Winter AS XLI (2007)
Volume XII, Issue 2 (#44)


From the Nachalnik

It's been an odd winter. Here in the Northshield, we've barely had any snow at all, while the Outlands have been buried again and again. And the temperatures have been so cozy that it's hard to convince the locals to wear leggings, let alone the furs and cloaks of good Russian garb. But with the hopes of more appropriate climactic conditions, Master Mordak has given us an article on doing garb cheaply (a topic that he will also be teaching at Gulf Wars this year) and we have the continuation of the Sarmatian Baroque series from Pan Zygmunt (as well as a book review from Peotr). However, most of all, I want to draw your attention to the plans for the Slavic University.

The Slavic University is an outgrowth of numerous discussions over the years to have a Slavic-themed event for SIG members: a place where we can go and be completely immersed in all things Slavic. The gatherings at Pennsic have always been a small-scale version of this same thing, but the idea of the University is an all-day event with classes and other activities with a Slavic bent. It will be a regular SCA event as well, so it is an opportunity not simply for SIG people to meet but for us to meet others as well (thus helping us fulfill our original mandate: to be a resource for others). The event is not quite official at press-time, but close to being so. And it is tentatively scheduled for nearly a year away, so please mark it on your calendars now so you can make it there. It should be a very special event! And I wanted to take this moment to thank Istvan Valkai and Zygmunt Nadratowski for taking the lead on this. There will be plenty of opportunities to help out as plans for the event develop, so please pay attention here and on the SIG listserv for more information. I hope to see you all there!

As always, I am soliciting contributions for future issues. The major editorial requirement is that articles/artwork be relevant to the mission of the Group (to promote Slavic and Eastern European medievalism).

Slavic University of the Midrealm

By Zygmunt Nadratowski

People interested in Slavic cultures, including (but not limited to) the SCA's time period are invited to the Slavic University of the Midrealm (SLUM) to be held on Saturday, December 8, 2007 at the Palmer Lodge of Bertha Brock Park (Barony of Andelcrag, Canton of Three Walls, Middle Kingdom) – see for more site information.

Yep! We're announcing this a year in advance, so all you out of kingdom people can plan to see if you can come! Sunday is available as a departure date, in case there are some who are too drunk to drive home on the previous evening. Site opens at 10 am Saturday, closes 11pm Saturday. Friday could be used for any set up.

We want to hold lots of classes, including classes on the clothing, recreation, behavior, and eating habits of Slavic cultures. In the evening, we plan to hold a pot luck feast.

We expect the site fee to be in the $7 - $10 range (with discounts for teens; and kids under a certain age will be free). The non-member surcharge of $3 will apply because this is an official SCA event.

We have the lodge reserved and will have hotel and airport information out in the near future.

Russian Costuming for No Money!

By Mordak Timofeyvich Rostovskogo

In these modern middle ages, nearly everyone starts their participation on a shoestring budget, either by necessity or choice. Another common experience is that w all seem to try a couple personas before we find the “right fit” for us. In this circumstance, most people don't want to invest very much money in a persona that may be just a memory in six months, so we all start with T-tunics, or their female equivalent, chemises. Better yet, your Shire or Baronial Gold Key officer will have more than he or she wants to continue dragging around with him/her. The simple tunic, a pair of scissors, a measuring tape, and a needle/thread are all you need for your first Russian garment, or someone else's.

The easiest garment to first convert that old cotton tunic into is the caftan. All you need to do is cut it right up the center from bottom to neck, sew down the edges, and use a cloth sash or belt to keep the overlapped sides closed! Fancier versions have a row of cloth strips on each side, each one meeting the one opposite in the center and held shut with a button/loop. If you want a typical Russian outer tunic, do all this but only cut it down the center to your navel. It's fantastic on a hot day!

Even fancier versions of either caftan or tunic have collars, usually a strip of fabric doubled over and sewn at the edge of the collar or shaped like a flattened banana with the shorter side sewn into the neckline. Another fancy addition could be a wide (3-12”) strip of fabric sewn to the edge of sleeves and/or the hem of the T-tunic. Just push the end of the sleeve up on your wrist and you will look like a period Russian of average means!

