The theory of «basic myth» as a structural method in the study of ancient pagan and Slavic mythology

  • O. V. Usenko Dnipropetrovsk National historical museum named after D.I. Yavornitsky
Keywords: structural analysis method, folklore, fairy tale, folk epic, the myth


The method of structural analysis of the Soviet Union was first used philologists, linguists V.V. Ivanov and V.N. Toporov for the study of ancient Russian mythology. It was developed by them in 60-70 years. Then it was tested in the study of Slavic mythology and the ancient Russian paganism. The name of this scientific approach it is the Theory of «basic myth. It has become something of a free zone from Marxist methodology. It was dominated in France. French structural anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss created this method. In Russian historiography there was the influence of the old «mythological» school (A.N Afanas’ev etc.). Thus, the authors of this theory draw huge source material – folklore (fairy tales, myths, legends, proverbs, signs), epic, Vedic hymns etc. «Basic myth» proposed by scientists, was the reconstruction that based on mythological reconstructions. The basis of the reconstruction was the story about struggle between snake and Peru. With this opposition correlate all others: light-dark, top-bottom and others. This «basic myth» has been designed by researchers based on a comparison of the Vedic myth of the fight of Indra with Vritroyu, Baltic mythology and stories about Perkunas and Velnyase. Authors identified the snake-demon Vrytra with Valo and then with Veles (Volos). It was antagonist of Thunder (Perun). The authors of this theory considered that «basic myth» was the basis for the mythology of Indo-European population. The «basic myth» was reflected in East tales of struggle heroes of the dragon – the authors conducted a parallel between Ilya Muromets, Ilya the Prophet and between Perun and Veles and Gorynych-Snake. The author of the article presents the situation historiographical discourse emerged against the background of the existence of the theory of «basic myth», presented by followers’ motivations of and its opponents. The main feature of representatives of structural school is the concentration their attention to the level of philosophical generalizations. However, modern historiography has the tendency to deep and serious research the paganism in perspective. The paganism and the Slavic mythology may be considered as an integrated and ideological system. The author evaluated the impact of the theory of «basic myth» based on a structural method to modern historiography of ancient paganism and Slavic mythology. The author highlighted trends of contemporary historiography of studying this subject.


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How to Cite
Usenko, O. (2016). The theory of «basic myth» as a structural method in the study of ancient pagan and Slavic mythology. Grani, 19(6), 80-87.