School-Expedition in Bryanskaya Oblast
A joint expedition of the Institute of Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the "Sefer" Сenter to Bryanskaya oblast took place in May 12-15, 2017. It was supported by the Genesis Philanthropy Group, UJA Federation of NY and the Russian Science Foundation. This field school was the continuation of ethnographic work in the Bryansk region, which began in the summer of 2016. Young researchers from Moscow participated in it.
This time the participants of the expedition were focused on documenting memorial rituals that are held in the Jewish cemeteries of the towns of Unecha and Surazh during the celebration of Lag Ba-Omer ("Jewish Radunitsa"). This holiday is the main funeral day for this region. The entire Jewish community of these places has traditionally gathered in the cemetery, in addition, immigrants from these communities that live not there at the moment, usually come from Bryansk and other regions where they are living on this day.
Photo and video recording of funeral customs was carried out, as well as several interviews were recorded both about features of memorial rituals in these places - a common memorial meal (in Surazh), painted eggs (in Unecha), etc., and narratives about various aspects of the life of the Jewish community in the present and in the past. It was possible to discover some changes in the tradition in comparison with the Soviet time.
In addition, the members of the expedition worked in Mglin, where there is now no Jewish community, but the memory of the Jewish population is preserved. Ethnographers managed to record several interviews about the Jewish past of the town, the Second World War, the Holocaust, folklore ethnic stereotypes and stories in the genre of oral history. The examples of calendar omens were collected too, the central place among them take narratives about Pesach.