Your hat will look like one half of a football, with a strip of fabric, an old fur collar or a piece of trim sewn at the edge and turned up on the outside of the hat. Russians also would sometime cut this strip from the edge straight to the hat and let the two side hang open and kind of drooping to each side, center on the forehead. For nine out of ten events that is what I wear on my head. It's different, comfortable and easy to make.

Women's garments are surprisingly similar in design. The hem is ankle length, but the over tunic is usually only mid-thigh to knee length with elbow length sleeves. Most over-dress garments have wide trim, usually fabric, at the hem and done the center front. Many had buttons or ornamental bobs down the center of this fabric from neck to hem. An old 60s-style necklace will provide all of these that you will need, fake metal or “wood” is better! The over dress could have no sleeves, wide angle wing sleeves (open along bottom edge), slit from armpit to cuff, or even elbow length and wide.

Another cheap and easy “over-dress” really isn't a dress at all: it's three rectangles of fabric hanging lengthwise from the hip but sewn together only at the top edge with a couple loops of thread and a cord or button to connect the last two panels. One panel should hang straight down the back, with each of the other two over a thigh each. All three should be long enough to reach from waist to mid-calf or ankle, and be wide enough together to reach around your waist.

Last, there is a short women's jacket, with or without sleeves, but generally hip or mid-thigh length and slit up the front. It can be held closed by hand, with a couple buttons and/or loops at the top or along the entire opening. A fur collar from the thrift store adds a lot of elegance to it but is unnecessary. Or, you can just leave it open and unbuttoned! It's a Central Asian garment that I conjecture the Mongols brought with them. Its very comfortable, easy to make and a nice layer when nights cool off.

You need a knee length tunic for the hip length version and an ankle length tunic for the mid-thigh length version. First, slit it up the front from hem to neckline. Next, slit the back from just below your shoulders to the hem and from armpit to armpit, forming a T. Measure the back slit, divide in half and cut each side around to the front slit. Sew each of these lower halves to each side in the back and then sew them together. Pin the center or the big loop of fabric in the center to the top part, in the center. Repeat with each side, separately, until the lower part is pinned to the upper part with many, many folds. Pin the folds flat (they should each be 1” wide) and sew them together. Then sew back across, pinning the folds flat to the upper part so they aren't so noticeable to you when you wear the jacket. Turn and finish the edges, add on a strip of fabric at the hem and/or cuffs, or even fur from a thrift store 1950s coat.

A couple T-tunics and you have a new wardrobe in an evening or two, probably for absolutely free! Be a Russian, hand it off to a newcomer or interested friend in the local group.

Sarmatian Baroque: Military Dress/Organization in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, 1550-1600: Part Two

By Zygmunt Nadratowski

Cavalry (Jazda)

Foreign Autorament. Mercenary German cavalry was present in the Commonwealth as part of the Foreign Autorament, and were called reiters (or drabant-reiters, when part of the Commonwealth's Royal Guard) . They were outfitted as they were in Western Europe – with a cuirass ( karacyr in Polish ) , sometimes up to a ¾ suit of armor.

German Reitar (until 1640s) – Breastplate, metal helm (bascinet or burgonet, etc), steel cuisses, greaves and vambraces. This is by no means inclusive. There is a wealth of information available on the web if you want to have this kind of persona.

Reitar after 1640's – Pappenheimer helm, buff coat, rapier, broadsword or backsword.

Polish Autorament. Polish cavalry was formed into two groups, Cossacks and hussars – kozacky and husaria. Not until the Chmelnitski rebellion of 1648-54 did kozak become a dirty word. After that date, Polish light cavalry was called pancerni, leaving kozak connected with the Zaporozhian rebels. Occasionally, Mongol Tatars were included in the ranks of the kozacky as well.

The definitions of Cossack and hussar are not as strict in history as we re-creators would like. There are records of hussar banners equipped identical to a kozak unit, and vice versa. And in the late 1600's, some units were changed from one type into the other!



