The first thing of importance is to note that my address has changed. The new address is: Paul Goldschmidt, 755 Siemers, Platteville WI 53818. Phone and e-mail remain unchanged.
This past Fall I caught wind of an exchange on the Rialto between two of our members that started as a playful jest about my-people- conquering-your-people and, for a moment, seemed ready to degenerate into a brawl or a flame-fest. Fortunately, the whole thing blew over, apologies were made, and (to the best of my knowledge) wounds were healed, but it set me to thinking about the tricky relationship between the SCA and people's real lives. A majority of the members of this group enjoy Slavic heritage in their modern lives. A problem arises when the Game we play crosses into that mundane life. There are no Slavic peoples who do not fester some long-time animosity towards their neighbors. Bosnia-Hercegovina, the Transdniester region, and the Crimea, among other current hot spots, should serve as a sober reminder that some people still consider the past to be very much alive. Many of the things that we joke about hit too close to home for those who have relatives or friends living with the real threats of life over there.
And this musing brings two very different thoughts to my mind. One, the importance of being careful with our jests and humor. And two, the sheer miracle of having a group that supports and encourages all Slavic cultures. SIG is a panslavist's idea of paradise Ģ a place where we can explore common threads that tie all of the Slavic cultures (and their non-Slavic neighbors) together. I challenge all of you to look for these commonalities and not to simply reject others' activities as "that's Polish, and I do Hungarian" or "why can't we have a group just for Russian personae?!"
Finally, we are now up to a membership of 88 people and have grown exponentially in activity. The fruit of this growth is this much larger newsletter which features four articles written by our members. The downside is that increasing expense is forcing me to prune the mailing list. I have enclosed a corrections and confirmation form at the end of this Newsletter. Please fill this out and send it to me (or copy the information to me by e-mail) as soon as you can. Also, if you do not need to receive the newsletter in hard copy but would still like to be a member, now is your chance to indicate such. My special thanks to Leszek z Szczytna for his generous monetary contribution this month which is underwriting a portion of the expense of the mailing.
At last year's meeting, there was some talk about having a party instead of (or in addition to) the "class." Arrangements for this party seem to be being coordinated by Ilyana and Murdak. Murdak made the following additional suggestion: "Why don't we have a fashion show of Slavic crafts as well as costumes. It will showcase what's out there, who is doing what and streamline the presentations so that people can go straight for what interests them without wasting our limited time in a tent making small talk. I'll MC if you want and do the Bob Barker thing (only without the swimsuit part). Also, we could have a guest speaker call for interested parties in the next newsletter or even run a poll to see what people are interested in seeing."
So, what are people interested in? Send your comments and ideas to: Mordak Sergeev syn Rostovskogo (Tim Nalley, 2417 Indiana Ave, Columbus OH 43202; 614-268-3573; email@example.com).
By Nicolaa de Bracton
The canton of Eoforwic has researched and presented a number of limited-focus events during the six years that I have been a member. After forays into Iceland circa 992 and Venice circa 1472, three years ago our brand new Lord Mayor (to make a long story short, our canton elects a Lord Mayor each year to act as a ceremonial head and to sponsor projects) Vychata Igoravich expressed an interest in researching and presenting an event based on his persona's timeperiod: early Russia. The canton was intrigued. To a one, with the exception of Vychata, we knew absolutely nothing about early Russia, other than the fact that Vikings went there. Since we had previously done a Viking-age event, we figured that this research -- which had been collected into a booklet to help folks prepare for that event -- might at least give us a starting place.
Our approach to these limited period events is fairly simple: We pick a time, a place, and a reason for people to interact (for the Viking event, it was an Althing), usually involving controversy and conflict. We then researched a booklet to help people prepare well ahead of time, and held workshops and lectures to get people involved. We do not perform costume checks at the door or any such thing, believing that getting people into the spirit is far more important. The way to that is via education; hence the preparatory booklet -- a lot of work, but very worthwhile.
