Russian folk music dates back as far as the 1st millennium in the form of songs. There were no musical instruments at this time. Slavic tribes, known for their love of music settled in Russia and their songs told the history of the tribe, described the landscape, and the characters of their folk heroes. Ritual songs included incantations for weather, crops, weddings and funerals.
In the 11th century, musical instruments began to be incorporated into folk music, with the most popular being stringed instruments such as the gusli or gudok (woodzither). Archaeologists have uncovered examples of these instruments in the Novgorod region.
In the Muscovy period (late Middle Ages and the precursor of the Tsars), two major genres of music began to diverge: folk music which was used for entertainment and the sacred music of the Orthodox Church. Sacred music drew from the tradition from the Byzantine Empire and was characterised by bell ringing and choral singing. Musical instruments were forbidden in the Orthodox church.
Beginning in the reign of Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible 1547 - 1584), the Imperial Court began to witness a transformation of the country from a medieval state into an empire headed by a Tsar. Western composers and musicians were invited to perform and their music was celebrated. Then in 1648, Tsar Alexis I banned all musical instruments as he believed they were from the devil!