Winter AS XXXV (2001)
Volume VI, Issue 2 (#21)

From the Nachalnik

My apologies again for the delay on this issue. A combination of my forgetting to send out solicitations for articles and modern life (I started a new job) were partly to account for the late release.

Again, we are a bit thin on material. So, let me put out the call again: I am always looking for material for Slovo. It could be a short how-to, some philosophical ramblings about persona, a book review, or just about anything of interest to SIG members. It does not have to be long (in fact, I rather prefer short articles). If you need a deadline, I'll need something by April 1st for the Spring issue, but I'll be happy to relieve you of your work and file it away for when it is needed.

Finally, I would like to extend a gracious thanks to large donation from Tiszata (Beth Fabo) which underwrote a good share of the costs of producing this issue.

Baked Turnip Pudding: An Exercise in Russian Cookery

By Ilyana Barsova

People always ask me for period Russian recipes and menus. While this may seem like a simple question, the reality is that there is just not much out there. We have descriptions of menus and individual dishes, but few details and even fewer actual recipes. In the past, I merely suggested modern Russian recipes that used period ingredients. Well, I have finally attempted a period recipe.

This dish was adapted from a recipe found in the Domostroi, a 16th century Russian household book. This particular recipe is found in a section that is likely just outside of SCA-period (and possibly Polish in origin), but it is still a good bet on being a period dish. I made this recipe three times, using slightly different techniques each time (first I followed the recipe exactly, next I used a blender, etc.), and then compared the results to see how using modern techniques stood up to medieval ones. I plan on writing up my experiments in a separate and much longer essay (stay tuned!). This recipe, however, is probably my final version (excluding further attempts using the original Russian wording instad of the English translation). A final note: the term "pudding" refers more to the English-style dessert (such as "plum-pudding"), not the American-type dish. The original Russian term is actually "maziuni", which translates to "a sweetened mass."

Original Recipe (from Pouncy, Domostroi, p. 198): Baked Turnip Pudding. Take a turnip in good condition and cut it into thin slices. Thread them on a line so that the slices do not touch one another as they dry, and hang them in the sun or in a warm oven where bread has just baked. They should not be watery; let them dry out well. Mash the dries slices and push the puree through a sieve. Put the turnip puree in a clay pot.

Take clear, light-colored honey (make sure it has not fermented) and boil it, skimming off any foam. Pour the boiled honey into the turnip puree-as much honey as you have puree. Add nutmeg, cloves, pepper, and saffron in such measure that no one spice dominates, nor is it overspiced. Seal the clay pot with dough and steam it in the oven for two days and two nights. Then it will be good to eat. But if it is too liquid, add more turnip puree. It should be the texture of a lump of caviar.

Yana's Baked Turnip Pudding

Clean and peel the turnip. Dice it and place into a blender or food processor. Pulse several times, using a spatula to push the turnip away from the sides and down to the blade. Continue processing until the turnip is well pulped, but not quite pureed (alternatively, you could grate the turnip and then mince it into smaller pieces with a knife). Pack the turnip pulp loosely into a measuring cup(s) and note the amount.

Place the turnip into a clean dishtowel and twist the towel closed, forming the pulp into a ball. Over a sink, press as much liquid as you can out of the turnip pulp, twisting and rolling the ball along the edge of the sink. The pulp should have the consistency of wet sawdust. Place the pulp back into the blender.

Measure out honey in the same amount as the turnip pulp [Option: Heat the honey in the microwave or over a stove, and add the spices to the honey, letting them steep for a few minutes. This may allow the saffron and spices to release more flavor]. Add the honey and spices to the turnip in the blender and pulse until the mixture is pureed. Pour the mixture into a lidded baking dish. Make a thick paste out of flour and water and use it to seal the lid on securely. Place in a 300 degree oven and bake for about 3 hours. Let the pudding cool until you can safely handle the baking dish. Carefully chip the flour paste off from the lid and open up the pot. The pudding should be a dark golden brown and will look like small-size caviar (no, really!) when you stir it up. If it is not very thick, cover it (forget the flour paste) and bake for another hour.

