of the Slavic Interest Group

Summer, AS XXXII (1997)

From the Nachalnik

Well, it's been a busy quarter for me. Yana and I got modernly married last month (remember that our SCA wedding is next year!) so things have been a bit chaotic around here, but I wanted to make a few notes to all of you.

For those members who will be coming to Pennic this year, there will be many activities of special interest to SIG members, but two are particularly important:

1) The Class (Researching Things Slavic) -- Monday, August 11, at 2pm in A&S Tent I. This will be the usual gathering- masquerading-as-a-class, our stealth recruitment tool. Drop in to show support and provide ideas while I run my annual brain-storm session. Also, hang around and be friendly to the new folks as I will have to leave right afterwards to make a mad dash down to Pittsburgh Airport to pick up Yana who is arriving on a 4pm flight that afternoon!

2) The Party (Slavic Festival) -- Wednesday, August 13th, at 7:30pm. This is the big show-and-tell festival that Mordak and company have been planning. Be sure to drop by. Yes, it conflicts with a dozen courts, other known world parties, and Midnight Madness, but then, what night doesn't? Read the following article by Mordak and Yana for more information.

The Polish timeline created by Lezsek z Szczytna has now been expanded further another century by Kythe Szubielka. The entire timeline is available at our website (, which you should check out in general if you have not dropped by in a while.

Finally, I want to thank Rowanna de Baylly for her financial contribution to SIG. I also want to thank this issue's contributors. Keep the stuff coming! Remember, the next deadline is October 1st.

Better SIG Living Through Noshing and Posing

By Mordak Sergeev syn Rostovskogo and Ilyana Ksen'ia Barsova

Once again a Pennsic season rolls around amid the frenzied preparations and the deafening din of overheating sewing machines, ringing hammers and mumbled curses. At this propitious moment, let us remind everyone that there is a new event at Pennsic this year. Because of the number of responses and questions about the activities, we thought it wise to refresh everyone's memories of the "thang." Due to an almost tragic lack of shame and self consciousness, Mordak will be MC-ing a brief showcase of everyone and their crafts before the mixer begins. Some refreshments and casual conversation among ourselves is next. Our aim is a low pressure get together with friends, old and new.

On another note, Mordak and his evil twin Anastasia Ivanova are setting up a web site with thumbnail picture capability to display Slavic arts and sciences. They will have a digital camera at the Slavic Fest so bring your garments and crafts (the period Russian wedding at next year's Pennsic will also be photographed)! The web site is being created in an effort to provide interested parties with a convenient place to browse through. Don't be shy, a picture takes only a second and speaks a thousand words to people who share our interests.

A note to all Russian personas. There are several Russian A&S classes being offered at Pennsic this year. Yelizaveta Medvedeva is teaching several classes on costuming, period Russian lifestyles, and traveling entertainers. Mordak and Anastasia are teaching an adjunct program to Yelizaveta's costuming class. Their class will deal with period decoration practices, accessories, and modern materials, as well as adaptations to achieve the look of late period Russia. Specialists in the Rus, Kievian and Tatar-Yoke periods are also welcome to participate in this two hour class. Good luck with your preparations and we will be looking for you at Pennsic!

Calling all Cossacks!!! (kozaks, kazaks, etc...)

From Sofron Havrylovych Trakhtemyrivs'kyj

Some of my fellow kozaks and I are trying to organize some sort of gathering at this year's Pennsic. We may meet in someone's camp, up by the Barn, or at the Slavic Festival on Wednesday night (see above). We'd like to know how many other kozaks are out there. If you are not a kozak but know someone who is please pass along this message. Please contact me at or call 216-351-6117 for more information.

New SCA Russian Alternative Titles

By Predslava Vydrina

[Editor's Note: The SCA allows people with non-English personas and names to use foreign translations of their titles used in the Society. The official "alternative titles" are listed by the Laurel Sovereign of Arms but these were designed many years ago and several folks have complained about the selection of Russian titles listed for use. Our own Predslava has created a new list which the Laurel Sovereign of Arms has distributed to members of the College of Arms. In September Laurel will rule whether to adopt these proposed alternative titles. As this is an issue which will affect many of you directly, I am distributing the proposed list for your consideration. If you have comments, please be certain to contact the Laurel Sovereign (Jaelle of Armida, Judy Gerjuoy, 600 Cedar St NW, Washington DC 20012, 202-726-4396, prior to September 1st. In the interest of saving space, I have deleted Predslava's commentary in which she defends each of her choices. For a complete copy of this proposal or if you have questions, contact her or myself.]

