Spring AS XXXIV (2000)
Volume V, Issue 3 (#18)

From the Nachalnik

Springtime greetings to you all. My apologies for the late arrival of this particular issue, but I have been buried in finishing the third edition of my Dictionary of Period Russian Names (which is finally done and off to the publisher). [NB: if you want to see it, you'll have to buy it from Free Trumpet -- I've decided not to make it available on-line] With the Dictionary finally done, I hope to have time to attend to the Group more.

We are also getting ready for Pennsic, so let me give you the standard announcements. The Slavic and East European Festival will be held on Monday, August 14th from 7-10pm in AS 7. This is our standard party and more details will be following in the Summer Slovo. If you are interested in volunteering to help organize, provide food or entertainment, or just have questions, contact my lady wife, Ilyana (Jennifer Miller, 3071 Cimarron Trail, Madison WI 53719, 608-288-0255, jdmiller2@students.wisc.edu). We hope the date will be convenient. It conflicts with the Heraldic reception (and probably with a court or two), but avoids the big event conflicts.

As is my usual practice, I would like to thank our contributors this issue and especially the most generous donation from Mistress Geta Alexandra din Wallachia and Lord István din Brasov which is basically underwriting nearly the entire cost of this issue.

Boleslav I "the Cruel"

By Alastair Millar

Boleslav I of Bohemia gets a rough ride from history, not least because of his cold-blooded murder of his brother Wenceslas, the saint and "good king". In fact, though, it was Boleslav who finally brought Bohemia under the control of the Premyslids, laying the foundations of the Czech state.

When, in 925, Wenceslas successfully claimed the throne, it was only with the aid of military "maneuvers" conducted by Arnulf of Bavaria. In 929, shifting politics and a joint campaign by Arnulf and the German Henry I compelled Bohemia to become a tributary of the emerging Empire. The option of becoming a part of the Empire polarized the nobility; the faction opposed was led by Wenceslas's brother Boleslav. Tensions culminated in Wenceslas' murder on September 28th, 935. Boleslav seized power, shielded - by coincidence or shrewdness - from the Empire's revenge by Henry's death and the dispute over the succession.

Boleslav's genius lay in his recognition of the fact that only a strong military deterrent could prevent Bohemia's absorption by the German powers. However, a major hindrance to this was the lack of unity in Bohemia itself. Within a year of taking the throne, Boleslav embarked on his first "lightning war," crushing all opposition to his policies and liquidating all the non-Premyslid princes - even those able to draw aid from Saxony itself.

Building a series of new fortifications along the natural borders of his core territory, Boleslav earned his sobriquet from the introduction during his rule of regular taxation, a harsh judicial system, and enforced Christianization. He also introduced his own coinage, and one of his denarii names his wife as one Biagota.

Nevertheless, to maintain the army (and thus Bohemia's independence) new sources of income were required. Boleslav sent his new armies along the great trade routes, securing the profits from as long a length of them as possible - northwards into Silesia and eastwards into North Moravia, taking Olomouc before moving on to Kraków, Wislania, the Przemysl and Czerwien strongholds, and the territories of the Ledziane all the way to borders of the Kievan Rus. As well as the obvious income from plunder, booty and tribute, Boleslav also gained an almost inexhaustible supply of the most important trade good of all - pagan slaves.

Although he had a large army at his disposal by the late 940's, after years of skirmishing Boleslav secured his western borders by paying homage to Henry's successor, Otto I. His loyalty was shown in 953, when an uprising of the Slavs along the lower Elbe was defeated with the assistance of Boleslav's veterans, and in 955 the Magyars were defeated on the Lech with the aid of a sizeable force of Bohemian cavalry.

Later, as Otto became distracted by events in Italy, Bohemia's ties with the Empire loosened. In the 960's, Bohemian troops aided Mieszko in his war against the Veleti, and around 965, Boleslav's daughter Doubravka married the Polish prince.

