Date of Completion


Thesis Type

College of Arts and Science Honors


Department of German and Russian

First Advisor

Kevin McKenna


Balalaika, Russia, Music, Folk, Instrument


The first form of the contemporary balalaika was standardized by Vasily Vasilievich Andreyev in the 1880’s. Soon thereafter, the six members of the balalaika family appeared in the “Great Russian Orchestra” founded by Andreyev. Since then, the balalaika has undoubtedly been considered a culturally Russian instrument. Today, however, the balalaika is also assumed as being an exclusively folk instrument. This study will present a case, demonstrating through ethnomusicological means, that the balalaika is not an exclusively folk oriented instrument, but rather an extremely adaptable and multifaceted instrument, fulfilling a wide variety of roles within music and Russian culture. The significance of this investigation is that it will describe how Russian music and culture inherently mirror one another, and can provide context for other ethnomusicological research.