In my initial research, I discovered that Novgorod would be an ideal setting for the event. Vychata wanted Russian titles for the various "city officials" he had appointed as Mayor, and Novgorod turned out to be a goldmine for these. Eoforwic has always enjoyed playing "medieval city" as a group -- so what if we'd play a different kind of medieval city? Novgorod, like Eoforwic, had a "mayor", guilds, a city council, city officials, a militia -- everything lined up perfectly. This was very important -- I have found that for people to interact, it is best to base things on familiar concepts so that the interactions will be natural, not forced.
So -- Novgorod it would be. Now, we needed a good, old-fashioned conflict. This is also very important -- Eoforwic's second limited focus event had been a "marriage celebration" -- in which people had made very beautiful Italian Renaissance clothing, and then spent the day standing around, for the most part. No one got involved any deeper than that, with the one exception of a totally unplanned bit of schtick involving a pair of parents trying to "marry off" their daughter. The Viking event, on the other hand, had revolved around two cases brought before the lawspeaker at an Althing -- and so thoroughly had the participants prepared that when swords were drawn in the second case, many people thought it was really happening. There were few people at that event who did not get personally involved in one of the cases.
Research had shown that the succession to leadership over the Rus' was to this point quite a violent affair, with several members of the royal house vying for supremacy, often fighting until only one was left standing. This seemed to be a logical dispute to recreate. Since we had decided to set the event during the reign of Iaroslav "the Wise", the issue was to find such a dispute during that period. Most of the chronicles, however, are not terribly detailed. This led to a bit of creative extrapolation on my part: I invented a conflict between brothers: one was Vladimir, Iaroslav's "legitimate" son and eventual successor; the other was a purely fictional (but entirely probable) illegitimate son, also called Vladimir officially, who had been travelling with Viking merchants and traders. The crucial point in history would be Iaroslav's naming of "his son Vladimir" as Prince of Novgorod, and the approval of this by the veche, Novgorod's "city council". The legitimate Vladimir would draw on ties with Kiev, Byzantium, and Orthodox Christianity; the illegitimate son would draw on ties with the North, the Viking world, and paganism. The people attending the event would represent the officials and people of Novgorod or visitors who hoped to help sway the results. As literary accounts exist of disputes being settled on the Volkov bridge, the eventual end of this would be an SCA bridge battle between fighters allied with (or hired by) one Vladimir or the other. We would not determine who would "win" ahead of time; that would be entirely determined at how successful our two Vladimirs were at obtaining support. We also made arrangements for merchants to set up stalls, a trading game involving various "commodities" (in keeping with Novgorod's reputation as a trade centre), period tentage (as far as was possible), and a feast based on the information I was able to find on the period Rus' diet. Most importantly, I edited (and mostly wrote) a preparatory handbook with articles on culture, history, music, armour, costume, law, religion, names, foods, and a bibliography to help people prepare for the event. I, a doctoral student in history (primarily medieval English history -- so while I know Latin, I don't read Russian or any Slavic language, unfortuately), had not found the resources in English exactly plentiful -- and if I was having problems, one could imagine the difficulty someone without access to a good university library might have. This seems to be one of the perennial difficulties in Slavic studies; Toronto is luckier than most places, since we have very strong Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish communties, to mention only the three largest; these communities have endowed chairs at the University of Toronto, which means that the library resources are better than average. But I would likely not have to re-invent the wheel now that we have a Slavic Studies group within the SCA.
The event was marred by rain, which kept attendance down somewhat; there were about 80 people in attendance, including the Prince and Princess of Ealdormere (who were easily slotted into a role as higher nobility from some neighboring land who hoped to have some influence in the decision). There was also the fact that the event was scheduled on the weekend between two major camping events. However, all those who attended, including fifteen or sixteen fighters, had a wonderful time. The two men picked to play the two Vladimirs took those roles and ran with them, which meant that there was little contrivance involved. The gentle I had found to play the archbishop of Novgorod cut an impressive figure with his booming voice and patronage of the legitimate Vladimir. There was an attempted assasination, and a lot of "bribery". In the end, Iaroslav's legitimate son proved a far better diplomat than his half-brother; although they each had about the same number of fighters won to their side, the legitimate Vladimir managed to get most of the more experienced fighters. After the bridge battle (best two out of three), the fighters stayed around to spar with each other. I should also mention that quite a lot of people at the event took the trouble to make early Russian clothing especially for it, and to adopt Russian names for the day. In fact, two very good friends had both, for some strange reason, arrived independently, at the same name; in a quick shuffle, one stayed Sviatoslav Evgenyvich and the other changed to Evgeny Sviatoslavich; we never did find out who was who's father. (Both guys were modernly named Dave, incidentally).