Spoon it into a serving dish and serve as a dessert or a sweet condiment with meat. This pudding is very sweet and very strong-tasting, so my suggestion is to only allow a small portion to each person, perhaps only a few tablespoons.

A Sixteenth Century Map

By Paul Wickenden of Thanet

I spent a weekend this past Fall in Philadelphia for a funeral and (mostly in an attempt to cheer myself up) I went shopping at the antique stores. At one of these in Chestnut Hill, I browsed through a collection of "Russian" prints. Expecting to find a lot of 19th century junk, I had fairly low expectations. But then I came across this map (an original piece from 1597).

Actually a page from a book, the map is drawn by Girolamo Porro and is taken from his Geographiae Universaetum Tum Veteris Tum Novae (Cologne: Peter Keschedt, 1597). It measures approximately 6" x 8". As the curator's notes included with the map state: "A strongly engraved series of maps from [Giovanni] Magini's edition of Ptolemy's Geography. The maps were drawn by Porro, probably under the direction of Magini [and are] based upon the best maps available at the time by such cartographers as Gerard Mercator and Abraham Ortelius. These are excellent sixteenth century maps: fine examples of cartography in the early days of modern cartography." I hope you will agree and share it with you for your enjoyment.

Notes from Samarkand

By Peotr Alexeivich Novgorodski

[Editor's note: Lord Peotr missed Pennsic this year, but he had a fabulous reason to do so. Instead of Pennsic, he went to Central Asia. This article is part of a continuing series of pieces about his travels.]

We crossed portions of the red desert and the black desert on caravan tracks through a wilderness of unwatered land. The sun is closer to the earth here and the heat at midday is terrific. I washed my tunic one-day and after walking a thousand paces it was totally dry. Here, horses must be treated carefully or they will die. They have a large hairy draught animal with two mounds on its back called "camel," which endureth the heat well. Rus and other foreign travelers suffer greatly in height of the day, but local Musselmen, Persians, and Turks can endure hard work even to noon.

After a time we came to a place called Samarkand in a shallow valley with a rivulet which passes for a river in these parts. It is, or rather was, a great city that King Alexander once conquered, of which he said, "Everything I have heard of Marakanda is true, except that it is more beautiful than I imagined." When we arrived we saw what at first appeared to be low and broken hills of mudstone. Upon drawing close we understood that before us were the ruins of 300 acres of houses, wherein no stone remained upon another stone. Here too were bones and skulls and wreck everywhere -- for what we saw before us was wrought by Genghis Khan more than sixty years ago. It is worse even than Kiev, since no attempt has been made to rebuild and no change to the death beyond wind and weather.

We walked among the sad ruins. Only one building remains, this in the graveyard of Shahr-I-Zindah, being the tomb of the cousin of the Musselman profit, named Qusam ibn-Abbas. Why Ghenghis Khan spared this shrine, I do not know. We saw also ruins of a palace from a time when the people of the city were idol worshipers. Here are the remains of a very beautiful mural with rich blue pigments showing ambassadors from every nation even to the land of India paying tribute the king. But the roof is caved and burnt and much of it covered with soil.

Three miles from these ruins merchants have set up a market, temples and caravanasari. Under Mongol rule travel is now perfectly safe and expeditious if one has a safe conduct tablet from the Khan. Merchants again ply the routes from Rus, Byzantium and the Levant along to the land of Idol Worshippers in the South (also called "India" by some) and the land of the Mongols in the East. Mayhap, with time, this city may rise again; though doubtful am I that its former glory ever be recovered.

Economical Period Russian Body Armor
Part One: The Bakherets

By Mordak Timofei'vich Rostovskogo

As I planned my return to the wonderful and painful world of heavy combat, I found myself wanting to build a set of recognizably Russian armor to fit my persona. The first place I checked was the now defunct website of the group in St. Petersburg, Russia (sad, but not unexpected considering the state of that nation these days). Iconsulted my vast array of books but had only limited success. Then, by a stroke of the purest luck, I was asked to judge an A&S entry a few weekends ago, mostly because it was Russian in nature. Lo and behold, what I found was the perfect cheap Russian body armor that anyone with a hardware store and a handful of cheap tools can make -- the bakherets -- affectionately known as "slinky armour".

