of the Slavic Interest Groups

Spring, AS XXXII (1998)
Volume III, Issue 3 (#10)

From the Nachalnik

First off, we are moving. Our transition address is P.O. Box 259277, Madison WI 53725 but after May 1 Ilyana and I can be reached at: Paul Goldschmidt and Jennifer Miller, 802 Bowman Ave, Madison WI 53716.

I want to thank Birgit av Birkka for her generous donation of postage stamps (with which a large number of the paper copies of this Newsletter were sent) and Leszek z Szczytna for the cash that provided for the rest of the expenses.

Lord Wolfgang wants me to remind people that if they want to send materials to help the new SCA branch in Vladimir/Suzdal, Russia (see last issue for details), they should try to get their packages to Germany by mid May at the latest. He also said that there appears to be another branch forming in Poland (we'll keep our eyes on this one as well).

Some time ago Ilyana put out a call for suggestions for a name for the Newsletter. The best one we've come up with so far is Slovo (meaning "the word" in many Slavic languages). We were looking for a title that would have meaning to a variety of different cultures and languages in order to be as inclusive as possible. Now, we're looking for feedback. What do you think? Ilyana warns that if no one gives any input, she will be tempted to make up a mascot for the Group as well...she really likes hedgehogs.

Finally, I would like to call your attention to some important items in this quarter's Newsletter, including the announcement of a SIG listserv (for those of you with e-mail), news about Pennsic, and the (finally) approved Russian alternate title list.

New SIG Discussion Group

By Erik the Pale

[Editor's note: There has been rather steady interest in having an on-line discussion group for SIG. A few month's ago, Erik volunteered to set up such a group and now it is finally ready (and de-bugged). The information on how to join is provided below and is also available at /~erik/sig_list.html. Next issue, we hope to have an article about the group's first three months.]

List Charter: Anything relating to Slavic History, or anything Slavic as it pertains to the SCA is welcome here. This is intended as a discussion list, and as such may have high traffic. If you are worried about your mailbox being flooded, subscribe to the digest.

The following is NOT permitted on the list: Personal Flamewars; My Ethnic Group (is better, can kick your butt, etc); and UCE (unsolicited commercial email). On the last point I want to make something clear. You are not to use my resources to advertise your products/services, without my prior consent. I will go after you, and get your ISP to cancel your account, and several other nasty thing if you send UCE through my lists. That said, I'm more than willing to permit commercial posts, as long as they are not frequent in nature, you personally send me a copy before you post, AND I give you permission. My email is

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Wedding Update

By Ilyana Barsova and Mordak Sergeev syn Rostovskogo

After much thought, we have decided to postpone the wedding until Pennsic 1999. We're hoping that this delay will allow time for more people to get involved in the planning and preparation of the actual ceremony. As part of the restructuring, we have decided to have a betrothal (and dowry) celebration this year instead. We figure that the betrothal will be a good practice run for the wedding, allowing us to put on an authentic and well-organized wedding next year.

We plan to have the betrothal filmed and documented just like the wedding will be. The betrothal will occur at the (now) annual Slavic Festival. If you would like more details, please visit the Wedding and Betrothal homepage at Athens/Oracle/6376 or contact me by phone, email, or surface mail via our fearless Nachalnik.

Russian Alternate Title List

By Paul Wickenden of Thanet

At her March meeting, the Laurel Sovereign of Arms formally approved a complete revision of the alternate titles for use in the Society by Russian personaes. The list is a compromise worked out between myself, Predslava, and Mikhail (with input from a lot of you folks -- thanks!) and represents some really incredibly good research and documentation work from Mikhail and Predslava. While the result is not quite perfect, it is still better than what we had before and I proudly present it to you and encourage you to use these new titles:

King -- Tsar
Queen -- Tsaritsa
Prince -- Tsarevich
Princess -- Tsarevna
Duke -- Kniaz
Duchess -- Kniaginia
Count -- Kniaz
Countess -- Kniaginia
Viscount -- Kniaz
Viscountess -- Kniaginia
Master -- Master
Mistress -- Master
Knight -- Rytsar
Sir -- (None)
Baron -- Posadnik or Voevoda
Baroness -- Posadnitsa or Voevoda
Lord -- Pomestnik
Lady -- Pomestnitsa

A Princess's Life is Not All Tea and Crumpets

By Leszek z Szczecin

In the Middle Ages, treaties and alliances were often confirmed by the intermarriage of the royalty of the nations concerned. The status of the couple in their respective hierarchies indicated the importance of the agreement. I have seen very little examination of the likely influence exerted by the ladies married off to foreign houses in token of treaties but an interesting case in Slavic history is the marital "career" of Judyta (Judith) of Bavaria.