Perhaps no term is more well known or more misunderstood than this. The Cossack, the ‘Hell's Angels of the Steppes'! The word kozak generates an immediate visual of violent, hard drinking, horse riding warriors (Hollywood strikes again - thanks for nothing, Taras Bulba). This stereotype is as pervasive as the ale swilling, wench pillaging Viking with a horned helm! Unlike that apocryphal viking, it's a little more grounded in fact. While the kozaks were indeed wild men who were accomplished horseman, historically they were much more likely to attack from chaika boats along the rivers, especially the Dnieper: “The popular image of kozaks as irregular lancer cavalry is quite different from their actual appearance in the 17 th century; to begin with most Kozacky were infantry at this time, and not cavalry, and though many had horses they usually dismounted to fight.”

Fig 5: Batorówka-style Hungarian saber, named for King Bathory. Popular until the mid 1600s. Zygulski, Winged Hussars, 98.

However, the kozacky did come by their wild reputation honestly: “The Zaporozhians displayed many of the traits of the rebellious fringe of modern society, such as a delight in bizarre hairstyles, and a love of drink, song and (especially) fighting…firm discipline kept them together…offenders were drowned in the nearest river.…”

Arguably the most well known group were the Don Cossacks , who gained their name from the river they used as a bandit highway. Yet they hardly ever came into contact with the Commonwealth.

The thing to remember about kozacky is that they are a class of troop, not a national designation.

One thing that gets lost in all the bad press the Zaporozhian cossacks generate is the fact the Cossack banners were raised from men from all over the Commonwealth: “In Lithuania this type of cavalry was known by the name of a Circassian people, the ‘ Petyhorcy' from the region of ‘five hills' ( Piaty Hory ) in the Caucasus.”

It was the fact that Cossacks were raised from ‘loyal' men all over the commonwealth, and not just the ‘bandits' in the Ukraine, that caused the loyal Cossacks to change the name of their troop type to Pancerni during the Chmielnitzky rebellion.

Fig 6: Russian Bakhterets armor from the Late 1600s. From The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia,, 6/11/2006

Kozak kit: The Zaporozhian kozacky would dress in a more Ukrainian fashion, wearing little to no armor, a shirt or giermak , baggy pants, and would be armed at least with a knife, sword and/or spear. Tatar horsebows were used a lot, especially before firearms became widespread, or if the kozak was too poor to have one. The musket was their favorite weapon to fight with, and of course they also had a szabla , either in the Hungarian batorówka or Persian karabela style . Non-Zaporozhian Cossacks should wear the fashion predominate in the area they are from.

Starting with the Chmielnitzky rebellion in 1648, they began wearing the captured loot of the szlachta – zupany, delia, kontuszy and anything else they could pillage. Also, Cossacks that were in the employ of wealthy magnates could have come by these types of clothes honestly, since they were more likely to dress to their masters' standard. In fact, given their freebooting lifestyle, you can pretty much justify using any clothing item or weapon from the Commonwealth, the Ottoman Turks or possibly the Duchy of Moscow. But do not take that polyglot approach too far – if you do, you'll lose your kozak core. A good suggestion would be to pick which time period your kozak is from, and then find one or maybe two different styles of armor/equipment/etc. to make your kit unique, and leave it at that.

Given that the Cossacks were equal opportunity offenders, they could also be equipped with Russian gear from the Duchy of Moscow - bachterets armor (Figure 6 – the same as the Polish bekhter) , kolchuga mail or the famous ‘mirror plate' armor, zertsalo .

Pay for Cossacks often included fine wool, imported from London, Holland, Germany and Silesia.



Fig 7: A late 1640's Pancerni, armed with a musket, spear, and Karabela-style saber. Photo from the MWP, Darius T. Wielec

As previously mentioned, pancerni as a separate troop type did not appear until after the Chmielnitzky rebellion. The word itself simply means ‘mail-covered man', and in that respect it had existed for hundreds of years. In fact, the hussar in figure 9 could be called a pancerni as well. For our purposes, pancerni is meant here to mean the ‘classic' one, wearing a misiurka helm and carrying a kalkan shield (figure 7). Richard Brzezinski had this to say:

“As to the ‘canonical' Pancerni, with misiurka, mail shirt, karwasze and kalkan – then you are looking at (the) 1620s. Take away the kalkan, and you can go back to the 1590s possible the 1580s (As I've stated before…there's very little evidence for the use of kalkans in (the Commonwealth) pre-1650s; (by the way), this is all based on written evidence in memoirs, archival records, troop lists and the like).

