The snow is several inches deep, the temperature has dropped two dozen degrees below freezing, and the wind is howling, so it is as good a time as any to put together the Winter issue of Slovo. A few minor items of business.
Update: Back in Issue #9 (exactly a year ago), I mentioned the formation of the first SCA branch in Russia, the Proto-Incipient Shire of Wildenburg in Vladimir and Suzdal. Unfortunately, the status of the group is somewhat in question at this time due to a serious attack of Real Life. As many of you are aware, the situation there (or most any place in Russia) is not particularly pleasant this winter. The region has been hit by starvation and a shortage of heating fuel and medicine. While there are adequate materials on the store shelves, the incredible inflation in Russia (the Ruble lost 70% of its value this year alone) has made the standard of living drop considerably. Even if they hold a job, most Russians have not been paid in months as few employers have the ability to pay their workers. Vladimir is certainly not the only part of Russia to be suffering, but the presence of an SCA branch there certainly adds a degree of poignancy. If you are interested in more information about the Shire and its members, you can contact their German liaison, Wolfgang (firstname.lastname@example.org). From somewhat better times, here is what the group looks like:
Shire Members of Wildenburg
As usual, my thanks to those who donated money to SIG and made this issue possible. This time, our contributors include Carol Grabowski and Petr Alexeivich. In addition, Petr sent us a lovely account of his summer (as well as a short review of Issue #12 written on birchbark!).
There has been a new development in Slavic information on the web. The SIG-List (online discussion group) is working on an ambitious undertaking they call the "Slavic Knowledge/Slavianskoe Znan'stvo Project." The goal of this project is to have a separate "Knowledge Page" for each country that SIG covers in order to ease the search for knowledge about things Slavic. Each "Page" includes resources and information specific to that land. The Knowledge Pages are now linked to from the main SIG website and will eventually replace the current Links page. For more information concerning this project you can contact Ilyana (email@example.com) or join the SIG-List and put in your own two kopeks worth. Check out the Knowledge Pages that are up at http://vms.www.uwplatt.edu/ ~goldschp/links.html
As mentioned in the last Slovo, there is going to be a SIG meeting at Gulf Wars on March 13th, 1999 at 2pm. If you are going to be at Gulf Wars, remember to be show up for the gathering as well (or, as Isabelle de Foix -- who is coordinating the gathering -- put it, "Y'all come on down!"). She'd like people to bring garb, crafts, and musical instruments to share and display in hopes of stirring up more interest in things Slavic and Hungarian in Meridies.
For further information, contact Lady Isabelle (Patricia Hefner, 2835 Berwick Road, Birmingham AL 35213; 205-933-7899; HPGV80D@prodigy.com)
By Mordak Timofei'evich Rostovskogo
In the last few years at Pennsic, the idea of the completely period encampment has begun to gain ground. While this is the perfect ideal encampment for the SCA Slavic enthusiast, most folks have limited time, resources, access to information or even interest in this legitimate interest. For these reasons alone, most folks will want to utilize a simple day pavilion or a fabric cover for their tent.
This begs the question, what materials, designs, decorations or image am I interested in creating? The use of applique, paint and felt are all period forms of decoration and traceable through artifacts from the dawn of recorded civilization in Slavic lands. In the modern context, do you want your pavilion or tent cover to resemble a tent or a structure, such as a peasant's izba hut or a noble's manor (only on a much smaller scale)? Will you want an "open" camp with immediate access from all sides or do the circumstances warrant the use of some barrier to prevent encroachment of space by other encampments or other participants at the event? These are questions only you or your group can answer, but they affect the size, equipment, transportation space and image your encampment gives to others at events.
Since outdoor sites only operate in friendly weather, I would recommend using a white tent roof for greater light and coolness inside the tent, as well as resistance to sun bleaching. If you have the space and a bit of cash, you can use fancy bannister posts on the corners. Pole top finials could have pennants with Rus style animals, symbols or Cyrillic lettering. Finish them with decorated hangings, a "beautiful" corner with an icon(s) and a "Persian" rug or two from a garage sale. Cyrillic lettering along any of the items or tents is a dead give away though.