In 1046, Kazimierz Odnowiciel (the Restorer) of Poland supplied the troops for a coup d'etat in Hungary, replacing Peter Orseolo (the Venetian) with rival claimant Andras of the Arpad family. Andras and his brother, Bela, had been exiles in Poland for many years and had served Kazimierz well. Though Andras and Bela had originally agreed that Andras would rule and Bela would follow him, Andras made new alliances, and in 1056 declared his son, Salamon, heir to the throne. Bela fled to Poland.

Andras's alliance with the Holy Roman Empire included the marriage of his son, Salamon to Judyta of Bavaria, sister of Emperor Henry IV in 1056. Five years later (in 1061), one of the first acts of the new ruler of Poland, Boleslaw Smialy (the Bold) was to support the exile Bela in an overthrow of Andras to break Hungary's ties to the Imperial-Bohemian axis. Andras died in combat, and Salamon and Judyta fled to the Empire. Her brother supplied troops for a restoration campaign the next year which was unsuccessful, but if it's "Good to be the King," it's better to be the Emperor, and being the Emperor's sister is almost as good. Henry took personal charge of the second attempt in 1063 and put Salamon and Judyta back in command. Bela died and his family fled back to Poland. The next year, the Poles were back demanding that Bela's son, Geza be given the independent principality that Bela had held under Andras. Salamon's personal position was weak, and the Empire was embroiled in too many other conflicts to fight another war so soon, so Geza was repatriated.

Judyta and Salamon ruled in relative peace for ten years, but in 1074 with the Empire shackled by internal revolt, Boleslaw Smialy again moved to replace Salamon with a Polish ally. Polish troops supported Geza, and Salamon was once more a supplicant at his wife's court. This time Henry demanded that Salamon take a vassal's oath, lowering his status from ally to subject, in return for Imperial aid. The restoration campaign was a total loss. No further attempts were made until 1077 when Geza died. Salamon tried to retake Hungary with Bohemian troops, but Poland supported Geza's brother Lazlo and Salamon was thus defeated. Possibly, Salamon died in the campaign, or soon thereafter. In any event, his part in history ends, although Judyta's does not.

In 1079, Boleslaw Smialy was overthrown. Bohemia supported the rebels militarily and Henry IV attacked Hungary to keep Lazlo from aiding his benefactor. Boleslaw fled to Hungary where he was later assassinated. Though unable to regain her throne, Judyta finally saw the author of her many trials toppled and killed, and his nation reduced to a third-rate power by internal dissent. The Mozni [magnates or barons?] of Poland installed Boleslaw's brother Wladyslaw Herman as a puppet, and ended Poland's long struggle against the Germanic Empire. This slide into the Imperial sphere culminated in 1087 with the marriage of Wladyslaw Herman to the widowed Judyta of Bavaria! [Note: Wladyslaw's first wife was a Bohemian also named Judyta. This causes some confusion in the literature.]

This bizarre turn of fortune highlights the truth that the price of royal power and privilege is a sort of slavery to the Nation. It's hard to imagine how Judyta must have felt marrying Wladyslaw, considering Poland's role in her life and generations of conflict with the Empire. Did she personally desire to make Poland a loyal vassal state, or dream of death and flame from the Oder to Kiev?

This is one of the darker periods of Polish history, and this doubtless colors the chronicles, but they report that Wladyslaw was a weakling and that the main power was a magnate named Sieciech, who had been Wojewoda (Prime Minister) to Boleslaw, and one of the principals in his overthrow. It is said that Sieciech was very handsome and charismatic and that Judyta aided him in manipulating Wladyslaw. Though the Mozni chose Wladyslaw as a puppet, Sieciech and Judyta pulled the strings, probably with the eventual aim of supplanting the Piast line altogether. The chronicles of the monk Gallus Anonim (the "Anonymous Gall") indicate that Sieciech had control of the military, installed those loyal to him in high office, and eliminated all rivals including Boleslaw's son Mieszko, who was poisoned during a feast.