“So, in my humble opinion, you could (have a pancerni ) portrayal…providing it was specified he was from 1580-ish or later. And also if you didn't give him a kalkan and karwasze (use a western gauntlet on the bridle-hand if he's an officer, bare hands if not). Replace the misiurka with a ( colpak or other) fur hat and you could go back to 1550.

“There are very few early (pictures) of these chaps. The earliest with mail shirt, is probably the Goluchów Tableau [aka, the painting “Patterns of Costume” from the collection of the Goluchów castle], …and is dateable, (probably) to c. 1610.”

While Mr. Brzezinski doesn't state it specifically here, as has been shown in this work previously, Pancerni before 1648 are really grouped in with the cossacks.

Pancerni kit.

Pre-1648, wealthy person – a Pappenheimer or kapalin style helm if poor, szyszak if wealthy; mail shirt, round shield, Batorówka , shamsir or karabella saber. Mongol horse bow and quiver, or a firearm. No other visible armor.

Post 1648, wealthy person – Misiurka helm, mail shirt, karwasz arm guards, ‘classic' hussar saber, kalkan shield, at least one wheelock or doglock pistol, musket, possibly also Mongol horse bow and quiver, long spear.



As an ‘official' troop type, Dragoons did not appear until 1618. However, infantry had been using horses to get from point A to B in combat for ages, so while the ‘official' troop type wasn't designated until 1618, there definitely were people doing the job before then (in fact, this is exactly what kozaky did).

Starting in 1618, Dragoons were organized officially as a troop type, and were assigned green as their color.



In the muster rolls of the armies of Poland and Lithuania, the terms ‘ Racowie' (Serbian) and ‘ hussar' or ‘ gussar' appear in the mid 1400s [note: Hussar/Gussar are both Hungarian]. When you think of the grand Polish husaria , in their expensive and flashy winged armor, it is easy to forget what the root word really meant robber! It's also interesting to note that ‘robber' implies a ferocious fighter that would strike fast and hard. That implication must certainly have been on the mind of King Bathory, when he re-formed the husaria in that image.

One thing to remember as you develop your hussar kit, is that they were drawn from the richest and most fashion conscious sections of the Commonwealth. As such, hussar banners were horrendously expensive to raise, even with the hussar footing the bill for his own kit. In fact, this high price tag was the main reason the Commonwealth kept those unruly cossacks around – they were a lot cheaper to raise and maintain.

It's easy to see why the hussars get the press, and the bulk of attention from re-enactors and re-creators alike – the hussars have got the bling. So as you build your hussar kit, whenever you can, make sure that all of your gear looks expensive and pretty, because the ostentatious display of wealth, in both dress and weapons, was meat and drink to the hussars.

The First Polish Hussars. The first hussars of the Commonwealth were light cavalry in a support role to the ‘traditional' heavily armored knights, and were formed just before 1500. You can see that documented in the painting of the battle of Orsza in 1514. They served not only the Commonwealth, but also show up in woodcuts describing their service to the Holy Roman Empire of Maximilian I (figure 8). Looking at these images, you can see how the Jagiellon Kings had drawn upon the light, hard hitting Turkish Spahi and Deli as well as the Hungarian and Serbian hussar in the creation of their own cavalry (in fact, some Serbs did serve the Commonwealth).

Fig 8: Engraving from Theurdank or Weisskunig, Maria Gutkowska – Rychlewscha, Historia Ubirow, 390.

The Orsza husaria are shown using the Hungarian-style hussar shields, and seem to be wearing Hungarian giermak coats and magierka hats of a dark colored felt. They already are shown with the Szabla, which would remain their standard weapon until the modern day.