I would like to offer a new list of Russian alternate titles based on period usage and terminology. First, I would like to point out that the titles on the present list did not come into use until the XVIII century when Peter I reorganized the Russian system of ranks after Western models (specifically -- German). The only occurrences in period of some of these [present] titles refer to Western nobles, and as such have no significance within the Russian social structure.

King ............................................Tsar
Queen ..........................................Tsaritsa
Prince (reigning) ..........................Velikii Kniaz
Prince (heir to a Kingdom) ...........Tsarevich
Princess (reigning) .......................Velikaia Kniaginia
Princess (heiress to a Kingdom)....Tsarevna
Duke ...........................................Kniaz
Duchess ......................................Kniaginia
Count ..........................................Kniaz
Countess .....................................Kniaginia
Viscount .....................................Kniaz
Viscountess ................................Kniaginia
Master ........................................Master
Mistress ......................................Master
Knight ........................................Rytser or Ritor
Sir ..............................................--
Baron (ruling) ............................Posadnik
Baron (court) ..............................Boiarin
Baroness (ruling) ........................Posadnitsa
Baroness (court) ..........................Boiarynia
Lord ............................................Boiarin
Lady ...........................................Boiarynia

Forms of Address -- The forms of address to be used in connection with the various alternate titles merit a note. The word "gospodin" ("sir," without the capital "S"), or its feminine form, "gospozha," can be used when addressing any person of equal or higher rank or to whom one wishes to show respect. It is often found in personal letters of medieval Russia. "Gosudar" ("lord") would be the most appropriate form of address for a "Tsar." The titles can be used in addressing a person (i.e., "Kniaz Ivan"). However the adjectives attached to some of them ("Velikii," "Starshii" or "Mladshii" and their feminine forms) would not be used when addressing the person, only when referring to them in an official manner. There are no equivalents to forms of address such as "your Majesty" or "your Excellency."

A Polish Maunch Induction Ceremony

By Jan Janowicz Bogdanski

At the beginning of last month, at the coronation of Their Oriental Majesties, Hanse and Moruadh, I was inducted into the Order of the Maunche, which is the East Kingdom's Order of High Merit for the Arts. Now, that in an of itself would not be of interest to the Group, but I believe the presentation would be. As I knelt before the thrones and the Order was coming into Court, the herald informed his Majesty that he could not read the scroll, for it was in Polish, and he did not read that -- but he knew of one who did. At that point they called into court Startzy Jan, who is my mundane father, and he read the scroll to the Court in Polish, after which the herald read a version in the common tongue. The scroll, which was executed by Mistress Aleksandra d'Accipter, is in the style of a 16th century Polish book of prayer, and is a thing of beauty. The text, a copy of which appears below, was translated by the landlord of Lady Isabeau d'Orleans -- my mundane sister. I hope the group finds the text of interest:

Sluchajcie wszyscy milosciwie panujacych nam Krola Hanse i Krolowej Moruadh wschodnich ziem, pragna wszem i w obec oglosic. Nasz prawdziwy i wierny sluga szlachcic Jan Janowicz Bogdanski uzdolniony w roznorodnych dziedzinach artystycznych jak: w kulinarstwie, chawtownichtwie i zbrojnictwie a przede wszystkim w kaligrafi i iliminacji, dal sie poznac jako osoba godna uznania. Odpowiadajac na zyczenie jego przyjaciol artystow, jak mozna wynagrodzic jego prace. Pragniemy w dniu dzisiejszym mianowac jego na Towarzysza naszego oredzia Maunche.

Zaswiadczamy o wyzej wymienionuch zaslugach i skladamy wlasnorecznie podpisy dnia 5 kwietnia 31 roku zalozenia Stowarzyszenia w czasie naszej koronacji w Bergental.

Novgorod Domestic Architecture

By Peotr Alexeivich Novgorodski

[Editor's Note: This article is taken from Peotr's forthcoming booklet, Life in Thirteenth Century Novgorod which will be on sale at Pennsic this year. It will be about 50 pages spiral bound, with a color cover and around 40 illustrations. It will sell for about $9.]

Novgorod the Great was a powerful trading city which prospered in Northern Russia throughout the Middle Ages. Most likely founded by Vikings and local Slavic tribes, it became a hub of trade between Northern Europe and the Byzantine and Arabic worlds. The city straddled the Volkov river and was built around a fortified hill. Aside from Novgorod's masonry churches, it was a city of log buildings and distinctive log-paved streets. With a population of nearly thirty thousand at its height, the city was filled with workshops. Products manufactured in Novgorod included metal tools, rough wood work and refined carvings, leatherwork, icons, musical instruments, and delicate enamel jewelry. Merchants and propertied classes had political power in democratic assembly. This assembly was powerful enough that it occasionally installed or deposed a ruling prince.