On excellent authority from Master Mikhail of The Peoples Republic of Calontir, I learned that, when made of 16 gauge metal, the bakherets is so protective that the wearer only needs to wear a t-shirt and kidney pads. Unfortunately, it weighs in at twenty-four pounds for a vest sized garment and you have trouble feeling good blows (a little heavy for the serious sport fighter or a lazy one like me). The version I am going to describe weighs ten pounds and has the flexibility of chainmail but the protective quality of plate armour. Best of all, it is very Russian looking.

The bakherets originated from Persia, where it was known as the berjalt. It was introduced into the Russian principalities by the troops of the Golden Horde during the fourteenth century and quickly caught on. Picture: narrow strips of overlapping metal bands held together with chainmail links down each side. After completing twelve strips, they are linked together by a central row of chainmail links connecting each strip of plates to the one beside it. Sound confusing? It really is not and makes an excellent project for those long, boring winters.

The tools needed are a Whitney punch to make three evenly spaced holes along the narrow ends of each plate, a metal rod (5/16" in diameter and 24-36" long), a drill, a wire cutter or Dremel tool, a pair of medium needle-nosed pliers, a file, and some kind of saw to cut the metal. The materials needed are a coil of tempered 16 gauge fence wire and as much 3/4" wide packing banding as you can either scrounge, purchase, or beg in any of the warehouses, factories, UPS facilities or construction sites or groceries in the area. It is spring steel, light weight, already bent to conform to the body, and (best of all) usually free. For a 5'9", 200lb person, a vest sized garment needs 792 plates (more, if extended to make tassets to protect hips, butt and groin).

For the sake of quick efficiency, find someone with a radial arm saw or a "chop saw." You may need to buy a metal cutting blade for it (along with pizza and beer for the owner!). It is even better if the same workshop has a bench mounted grinder in it (to take off any burrs from the cuts on the metal strips).

Measure your chest loosely and divide by twelve. This will give you the length each plate needs to be. Use the first finished plate as a template for the rest and mark as you go along. It goes very quickly.

Next, cut and slide into a box or pail next to the table for punching the holes with the Whitney punch. The best way is to clamp the punch into a vise by the bottom handle and stick a close fitting hollow pipe over the top handle for greater leverage with less effort. The holes should be twice as wide as the wire to allow each link to move freely within it. The three holes should be evenly spaced along the narrow ends of each strip. The last step is to grind off any spurs or burrs created by the punching or cutting. This will take most of a Sunday if done by yourself (or maybe three hours with three organized friends). Bluing the plates in your oven or grill is entirely up to you.

Cut a notch in the end of the 5/16" rod to place the end of the wire in. The other end should be clamped into the drill and controlled by a friend. Slowly string the wire around the rod, keeping the speed of the drill constant and the tension on the wire steady and firm for greater conformity in the links. Cut off the end of the wire when you run out of rod and repeat 8-12 times. Finish by cutting the new coils of wire to make the chainmail links. This will take an evening after work. The true perfectionist can finish each link by grinding the ends of each link flat or by using a dremel tool with the metal cutting attachment. It is slower but creates smooth link ends for closer fits when closed.

To make the strips, put the first link through the bottom hole on each side of the plate strip and place the next plate over the next two holes. Place a link through the next set of holes up on each side and place the next plate on. This third hole should be through three plates as will most of the others in the strip of plates. Repeat this process in front of the TV until 66 plates are on the strip and each hole has a link through it. With a needle nosed pliers in each hand, butt each end up to the other end forming a closed, smooth link that will not catch on the hole. Move your way down each side. Repeat 11 more times.