A fabric overlay will hide a mundane outdoor tent and can be easily decorated with any combination of these motifs done in block painting, craft felt applique, and so on. Make a cover for that ugly cabin or dome tent out of light bed sheets, canvas, felt or whatever you prefer. Instead of just draping it over the mundane tent, use a couple poles and have cloth eaves to hide the tent.
This is where the strict purists want to stop reading. Russian immigrants in my citizenship class often refer to the small neighborhood enclave their elderly parents live in locally as "the Russian village." Most modern Slavs of any nationality have idyllic visions of villages, the same way that most Americans envision small towns as the rustic backbone of our culture and society. Most period Slavs lived in villages, small towns or on estates. Fewer lived in large metropolitan areas, though some did. The period encampment can also reflect this historical fact. Your tent can reflect this fact individually.
You could paint the roof to look like thatch by starting on the edges and painting lines moving towards the center. Use a couple different shades of latex paint in both semi-gloss and flat tones. Paint on each color separately in several randomly spaced layers. It will dry very quickly in a basement if a fan is blowing on it. This is a job over several evenings or a weekend. If you have children, this could be a fun project. Use a flat polyurethane with sun block as a last layer over all to prevent fading in the sun.
If you prefer a slate, wooden slat or log style roof, either paint logs or slates using several shades or either brown or gray. The slates should be randomly colored and in overlapping squares. Finish both by using a turkey feather with the edge run through a lighter or darker paint to create texture in the logs or define each slate's outline. This is a common trick to make painted faux marble but will work on this too, especially over dried paint.
The walls could be plain white, bordered, logs, or stone. You could even have large animal motifs painted or appliqued on the sides. If you make "stone" walls, there are two easy techniques available. Either use several large sponges dipped in flat paint and placed on the cloth to resemble stone or brick. Texture can be added by using a sea sponge dipped in slightly lighter shades of paint and lightly dabbed with a wadded up paper towel to blur the inside of each brick or stone.
Another texture trick for the true fanatic is to cut "bricks" or "stones" out of closed cell foam and epoxy them to the walls of the pavilion or tent. If you carve divets or scars into these "stones or bricks" before painting them, the illusion is even stronger. These days almost every craft store has spray on stone or brick paint or re-modelers. Its gritty to the feel, has a variety of textures and colorings and best of all, is easy to use. If you carefully daub in a very small amount of dirty white or grey flat paint between the bricks or stones with a wadded up paper towel, you have instant mortar. Darken it sparingly to age its appearance.
Look for Part III, the large event encampment, for expansions on these ideas and the formation of the "Slavic Village".
By Ersebet Feyerwary
Mátyás Hunyadi was born in 1440, the son of the hero, János Hunyadi. Membership in the Hunyadi clan meant being born into a world of clan rivalry and political turmoil. When he was seventeen, Mátyás and his brother, László, were accused of plotting against the reigning kings. Although László was not so lucky, Mátyás was granted a stay of execution.
The next year, 1458, Mátyás was elected by the Hungarian nobility to be the next king. Although he became king officially on January 24, 1458, he could not be crowned. The Hungarian Holy Crown, a relic that had belonged to Saint István (Hungary's first king) was in the hands of Emperor Frederick III. Later, an arrangement was reached and at long last Mátyás was crowned in March 1464.
As king, Mátyás became known as Corvinus, from the raven that graced the arms of the region of Hunyad and those of the Hunyadi clan. An educated man who spoke Latin, Greek, German, and a few Slavic languages, Mátyás begun a subtle plan to reform the government and take power away from the feuding Hungarian nobles. He codified Hungarian law and created a new system of courts. In addition to economic reform, Mátyás recruited a new mercenary army, the Fekete Sereg, or Black Army, to replace the unreliable feudal troops. The Fekete Sereg marched successfully against the Turks and gained for Mátyás Styria and all of lower Austria.
