Chastúshka or chastooshka (Russian: часту́шка), a type of traditional Russian folk poem, is a single quatrain in trochaic tetrameter with anabab, abcb or (less frequently) aabb rhyme scheme. (As an English-language example, the famous quatrain that begins "Lizzie Borden took an axe..." is also in trochaic tetrameter, and therefore could be considered analogous to a "chastushka.") Usually humorous, satirical, or ironic in nature, chastushkas are often put to music as well, usually with balalaika or accordion accompaniment. The rigid, short structure (and, to a lesser degree, the type of humor used) parallels the poetic genre of limericks in British culture. The name originates from the Russian word части́ть (chastít' ), meaning "to speak fast".
Chastuskas cover a very wide spectrum of topics, from lewd jokes to political satire, including such diverse themes as love songs and Communist propaganda. During Soviet times, the government even published large collections of "ideologically correct" chastushkas.
Sometimes several chastushkas occur in sequence to form a song. In fact, in Russian, this type of song is referred to as just the pluralчасту́шки, i.e. chastúshkas. After each chastuska, there is a full musical refrain without lyrics to give the listeners a chance to laugh without missing the next one. Originally chastushkas were a form of folk entertainment, not intended to be performed on stage. Often they are sung in turns by a group of people. Sometimes they are used as a medium for a back-and-forth mocking contest. Improvisation is highly valued during chastuska singing.
The last foot of a chastushka line is often a single stressed syllable rather than a full trochee, but no other structural variations are generally allowed. Due in part to this rigid structure, the tune used to sing them is standardized, but varies among different regions of Russia. A popular example is the tune of Яросла́вские ребя́та (Yaroslavskie Rebyata, The Yaroslavl Guys), the signature tune of the folkloric vocal band by that name. In fact, the Yaroslavl region has been famous for its chastushkas since long ago.