'He did many cruel and intolerable things. For no good reason he sold men into slavery; others he exiled from the country and elevated men of low rank above those nobly born.'

I lack any more definite information on Judyta after her marriage to Wladyslaw, but by 1092, matters in Poland had deteriorated until the Mozni, including Wladyslaw's own sons (by previous marriage, I am unaware of any children by Judyta), opposed Wladyslaw, and over the next ten years, forced him to divide power with his sons and exile Sieciech. During this time, Judyta was often in the all too familiar positions of fight and flight. Lazlo of Hungary supported the opposition out of anger over the death of his benefactor, Boleslaw, thus Judyta again faced the specter of exile at the hands of the Arpad family. Though Wladyslaw was never truly deposed as Salamon had been, he and Judyta were often driven from the capitol to gather support in loyal provinces. Likely her brother sent troops as he could spare them as well. If Judyta actively inflamed the internal divisions in Poland, she did more service to the Empire than thousands of soldiers could have. The Empire was in chaos and had no strength to spare in the east. A Poland united under Boleslaw Smialy, or Wladyslaw's son Boleslaw Krzywousty, could have changed the face of Europe. Instead, only the weakness of her enemies during the same period saved Poland from sure conquest.

Travel Amongst the Tartars

By Peotr Alexeivich Novgorodski

Know that by your own desire or by obligation you may come unto the camps of the Tartars. I wish by this letter to give advice which may preserve you from harm. I, Peotr Alexeivich have traveled to their tents, seen what occurs there, and returned safely. Heed my words.

Some monks have claimed that the Tartars are the tribes Gog and Magog loosed from the gates of hell, which is why they are called by that name. The Tartars, however, call themselves Mongols. They are men, though different enough from ourselves, but still, their customs though strange can be learned.

Learn well the laws of these people, for in their presence a single misstep can bring death. When you enter a Mongol camp you may be conducted between two fires. Allow this to be done, for it is their custom to protect them from evil and will do you no harm.

Their tents are round and called gers, and they hold them in special regard. Do not enter their tents uninvited. Take especial care when entering to step not on the threshold, nor touch the guys ropes, for the penalty for these acts is death. Touch not any campfire with a stick, and especially not with a knife, nor take meat from a cook pot with a knife, nor chop wood with ax near a fire. All of these acts are deemed to behead the fire and are therefore great sins.

If you are invited to sit in the tent, keep your face upturned, for to look down is to invite ill fortune.

Lean not on Mongol whips, which they use to lash their horses, nor touch their arrows with a whip, for these are both sins. Likewise, take not young birds from their nest, nor strike a horse with its bridle.

Do not make water in a Mongol tent, for to do so is death. Likewise for making water in a stream or lake or pond.

Mongol food is not good. They boil all their meats without salt. They commonly eat beef, mutton and horseflesh. These are good, but also they mix the clean and the unclean, eating wolves, foxes, dogs, carrion, animal afterbirths, mice and when necessary human flesh. Likewise they eat all manner of birds. They do not use napkins or tablecloths at dinner and so eat in excessive filth. They wash their platters rarely and very badly and the same applies to their spoons. Take caution then, for to spit out a morsel of food once it is put in the mouth is to invite immediate death.

Mongols are more given to great drunkenness than any other nation on earth. They may welcome you with drink of mead, but their own drink is a sour mare's milk. This they may drink for several days together. If you can stand it, drink with them, for it is a great honor. However, do not pour mare's milk on the ground, for this is a sin also.

Brothers, it takes great courage to travel amongst these people. Use your eyes, ears and wits. I wish you only good fortune and a safe return to your towns and homes.