Mátyás is most famous for being the man to bring the Renaissance to Hungary. While the Humanist tradition found its way into the kingdom in the early 15th century during the reign of King Sigismund. Mátyás spent much of the royal treasury to create beautiful palaces in popular Italian architectural styles. His court was home to many Italian scholars and artists. There was an attempt at establishing a university to keep Hungarian scholars in Hungary. It failed. The Bibliotheca Corviniana, Mátyás's library, was a success. At the time of his death, it contained over 2,000 illuminated volumes from Italy and the printing presses at Buda.
Mátyás died in Vienna on April 6, 1490. The official diagnosis was a stroke. Rumors that his wife had poisoned him were never proved. Mátyás died beloved by his people and stories of how the king would travel among his subjects incognito, rewarding those worthy, became the stuff of legend. A proverb goes: Meghalt Mátyás király, oda az igazság ("King Mátyás is dead and gone, and so is justice").
By Ryan Myers Written literature was practically non-existent in pre-Christian Russia. However, with the rising literacy through religious knowledge, as well as the introduction of Cyrillo-Methodian translated Greek literature, literature found its basis. Soon, sermons and hagiography were being written down and distributed. But what of the stories before this? Stories were passed down through byliny, also known as stariny, the art of the medieval oral poem or story. Let us examine some of these stories.
The romantic story, "The Feather of Bright Finist." is the tale of a young girl who lives with her poor family. She falls in love with a young prince, only to find out that he can magically turn himself into a falcon. Without the knowledge of the rest of the villagers, the prince secretly meets with the young girl every night. He gives the girl a feather, so she may have any material possession she wants, just by wishing. However, the girl's malicious older sisters find out about the rendezvous, and trap the window so the falcon cuts himself and leaves, never to return. The girl has to travel through the forest, and meets Baba Yaga who wishes to help her. She must take many small magical items to the prince's land, where he is now married to a princess. Eventually the girl reaches the land, and frees the prince from a spell his wife had put him under, and they live happily ever after. There are many versions of this tale, some of which are considerably more macabre, including fire-eating horses and such. Regardless, it is one of the most popular Slavic romantic tales of old. In medieval times, a suitor would occasionally give his lady a red rose and a falcon's feather, referencing this tale, as a symbol of his undying love.
The Slavs had a very interesting view on death. In most cultures, a dying person is bad luck. It is a bad omen for the rest of the village. People avoid the doomed and mark his home with wards to warn people. However, the Slavs would throw parties for the dying man. This tradition stems from the ancient Slavic/Gypsy tale simply called "Death." An old man lies in his bed one night, reflecting on his life and smiling. Suddenly, Lady Death enters his room to inform him that it is time to go. But the old man implores Lady Death to let him have one last hour. Death refuses, insisting that they must leave before first light. The old man begs to be allowed to play one final song. Death agrees. The man plays his instrument and sings his song, and impresses Death. Upon finishing the song, the man packs to leave, but Death asks him to play another song. This continues all night, until morning, and Death disappears. The same thing happens every night, and the old man keeps cheating Death. For this reason, in Slavic villages, when a person seemed to be at Death's door, the village would gather around them and sing and dance all night, hoping to entertain Death enough so she would forget her job for the evening. They did not avoid the dying person. Instead, they had great feasts and plays that would last all evening.