What would I do if I did it over again? First, I would schedule the event more than a year in advance. We were hindered by the fact that the site we had wanted (the one used for our Icelandic Althing two years before) seemed to be staffed by inept people who constantly forgot to return phone calls; we finally gave up on them three months before and went with an alternate site which actually turned out to be quite suitable. When we finally got the arrangements completed, there was precious little time left to find and inform folks who might have driven hundreds of miles to such an event. Furthermore, we had picked Novgorod specifically because of its cosmopolitan nature, but later feedback from people who did not come told us that many had mistakenly thought that their Viking, Arabic, Byzantine, or Western persona would be out of place. The event did lose money, but otherwise was an unqualified success, Mother Nature notwithstanding. I also might have tried to build on the success of our Althing and arranged the hearing of legal cases based on Iaroslav's laws.
What's remained from the event is the research booklet I assembled. I still have a few copies of it around for sale for $5.50 (postage included); contact me at Susan Carroll-Clark, 611-53 Thorncliffe Park Dr, Toronto ON M4H 1L1, Canada; firstname.lastname@example.org. The section on costume could probably use some updating now that I have access to more sources, and the section on names is not particularly good, having been written in the bad old days before Paul Wickenden of Thanet's treatise on Russian names came along. The food section is very basic -- I don't claim any particular expertise in this field, and I couldn't find anyone at the time who knew much beyond how to make borscht. The sections on history, religion, and social structure are by far the booklet's strength in my own opinion. The majority of these articles are also included in the Florilegium Bractoniensis, which is a collection of almost everything I've ever written for the SCA; this volume costs $13 (postage included); once again, e-mail me if you are interested.
The end result of this project is that I have a permanently split personality, although the Russian persona (now known as Nika Sergeyvna, Nika being as close as I could get to Nicolaa in Russian) I developed for the event has moved forward a couple of hundred years so as to be contemporary with my English persona in 1243; I am just now starting to do more research on this new period.
By Murdak Sergeev syn Rostovskogo
My research has been mostly involved with 16th century Russia and Lithuania where pearling and metallic thread played a significant role in fancy decoration. In these cultures, augmentation of an existant design in the fabric is the usual formula for these materials. The Baltic trading cities in Lithuania adopted a more Western approach that heavily relied on metallic thread and the satin stitch to completely cover a design to achieve the effect of a metallic rendering of the object, be it a plant, figurine or repeating pattern already existant in the fabric. Pearls were rarely used in more than a secondary role of sparse highlighting of the dominant metallic figure. This is most prevalent in women's headress including the kokoshnik and scarf. For men and women, gloves, necklines, and borders where usually decorated by laying out a floral or vine pattern on the cloth of the garments. This was achieved by pinning it in place and stitching it down with a single strand of the white or light- colored thread, often referred to as "laidwork" for obvious reasons.
With Russians, the use of large Baltic pearls were reserved for only the richest strata of society like the Royal family and their close associates by the mere outrageous cost of the items. Everywhere else, the smaller river pearls were used in great abundance by the nobility and wealthy merchants (2-3.5 mm). I tend to buy strung freshwater pearls in bulk and whipstitch them down between each pearl along the whole string. For floral designs, the stem and the outline of the "petal" should be pearled on this fashion with the interior and any leaves highlighted using laidwork metallic thread, silk or wool. Many collars, hats and outer garments show this use of pearls and laidwork in this fashion on silk, brocade or cut velvet fabric. Contrast is also a very central element to this style. The use of laidwork geometric designs in a contrasting color on edging fabric of the garment was common and often covered all the exposed seams on the outside of a court costume as well. Men's outer coats often show the use of 2" wide bands at cuffs sleeve-body juncture and hem in both geometric and floral designs, often augmented with pearls.
