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A very popular modern Russian folk lyrical miniature or short song performed solo or by a chorus in a monothematic style.

Deriving from the Russian word chasto meaning "rapid," the chastushka is very simple in structure, usually consisting of four-line stanzas that are repetitively sung at a rapid tempo. It had its origins in simple and repetitive rhythmic peasant songs, usually based on folk sayings and proverbs and performed as overtures to dance music cycles. The advent of the balalaika (a two- and later three-string musical instrument) in the eighteenth century, which was mainly used to accompany dance performances, helped to crystallize the chastushka into a new musical genre sometime at the turn of the nineteenth century. From the mid-nineteenth century, the harmonica came to play an increasingly important role as an accompanying instrument and soon became the standard. Today, chastushki are of four main types: the four- and six-line lyrical, satirical (sometimes obscene), etc. accompanied choral songs; dance songs; paradoxical and fable sngs; and two-line "suffering" or lamentation songs. The satirical chastushki have been the most common, in large part because of their amusing and didactic nature as well as their use in expressing socio-political thoughts of the day. The growing social and political grievances, particularly after the Great Reforms of 1861 and industrialization, were commonly expressed in these chastushki that satirized the tsarist regime, the nobles, and the Church. In this way, the chastushka became a vehicle for venting the growing frustration of the peasants and industrial workers. Its peasant origins and simple structure made the chastushka a very attractive form of spreading Soviet propaganda and engineering a new "socially and politically conscious" Soviet citizen after the Revolutions of 1917.

See also: folk music

Roman K. Kovalev

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