Zlydni (Злидні) is a Ukrainian short animated film from 2005. The title translates to “poverty,” though actually it refers to a mythological Slavic creature that is thought to bring misery and poverty into the home where it settles.

In Ukrainian and Belorusian mythology, zlydni are demonic creatures who settle in homes—they usually live behind the stove—or sit on people’s shoulders and bring misery with them. They are often depicted as women without eyes, tongues, or ears, who resemble snakes; in other iterations they look like mangy animals. The only way to get rid of them is to trick them into climbing into a bag, and then throwing them into a bog.

This may seem like a strange subject for a (supposedly) children’s film, but Slavic folklore is often a subject for animated series. This one was created by the so-called “genius of plasticine,” Stepan Koval, who also created 2002’s The #9 Tram Went By. The film tells the story of Hutsul couple Pyotr and Marichka and of what happens to them when the zlydni come to settle in their house. Interestingly, Pyotr and Marichka both speak Ukrainian, while the zlydni speak Russian. Like #9 TramZlydni was internationally praised and won a number of prizes at film festivals.

The film is part of the series Mountain of Gems (Гора самоцветов), which consists of more than 70 short films, each of which depicts an aspect of the folklore of the “Russian nations” (in the project’s own words). The project includes films about the folklore of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, the Hutsuls, Bashkir, Amur, and a variety of other nations—it’s a fantastic way to make your way into the world of Slavic and Slavic-adjacent mythology.


Director: Stepan Koval (Степан Коваль)
Voice actors: Yuriy Kovalenko (Юрій Коваленко), Irma Vitovska (Ірма Вітовська), Evgen Shakh (Євген Шах)


The official website for the Mountains of Gems project.

The full film:

Julie is currently studying Russian as a Second Language in Irkutsk (and before that, Bishkek) with SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholarship program, with the goal of someday having some sort of Russia/Eurasia-related career. She recently got her master’s degree from the University of Glasgow and the University of Tartu, where she studied women’s dissent in Soviet Russia. She also has a bachelor’s degree in literature from Yale. Some of her favorite Russian authors are Sorokin, Shishkin, Il’f and Petrov, and Akhmatova. In her spare time Julie cautiously practices martial arts, reads feminist websites, and taste-tests instant coffee for her blog.