Boleslav's empire was large, but not cohesive - it lacked even a name to hold it together. Cooperation with the Church undoubtedly led to a "know-how transfer" in terms of administration, but Bohemia lacked its own bishops - and the Moravian diocese had lapsed in the pagan revival following the fall of Great Moravia. Bishoprics would, in theory, lead to the recognition of the Bohemian empire as a Christian state of equal stature with its neighbors. It was with this in mind that Boleslav campaigned for his murdered brother to be canonized. His daughter, the nun Mlada, led a mission to Rome in 968 to negotiate for a new bishopric.

Boleslav died in 972, the bishoprics unrealized. It is paradoxical that the brother he had canonized - the mild prince of a tiny territory dominated by its neighbors - is regarded as Bohemia's defender and patron saint. The fact that the quiet Wenceslas is generally depicted as an armored, mounted knight, when his brother was the conquering warrior who laid the foundations of the modern Czech state, is the ultimate irony.

Creating A Fake Russian Hand

By Peotr Alexeivich Novgorodski

Playing at being an ancient Rus, I have found the need to create scrolls that appear to be written in Russian, but are in fact in legible English. Creation of faux Russian calligraphy seems a useful addition to our Anachronist game. Though my calligraphic skills and knowledge are modest, I am not aware of anyone else who has tackled this project, hence this proposal. Besides faking Russian, other solutions are possible including writing in Russian with or without accompanying translations. My objective was to create something readable with a period Slavic look.

I began with the letterforms found on Kievan period documents. Cyrillic and Latin alphabets have a different number of letter forms without a one to one correlation. My strategy began by selecting the most recognizable letters for vowels: A, E, I, O, U ignoring that Cyrillic has several additional letters for different vowel sounds. For the consonants I have allowed the Cyrillic letterforms to substitute for the Latin for five letters: B, D, G, L and V. This substitution gives my pages a suitably Russian look, while the manuscript can still be easily deciphered. Additional substitutions are possible, such as the Latin R replaced by the Cyrillic P. My experience has been that too many substitutions result in an illegible page. I also think that the letters should be phonetically consistent with one or the other of the alphabets we are robbing.

The actual calligraphy, "the hand", is straightforward. The Kievan Russian writing is simple and clumsy compared with the sophisticated calligraphy of Western Europe. As best I can tell, the pen was oriented nearly vertically in relation to the page (as opposed to European hands which used a sloped orientation). Pen strokes appear to be linear rather than curved. The letter O, for example, appears to be made of at least six straight lines. Calligraphic strokes in this hand are mostly simple, with neither serifs nor bulges at their ends. Here is the alphabet than I have derived:

I invite other readers to experiment with my alphabet and improve it. In doing so, keep authentic period manuscripts around to compare the results. Two easily available sources are Robert Wallace's The Rise of Russia (Time Life Books, 1967) which has five pages from the Primary Chronicle reproduced in color and Medieval Russian Ornament in Full Color (Dover Publications 1994) from the Moscow Museum of Art and Industry, which has mostly initial letters and borders.

Creating a workable alphabet is only a first step. Try to consider the tools and materials period scribes worked with. What kind of margins were used? Try to understand the underlying design of the pages. Were guidelines ruled (I think usually so)? Notice that there was no distinction between upper and lower cases. Notice where ornamental initial letters were used. Examine punctuation and accent marks, and so on.

As you can see, all I have done is a first step. While recognizing that what we do is not authentic (it is fake!) I think we can create some objects that truly evokes the ancient Russian world.

Hungarian Clothing, 1400-1650
Part Two: Mixing East and West

By Mordak Timofei'vich Rostovskogo

An interesting factor concerning Hungarian fashion in the mid to late fourteenth century is the mixture of Western forms of fashion with either traditional or unique style elements to create an identifiable garment as "Hungarian" rather than western, Byzantine or even Turkish. Many times these changes were subtle alterations that the casual observer could easily overlook, and other times they were not.