I am currently still in the experimental stages of this technique myself so this is a developing study even as we speak. Moscow was looted by the Poles in the first decade of the 17th century so most source material traveled west as booty during this period. As a result, the great majority of garments available were of the 17th century and are often the only existant archeological specimens of "period" garments. So beware, check your sources and be ready to alter your conclusions if necessary, I am.
By Tom Kazmierski
Maria Ludwika (Louisa) de Gonzaga, the Princess of Mantua, Montferratu and Nevers (born 1611 died 1667) was the second wife of Wladyslaw IV Vasa (Ladislaus), King of Poland from 1632 to 1648 and the wife of Wladyslaw's step-brother, Jan II Kazimierz Vasa (John Casimir), King of Poland from 1648 to 1668.
Wladyslaw's first wife, Cecylia Renata died on 23 March 1644 after giving a still birth. The Chancellor Jerzy Ossolinski and other Senators were favorable to the idea that the King should marry Maria Louisa, a daughter of the famous Prince de Nevers, Charles de Gonzaga who was actively working against the Ottoman Empire and tried to organize a Christian-led anti-Turkish uprising. The ancient Italian family of de Gonzaga was related to the dynasty of Palaeologus who ruled the Eastern Roman Empire from 1261 to its collapse in 1453.
Wladyslaw and his bride first met on 10 March 1646 in Warsaw. Wladyslaw was 51 years old and Louisa -- 34. Wladyslaw, stricken by illness, sat in a chair in front of St John's Cathedral when Louisa was introduced to him. "Is this supposed to be the extraordinary beauty you were telling me so much about?" the King remarked rudely to the French ambassador, de Bregy. Fortunately, the Chancellor's speech made up for this blunder. "The Polish Crown will add new splendor to your magnificent family, which carries the last drop of blood from the great Palaeologus dynasty", said Ossolinski.
Maria Ludwika turned out to be ambitious and energetic. She took part in the political life, supported the alliance with France andjoined the King's party lobbying for vivente rege. Vivente rege was a proposal to reform the royal election system such that the next King would be elected while the currently reigning monarch was still alive. The idea of vivente rege had never won any significant support. On one occasion, some 130 years earlier, Zygmunt II August (Sigismund II August) was elected in 1529, that is 19 years before the death of his father, Zygmunt I Stary (Sigismund I the Old). However, all Jagiellon elections in the 15th and 16th century were no more than a formality. It was always necessary to elect the oldest son of the previous King in order to maintain the union with Lithuania, where the throne had been hereditary until 1569.
Wladyslaw IV died two years after the wedding, in 1648, amidst the bloody rage of Chmielnicki's Uprising. The election Sejm gathered in late Autumn and was almost unanimous in agreeing that the Crown of Rzeczpospolita should be passed on to Wladyslaw's eldest step brother, who also agreed to marry the royal Widow. The election result was announced on 20 November 1648 and, in accordance with the old custom, crowds of nobility kneeled in the snow and sang Hymn "Te Deus Laudamus" ("We praise you, God").
Jan II Kazimierz Vasa had the reputation of an extravagant dandy. The Senate, in its wisdom, saw it fit to ask the new King for an oath of loyalty to Rzeczpospolita. This was a minor constitutional novelty. When Lukasz Opalinski, the Great Marshall of the Crown asked Jan Kazimierz to kneel for the oath, the King raised his brows and asked: "Why? Do you not, gentlemen yourselves stand, when you vow faithfulness to your wives?". Witty Opalinski replied quickly: "Yes, but then we are much too often unfaithful to them".
Jan Kazimierz's coronation took place in January 1649 and his wedding with Maria Ludwika on May 31 of that year. Contrary to his wife, Jan II was extremely unpopular and on numerous occasions pointedly snubbed by the Sejm. For the next two decades, the reigns of royal power were held firmly by the hands of Maria Ludwika.
