Summer AS XXXVIII (2003)
Volume VIII, Issue 4 (#31)

From the Nachalnik

Time again for War and for those going to Pennsic, a reminder that the annual SIG meeting/Slavic Festival will take place at 6pm on Sunday, August 10th. Check with the official Pennsic schedule for the exact location, but we will have the tent for three hours, so feel free to show up when you can. The organizer this year is Jadwiga Zajaczkowa (Jennifer Heise, 1103 W Walnut St, Apt 1, Allentown PA 18102,

In addition, there are a few classes being taught at Pennsic that might interest SIG members including:

  • Modern Russian for the Middle Ages by Leszek Dunajecki at 3pm on 8/10
  • The Art of Decorating Ukranian Easter Eggs by Terryl MacAodhagain at 1pm on 8/12

    And these are in addition to a wide variety of not-necessarily Slavic classes being taught by SIG members.

    While I won't make it myself, I hope that many of you will come and I will look forward to accounts of what happens this year. As always, I welcome such accounts for the Fall issue of Slovo.

    Learning the Words: Czech/English Dictionaries for Re-Enactors

    By Alastair Millar

    Over the last ten years or so a large number of Czech/English and English/Czech translation dictionaries have appeared, of varying degrees of specialization and accuracy. There are, however, no specialist translation dictionaries for the fields of history, medieval studies or archaeology. While this can be a major headache, it's hardly surprising - a typescript glossary of archaeological terms in translation prepared by Masaryk University ran to almost 100 pages and is woefully incomplete (where not actually inaccurate), and the 7,000-word glossary which, as a translator, I have prepared myself is also still far from comprehensive.

    Of the dictionaries which are available, here are a few of those that will be of most use to re-enactors and others with an interest in the history of the Czech Lands.

  • Fronek, J., Velký cesko-anglický slovník (Prague: Leda, 2000)

    This is the latest large (although still single volume) Czech-English dictionary on the market, claiming some 100,000 keywords, 200,000 words and phrases and 400,000 equivalents. Well laid out, its only slight drawback is a tendency to be weak on archaic and/or outdated words.

  • Poldauf I. et al.Velký cesko-anglický slovník, 3rd Edition. (Prague, WD, 2000)

    Another large (68,000 keywords), single volume Czech-English dictionary, now regarded as something of a classic. Useful in that it covers many archaic and outdated words and phrases, it's not so good on modern (mainly technical) English.

  • Hais K & Hodek B. Velký anglicko-ceský slovník, 2nd edition. (Prague, Academia, 1991)

    The mother of all translation dictionaries, a four-volume epic with over 100,000 keywords. Nothing else compares for English-Czech translation, and indeed it is the base reference for most smaller specialist dictionaries.

  • Parez J.Cesko-anglický pírucní slovník genealogický. (Prague, Scriptorium, 1999)

    The "Handy Czech-English Genealogical dictionary", stuffed full of words and terms that can't be found elsewhere. The author is an archivist at the Premonstratensian Canonry at Prague-Strahov. Highly recommended.

  • Strettiová T.J. Anglicko-ceský teologický slovník, 2nd edition. (Prague, Charles University, 1999)

    Around 2,000 terms English-Czech, from the field of (mainly Christian/Catholic) theology, prepared by a Premonstratensian nun. Occasionally useful but probably difficult to obtain.

  • Herout, J. Slabikár návštevníku památek, 3rd revised edition. (Pardubice, Tvorba, 2002?)

    A monolingual Czech dictionary of historical, artistic and architectural terms for those with an interest in monuments. An excellent reference for those who can read Czech - nothing else comes close.

    The Spirits of My House

    By Mordak Timofeyvich Rostovskogo

    A domovoi lives under my bed, snoring and muttering,
    My eyes aren't quick enough to see but I know he's there,
    The spirit of the house, protective and mischievous, prone to pranks,
    If I can stay awake just a little longer tonight in my bed I might see,
    But the darkness brings dreams, even as my family's snores bring sleep.