[The above letter, written in persona, is based on the following first-hand accounts by travelers in the 1240s and 1250s: John of Pian de Carpine's Journey to Mongolia in 1246 and The Court of Batu Khan in 1253 from Medieval Russia, a Source Book. Ed. Basil Dmytryshyn (Hinsdale, IL: The Dryden Press, 1973) and Historia Tartarorium (the Tartar Relation) from R.A. Skelton, T.E. Marston, G.D. Painter. The Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965)]

Citizens of Brasov in the 14th and 15th Century (Part I)

Translated by Bogdan din Brasov

[Editor's note: The following, in installment, is a translation of a German work entitled, "Die Buerger von Kronstadt im 14. und 15. Jarhundert."]

Today, if you look upon the city from Zinne, a 300 meter high mountain that towers over Brasov, you are presented with a unique view of the ground-plans of medieval Brasov. One clearly recognizes that the city developed out of five "settlement centers" that lay near each other. The open spaces, which still lies between them today, separated the centers from one another. The oldest part of the city is the Upper Suburb, which originated from an early feudal Romanian settlement. The Upper Suburb lies in the narrow valleys to the south west of the later city center and is called Scheii Brasovului by the Romanians who left a large number of recognizable topographical names in this area which also assimilated strong Slavic population elements. From the beginning of the 13th century came the three settlements of Corona Transylvanian-Saxon Krunen lying directly in the Zinne valley, which later constituted the fortified city center, and both of the suburban settlements in the North against the Burzenlaender Planes, the so-called Old City (Martinsberg) and Bartholoma, which later grew together. In all probability, these three settlements were built at the time of the German knighthood, and were settled with German colonists. More recently, but in existence at the latest in the 14th century, is the suburb of Blumenau, which lays in the north-east. In contrast to the four other settlement centers, Blumenau never developed its own way of life, rather it developed, from its beginning on, as a suburb of Corona. It drew mainly from population elements, among them the numerous Hungarian and Seklern settlements.

Since the 14th century, at the latest, these five settlement centers were united in both administration and in the courts under the leadership of Corona as an urban center. Our examination covers therefore, mainly, the history of Corona, which since the 14th century has also appeared as Brassovia. Since the specifics of the history of the city, where various nationalities of people have been living together since the oldest times, [is well known,] let us take into consideration in our examination, as far as the documents allow, the suburbs of Brasov and its population.

The oldest written references to the formation of the later city of Brasov, is in connection with the presentation of the Burzen lands to the German knighthood by the Hungarian king, Andreas II. In 1211, the knights were called on for the purpose of defending the south-eastern borders of Transylvania from the invasion of the Kumanen (Turks??). In the short time of their stay (1211-1225) the knights had, from the beginning, pursued an economic objective in addition to their military function.

Already near their installation as feudal landholders, the knights had been promised the right to establish farming communities, and duty free markets, and to construct wooden cities. In the grant [literally, "gift deed"], repeated in 1222, there is already mention of cities built in stone. In the same document, the order is granted certain business privileges - exportation of salt, and importation of other goods to Alt and Meiesch, as well as duty-free access on certain roads in the land of the Seklers and the land of the Wallachians. It is to be assumed that the knights had made use of these rights prior to the issuance of the document in 1222, which was only performed as a belated confirmation of the facts. At that time, they had arbitrarily extended their land on to the Danube, and they clearly intended the considerable extension of commercial relations. The establishment of Corona must be viewed in the context of a trading base, from where the trade route across the Romanian region to the Danube could be governed. In fact, the political and administrative midpoint of the Orders rule was in the Burzenland, Marionburg, on Alt. It was also here where the most important travel route of the Burzenland, as proved by Geza Bako, met with the passes out of the Carpathians. However, Corona had the advantage over Marionburg, which was lying open on all sides, in that Corona was in a protected site at the foot of the bend of the Carpathians. So, the trade route diverted from the passes of the eastern and southern Carpathians through Corona, which we recognize as the only stone city designed by the knights.

The founding date of Corona is not certifiably covered. The year 1203, which is handed down in later Brasovian chronicles, must be founded on a mistake, since the knightly order first came to the land in 1211. Gernut Nuessbaecher has set the founding year with great probability in 1213. In 1225, the German knights were again displaced out of the lands by the Hungarian king. However, the business establishment, which they founded in the Zinne Valley, the seat of their order, survived. There is a list of the monasteries in Hungary and Transylvania which the Praemonstratenser abbot, Federicus of Hamborn, visited in 1235. Therein, is mention of a convent in Corona, in the Kumanic Diocese. Since the Burzenland (following the expulsion of the German Knights) was ecclesiastically subject to the bishopric of Milcov, which was founded in 1227 for the purpose of christianizing the Kumans, only the later Brasov can be meant by the name Corona. Corona was mentioned in documentation for the first time in 1235.