Between 1648 and 1668, Rzeczpospolita had to weather the most destructive wars in her entire 1000-year history, second only to the German Nazi and Soviet Communist human genocide and material losses of the 20th century. Chmielnicki's uprising resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands. No fortress escaped destruction or church was left intact during the ensuing Swedish Deluge of 1655. Neither the fortified monastery of Jasna Gora in Czestochowa nor the well-fortified town of Zamosc was conquered bythe Swedes, not for lack of their trying. Both towns withstood rough sieges during the Swedish invasion.
The Russian invasion of the eastern provinces in the same year was even worse. Many Lithuanian cities were ruined by fire and robbery. Vilnius, one of the two ancient capitals of Rzeczpospolita was burned and leveled, and its population was exterminated. Jasienica estimates that no less than 20,000 Christian and Jewish Vilnians lost their lives when the Muscovite troops entered the city. On that occasion, Warsaw, Vilnius' younger sister, was spared destruction but three hundred years later, in 1944, suffered exactly the same fate.
Queen Maria Ludwika de Gonzaga died in Warsaw on 10 May 1667. Very shortly, Jan Kazimierz announced his desire to abdicate. The formalities of abdication were carried out in the Sejm on 16 September 1668. The Deputies were so delighted, that they even refused to elect their Marshall (which was a necessary procedural step to validate any parliamentary session) until an assurance was given that Jan Kazimierz would leave Poland immediately.
Thus, the death of Maria Ludwika marked the end of the Vasa age in Poland or, as Jasienica put it, the age of Rzeczpospolita's atrium mortis ("the antechamber of death").
By Aleksandr Ruslanovich Yevsha
Dobrinya! Russian mythology, like Russian politics, geography, or even cooking, is a hodgepodge of intersecting cultures and traditions. As with many pre-medieval cultures, the Russians revered a polytheistic pantheon, a group of gods, in this case seven or more. These gods were discarded during the period from about 900 A.D. to 1000 A.D. Paganism began to decline dramatically with the baptism of the Empress Olga in 955, around the venerable age of sixty-five (the year of Olga's birth isn't known exactly, but she is believed to be born around 890 A.D.). There is evidence of a large native Christian population in Russia even before this: the treaty between the Rus and Byzantines ten years before Olga's baptism, refers to both "Pagan Rus" and "Christian Rus." Paganism enjoyed a brief resurgence when the pagan "political party," led by Olga's son Sviatoslav, assumed full power in Kiev for a tumultuous reign that lasted ten years, from 962A.D.-972 A.D. However, this died when Sviatoslav died, betrayed by his Byzantine allies who were prohibited by treaty from attacking him themselves. Sviatoslav was killed while returning home through the territory of the Patzinaks, a nomadic tribe. Forewarned by the Byzantines, the nomads set upon the treasure-laden but poorly defended royal train. Most of the Russians, including the king, were killed (incidentally, legend has it that Kuria, the Patzinak prince, had Sviatoslav's skull gilded and turned into a wine bowl).
Another difficulty encountered when trying to research early Russian mythology is the lack of written records. The development of the Glagolithic alphabet (the precursor of Cyrillic, the Russian alphabet) predates the decline of paganism by less than 100 years. When Prince Vladimir finally made Orthodox Christianity the mandated state religion in 988 A.D., there just hadn't been time for a large body of pagan literature to develop. Paganism wasn't abolished in Russia. It survived side by side with Christianity for a few hundred years. It's mostly through the writings of Christian scholars that any knowledge of pagan Russia has survived at all.
Many of the Russian gods had multiple aspects. Thus, Perun is god of thunder and war, Svantovit was god of the Sun and of harvest, and Stribog ruled wind, wealth, first love, and war. Notably absent from the Russian pantheon are any goddesses. Some scholars have tried to equate the life-force Mokoshi (also called "Siva") with the Greek Gaea or the western "Mother Earth," but Mokoshi (which loosely translates as "damp") wasn't truly part of the organized religion. There are also no real Earth or Water gods among the deities, although there are a variety of lesser figures associated with water.
