Balalaika - a symbol of Russia!

Who doesn't know balalaika? I'm sure you've heard of it! This music instrument has become one of Russian symbols, together with bears, vodka and caviar.

Its history goes way back. In fact, it has Jewish origins, and some historians claim it even comes from Asia! Now what's so Russian about that?? On the other hand, we love to borrow other people's ideas. Who else could beat Canadians in hockey??

To be honest, there ain't many people left who can play it. The only time I've seen someone actually playing it (apart from television), was at our friend's marriage. Now THAT was an experience!

The modern instrument was created back in 1880 by Vasiliy Vasilievich Andreev. This man standardized its "the look and feel", and made it what it is today. Think about it - more than 120 years of history only in its present form!

Who knows how old it really is?

Yes, the truth it's the thing of the past. You can easily find accordion player in Moscow and beyond, but that's pretty much it. You won't hear the familiar, charming music neither in city nor outside of it.

Balalaika concert. Courtesy of engmike8 at

The classic...

It's a pity. I'm not a culturologist, but there's something deeply Russian about it. Hard to explain, but when you hear that sound - you immediately think of Russia, and I'm not talking Moscow. The city is too civilized, too urban, too large.

The music of villages and peasants, of Russia that's no more is totally different! It's quiet and delicate, gently filling you with the essence of Russia - there's no like it!

Red Elvises Balalaika. Courtesy of monsterling at

...and the modern!

People consider this instrument as crude and common, but that's not true! I agree that simple folk used it a lot, including some bad guys. Doesn't mean it can't be an art, right?

Look how often it's used in performances in Moscow and abroad. The tradition still lives on the stage! Muscovites traded their balalaikas for guitars - that's our choice these days, but the spirit is surely alive!

By the way, I know at least one band that keeps the tradition. It's called "Red Elvises", and is absolutely wonderful. I loved them since the "Six-String Samurai" - the guys made a great soundtrack. They play unique electric balalaikas and make fun of all the cliches you could think of. Definitely worth to check them out!

A pity the song I like the most doesn't appear on their albums...

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