One such case is the armor, jupons and coate hardies pictured in Corina Nicolescu's Istoria Costumului De Curte In Tarle Romane (Historical Costuming and Art in Ancient Romania). The armor, weapons and fastenings would not be out of place on the fields of either Agincourt, Orleans or any other battle in the latter Hundred Years War. The coate hardies are tight fitting, with buttons from wrist to elbow and neck to hemline. In some cases, the cut of the waist is so tight that the garment depicted could only be a jupon (jupona) of typical western cut. The Hungarische Chronica and the earlier Ladislas Chronica depicts the female attendants dressed in a fashion similar to that of the western styles of dress (sortul) and shoes (saru or sharu) one would see in the Duc de Berry's Book of Hours in the same period. In fact, the favored houppelande (early suba) of this period seemed to be stylistically Burgundian with bag sleeves gathered at the wrist but with high collars and fur edging. The women are wearing western style wimples and coifs (an early form of the parta) in many cases, though some are depicted as maidens with braided hair.

All these depictions lead the casual observer to assume a very urbanized culture with strong ties to the West and they would be correct. That similarity abruptly ends with murals of the Hungarian princes Vladislav I (LXXVIIa-b) and Mircea with son, Mihial (LXXVIII), all of which are depicted in murals with a Byzantine style format and are wearing mid thigh length coate hardies with heavily jeweled and pearls bands at the hem, cuffs, neck, front opening and biceps in the classical decorative style of Byzantine Emperors. Even their hosen are decorated with gaiters at the top of the calf and in some cases, even highly decorated diamonds or Byzantine two headed eagles embroidered (?) on the shins of the hosen. The women depicted are in Byzantine robes of state , but often men and women are depicted wearing crowns in the typical western style of multiple high points.

Add to this the depictions of the portraits of the princes of Transylvania, Wallachia and Moldavia in this same period and a much stronger Byzantine flavor is present in the clothing. A garment called a granata is worn in early 15th century portraits, resembling a Byzantine robe of state. It is depicted in portraiture as being ankle length, with angel wing sleeves and decorated with wide bands of fabric at the "cuffs" and around the armhole, sometimes in a strip on the top of the sleeve connecting the two bands. The hem was decorated with a wide band of fabric, which appeared to sometimes have "knobs" of fabric at each side, maybe paralleling a side slit. Granatas are depicted as having high standing collars like a houppeland or a round flat neckhole with a wide bad of fabric. Nearly all have a wide strip of fabric down the middle of the front, some of which have buttoned closures from hem to neck while others are merely decorative strips which do not open. Irena Turnau described them in History of Dress in Central and Eastern Europe as "a long, wide coat of simple cut, with loose sleeves, richly embroidered, worn at the court since the 14th century." These garments are actually first seen in a 13th century Byzantine mural and would have been considered old fashioned and very formal in 15the century Hungary, maybe even out of fashion and "rural" in areas of Hungary with more exposure to Western European fashions.

Much of the second and third quarters of the 15th century saw Hungary deeply embroiled in a long series of campaigns and wars attempting to stem the Ottoman expansion in the Balkans areas of Serbia, Wallachia and Transylvania. It is at this time that caftans started creeping into the lower classes of these regions and start to be mentioned as the clothing of "gussars" (i.e., bandits). The various bandits, light calvary and other marginal groups of these border regions. Travelers mention the women of the trades and working classes were aprons over shifts and skirts (catrinte, fota, and vilnic) in addition to capes (csucha). Rural fashions included many garments of simple cut but were extremely resistant to weather and wear.

Peasant and working class clothing consisted of footwear made of one piece leather constructions with either pointed (gurgui) or gathered, round toes (kapca), simple shirts (fusta and linje)and pants of wool (icar) or linen (izmene). The Carpathian regions of Wallachia and Transylvania, as well as the Eastern regions of Moldavia and Bessarabia had a huge variety of sleeveless jackets in use. Some were sheepskin with the hair on the outside (burnuz and keptar) with sleeves (burke, gube) of a thick felt (szur), or even of thick wool (habanitsa) or fleecy looking wool (guba). Because of the severity of winter weather in the Carpatian areas, men often wore a thick wool cape over these garments as well (gugla). One commonality in the clothing of all classes and occupations in Hungary and its border areas was the use of wool on the outermost garment, usually fur-lined, throughout this period in cold weather. The most common forms were wool covered fur with a variety of sleeve shapes (contesul, contos, chintes, chintus, kontesh, kontos, suba) but could also be quite fancy with expensive fabric coverings (czamara, delia, fereaua/feiageaua, mantaua, suba), worn chiefly by members of the large noble classes and successful artisans, merchants or local officials. These garments would usually be worn over caftans of either simple cut and inexpensive materials (caftanul, habanitsa) or highly decorated garments of expensive materials (pancar, szoknya, dolman, dolmanul/dulama, mente, guibeaua).