Novgorod was among the most fortunate of Russian towns in that it was never captured during the entire Middle Ages and even the Mongols never pillaged it. We, in turn, are fortunate to know so much about it. The waterlogged ground has preserved a remarkable trove of artifacts -- leather, wood, fabrics, grains, bones, and even documents written on birchbark. From these superb archeological findings (the Russians have been excavating for decades) and from period manuscripts, we have a clear record of what medieval life was really like. The following section from my booklet gives a tour of the typical home in that great city:

Approaching Novgorod the traveller passed extensive swamps, forests of oak, maple, birch, and pine, as well as open meadows. While major routes to the city followed the rivers, there were also roads through the woods. These forest paths were paved with split logs as they approached the city to raise them above the mud. The sojourner might smell wood smoke or hear the ring of the ubiquitous ax before seeing the town. Novgorod was a bustling city, crowded with people and their animals. The air was hazy from the smoke of myriad of stoves, and aromatic from the debris of wood cutting and carpentry and from animal and human dung. So great was the garbage and debris that new layers of logs had to be laid on the roads every decade or so to keep them from being buried.

Houses were entered through yards, which were bounded by stake fences. Typical city lots were approximately 50 feet by 100 feet, while rich landowner's properties were two to three times that size. Gates in the fences recessed five feet, which allowed them to swing out without blocking the road. Like other medieval cities people farmed within town. Yards often contained the family's animals: horses, cattle, sometimes pigs in stalls; small plots for vegetables; and cold storage pits for food. Novgorodians also kept dogs, sheep, oxen, ducks, doves, cranes, swans, hawks, and falcons.

Buildings, excepting the roofs, could be constructed almost solely with an ax. Other tools like adzes, chisels, and club- shaped rammers were of secondary importance in building, while saws were rare. Trees were cut in autumn or winter and dried in the forest. They would be transported overland by horse-drawn sleds in the winter or by raft in the summer. Typical homes were pine log cabins ten feet by fifteen feet which may have had two or three stories. Larger structures with wood walls up to 36 feet long have also been found. Constructed on log or plank platforms, builders followed with a box frame consisting of long straight pine or spruce logs with notched corners -- similar to the American log cabin, with moss-caulked joints. Novgorod was fortunate to have vast supplies of large straight timber so that a well-made cabin would be tight to the weather. In the south (in Kiev, for example), the Rus had to build underground or jacket their buildings with straw and plaster. In Novgorod houses could not be built underground, in any case, as the land was swampy and the water table high.

A modern historian described the North Russian house as "[a] spacious home, well built and warm and more often than not decorated on the outside with wood carvings." Entry passed through a porch and lobby, which reduced drafts and thence through a small raised door in the log wall. The flooring was of wood plank, with a raised clay stove diagonally opposite the entrance. Stoves were clay, dome-shaped and open at the top. They were used for both cooking and heating. There appear to have been no chimneys and the rooms would have been hot, stale and smoky in the winter. Similar arrangements can still be found in modern Nepal, where smoke and bad air induce a high incidence of lung disease. The rooms would have been dark as well -- windows were made of mica or oiled fish gut, glass being used only in churches and by the very wealthy. Animals may have been kept on that first floor with sleeping quarters upstairs, especially at the coldest time of year, an arrangement which would have made for the warmest possible nights. Ceilings were constructed of square timbers resting on massive perimeter and ridge beams. Buildings sported a variety of steep, angular roof types, including shed, pyramidic, and gable. Roofs were sheathed in slate or wood shingles and overhung the buildings substantially. Later Russian wood architecture displays numeroud clever techniques for protecting the life of the timbers, such as very steep roofs to shed snow loads, large overhangs to protect walls, and filigreed shingle which accelerated snow melt and guided drainage. These details have allowed some buildings to survive more than 500 years. It is safe to assume that the Medieval Rus were skilled wood workers and also found numerous ways to create strong, handsome, and long-lived structures.

Homes were well-furnished with carved wood furniture. Benches, tables, chests, cradles, sleeping bunks, sideboards, boxes, racks, and wall hooks have been found by archeologists. Ornamental carving decorated homes, while treatment of porches displayed skills and wealth to neighbors. Fragments of furniture and wall hooks excavated were found decorated with carved bird and animal forms. We can speculate that heraldic animals, knotwork and other decoration found also on stone buildings of the period were common features of Russian wood architecture.

