RUSSIA and Ukraine have become embroiled in a row over folklore, with both countries claiming the same fairytale characters as their own. The dispute erupted after a Russian organisation published "a fairytale map of Russia" with a view to marketing themed tours.
It described 17 towns as the homes of more than 20 characters, all well loved by Russian speakers across the former Soviet Union.
But a Ukrainian agency which published a similar map of Ukraine said at least three of the "Russian" characters were Ukrainian and accused the Russians of stealing their heritage.
"Unfortunately, folkloric heritage is not regulated by international norms or by intellectual property rights," said Marina Primenko, the creator of the Ukrainian map.
"Therefore we can only express our regret that our Russian colleagues consider Ukrainian fairytale heroes to be their own."
The disputed characters include a medieval knight called Ilya Muromets, known for superhuman strength; Speckled Hen, a creature that miraculously lays golden eggs; and Kolobok, a cheerful talking cake who flees animals who want to eat him.
The creator of the Russian map dismissed the complaints as "stupidity".
"All three heroes firmly belong on our fairytale map and are not going anywhere," said Alexei Kozlovsky of the Association of Russian Communities.
"Regional experts and mythology researchers worked on our map," he said.
The dispute is the latest but least serious in a string of disagreements between the neighbours, following squabbles over gas, borders, and Russia's right to keep its Black Sea fleet in Crimea. (© Daily Telegraph, London)