Type: Aerophones > Flutes > Open > Ended.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 421.111.12
Region: Eastern Europe.
Description: Svirel [in Russian: свирель, Svirel] is an old folk Russian wind instrument of the end-blown flute type. Classification: Aerophone-Whistle Flute-recorder. In the Old Rus’ this instrument was made either of hollow reed or cylindrical wood branches. A legend says that Lel’, son of the Slavic goddess of love Lada was a svirel player.
In spring he would make his svirel of birch branches. The traditional Russian svirel has not yet been studied well enough. Specialists have long tried to relate the present day’s pipe instruments to their Old Russian names. Most often the chroniclers used three names for this type instruments: svirel, sopel (sopilka) and tsevnitsa.
History: Two such pipes were found during archeological excavations of the Old Novgorod in 1951-1962. One of them dating back to the late 11th century is 22.5 cm [approximately 9 inches] in length and has four finger-holes. The second pipe dating to the early 15th century is 19 cm [approximately 7.5 inches] long and has only three holes. However, it is difficult to say whether the Old Russian svirel was a double or a single pipe: there is no data about this preserved.
The names of these similar instruments of the Russian, Ukrainians and Belarusians are often mixed. N. I. Privalov fixed the name svirel to the double pipe, because this is how the instrument was called in Smolensk region, the major area of its popularity. This being the case the single svirel came to be called sopel. Nowadays svirel is more and more often referred to the end-blown flute type instrument with a whistle device nested into its upper part.
Citations: Websites ; “Svirel”. The Metropolitan Museum of Art ; Svirel, Ancient Russian Pipe, www.russia-ic.com ;