Rituals of Greeting in Late-Period Russia

By Predslava Vydrina.

In 1860, the Russian historian Nikolai Ivanovich Kostomarov published a book entitled Essay on the Domestic Life and Customs of the Great-Russian People in the XVI and XVII Centuries. It is a compilation based on a large number of written sources. The 1993 reprint, unfortunately, does not show what those sources were. However, a number of modern Russian historians rely on the information Kostomarov provides, so I believe we can do so too, especially if our purpose is to enhance our persona-play, and not to provide documentation for an Arts and Sciences project.

I found particularly interesting the description of the rituals of greeting. Translated excerpts of Chapter XVI, "Reception of Guests. Forms of Address" follow:

When receiving guests, Russians observed fine distinctions of social status. Persons of higher rank rode all the way up to the porch of a house, while others rode into the courtyard, but stopped at a distance from the porch and approached on foot; those who considered themselves of a lower rank than the host tied their horse at the gate and crossed the courtyard on foot. (...) The host observed the same distinctions when greeting guests. Important guests were greeted at the porch by the host himself, others were greeted in the entry, still others, in the [living] room. There was a custom of greeting arriving guests in several stages. Thus, a person of low standing in the household would greet guests at the gate; then, for instance at the porch, another person of higher standing would be waiting; then a person of even higher standing, or the host himself, would greet the guests.

... In general, persons of higher social rank did not visit people of lower status... But if a person came to visit, whom the host particularly wanted to honor, and who was entitled to particular respect, be it by his official, familial, or social standing, then the host sent his servants to greet the guest. For instance, he was greeted at the gate by steward, at the porch, by the son or a relative of the host, and in the entry or the front room, by the host himself, wearing his hat or bare-headed, depending on the status of the visitor. Other guests were not greeted in this manner; on the contrary, the visitors awaited the host in the front room. Courtesy demanded that visitors leave their walking sticks in the front room; and in general, to engage in conversation while holding a walking stick, and especially while leaning on it, was considered rude. Having taken off his hat, the visitor kept it in his hand... Having entered a room, the visitor was expected first to cross himself, facing the icons, and to bow three times from the waist, touching his fingertips to the floor, and only then to bow to the host; when bowing to the host, the same attention was paid to the relative standing of host and guest. Thus, to some the visitor only inclined his head, to others he might bow from the waist, to others yet, he might bow from the waist and touch the floor with his fingertips. Those who recognized their lowly position vis-á-vis the host and their dependance on him, might even get down on their knees, stretch out their hands, and touch their brow to the floor... Equals and friends would greet each other with a shake of the right hand, a kiss and an embrace... The host would invite his guest to sit down or converse with him standing, also depending on their relative status: thus, if he did not invite his guest to sit, he might also remain standing, or sit down. The place of honor for a guest was in the corner under the icons; the host sat to his right. For propriety's sake, the visitor refrained from coughing and blowing his nose.

Then Kostomarov goes on to describe the prepared speech one might pronounce when greeting a guest or a host, with various degrees of exaltation of the other person, and of debasement of oneself ("I bow to the feet of my lord... I beseech you to accept my lowly greeting," etc.).

I must note that this is a description of late-late-period to out-of-period Muscovy. From everything I have read, I have gathered the impression that in earlier centuries, the forms of address and various etiquette rituals were much simpler, and that the relationship between people, even of unequal rank, were more straightforward. Nevertheless, it could be interesting to incorporate some of these practices into our persona play. While most of us would not prostrate ourselves before the Crown, we could quite easily "bow from the waist" instead of doing the usual curtsey or reverance. Then we could stand on both knees when called in Court, instead of one. Some of us, with late-period personas, might be bold enough to do the full prostration. Just think of the effect on the public...