Finally, we have a heroic ballad called "Iry Dada." Not only does this tale reflect Slavic society at the time, but one can easily compare it to modern times. It is the tale of a young Slav named Dada, who was so brave and strong that he once even visited Barastyr, the lord of the dead, and left unscathed. One day, a great feast was held in the White Castle, welcoming the passing army of the Alans. Yet one of the Kievan noblemen got drunk and pranced around, drawing his sword and stumbling. A young Alanic prince named Alamat grew afraid, and killed the drunk Kievan, thinking he was a threat. The hall burst into a fight, and the Alans left, but not until after Alamat had been taken prisoner. Both sides felt offended, but decided that a war would cause too much bloodshed. They decided that the Alans would have to find a warrior to challenge their great Dada. The Alans sent a young warrior, and they wrestled and fought for hours. On the second day of their battle, they were given swords, and fought again for hours. Yet, the Alanic warrior was truly left-handed, and switched in the middle of battle and cut down Dada. The Kievans saw this as treachery, and a bloody war ensued. This is the ultimate Slavic tale of betrayal in warfare, and how easily things can be exaggerated. In one quote, the author sums up not only the entire theme of the story, but foreshadows the political and military policy of Slavs for hundreds of years to come: "From our radiant forefathers, we know one custom, Blood cannot be washed off with water. Blood is washed off by blood."
All of these stories have influenced Slavic culture greatly. It is much the same as the American folk tale of George Washington and his cherry tree. Now as to whether or not all American presidents are that honest, well, that is currently under investigation. Regardless, it shows how poignantly a culture's folk tales can influence not only their way of life, but their state of mind.
By Jadwiga Zajaczkowa
Queen Jadwiga of Poland (1374?-1399) and King Wladyslaw Jagiello of Poland and Lithuania (1351?-1434), whose marriage joined Poland and Lithuania in a centuries-long union, featured in a dramatic, romantic, and/or pious story that still captures the Polish (if not the Lithuanian!) hearts. Jadwiga especially is the focus of both romantic and sacred interest, for her youthful marriage not only enabled the Christianization of Lithuania and the final defeat of the Teutonic Knights, but involved a sacrifice dear to the romantic imagination.
Eastern Europe of the fourteenth century, though growing steadily more peaceful despite two centuries of warfare, raiding, bickering and succession disputes, was still in a state of flux. Though regional borders had become more pronounced, national borders were still flexible, and the great (and petty) rulers schemed, warred, and bargained over which region belonged to which country. Even the relatively sparse English-language descriptions of the era show that mix of piety, cold blooded politics, and pageantry that we think of as typically medieval; especially so when describing the players of this game.
Casimir the Third, called the "the Great", king of Poland from 1333 to 1370, consolidated Great and Little Poland, Mazovia, and Red Ruthenia into a large Polish state. He was known for his statecraft and diplomacy, as well as for his code of law and his consideration for the non-noble (one of his nicknames was "The Peasant King"). However, he apparently had no legitimate heirs to his lands; he had no surviving male issue, and because of a trifling dispute over his second marriage (his first wife being still alive when the marriage took place) his daughters by that marriage had to be legitimated.
After prolonged discussion and diplomacy, Casimir nominated as his heir Louis of Anjou, King of Hungary and the son of his sister Elizabeth (a queen famed for her beauty and -- perhaps -- her passion, since the Holy Roman Emperor nearly started a war by calling her "shameless"). Louis was so well beloved in Hungary to be called "the Great" there. However, when Louis inherited the throne of Poland from his uncle, he did not make the same good impression. Concerned more with his affairs in Italy (wars with Venice and Naples) than this inherited country, Louis tended to leave the governing of Poland to his mother Elizabeth, and in order to compel the Polish nobles to wait for him in Hungary when he wanted to discuss something with them. Despite the lively court that Elizabeth held in Cracow (she appears to have been one of the flamboyant, diplomatic queens of history), Louis's high-handedness did not endear him to the Poles.
Louis of Anjou also had no male issue. Of his three daughters by Elizabeth of Bosnia, the two surviving girls, Maria and Hedvig, were betrothed to the sons of powerful men. Louis forced his nobles to accept the girls and their betrothed as his heirs: Maria, betrothed to Sigismund of Luxembourg, was to unite Poland, the German states and Bohemia; Hedvig, betrothed to Wilhelm of Austria, was to rule over Austria-Hungary. (It is said that when the assemblage of Polish nobles initially refused to accept Maria as their queen-presumptive, he simply locked the gates of meeting place and kept them prisoners until they did.)