The last accessories worn with these garments were hats. Depending on your occupation and resources, hats you wore could come in a variety of fashions and shapes. They could be woven of straw with brims for summer weather, felted into a variety of shapes (magrieka, kolpava, csako). They could be made of cloth, fur or both and plumed (sulveg). Women's headwear were shaped like a coif (kapuriac, merame/neframe) or even stiffened with layers of glued felt or wood and decorated in trim, tinsel shapes or embroidery (krype, parta).

The haiduk soldiers Stephan Bathory brought to Poland from his native Transylvania are often depicted wearing either a caftanul or dolman under a short sleeved caftan, both midcalf-length and belted with the front opening tips tucked into the belt for ease of movement. They often have a small felt magrieka cap, shaped like a pillbox hat with flaps on their heads, more often than not with a large plumed feather pinned with a brooch to the front and with the front flap down over the forehead. Wallachian soldiers are often depicted in the same garments, differing only in a wide , flat cloth collar on the dolman laying over the outer caftan and wearing a tall, conical shaped fur hat with no brim but also with a brooched plume or two fastened to the front.

Late period Hungarians and Transylvanians are also shown wearing these tall fur hats, also plumed and brooched but not stiffened so they slouch to the side in the fashion of a beret with a round top, usually fabric covered and embroidered. This last style sounds silly but actually gives the wearers in the period portraiture quite a dashing, daredevil look.

The Russian Sarafan

By Nastasiia Ivanova Medvedeva

The Russian sarafan is an a-line jumper-style dress, worn over a rubakha, or shirt. While it is not definitively known whether or not it is period, some research opines that it is descended from the feryaz, an overgarment with long, vestigial sleeves and slits to put the arms through. It is theorized that the sleeves eventually went away and the resulting sleeveless garment became the sarafan.

The pattern outlined here is slightly different from the above, in that it has straps rather than the scooped armholes that would result from the removal of sleeves from the feryaz.

Materials that can be used for this garment are linen, brocade, or wool. You can use cotton, but it is a little flimsy and does not give the monumental, static silhouette so prized by period Russians.

First, take a series of measurements, as outlined below.

Key What Am I Measuring?
A Under the arms, but above the bust
B Around the largest part of the bust
C Under the arm, from where Measurement A was taken to where Measurement B was taken
D Over the bust, from where you took Measurement A to the floor.
E From the hip to the floor.

Add two inches to measurements A, B, C, and D for seam allowance. Divide measurements A and B by two to lay out the pattern. The bottom edge should extend the full width of the fabric.

The important thing is to make the pattern fit over the largest part of the body. The point of the side gores (at the hip in this pattern) can be raised to accommodate larger waist measurements, if necessary.

Setting the gores in this pattern is very easy. When they are cut, you will have four right triangles. Take one triangle and set the right angle against one lower outside edge of one panel, right sides together, pin, and stitch. Do this for both sides of each panel. Press the seams flat.

Place the right sides of the front and back panels together, pin the side seams, and stitch. Use a minimum of a half-inch seam allowance; five-eighths is even better. Press the seams open. Turn the top edge down half an inch, then half an inch again and press. Don't sew it yet; you might have to adjust it.

Put the sarafan on. Right now it'll look like a strapless dress, but you'll be putting the straps on shortly. This is where you adjust the fit under the arms and make sure that it fits through the bust and hips. If everything's okay, we can proceed on to the next to the last step -- the straps.