King Bathory instituted a series of reforms in the 1570's that standardized the types of equipment used by the husaria. These reforms broke the ‘heavily armored horseman' tradition the Commonwealth inherited from Western Europe, striking an effective balance of armor, speed and firepower. As previously mentioned, this was to meet the challenge of fighting in vast, flat expanses cut with rivers. Thanks to Bathory, the husaria adopted their characteristic szyszak or kapalin helms and Hungarian style steel breastplates of overlapping plates, over mail hauberks (typically waist length). The kapalin helm looks very similar to chapeau de fer helmets, but with an aventail of overlapping plates, while the szyszak clearly shows its roots in Persia or Turkey (figure 9).

Fig 9: Early Hussar. Brzezinski, Polish Armies I, 7.

These changes can be seen in the appearance of the husaria on the Stockholm Roll. A comrades ' poorer retainers would usually wear the kapalin helms with blackened armor (done to prevent rust), while the wealthy hussar would wear the szyszak helm, ornamented as richly as they were able to manage. Shortly after Bathory's reforms, in the 1590s the shield was abandoned for good.

When they could, the husaria would work a ‘pierced heart' motif into their armor. This practice became widespread among them. This is also the time period that the distinctive wings and wild animal skins show up, having their origins in the Turkish deli horsemen.

As part of his reforms, Bathory also made official the trend of organizing different types of fighters by color, and by uniform banners. But going so far as to simply call this a uniform is misleading. While various fighters were grouped by color according to type (e.g., cavalry in red, infantry in blue) and by giving them identical pennons for their kopia, they were not prevented at all in their choices of fabrics or accoutrements. The wealthy and fashion conscious comrades would never allow it!

Hungarian-style hussars developed in synch with Polish ones, until in the 1600s Hungary suffered some military set backs, requiring them to re-examine their use of this troop type and change it a nearly unarmored form (whose progeny became the hussars of Napoleonic war fame). That was fortunate, since this gave us the apex of the Polish hussar with its characteristic wings.

Book Reviews

  • Runciman, Steven. The Fall of Constantinople 1453 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1965).

    Scholarly and concise, this book still manages to read like a great adventure novel. The last days of a mordent Byzantine Empire are reported as the Turks close in and the Emperor desperately seeks help from Western European kings, the Italian states and the Pope. The politics are every bit as complex and ruthless as in our modern world, with each actor looking out for his own interests— The Pope promises help only upon a favorable resolution of the schism in with the Orthodox Church, for example. Nor are Christian/Moslem lines always sharply drawn; at times Ottoman Turks hire out to fight for Christian kings and there are Christian vassals fighting in the Sultan's army during the final attack.

    After brilliantly setting the stage for the siege in the first chapters, we reach a detailed reconstruction of the siege midway through the book. Around 7000 Greeks, Venetians and Genovese attempt to hold the miles of walls and fortifications of Constantinople against a force more than ten times as large. Several clear maps and diagrams show the fortifications in plan and section, as well as disposition of the opposing armies. Remarkably, the defenders hold out for two months. The battle at land and sea is rendered on a grand scale and also lucid detail. Here is an example of the prose from the climax of the battle:

    From across the foss the Sultan noticed the panic. Crying: “The city is ours”, he ordered the Janissaries to charge again and beckoned on a giant call Hasan. Hasan hacked his way over the top of the broken stockade and was deemed to have won the promised prize. Some thirty Janissaries followed him. The Greeks fought back. Hasan himself was forced to his knees by a blow from a stone and slain; and seventeen of his comrades perished with him…

    The Fall follows the story after the Ottoman conquest, telling the fate of its main actors, the aftermath for the city and its treasures and how Europe was changed. Of particular interest to readers on Slavic subjects were the effects of conquest of the Balkans and Greece and the separation of the Russian Orthodox Church from its Byzantine roots. This history is well written and highly entertaining.

    – Peotr Alexeivich Novgorodski


  • The Russian Knowledge Page (part of the Slavic Knowledge/Slavianskoe znan'stvo project) Knowledge Pages project) has been reactivated. For years, Yana maintained these pages but modern commitments made it increasingly difficult for her to continue as the curator. Iustin has stepped forward to take the project over and the pages have moved to a new dedicated site. The URL is now

    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), 5625 Highland Way, Middleton WI 53562, 608-827-6891, 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 web site (