However, when Louis died in 1382, his plans were upset. His widow, acting for the two princesses, not only dithered, but actively disregarded some of his arrangements. The Hungarian nobles (whether in fear of an interregnum or in an attempt to continue the Hungarian-Polish combination), crowned Maria queen of Hungary. Presumably she would then be queen of Hungary, Poland and her husband's lands. However, her betrothed, Sigismund, was chased out of Poland after his first attempt to assert authority.
The Polish nobles in return convened and demanded that one of the princesses be sent to be crowned. On February 26, 1383, Elizabeth of Hungary's envoys relieved them of their oaths to Maria and promise that Hedvig (Jadwiga) will be sent to them. There were some plans to marry the young princess off to Duke Siemowit of Masovia, but these fell through, either out of respect for the princess or fear of Siemowit. Elizabeth dillydallied, playing for time either to hatch alliances or to raise her daughter, but finally sent her to Poland in the Summer or Fall of 1384. (Just as well; had she sent the girl at the first demand, Siemowit was waiting to capture and marry her.)
Hedvig (called Jadwiga in Polish) was born in the winter of 1373-1374 (Fr. Przybyszewski postulates a birth date of Feb 15, 1374, based on negotiations relating to her coming of age). In 1378 she was united with the child Wilhelm of Austria in a marriage ceremony, which according to Church law, needed only to be consummated when they came of age to be legal (this was to cause trouble later). She had been raised in the courts of Buda and Vienna and well educated (she certainly spoke Hungarian, Latin, Italian and probably Polish). Her family was known for their closeness, their skill in diplomacy and war, and for their piety and love of learning.
Not more than eleven years old when she came to Poland, she was crowned king (Rex) of Poland on October 15, 1384, the feast day of her patron saint, St. Jadwiga of Silesia (an ancestral relative -- Jadwiga/Hedwig being a very popular name for Piast princesses). And then the confusion began.
By Stefania z Roz
[Editor's Note: While the following account is not purely Slavic, I felt that it was worth sharing to provide ideas of ways to combine Slavic and non-Slavic elements in a ceremony and I thank Lady Stefania for sharing it.]
M'lord Michael der Reisen (the giant) has a Germanic persona from Meinz, approximately 1360's. My persona is Polish from Krakow and approximately the same time era. We chose to unite our persona with a handfasting in November at our local event, Rampage on the River 3, in the Shire of Ironwood Loch, Kingdom of Atenveldt. In attendance was the populace of the shire and the King and Queen of Atenveldt, (Douglas and Amanda) and the last King and Queen who had just stepped down. I had served as ex-Queen Katerina's lady in waiting.
The general setting was to have a canopy erected with a simple ceremony embracing Catholic tradition (Baron Blackarrow and Baroness Dahla researched the ceremony for us at the University of Arizona). Because Baron Blackarrow was officiating and not licensed to actually do so, many things were left out (e.g., you can not use "man and wife" in the wording). I set the time for the sighting of the first star in the evening (My father said Wiegilia starts at this time so I figured it may be a Polish way to start the wedding.)
The guests were all given beribboned candles and all were lit. Beautiful! Ladies received favors of apples decorated with cloves, covered in cinnamon and wrapped in fabric (pomanders? -- they smell nice and were intended to be put in the garb chests to make everything smell nice). Extras were given to the current queen as favors.
The Shire ladies escorted me to my lord Michael. I carried a bunch of dried flowers and wheat tied up with ribbon. We lit a unity candle and partook of mead from an Ironwood Goblet and shared an oatmeal cookie (didn't have a unity bread!).
The reception was beef and barley stew, bread, ham, and cookies iced together in a tower. Mead and liquors brewed by our shire's brewers was served and Michael and I provided "Krupnick" Fire Vodka as a Polish touch. Wedding gifts were a pair of goblets (silver and gold) that we will use at our mundane wedding, chip carved boxes from Poland, and a set of towels.