    A bannion lives in our sauna, lazy and contented in the steam,
    His wrinkled little feet on the bench and contented smile on his face,
    Vengeful when fresh water and alder branches are foul and old,
    Often locking others in the steam house, sometimes to their quick end,
    But loving and contented with the milk and bread left him on the twelve holy days.

    A rusalka lives in our river, just within sight of my house,
    A young girl I hear, no much older than me,
    Yearning for life like all young things taken too early by fate,
    Her cold embrace welcoming the living, urging them to play beneath the surface,
    Willing to trade the lives of the unwary for her company, or so my babushka says.

    A stanovoi lives in our barn, grousing as he toils, straw in his hair,
    A hard worker but a slave to his temper, trading his labors for mead,
    A lover of horses, often sleeping in the hay, softly snoring,
    Tired from his labors or furious if ignored, anger never far away,
    A mixed blessing for most, the unseen resident of our barn.

    The firebird visits our grove, feasting on the bounty found there,
    A late night visitor, greedy and shy, craving the fruits of many an orchard,
    Brilliant in its plumage, lighting the night with its many colored glow,
    Good luck to those who can trap it, the holder of knowledge lost,
    The shining light of the old world, glowing in the darkness of ours.

    Many spirits live around my house, unseen but always there,
    Happy and contented or anger and destructive, they are there,
    They share our lives, see our joy and cause some of our sadness,
    The spirits of the house, never safe to ignore,
    The spirits of my house, or so my grandmother says.

    Period Russian Heraldry

    By Paul Wickenden of Thanet

    There is a general understanding that heraldry (in the Western European sense) was not introduced to Russia until the time of Peter the Great, and thus is out of period. Furthermore, there has been a degree of skepticism about Eastern European equivalents (most notably the Polish tamga or the Russian znak). However, in a book I recently acquired by A. G. Silaev, entitled Istoki russkoi geraldiki [Sources of Russian Heraldry] (Moscow: Grand, 2002), the author makes some convincing arguments in favor of an earlier appearance of distinctly Western heraldic tradition than previously argued.

    Naturally, the idea of tribal symbols and the use of identification marks in battle can be found quite early in Rus history, and Silaev begins with the personal "marks" (znaki) of the Riurikid Princes, some of which I have reproduced below.

    Similar to the Polish tamga, these largely indigenous symbols would not be considered "heraldry" in the SCA's use of the term. But they were certainly used in similar ways to the English heraldry that informs SCA practice. In a 15th century icon from Novgorod, these symbols are clearly seen displayed on company banners of cavalry soldiers.

    But the most interesting examples for are purposes are two seals from the sixteen century. Neither one would be registerable in

    the SCA (for reasons of complexity and marshaling) and they reflect more Continental style than most SCA heraldry, but they are interesting in the way that each one reflects a hybrid of the traditional symbols with the Western European iconography of heraldry. The first coat of arms is of Grigorii Khodkevich and is dated to 1569. The second one is the arms of Konstantin Ostrozhskii and dated to 1578.

    Battle Staff

    By Kinjal of Moravia

    We stood there all alone, if four can be ignored.
    Back to back we formed a square by set measure
    of staff's long reach and destructive task implored
    to hold to this ground where blood and sweat are treasure.

    Many came with sword held high and confidence assured
    to be well met by swirling, blurring figure eight
    and stab at unguarded foot or helm uncovered
    by those who think only sword can beat on metal plate.

    Give me a solid staff this day and bind four-square
    confidence to cover any attack or intent
    to shake me from my liege lord commanded share
    of secure life and bonding with this staff's portent.