Besides homes, workshops and storage buildings are found throughout the city. Workshop buildings are identified by having stones sited at the center of the room and by the variety of debris throughout. Storerooms are identified from buildings that lacked stoves. These structures served as the first residences of newlyweds, which they lived in before constructing their own homes.

The story of archeology in Novgorod is amazing. Children's toys, school exercises, and a love letter on birch bark have come to light. The workshop of a twelfth century icon painter has been unearthed, with enough information that scholars believe they can identify which artworks he authored. To find out more about this topic try some of the wonderful primary sources (in English, no less!). Two archeology books I recommend are:

In addition, you can read Russian and Novgorodian period accounts in their chronicles:

Vlad Tepes: Patriot or Madman?

By Mordak Sergeev syn Rostovskogo

A famous actor once said "the difference between ecstatic vision and madness is all too brief". Many people believe that this sentiment is all too apt for Vlad Dracula, referred to by his fellow countrymen as Vlad Tepes (Rumanian for "the Impaler"). Vlad and his brother Radu were the younger sons of Vlad Dracul, Prince of Wallachia and liegeman to the legendary Janos Hunyadi, vanquisher of Jan Zizka and his Waggonberg Rebellion in Bohemia. In a time of extraordinary social and armament change, these giants also contended with the menace of the age, a vital and rapidly expanding Ottoman Empire. The Hungarian Empire specifically formed an Order of the Dragon devoted to eradicating heretics and infidels in response to this threat. Border nobles like the Princes of Wallachia were inducted, entitling them to the patronym "Dracul" or Dragon to signify this honor.

Wallachia is a small area between the Transylvanian Mountains to the west and the Carpathian Mountains in the eastern portion, making it a funnel for Turkish invasion from the Southern Balkans into the wide Hungarian and Central European plains to the west and north. Buffeted between the competing superpowers of the Ottomans and the Hungarians, the princes of Wallachia often played a desperate game of subterfuge between either side just to survive. Circumstances often required ruthless action to be taken. It was one of these actions that formed Vlad Tepes personality and rapicious cruelty shown in the later actions which so horrified rulers in Western Europe. Vlad and his brother Radu were given as hostges to Sultan Memed II as surety of Vlad Dracul's good behavior and compliance to the terms of treaty forced upon him by the Turks. Thier older brother Mercia was allowed to stay with their father as the hier.

This hostage situation began when Vlad was 9 and Radu was 6 but did not stop their father from playing one side against the other. In the twelve years of their captivity, the brothers were exposed to the power politics of the Ottoman royal court. They witnessed intimidation and ruthless cruelty as practiced by the master himself, Memed II. The younger Radu immersed himself totally into the only culture he had ever remembered. The older Vlad remembered his Wallachian origins and in time, used his knowledge to secure his position with his own nobility, the boyars, and to turn back the Turks during several invasions. These ruthless tactics were the actions which so horrified the West and were the genesis of Bram Stoker's tales of a bloodthirsty demon. Scholars theorize that the widely read Ivan IV "the Terrible" of Russia (1530-1584) modeled many of his actions from written accounts of Vlad Dracula's methods. In truth, there are too many similarities to discount this theory without closer analysis.

In our modern world, his list of atrocities would have to begin after he had vanquished Hunyadi's lacky, Vladislav as prince of Wallachia. Hunyadi had defeated Vlad's father and brother in a puntive campaign for their political treaties with both sides. The Wallachian boyars had captured Mercia in the central Wallachian city of Tirgoviske and buried him alive after severely torturing him. Vlad invited all of the boyars to a great feast to celebrate his victory and then sealed them into his palace using his personal bodyguard, the Sluji, and asked them how many rulers Wallachia had had in thier lifetimes. None could remember less that seven. Vlad had previously exhumed his brother Mercia's body to confirm the reports of his horrible death, so now the stage was set for his revenge. He had several hundred mansized stakes erected outside his castle and impaled each of the several hundred boyars in his control, breaking the power of the old nobility and securing his own by elevating peasants, called the Vetiji, into the nobility with loyalty ties only to him. The powerful Bohemian merchants and German colonists in southern Transylvania were next. And thus he secured his hold on power and incited the stories circulated in the courts of the West. This also became the standard punishment for all major crimes in Wallachia from simple theft and adultry to treason. When questioned about his methods by western visitors, he would often ask them "Does crime exist in Wallachia? Can your realm say the same?"