Garb: Mine was taken from a picture plate from a book (I believe it was "History of Costuming"). The picture features a "Polish Maiden". The underdress in the picture is green with a jumper-like dress in gold. She wraps it in a cummerbund of red and a girdle of red also. Mine was pale pink brocade underdress (which can be worn alone) laced up the back. The outer part was dark blue velvet and laced with golden lace up the front. A burgundy colored cummerbund hooked in the back and for this occasion I did not wear my belt as a girdle. My headdress was a 14th century Flemish piece with feathers and all.
Michael wore and under tunic of champage frogged at the throat. Black leggings and a back velvet embroidered in gold and silver bastard Houpalande and Lire pipe headdress. We will hopefully have pictures of these garments when we attend Estrella in February.
By Mordak Timofei'evich Rostovskogo
The most common query I hear from folks nowadays is "where do I start, what are the shortcuts to primary sources and do you have any information you can send me ?" This situation is perfectly understandable since some folks are geographically isolated from library or material resources, some are new to the tricks of historical research while others may have access to resources but have time constraints in the mundane world that restrict their ability to research into their particular interests. Another constraint is the utter paucity of materials on Slavic history and countries or language barriers. Some of these hurdles exist for most folk in the SCA while the last seems particular to our interests and not those of the rest of European studies. How do we end run these hurdles ? Where are possible constructive shortcuts? A dirty little secret among historians is that most regularly use secondary sources to access primary sources and work their way backwards to the primary document. Rarely are these initial sources actually cited, but my oh my, are they ever used. As a former professor told me "reinventing the wheel is for morons, but, so is not checking the primary sources". For the Slavic researcher with few resources or hours to spend searching for them, this means using whatever is at hand, or someone else's in the Slavic network.
Another possible resource to steer you in the right direction are the light weight historical pamphlet by a respected historian in the field. It's a decent place to start but a weak place to end your research. An example of this type of resource are series publications like the Osprey Military series. While I would never cite this source specifically (unless truly desperate), each edition is usually a virtual treasure trove of pictures of period artifacts and cites, especially in regards to the art plates. Many times, they will cite primary resources totally unavailable in this country but existent nonetheless. Pictures of artifacts are primary documents but be sure to check their descriptions for accuracy, if at all possible. Now you at least know the cite and title of your dream resource. That's at least a start.
Another resource are all those inane academic works that history graduate students and professors write in an effort to either get a slot in the academic world or justify them. Often, these books are bone dry, boring academic monologues which serve primarily as non-prescription aids against insomnia. On the other hand, the collegiate peer review process guarantees that the footnotes/endnotes will cite some interesting sources or primary documents. At the very least, I've found that some very good academic works were cited within these books that have used verbatim, often translated, excerpts from primary sources that I could cite as authority documents in my research. With interlibrary loan and e-mail friends, all you need to start your own research files is a nearby copier or a copy shop and determination.
Of the several histories of Hungary I've seen, this is the best available. Such histories are difficult to find in English, and most are no longer in print. In fact, the only history in English that I've found more useful is a collection of course notes collected by Budapest professors precisely because there was nothing worthwhile available in English.
This is an edited book and so suffers, as do all such books, from a disunity of style and theme; each chapter breaks viewpoint from the preceding one. On the one hand, the first four chapters are all by the same author, reducing this problem for coverage through the year 1300, but on the other hand this author obviously writes in English as a second language, making some passages difficult or impossible to read.
Most of the text is lifeless and dense, focusing overmuch on royal activities and national questions without addressing questions about culture, though there are scattered interesting passages. The primary selling points of this book are: (1) it's in English; (2) it's in print; and (3) it's available in paperback for under $20. However mediocre this book is, it's still far and away the best such available book in English I've seen.
--Walraven van Nijmegen
This seriously flawed and peculiar book may still be useful to the student of the early Middle Ages in the regions of Russia and Byzantium. The Thirteenth Tribe purports to show that the origin of most Eastern European Jews was a Jewish Kingdom centered on the Volga River. The most surprising thing is that such a kingdom, the Khazars, did exist.
