Alexander Nikolayevich Afanasyev (Russian: Александр Николаевич Афанасьев) 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.
Born in 1826 in Boguchar, in Voronezh Governate, he grew up in Bobrov, becoming an early reader thanks to the library of his grandfather, a member of the Russian Bible Society. He was educated at the Voronezh gymnasium and from 1844-48 he studied law at the University of Moscow. Despite being a promising student, he did not become a professor, due largely to attacks upon his work by the conservative Minister of National Enlightenment, Count Sergey Uvarov.
Afanasyev worked for thirteen years at the Moscow's Main Archive Directorate under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Empire, during which time he also amassed a huge library and published numerous articles and reviews. In 1862 he was fired from his position, because of his association with philosopher Alexander Herzen. Jobless for a number of years thereafter, he sold his library in order to support his family, eventually finding work as a secretary at the Moscow City Duma and at the Moscow Congress of Justices of the Peace.
Afanasyev wrote a large theoretical work (three volumes of 700 pages each) – "The Poetic Outlook of Slavs about Nature" (Поэтические воззрения славян на природу) – which came out between 1865 and 1869. In 1870 his Русские детские сказки (Russian Children's Fairy Tales) were published. He died in poverty in 1871, at the age of forty-five.