyclopedia defines Sereda as a female folklore character associated with spinning and weaving. All three daughters of Baba Yaga – Pyatnitsa, Ponedelya and Sereda – made yarn.
The Kostroma and Ivanovo Regions used to be home to Finno-Ugric tribes which worshipped pagan deities. Sereda was part of the Kostroma Province and Kostroma got its name from a deity that patronized spring and fertility. Historians Andrei Vorobiev and Lev Uliev see nothing unusual about their town taking its name from a mythological character.
Guided by the local folklore, they set their minds on finding the place where Baba Yaga’s hut used to stand. Eventually, they spotted a three-edged hill surrounded by the noose of a dead river located near the village of Belino four kilometers from Furmanov. The location is famous for its mysterious energy. It cures various diseases and at the same time inspires awe.
“We saw ghosts and encountered paranormal phenomena and unidentified objects,”Lev Uliev said.
Baba Yaga’s shelter was made from logs and old planks which the builders had collected all over the city. The hut was then moved to the hill and became the symbolic home of Baba Yaga.
The image of the old hag from Russian fairytales appealed to local tourist operators. According to animation manager Vladimir Smirnov, Baba Yaga and her attendants have become part of a specially devised animation program.
“The character of Baba Yaga appeals to kids and adults alike. Each tends to see a particular flavor about it. All our scripts with Baba Yaga are written on the basis of Russian fairy tales,”Vladimir Smirnov said.
An animator in the costume of Baba Yaga greets tourists at the approaches to one of the villages in the Ivanovo Region. Besides Baba Yaga, the villagers resolved to introduce other fairy tale characters. They are also promoting Ivanovo as the city of brides. Their program for potential grooms offers a number of trials in a competitive form but invariably with a historical context.
City dwellers find it more than a pleasant avocation to plunge into the exotic country environment. Many tourists are prepared to pay good money for the pleasure of merging with nature, strolling through the scenic countryside, living in a wooden house and trying traditional Russian dishes.
If Furmanov wins its bid for being Baba Yaga’s homeland, it will surely rise in status. With the character of Baba Yaga being employed to efficiency on all special occasions, local enthusiasts insist that in the future the New Year cortege of Father Frost that calls at Kostroma to pick up the Snow Maiden should stop at Furmanov too to collect Baba Yaga.