Commonly accepted history identifies the Khazars as Turkic people active on the southwestern Russian steppes from the 600s to around 1030. At least a portion of their nobility converted to Judaism. The kingdom, or more properly khanate, controlled the mouth of the Volga, levied tribute on the Russian and resisted the Arab invasions. The khanate was shattered by the Russians in 965 and by a Russo-Byzantine expedition in 1016. Remnants were believed destroyed by later nomad invasions and especially the Mongols. (for a concise summary see Rene Grousset's The Empire of the Steppes: a History of Central Asia pp. 179 -182).
Mr. Koestler's volume effectively lays out the evidence of the Khazars in Part One of his book, pages 13 to 137. From this section the reader can locate all the sources of information on the topic, including Arab, Russian, Byzantine and Spanish Jewish texts and the small amount of archeological material. These items are well organized and the surmises are identified as such. However, even in this relatively well researched section I noted a few errors which identify the author as an amateur. In one portion of the text he persists on calling the early Russians Vikings, contrary to the opinion of most historians, while in another he divides the Kievian principalities into three parts, one of which is Moscow.
Part two of The Thirteenth Tribe is extended speculation on how the Khazars populated Russian and Eastern Europe. This section is nearly devoid of concrete evidence. His chain of argument is that populations of Jews in Western Europe and the Mediterranean were too small, too remote and too oppressed to be the source of the Eastern population. The line of argumentation is outside of my area of knowledge, but even just using Koestler's text, many large assumptions are evident. Mainly, the historic records of the early middle ages is spotty at best and I think we can be certain of very little in terms of demographics. Almost no positive evidence is given. The only relevant item in Part Two is linguistic; the insertion of Khazar words and names into Hungarian. As a whole the second half of The Thirteenth Tribe is of no use to the historian.
The author was certainly trying to question one cherished tradition of national identity. We know in our heart that all the national stories from Russian, Poland, the Ukraine, etc, etc cannot all be true, in as much as they often contradict each other. Much as these myths are helpful in preserving national identity, they can also be the justification for generations of war and hatred. History is useful when we can winnow events down to kernels of fact. The problem with The Thirteenth Tribe is it doesn't have the evidence to support its speculation.
-- Peotr Alexeivich
Canon Jan Dlugosz, protege of the famous Zbigniew Olesnicki, Bishop of Cracow, and tutor to the children of King Casimir Jagiellonczyk, was a well known historian, politician, and scholar of the fifteenth century. His Annales, though sometimes criticized as as derivative of the work of the Anonymous Gaul and Vincent Kadlubek, is one of the classic medieval works of Polish history.
The good news is that this abridgement makes the highlights of Dlugosz's history available to the English reader. The bad news is that not only is this work an abridgement, but it is also a double translation; that is, Michael did not translate directly from the Latin source, but worked from a Polish translation by Julia Mrukowna. While both circumstances lessen the volume's value somewhat, Michael's abridgement is aimed at retaining all the interesting tidbits useful to Central European history buffs, as he claims to have retained "all details of morals, customs, ritual, habits, details of climate, husbandry, war, prejudices and superstitions." The pre-965 material, which Dlugosz treated as mythical, has been omitted, so the annals cover only 965 to 1480.
Other Polish historians mention that Dlugosz collected every rag tail of gossip he could find, and he certainly was not an unbiased source. His accounts of the Hungarians, Germans, and Ruthenians are extremely harsh, as befits a man living in the dawn of nationalism. Especially as abridged, Dlugosz has a lively, almost frenetic style, full of humor and told primarily in the present tense. He synthesized the historical information known to him, with legends and possibly (according to later historians) fiction to create an engaging narrative. While the bulk of Dlugosz's history covers time nearest his own, including detailed and not always complementary descriptions of fifteenth century politics and of the campaigns against the Teutonic knights, his depictions of early Polish history even abridged, give more details of the tangled and war-ridden politics of early medieval Central Europe than most English-language histories provide. Both historian and biographer, Dlugosz never loses his audience in the thickets of confusion over who is who (at any given time there seem to have been at least three Ladislauses running amuck). While not an entirely reliable source, Dlugosz is an excellent writer and a major historian.
