When most Russians hear the word “vargan” (few among them are actually familiar with it), they picture the exact same image – a Chukchi man shrouded in a blizzard fidgeting with a whale bone attached to his face, emitting a sound that zombifies them with its monotony. Then there are more informed people that know that a Jew's harp is an instrument that Yakuts play while you're supposed to dance around a fire pit dressed in shaman clothing to arouse the spirits or call for rain. There are other associations people have that are just as interesting which are tied to the north, but they are also quite far from reality. They were generated during Soviet times by different TV shows and mentions in cinematography and are now actively supported by the media. To the last type of viewers, life must be shown as something unusual, or even better – unexplainable and mystic. Meanwhile, the Jew's harp is practically the perfect candidate to fulfill that role. A minimum of historic facts gathered in particles in the form of random reminders and a total lack of serious research or scientific works form an endless circle when a subject loses recognizability – when stumbling upon the instrument or an image of it, not many people would recognize it – a “a clasp pin, a key, a part” .
Some amount of archeological finds dating back to the tenth century are still classified. Most of them are concentrated in the Veliky Novgorod region (XIV-XV Nobody can speak to any preservation of playing traditions or manufacture, although this is one of the first thoughts that comes to mind whenever somebody takes an interest in the instrument.
Of course, the existence itself of Jew's harps throughout many regions of the world, such as “Russian” and “Chinese” Jew's harps etc. would lead one to believe that these Jew's harps have characteristic regional features, but no such features exist. And if one could single out any particular “local” features in individual corners of the globe, then Russia would entail the completest salad of them on the planet, in the best sense of the word.
Speaking of the modern state of affairs, one must first and foremost note the incredibly boisterous development of craftsmen – over the past 5-10 years, the quantity as well as the quality of Jew's harps has steadily been on the rise. What seemed that it could not be done a few years ago is now the norm. Some craftsmen try to copy constructions that have deserved fame or are associated with particular regions. This comes down to copying appearance signs (first and foremost, the shape), which has nothing to do with how the instrument is actually played. Meanwhile, most take their own, unique path, presenting ever more completely different instruments that don’t resemble each other. For several years now, Russia has been the absolute world leader in the diversity, quantity, and quality of Jew's harps manufactured, revealing their potential anew to enthusiasts from all corners of the globe.