Finish by connecting each strip to the others with a row of central chainmail links. Extra chainmail links can be used to make straps. Shorter lengths of plate strips can be used as pauldrons running from the neck to over the shoulder caps. The links between the strips give an extra fluid 8" to the diameter of the armour to allow a gambeson to be worn, which is necessary. For a rounded neck or armhole, the plates are cut at an angle with the holes and connecting links still running along the edge. Mark where to cut before cutting the plates with a jig saw or a band saw fitted with a metal cutting blade. Be careful and slow when doing this. Afterward, file down any rough edges on the plates, punch the first hole on the bottom altered plate, and use that hole to mark the next higher plate. Continue until the curve is punched and links are holding them somewhat in place. It is a pain but it is worth the better fit.

Spelling Russian Names in Period English

By Paul Wickenden of Thanet

When registering names in the Society, increasing attention has been paid in recent years to orthography and capturing the precise period spelling of names. This is all fine and good for languages that use a Latin alphabet, but what of those that use the Cyrillic? What is a period orthography for such names?

Knowing the period spelling in Cyrillic letters is hardly sufficient for two reasons. First of all, the SCA is not reenacting Medieval Russia, it is reenacting Medieval Western Europe. As such, all Russian personae in the SCA are presumed to be travelling away from home and thus would have seen their names spelled by foreign scribes in Latin alphabets. Secondly, all names in the SCA (mostly for the convenience of registration in our ASCII-based databases) are registered in Latin letters, and therefore the question of correct orthography becomes particularly prickly.

Most SCA-Russian names follow the transliteration system of either the Library of Congress (like I do) or the Revised English System. However, neither system is period. If you were a Russian trader visiting England in the age of Elizabeth, how would your name actually be spelled? The question is far from theoretical. England and Russia had a surprisingly lively diplomatic and economic interaction during the sixteenth century (as well as before). While the visits tended to be of Englishmen in Russia, rather than vice versa, such trips the other direction did occur. So, what sort of system of Russian-English transliteration existed in the sixteenth century?

To discover the answer to this question, we have a remarkable source: Giles Fletcher's account of his embassy to Russia, published in 1591, and entitled, Of the Russe Commonwealth. In seeking an idea of how Elizabethans would have treated Russian names in England, a period account of the Russians (including their names) is a strong source. All the more so, because Flectcher's account is available in a facsimile edition.

As an Elizabethan, Fletcher did not use systematic spelling in English, let alone a consistent system of transliteration of foreign words. But by perusing through his book and his treatment of Russian words, some observations can be made.

General Observations. His system was broadly phonetic but was handicapped by Flectcher's lack of familiarity with the Russian language or linguistics in general. His major effort was to write down the proper nouns he encountered in such a way that the approximate sound could be created for listeners back home. The more modern goal of trying to create a system that could accurately transcribe phonemes was simply not of concern to him.

As a rule, Fletcher was most successful at transcribing familiar consonants. He has little trouble with B, D, G, L, M, N, P, R, T, or Z and tended to transcribe their sounds perfectly. The letter K, however, proved troublesome as he sometimes wrote it down as a K and sometimes he wrote it as a hard C (and some odd times, he even choose a Ch). As a result, Russian words like [velikii] were written down by Fletcher as "velica" and surnames like [Belskii] were written as "Belschey."

But, by far, what gave Flectcher the hardest time was the vowels. Russian vowels, when stressed, tend to have a rather full sound that seems exaggerated to English ears. The listener is unsure of whether they have heard one vowel or some sort of diphthong. When a vowel is unstressed, on the other hand, the sound it creates is so altered that English speakers are prone to misidentify it altogether. A classic modern example is the surname of the last leader of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev's name, pronounced by a native speaker, is likely to sound like it should be written out as "Garbichov" (the stress lies on the last syllable, where the "e" is in fact a "ë") in a truly phonetic transliteration. When faced with Russia's vowel sounds, Fletcher became completely random, using whatever English vowel he felt like (which sometimes meant deleting the vowel altogether).

He had even greater trouble with unfamiliar sounds. The letter [J], for example, was alternately transcribed as I, Y, or simply ignored -- a problem that persists in modern systems (like the Revised English System) as well. The letters [Zh] and [Shch] were almost never transcribed completely in a way that could accurately reflect their sound. Instead, he might write them both as Sh.

