Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A Hutsul Wedding

Take a break from Ukrainian politics:

Watch the video

This is part I (go to part II here) of three short (8-10 min) pieces I will post of footage I took at a wedding in the Carpathian Mountains of Ukraine in August 2004. The wedding was that of a cousin of a friend, Anna. Much of Anna's heritage is Hutsul. Hutsuls and their descedents have lived in their part of the Carpathians for some 500-600 400-500 years*. The sign at the entrance to Anna's home village of Jabloniv boasts 450 yrs of settlement.

The video begins with footage of Anna, two other friends (including my second-cousin Oksana Kolodnytska from Pidhajtsi) and I leaving from Anna's village for another, nearby village for the wedding.

The majority of Hutsuls identify themselves as Ukrainians, unlike other peoples of the Carpathians who, like the Hutsuls, speak a language closely related to Western Ukrainian dialects. That is, the majority of people comprising other Carpathian Mountain groups that speak languages closely related to Ukrainian dialects, such as the Lemkos, Bojkos and Dolynjany, insist that they form a seperate ethnic identity from Ukrainians and refer to themselves as Rusyn or Carpatho-Rusyn (see this site for more info about the Rusyns).

(I am of the mind that the outsider must accept the ethnic self-definition of the majority of any ethnic group. Hence, Hutsuls indeed are Ukrainian, while the Bojkos and Dolynjany, and perhaps Lemkos too, are Rusyn. . .)

In general, the people of Western Ukraine and the Ukrainian Carpathians are thought to have preserved a great deal of their traditions. These are quite rural and agricultural areas that were once dubbed as among the most isolated and "backward" in Europe --and they may still be. "Backward," however, is a strong and wrong word, depending on one's prejudices (i.e., need of creature comforts); this can be a deeply enchanting and powerful land, especially if one can forego the typical requirements, service expectations, and judgments of a Westerner. Much of what many consider the traditional past remains contemporary here--with all its plusses and minuses (many of the latter of which are formidable vis-a-vis the young and especially for women).

Some notes to the footage:

This is Ukraine, and so drinking vodka (or better, horylka, as it is known in Ukrainian) plays a big role in the wedding festivities. I encourage the viewer to have an open mind about this and also to pay attention to a unique tradition in this area: when drinking a shot outdoors, people frequently would throw the bottom 1/3 or so of the shot over their right shoulder or downward at the ground.

There are some substitles, but much is left untranslated. From what is subtitled, one should easily get the gist of what is going on.

This is the best quality I knew at this time for uploading such a large file to the internet. It is best viewed while not expanded to full screen.

If one would like a high-resolution CD or even a DVD of this and the next installment, contact me at ontorev@yahoo.com to make arrangements.

This was obviously shot and edited by a folk music fanatic, thus the emphasis on
music/musicians. Note that while much if not most of the music is specifically Hutsul, some of the music is part of a general repertoire of Western Ukrainian Wedding Music--in particular, note the Wedding March played outside the Groom's Home, which is common throughout Western Ukraine, though with some variation. (Update: compare the wedding march in this video from the Hutsul region of the Carpathians to the wedding march here from Pidhajtsi, a quintessentially Galician town.)

Part II will come later, containing:

-Footage of the wedding ceremony at the church
-More footage of the Carpathians from this village of Nyzhnij Bereziv
-The Reception line and various traditions as people arrive at the reception
-Reception dinner and singing
-The Dance--including footage of authentic Hutsul dancing as done, not for the sake of performance but for enjoyment, by contemporary-day Hutsuls, including an arkan (UPDATE: this footage will form Part III, and will not be in Part II)
-More footage of the musicians!

*Update: The ancestors of the Hutsuls are thought to have been Vlachs (Romanian-speaking sheepherders/mountain people) that migrated up the Carpathian Chain from the Balkans about 400-500 years ago. Where these Vlachs settled amongst Rusyns, they eventually became Ukrainian. It is also thought the Gorale of Poland have a similar ethnogenesis. This is based on linguistic evidence: Real Hutsul dialect is said to have a number of words with Romanian roots.



WRY said...

Very nice video. Almost like being there. Can't wait to see the next installment.

Hey - you ought to put it up on Youtube!

The Ranger said...

Now these are my kind of people. Maryna is happy seeing the wedding and good people. Thanks Patrick

Stefan said...

Thanks both of you for the compliments.

Patrick-- I am quite glad that Maryna enjoyed the clip. This is indeed just on the other side of your swath of the Ukrainian Carpathians. . .Does Maryna have anything to say about the whole Rusyn/Ukrainian issue?

wry--I just looked at the YouTube site and looks interesting. I will get an account as soon as time permits.

Part II of this will be up sometime next week. For now, I am working on a video of the Latvian Summer Solstice ceremony/celebration I was part of last June. A friend--Amanda ,Zinta's cousin--is leaving for the US tomorrow to teach about Latvian holiday traditions at a Latvian summercamp in Michigan, and wants to use the material.