Cut two five-inch wide lengths of fabric. Fold in half and stitch lengthwise, using a half-inch seam allowance. Press the seams open, then turn the tubes right-side-out and press again. Stitch the top edge of the sarafan, and pin the straps to the dress at the center back, angled outward slightly. Put the dress on again and pull the straps over your shoulders, pinning them to the front of the dress slightly to the outside of the bust on either side. Adjust as necessary and stitch in place. It's a good idea to stitch the back straps close to the top edge of the dress, as it can have a tendency to pull a bit.

That's about it, except for the hemming. Use your favorite method, but remember that Russian garb is hemmed to ankle or instep length -- no floor-sweeping trains here!

Special thanks to Mordak and Anastasiia for the work they did in assembling the costume packet that provided the background for this article

Book Reviews

  • Davies, Norman. Europe: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

    Norman Davies's Europe: A History has much to recommend it to those interested in medieval Eastern and Central Europe.

    Not least is the size, 1300 plus pages (weighed in by the Christian Science Monitor at 3 pounds, 14 ounces), which is bound to make an impression if you use it on the next person to mention 'Western civilization'. What will make even more of an impression, though, is Davies's Introduction, a 50-page polemic in which he examines and refutes not only the concepts of 'Western Civilization', and the restriction of 'European History' to Western Europe, but a number of specific historical perspectives, including the notion that any one historical perspective can be regarded as reliable on its own.

    Davies, whose field of interest is Polish history, is well-equipped to drag European history (kicking and screaming or not) Eastward. He includes, perhaps too much, material on Central Europe at every turn. His coverage of Russia is not as complete, but he does cover it. (His coverage of Britain isn't either-- he dismisses the English Civil War as primarily a local conflict!). He prefers his history untidy, sacrificing coverage of traditional theory-driven 'highlights' to sprawling comparisons of conflicting situations. There are long digressions on the creation of the Dutch nation, on Iconoclasm in Byzantine society, and the role of the Dukes of Burgundy. But he does not fail to give periodic overviews comparing the situation all across Europe at a given time.

    The effect is of a rapidly moving tour bus, conducted by a somewhat eccentric guide, careering wildly across the breadth of Europe and up the highway of time. Periodically, the guide stops the bus and allows you to hop out and examine a situation in more depth. More women, minorities, and cultural movements are mentioned than is usual in a history of this kind.

    Davies's style renders this not only readable but enjoyable. His penchant for including captivating tidbits (Attila the Hun, having "retired to the Tisza with an item of female loot called Ildico...expired during the nuptial night from a burst artery") combines with his fluid writing and his innumerable digs at everyone and everything (by my count, only Francis of Assisi escapes). It's hard to imagine being sucked into such a monumental work of history, but I and several professional reviewers have done so. The 'capsules' -- sidenotes blocked off from the text that concentrate on specific cultural phenomenon or issues -- make interesting reading on their own, and are referenced in the text where appropriate.

    The book, however, has a number of flaws. Despite its generally good reviews, some reviewers have claimed that there are an unusually high number of errors in the factual statements -- generally dates -- in the text (Davies claims that they are corrected in the paperback edition). I would not suggest using this volume as a reference work. It is more of a narrative description (as he himself points out in the introduction: "It is the same with European history as with a camel. The practical approach is not to try to define it, but to describe it.")

    The book requires some skimpy knowledge of European history -- perhaps 'cultural literacy' in history is a better term, and is most informative to those who have some notion of contemporary historical theories. (Though probably anyone who didn't sleep through all of high-school history and occasionally watches the History Channel could probably follow his narrative.) For Americans, Davies's habit of dropping semi-obscure place names into the text without geographical elaboration means that we should keep a good geographic/historical atlas handy when reading.

    Throughout the work, there is a faint, muttering undertone that many SIG members will probably recognize. It is the irritation of someone whose colleagues not only overlook one's major area of expertise, but outright slam it. (One reviewer felt that Davies's approach was wrong because it failed to consider the essential cultural and economic backwardness of Eastern and Central Europe.) It is an irritation of near-Douglas Adamsian proportions, that, if it does not 'span the whole of time and space in its infinite umbrage,' does cover all of the history of Europe in a thin layer of universal peckishness at all historiography. On the traditional view of the Magyars as 'not a creative force' in European history, he claims: "All this means is that the Magyars did not reach Cambridge."