Period Russian Phonetics. It is important to remember that the Russian language in the sixteenth century was not pronounced quite as it is today. While it is impossible to know the full details of period Russian phonetics, there are some aspects that we are keenly aware of. For example, hard signs and soft signs lack sounds of their own in modern Russian and have been largely eliminated from contemporary orthography. In period, however, they were much more frequent and treated as vowels, and they would have been distinctly audible as reduced open sounds. To an untrained ear, however, they would not have been fully audible, as Fletcher alternates between recording them with the letter E and ignoring them. The most common place for him to notice their sound is at the end of words and names (which is natural enough, as that is where they would be most audible) but he occasionally records them in other locations in a word or name. Thus, we find his "addition" of the letter E on several names. In each case, the terminal hard sign (not transcribed at all in the modern spelling) has been preserved in Flectcher's spelling.

Creative Orthography. The fact that Fletcher never really came up with a system for the transliteration of Russian sounds (but instead wrote it as he went) is underlined by his inconsistences. He could take a name and spell it consecutively in a variety of different ways. For example, consider the multiple ways that he chose to spell Ivan Vasil'evich's name: Ivan Vasilowich. [Fle 15]; Ivan Basileus. [Fle 15v]; and Ioan Vasilowich. [Fle 16v] Or his decision to preserve the terminal hard sign in Boris's name in one case and ignore it in the other on the same page: Borrise Federowich Godonoe. [Fle 35v]; Borris Federowich Godonoe. [Fle 35v]

But while these examples are fairly clearly Fletcher's own doing, one should remember that Russians at this time were not any more consistent with spelling than Fletcher was. Thus, one is left wondering if the following person was really named[Stefan] or [Stepan]: Stephan Vasilowich Godonoe. [Fle 35v]; Stepan Vasilowich Godonoe. [Fle 40] Both names were considered variants of each other and might have been used interchangeably in period. So Fletcher may or may not have been accurately transcribing.

Missing Sounds or Giving Up. At times, Fletcher might miss letters or entire syllables in words and thus fail to record them. Other times, it just seemed like Fletcher could not hear the sounds in the first place. Consonant clusters appear to have given him the most problems but there were plenty of other cases to indicate that accuracy was simply a common problem for him: Borris Federowich Godonoe [Boris Fedorovich Godunov] [Fle 27]; Vasilie Vywich Golloohen [Vasilii Iur'evich Golitsyn] [Fle 27]; Andrieu Ivanowich Suskoy [Andrei Ivanovich Shuiskii] [Fle 27]; Metheloskey [Mstislavskii] [Fle 27v]; Hubetskoy [Trubetskoi] [Fle 27v]; Bodan Ivanowich Sabarove [Bogdan Ivanovich Saburov] [Fle 30]; Demetrie Ivanowich Forestine [Dmitrii Ivanovich Khvorostinin] [Fle 30].

When faced with longer names and words, Flectcher was prone to simply giving up and thus large segments of the Russian might be lost in translation. These might be replaced with other letters and sometimes Fletcher would tack on a particularly "Russian"-looking ending: Vorallinskoy [Vorotynskii] [Fle 27v]; Odgoskey [Odoevskii] [Fle 27v]; Guletchey [Golitsyn] [Fle 27v]; Ivan Buterlyney [Ivan Buturlin] [Fle 30]; Micheta Sydroveskoy [Mikita Sidorov] [Fle 52]; Gabriell Iacovelesni [Gavrilko Iakovlev] [Fle 52]

Sometimes, in order to make the original sound clear (and prevent it from being swallowed up by sloppy English mumbled pronunciation), Fletcher would actually add letters, as he did in this case: Andreas Guraken Bulgatkove [Andrei Kurakin-Bulgakov] [Fle 27]. By adding a T to the name, Fletcher could ensure that the K would be properly pronounced. Alternatively, perhaps Fletcher actually heard the hard K in Bulgakov as a TK.