The Turks also experienced Vlad Tepes's fanatical zeal and homicidal genius in using fear and horror in his defense of Wallachia. During one invasion, the Sultan's representative plotted to assassinate him at a parley but word of the plan was leaked. Posing as Turks, Vlad and his men captured the castle and Turkish contingent. They suffered the typical trademark execution with the representative, Hamza Pasha, being given the tallest stake in deference to his rank. Vlad and his troops then fought a guerilla campaign of ambush and hit-and-run raids against the vast Turkish invasion force, but to no avail. His retreating forces left total devastation behind them, denying the Turkish host any staples or shelter. When Memed II arrived before Tirgoviste, a soul-wrenching site awaited him. In a mile-long ditch outside the town, a forest of stakes held 20,000 victims of Vlad's atrocities. The Turkish Sultan turned back and retreated from Wallachia, despite the heavy casualties suffered on the trip there. The master had been mastered. Vlad Tepes went on to more atrocities and a lengthly 12 year imprisonment under the rule of Matthew Corvinus, successor of Hunyadi, in his royal court at Buda. He married into the Hungarian royal family and renounced Greek Orthodoxy in favor of Roman Orthodoxy. Such converts were said to become vampires after death in Wallachia. In the end, he returned to Wallachia as the Prince for a short while before being ambushed while traveling with a small contingent of his Sluji bodyguard. His mutilated and headless body was later found in a swamp, the traditional method of killing a vampire in period Wallachia.

Was he a national hero as maintained in modern Romania or a deeply psychotic madman? The truth is often somewhere in the middle and is often much more horrifying than any legends possibly could be. In truth, he did achieve his goals of secured power and a Wallachia free of Turkish influence (at least during his reigns). Many would argue that he paid a steep price though -- his humanity, integrity and soul. From the strictly opaque eye of history a sanitized Vlad Tepes, Prince of Wallachia and member of the Order of the Dragon, emerges victorious through the use of horror and politics. Up close, hearing and seeing all the sounds, sights and smells of his victory, I am not so sure. Are you?

Those Darned Tolkienists!

By Paul Wickenden of Thanet

The April 10, 1997 issue of Pravda-5 (the official rag of those ever-so-liberal Russian Communist Party) included a recent article about youth gangs in Moscow. The article's author ran down a list of various "despicable" youth groups (punks, skinheads, freaks, etc.) but she reserved especial condemnation for the "Tolkienists":

"The Tolkienists are beings from Planet Earth, but they seem to be from a different century. Their long, hooded cloaks and swords hanging on belts at their waists make you think you're seeing some sort of medieval knight who has somehow landed in the 20th century.

"The Tolkienists live in their own, special little fairy-tale world. On Thursdays they go to Neskuchny Gardens, and on Saturdays to Tsaritsyno. People who join them may become elves or kings; they may go to a stadium and try out their sword-fighting skills, imagining themselves to be Duncan MacLeod. It's a game in which each person chooses for himself the role of knight, evil sorcerer or something else. The Tolkienists live in a fairy tale, sometimes not wanting to live in the real world at all...."

Freaking the communists, freaking the communists....

Not Recommended Sources

By Kythe Szubielka

[Editor's Note: While the purpose of SIG is primarily to link people with resources, it is also useful to list sources that people should avoid. This month, Kythe gives us fair warning of a bad Polish source]

I recently had a friend give me a copy of "Art and Archaeology" by the Archaeological Institute of America, Vol XXV, #5 (May 1928).

This priceless (and by that I mean worthless), magazine focuses on art during Poland's past. It contains three lengthy articles concerning Poland's Past, Polish Painting, and Folk Art of Poland.

With the exception of a few leads concerning possible companies still in existence, this article is a poor resource for basing a personae or researching the past. It gives no dates for paintings, embroidery patterns, or events which are listed in the article. Furthermore there is no reference list concerning how they procured this information.

There are two pictures of the Krakow Castle, one of the Cloth Trading Facility and several paintings by Jan Matajko (a well known historian who lived in the 14th century and listed quite a bit of information concerning previous centuries).

Rather amusing to read but of no real value and I just wanted to warn people of this possible waste of research effort. Basically, don't repeat my mistake.

Printed Resources



Shaul ben Yisrael of Poznan' passes along the recipe for something called "Warsaw Death" (which he does not know where it came from): "Burgundy, cloves, honey (orange juice is optional -- we don't like it as strong) with a brandy (or everclear for bigger flame) soaked sugar cone burned on top of two crossed swords. The sugar cones can be made by taking granulated sugar and putting it into a bowl and dripping water into it and mixing it until it will hold its shape (we do it in small parcels -- two cups of sugar at a time)."


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: There is no subscription fee and copies of this quarterly Newsletter are available free of charge from the editor.

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