    There are serious questions of bias in the work. Davies is definitely anti-Soviet, and by extension anti-Muscovite; he appears to lean more heavily on the crimes of the Protestant than the Roman Catholic church, and to let the Byzantine Church off more lightly than either. Primarily because of his coverage of the [post period] Holocaust, he has been accused of anti-Semitism. Part of this is aggravated by his tendency to elide over the criticisms that everyone knows about in school (the abuses of the Inquisition) in favor of those less well-known (the conflicts between Calvinists and Lutherans).

    As I have said, this is not a comprehensive history encyclopedia or a reference book. Davies set out to give an overview, a flavor, of the history of Europe as a whole. As a result, Europe is spotty in its coverage of many subjects (the reconquista of Spain, European colonies, the history of Russia). On the other hand, there are extensive notes and a very useful appendix including not only timelines, lists of rulers, and statistics but maps, both subject-oriented regional ones and continental maps using several different projections. A comprehensive bibliography, and perhaps a more extensive index, would be nice, but given the scope of the book, they might be too hefty to be useful.

    Europe is a useful, readable overview of Eastern and Western European history, at least for our period.

    -- Jadwiga Zajaczkowa

  • Popova, Olga. Russian Illuminated Manuscripts. Trans. by K. Cook, V. Ivanov, and L. Sorokina. London: Thames and Hudson, Ltd., 1984.

    Beginning with a survey of manuscripts and book art in Russia's medieval period, Popova's book includes sixty-nine illustrations of which forty-eight are full color plates. Each plate is fully documented, including a description of the manuscript it comes from, the manuscript's provenance and some specific details about the selected images. Her analysis is sound as she explores Byzantine influences in Russian art and focuses particularly on those developments which help to distinguish Russian art.

    Her style occasionally swerves towards excessive use of art history jargon, but for the most part she gives a clear impression of trends in book production and particularly in book illustration in Russia's medieval period. She is careful to keep in mind political events which have affected the development and evolution of manuscript art, but perhaps downplays the influences of regions outside of Byzantium and Russia. She does admit to some of the South Slavic influences in art and architecture in the post-Mongol period, but only in passing.

    This is a book for those interested primarily in art and books from Russia, and not a source for history, costuming or anything else. For costumers, the only styles you will find in clothing are the typical Romano-images for most biblical figures and a few Byzantine ones, particularly plate 10 (Saints Pantoleon and Catherinem Pantoleon Lectionary) and plates 12, 13 from the Simon Psalter. Though out of print, I located several copies online and was able to purchase it easily in softcover for under $20.

    --Nadezhda Thorinovna


  • Peotr Alexeivich Novgorodski (Gregory Frux, 11 Sterling Place #3A, Brooklyn NY 11217-3269, gfrux@webspan.net) has tentative plans to travel to Uzbekistan (including Samarkand and Tashkent) and Kyrgyzstan in August and September of this year. These are areas rich in Central Asian cultural, both nomadic and oasis cities on the Silk Road. He is willing to entertain requests for information, images, perhaps artifacts (but makes no promises). Likewise anyone with any historic, cultural and travel information should contact him.

  • An interesting (not-so-new) book that folks might be interested in: Omeljan Pritsak, The Origins of the Old Rus' Weights and Monetary Systems: Two Studies in Western Eurasian Metrology and Numismatics in the Seventh to Eleventh Centuries. Cambridge: Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, 1998. This fairly short (172 page) treatise uncovers a near-universal system of weights and measures in use during the time throughout Western Eurasia (which the author attributes to the presence of the Varangians). We look forward to a book review from an inclined individual (hint!).

    Prague Skyline by Peotr Alexeivich Novgorodski

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    The publisher and editor is Paul Wickenden of Thanet (Paul Goldschmidt), 3071 Cimarron Trail, Madison WI 53719, 608-288-0255, e-mail: goldschp@uwplatt.edu. There is no subscription fee and copies of this quarterly newsletter are available free of charge from the editor. Slovo is also available on-line at the Interest Group website (http://www.uwplatt.edu/~goldschp/slavic.html ).