1) Perun -- Although the ancient Russians had at least five gods associated with the sun, all sources agree that Perun ("Striker") was chief among all the gods at the end of the pagan period. Perun is an old man with a long beard, a halo of fire, and a weapon in each hand: an ax in one, a hammer in the other. Perun was god of honor and storms. Oaths were sworn to him to seal treaties, and people prayed to him to keep his pet, the lightning, far away. The cult of Perun persisted, albeit secretly, well into the 12th century, long after the conversion of Russia. Even today Perun lives in modern Russian: "Kooda edeesh do Peromom?" translates best as "Where are you going, for Perun's sake?", the equivalent of "For Pete's sake" in modern English.
2) Svarog -- If Perun was god of the storm, than Svarog was the god of the elements, especially the sky. Little is known about this oldest of Russian gods, whom is first mentioned in the 6th century A.D. His name means "brightness" in Sanskrit, but the two elements of his name (svyet=light + rog=round) clearly show his association with the Sun. He is the father of Dazhbog (another god of the Sun, he was also a fertility god, similar to the Greek Apollo) and Svarozhich (see below). Other major Sun gods included Triglav, the three-headed god of the past, present, and future, and Svantovit, a near omnipotent and omnipresent god, similar in many respects to the Judeo-Christian god.
3) Svarozhich -- Even more important -- and more dangerous -- than the Sun, which man could not control, was fire, which he could at least hope to control. Svarozhich was the lord of the hearth and flames. Unlike the sun gods, who were worshipped in temples, Svarozhich lived in the oast-houses. Oast-houses were storehouses where grain and corn dried over a fire set in a deep pit before threshing. Offerings were often burned in the pit and it was considered extremely bad luck to spit into a fire.
4) Stribog -- The wind god played many parts in the Russian myths. His winds ferried the dead from the realm of the living, and he was god of gossip and knowledge. He is also responsible for a young girl's transition into womanhood. Most importantly, Stribog protected the Russian people from the Sun and the Frost. In the legend, when a peasant had offended both the Sun and Frost, Stribog protected him, blowing cool when the Sun was hot and blowing warm when the Frost was cold. Stribog had four sons, each of the cardinal winds, and dozens of daughters, who were seasonal winds.
5) Veles -- Veles was god of harvest, of grain, and of cattle, and, by extension, god of merchants. A treaty between the Russians and the Greeks signed in 971 A.D. refers to Veles as "god of flocks." Unfortunately, most of the traditions and legends of Veles have become so entangled with the canon of St. Blasius, that it is no longer possible to know where one ends and the other begins.
By Paul Wickenden of Thanet
The December 5, 1996 edition of Saint Peterburg's newspaper Chas Pik [Rush Hour] featured an article on a Russian medieval reenactment society called the Kniazheskaia druzhina [Prince's Guard]. Reporter Aleksandr Polishchuk caught up with the group while they were doing a fighter demo at the Kosmanavt Rock Club in support of a punk rock/nationalist/fascist rally [!].
Leader Andrei Zimin described his organization as a "combat- historical association" and in fact steel fighting is all they do: "When I put on armor and take a sword in my hand, I feel like a warrior. Not at all like putting on khaki...." The fighting is unchoreographed and relies upon a full-contact honor-system which sounds very much like our own (although with much greater danger since they fight with real weapons and wear authentic chain armor (no extra padding!). The group limits their reenactment to the epoch from Riurik (9th century) to Kulikov (14th century). As one could expect, the group is mostly male (they have one woman fighter) although women are invited to don garb and serve as spectators at their tournaments. Persona development and arts and sciences (beyond armoring and smithing) do not appear to be well-developed (but then, the reporter only spoke to a sword jock!).
While they do not appear to have any large-scale events of their own yet, the Druzhina has attended a large event for historical reenactors in France.
Standard Disclaimer Stuff: Most of us are members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc (SCA) but our Interest Group and its newsletter are not officially affiliated with the SCA. Naturally, then, this Newsletter does not bear any intentional resemblance to anything that the SCA officially endorses.
The original authors retain the rights to their works. Please contact them directly for permission to reprint. Uncredited material is the property of the publisher.
The publisher and editor is Paul Wickenden of Thanet (Paul Goldschmidt), 755 Siemers, Platteville WI 53818, 608-348-6209, e-mail: email@example.com. There is no subscription fee and copies of this irregularly-produced Newsletter are available free of charge from the editor.