    Book Reviews

  • The Legacy of Genghis Khan, Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256-1353. Linda Komaroff and Stefano Carboni, eds. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003)

    New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art has consistently assembled blockbuster shows on topics of interest to the medievalist. A few years back it was Byzantium, now they have done it again for the Mongol Empire. For those who could not make the show, this book is a comprehensive record. The Legacy, in fact, is mostly a show (and a book) about the successor states to the Empire. It focuses especially the Il-Khanate of Persia, arguably the most civilized region. The Golden Horde, which ruled Russia, is also fairly well represented.

    The 300 page book has large photographs, mostly in color, of every artifact in the exhibition. The text consists of a series of essays of varying degrees of specialization from Courtly Life of Ilkanids to chemical studies of the pigments in glazes of ceramic tiles at a palace site. The recurring and most fascinating theme of the book is the great cultural crossroad that the Mongol Empire in Persia became. Authors show how designs from China, the steppes and Persia were married into a new hybrid court cultural. I was startled to see, in one case, how miniature artist copied a European annunciation scene, to illustrate the life of Muhammad.

    It is rare to find material objects from the Mongol period. Here they are in abundance. From the Golden Horde come elements of horse's hardness, saddle and belt fittings and a dragon handled cup, almost all made of gold. A silver and gold Mongol safe conduct pass rounds out the selection. Elements from the Il-Khanate are broader still, including ceramics, pieces of textiles and manuscript pages. I would think especially for someone trying to recreate clothing that the textiles and the beautiful color drawings in the manuscript pages would be invaluable. The miniature paintings of this period are remarkably clear and beautiful. Some extraordinary manuscript pages should be noted-- hunt and battle scenes, the Mongol siege of Baghdad (with catapults and pontoon bridges), scenes of childbirth, Bible and Koran scenes (usually prohibited in Islam) and illustrations from various epic cycles. The Mongols who settled in Persia, it turns out, went on a prodigious campaign of book production. The Legacy shows many of the highlights. My personal favorites are legendary scenes from the life of Alexander the Great, such as "Iskander Battling the Habash Monster"

    The Legacy of Genghis Khan is a beautifully illustrated, well printed book. Despite being large, somewhat expensive, with technical essays, the artwork will make it essential for those trying to learn about the Mongols of Persia in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries.

    -- Peotr Alexeivich Novgorodski

  • Slavianskaia entsiklopediia [Slavic Encyclopedia]. Two Volumes (Moscow: Olma-Press, 2002)

    This mammoth two volume encyclopedia is dedicated to pre-1650 Russia and Rus. In itself, this makes the set a valuable resource. But it will prove rather more disappointing to re-enactors because of its focus. This is a traditional encyclopedia, dedicated to biographies, genealogies, places, and famous events (mostly battles). Hence, there are excellent entries for Ivan the Terrible and almost every cathedral is mentioned. Most of the major battles of the period (focusing heavily on 900-1650) are outlined and detailed blow for blow. However, the now de rigeur fixtures of a modern Western historical dictionary ("women", "clothing", "food", etc.) are completely absent. Costumes are mentioned by ethnicity (a section on Belarussians, for example, includes drawings of Belarussian clothing). However, there are little surprises including a nice brief entry on "birchbark documents" and another on "handwriting" (which includes period writing samples).

    The illustrations are all black and white and overwhelmingly sketches or 19th century engravings, so do not expect massive pictorial details.

    The articles are each fairly short (few run longer than half a page), but are in fact summarized version of much longer pieces. What the editors have done, in fact, is rather than commission new entries, they have summarized existing scholarship. And this, in the end, proves to be the great value of the work. Each entry is referenced to its original sources, which are listed in a standard bibliography at the end of the second volume. The resulting list is a seminal collection of nearly 2000 articles written about period Russia (only one of which is in English!). It provides perhaps the most concise listing of Russian historical scholarship in any publication whatsoever, and the grandiose volumes of this encyclopedia in turn summarize that learning.

    Recommended for those who can read Russian as a starting resource.

    -- Paul Wickenden of Thanet

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    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 (