Alexander Nikolayevich Afanasyev (11 July 1826 – 23 October 1871) was a Russian folklorist who recorded and published over 600 Russian folktales and fairytales, by far the largest folktale collection by any one man in the world.
His first collection was published in eight volumes from 1855–67, earning him the reputation of a Russian counterpart to the Brothers Grimm.
Prior to Afanasyev's works in the 1850s, only a few attempts had ever been made to record or study the folk beliefs of peasant Russia.
Though a written Russian language (Church Slavonic) had existed since the 10th century, it was used almost solely by the church and only for parochial written works. It was not until the 18th and 19th centuries that a sizable body of secular literature developed in the vernacular Russian.
Thus, Afanasyev's collections made a highly valuable contribution to the dissemination and legitimization of Russian culture and folk belief. The influence of these folk tales can be seen in the works of many writers and composers, notably Rimsky-Korsakov (Sadko, The Snow Maiden) and Stravinsky (The Firebird, Petrushka, and L'Histoire du Soldat).