In addition to the text, a number of medieval maps are reproduced in the front pages, though one sometimes needs a modern map to decipher them. A large number of illustrations, taken from manuscripts and texts of the medieval period, are reproduced in black and white -- though occasionally they illustrate points not described in the text. There is also a list of Saint's days, useful in interpreting Dlugosz's dating. The commentary on Dlugosz's work and the excellent index add usefulness to this volume.
-- Jadwiga Zajaczkowa
I was visiting the city of Chicago not long ago, for business purposes, when I found I had an evening free of an official dinner. I pulled up the hotel yellow pages and was scanning the restaurant pages, when bells went off like a cathedral in St. Petersburg. The place is called Russian Tea Time, at 77 East Adams (in the so-called Downtown/Loop District), and I cannot recommend it enough as suitable for pilgrimage.
The menu is extensive, beginning with the classic Ukranian Borsht and a Lithuanian mushroom, barley and vegetable soup (Perlovii), through Appetizers (Zakuski) and Blini, to the exquisite-sounding main courses suggesting an immense cold storage in the kitchen. Georgian-Style Duck Breast. Stuffed Quail a la Galitsyn. Moldavian Chicken Paprikash. Uzbek Beef and Vegetable Stew (Lugman). Grilled Pork Chops with Ukranian Garlic Sauce (Svinnie Kotleti). Sturgeon Kebabs (Shashlik iz Osetrini). Understand that this is not everything on the menu, but items I mention at random to suggest what you will find (stop drooling now, please!). A friend who has dined here several times says he has never been disappointed.
As for myself, I ordered the Sauteed Chicken Livers -- Jewish Style. It was like dining on cultural memory -- perfectly caramelized onions, roast potatoes, kasha varnishkas, carrot salad. A glass of tea, a basket of robust dark bread. And for dessert, vodka (the sweets I sadly can't indulge in, but they looked wonderful anyway). All varieties of Stoli are served, served to the temperature of a Moscow winter. There are also the House Vodka flavors of tea, coriander and caraway to sample. My selection of Orhanj arrived with a small accompaniment of pickle and a sliver of dark bread, as tradition dictates. Khorosho poshla!
The restaurant is not huge, so reservations are advisable. The service is very refined, though I made the error of telling my friend Pietro that I was treated like nobility. "So," he replied, "they line you up and shoot you?" Right, then we are thrown into a limestone pit and doused with acid. Next week, French!
-- Shlomo Korobeinik
Three expensive (but essential) offerings that you might want to check a library for:
This is the volume that several of us have been waiting for. The Russian Academy of Sciences has periodically been releasing authoritative volumes on its archeological findings over the past century. This volume (devoted entirely to everyday culture and life in pre-Mongol Rus) covers architecture, furniture, ornamentation, clothing (with extensive sections on footwear), games, and other essential information. The text is all in Russian and the illustrations (over 150 pages) are line drawings without extensive detail, but this is a book that must be seen to be believed. Almost everything is dated. The pages covering handwriting styles (with exact dating!) is alone worth it. I've seen copies selling for between $32-40, but the book is already out of print. Your best bet is to Interlibrary Loan or check with Viktor Kamkin (http://www.kamkin.com) or Panorama of Russia (http://www.panrus.com).
Covering economic, social, and cultural developments as well as military and political history, this one is a bit expensive but probably worth a browse through.
At $79.95 (US), this gem is out of the reach of most of us, but anyone who is serious about Ukrainian history should read the works of this legendary 19th century historian. The work is old and suffers a bit for being so, but it covers a period that has been more abused than researched (by Soviet archeologists).
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