Printed Resources

  • For those with very early personae (Scythian, etc), you might want to check out, The Early Slavs: Eastern Europe from the Initial Settlement to the Kievan Rus by Pavel M. Dolukhanov (London: Longman, 1996). A recent reviewer in the Slavic Review's biggest "complaint" was that it focused on such early history and did not even get to the Slavic tribes until page 137 (out of 200 pages total)!

  • A new translation of a book on the Kuzari is now in print: Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi, The Kuzari: In Defense of the Despised Faith. Last translated in 1905, this new translation (by Rabbi N Daniel Korobkin) covers a variety of issues connected with Judaism and the Khazars and includes critical commentary. It can be purchased for $38.00 (plus $3.00 S+H) from Congregation Sons of Israel, The Kuzari, KB1014, Attn: April, 2715 Tilghman St, Allentown PA 18104.

  • For those with Orthodox Christian interests, you might want to check out Light and Life Publishing which is a distributor of things pertaining to the Eastern Orthodox Church including history books about the Orthodox religion and peoples, religious tracts, icons, and so on. A catalog is available. Contact: Light and Life Publishing, 4818 Park Glen Rd, Minneapolis MN 55416, 612-925-3888.

  • A good recent bibliographical source is Marshall Poe's Foreign Descriptions of Muscovy: An Analytic Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Sources (Columbus OH: Slavica, 1995) which contains a nice discussion of the various qualities of traveller's accounts of Muscovy. The bibliography itself covers 638 accounts (dating from 1450-1500) and indicates the type of document, previous publication and current translations, and references to the work in secondary sources (useful as many of the documents themselves are not generally available).

  • Some new books on folklore from ME Sharpe (800-541-6563 or

  • In the last issue, Sofron Havrylovych Trakhtemyrivskyj (Andrij H Bebko, 2713 Ralph Ave, Cleveland OH 44109-5413, 216-351-6117, announced that he was teaching a class on icons. For this class (Icons 101) he put together a very nice eight page handout which he has a few copies left of. If you'd like to see it, contact him directly.


  • Kazimierz Dimidowicz Dziecielowski (Matt Szymanski, 2X HHC G2 ACE, Unit #15041, APO AP 96258, is looking for images of period Polish and Lithuanian garb to add to his webpage on Polish history (follow the link on the SIG Links page if you want to see what he is working on).

  • Konstiantin Drozd (Christopher Merle, P.O. Box 535, Mannford OK 74044, 918-865-4473, is looking for a good source for birch bark for writing letters. "Mostly I've found out where I can buy kits to make birch bark canoes or birch bark planters."

  • Tamitsa Katerina Evstokh'eva (Tamie Fogle, P.O. Box 3809, Kodiak AK 99615, 907-486-6259, is trying to find sources with pictures of embroidery and/or beadwork that was done on Russian clothing in the 1500s or 1600s.

  • Phyllida Longacre of Ravenglass (Anne L Kaminski, RR 1, Box 457, Lawrenceville PA 16929-9746, 717-827-2377, wonders if there are any reference works for Polish embroideries.

  • Tatjana Nikonovna (Barbara Shelanskey, 6211 N 77th St, Omaha NE 68134, is looking for period Russian music and musical instruments. "I'm not so much interested in the chants as I am in instrumental music. Does anyone have any good sources?"

  • Kazimir Petrovich Pomeshanov (Howard Brent Rachel, 8807 Chilliwack Dr, San Antonio TX 78250, writes: "My wife recently discovered a reference to icons, in period, embroidered by women. I confess that this is news to me, and I have exhausted my 'not too shabby' library of sources." Can anyone shed light on this?

  • Sergei of Ryzan (Douglas Petroff, 4215 Hartwig St, North East PA 16428) is looking for information on what garb and weaponry looked like in Rus, c1200.

  • Jadwiga Zajaczkowa (Jennifer Heise, 427 Cherokee St, Apt 1, Bethlehem PA 18015, 610-868-4405, writes, "My shire and I are interested in doing a Slavic-focused event (to be held in our shire in Allentown PA). We are racking our brains for activities for such an event. So far, classes and a pysanky contest, plus a Slavic day-long dayboard, have been suggested. We'd like it to be more of an active event than a schola. Any suggestions gleefully taken!"

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