Lingua Anglica. When Fletcher was able to recognize a Russian word or name as a cognate, he frequently simply chose to use the English (or sometimes Greek) equivalent. There are many natural reasons to do this. First of all, minimizing the large number of unfamiliar proper nouns in his work made it more accessible to his Elizabethan English readers. Secondly, it helped to impart a greater familiarity and smooth out the oddness that seemed to predominate his account. Finally, it solved a large number of questions about proper spelling. As a rule, then, Anglicization was the preferred route. And, in at least one case, Fletcher chose to translate an entire name (including the patronymic) and transformed Ivan Danil'evich into "Evan or Iohn, sonne to Daniel" [Fle 12v].

Given Russia's Byzantine roots and the close proximity of its names to Greek, Fletcher recognized another familiar method to transform Russian names into familar forms -- by using Anglicized Greek renderings. Thus,[Vasilii] could be transformed into Basileus [Fle 62]; and [Feodor] could become Theodore [Fle 42v].

So, how does one write a Russian name in 16th century England? The short answer: with great creativity. Bearing in mind what we have learned above (and following Fletcher's lead) consider his practices. Where possible, Russian names should be transformed into something more familiar. If one recognizes that Nikolai is Nicholas, then use the latter. Rather than introduce the strange Russian guest as "Ivan Ivanovich" to your friends, call him "John, sonne to John." If nothing else, it will make for a less distracting dinner conversation.

Where that fails, be flexible, and transcribe only as much of the name as is necessarily to indicate its uniqueness. Remove letters and sounds that distract and add others which help to accentuate the sound and make it clearer to the listener. Preserving the hard and soft signs is a nice touch, but even Fletcher did not do so consistently.

Book Reviews

  • Chronicles of the Barbarians. Ed. David W. McCullough. New York: History Book Club, 1998.

    At 392 pages, with accounts spanning from 424 BC to 1453 AD, this is an ambitious work. An anthology of first hand reports, the first half of this book covers a Greek tale of Scythians and various Roman descriptions of the Celts, Germans, Goths, Vandal and Huns. The second half of Chronicles is devoted to the Vikings, Mongols and Turks and Crusaders. The selections are quite complete and the translations appear authoritative. Yet for all this, I found this book of little use and rather maddening.

    Ancient narrators bring with them worldviews vastly different than our own. Because I have waded through much primary material, in some places I could pick out factual passages interlarded by excursions into fantasy. Where I was less familiar with the topic, I did not have a clue. What this heavy and elaborate hardcover badly needs is footnotes and detailed introductions to accounts. What is the purpose then of creating such an elaborate and non-authorative book? Perhaps the publishers simply didn't want the expense of hiring a historian or group of historian to annotate these diverse tales.

    Certainly Chronicles of the Barbarians has its pleasures. Herodotus's "Scythians" includes the following observation, "the Scythians have taken some seed of this hemp, they creep under cloths, then put the seed on the red-hot stones; but this being put on smokes... The Scythians, transported by the vapors, shout aloud...." More sobering, yet equally fascinating is a section from Matthew Paris's Chronicles of 1240-1253. Amid somewhat accurate accounts of the Mongols, comes the bazaar anti-Semitic passages of the conspiracy of Mongols and Jews "1241: The Enormous Wickedness of the Jews." -- Not the kind of document commonly anthologized.

    Is this book useful for Slavic studies? My estimate is that only ten of its 38 essay relate at all to the region. Most or all of these documents are anthologized in lighter, less expensive and better annotated book. Therefore, I don't recommend this volume.

    -- Peotr Alexeivich Novgorodski

    Standard Disclaimer Stuff: Most of us are members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc (SCA) but our Interest Group and its newsletter are not officially affiliated with the SCA. Naturally, then, Slovo does not bear any intentional resemblance to anything that the SCA officially endorses.

    The original authors retain the rights to their works. Please contact them directly for permission to reprint. Uncredited material is the property of the publisher.

    The publisher and editor is Paul Wickenden of Thanet (Paul Goldschmidt), 3071 Cimarron Trail, Madison WI 53719, 608-288-0255, e-mail: 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 (