Fall AS XLII (2007)
Volume XIII, Issue 1 (#47)


From the Nachalnik

From a suggestion on the SIG listserv, we now have a mentor list on the SIG website. What is a mentor list? A mentor is a personal resource for anyone looking for a special topic. While every member of SIG has offered to share what they know with others, the mentor list is intended as something more: a place where someone who wants to learn more about a topic can turn to a recognized expert in the field. The people listed on the mentor list are both recognized experts in their particular fields as well as being willing to take on students. The project has just started, but please take a moment to consider participating in the project (as teacher or as learner). For more information, go to the mentor home page at http://www.goldschp.net/SIG/mentor.html.

On a related note, I hope that you will all consider attending Slavic University on December 8, 2007. See the separate article in this issue about it . It is the first dedicated event for SIG-related learning and will be a wonderful opportunity. I urge all of you to attend.


Pennsic Tidings

By Sfandra Dmitrieva

The SIG Roundtable was a lot of fun. We had about 10 people. I brought water and pierogies , and had fun feeding people (cookin' in the rain, woo hoo!).

One gentleman, whose name I didn't catch, sang us a lovely song (a folk blessing I believe it was) in Ukrainian. Michael of Safia came with extra handouts from his Russian Archeology 101 class. I have a copy, and will see if Michael will let me scan it into our Files. One Micholai, a Polish-persona young man from the East, was our “newbie” of the day, and he should be joining the List here soon.

In other news, I was delighted with the turnout for my first time teaching at Pennsic. I had over 30 for my Kievan Garb class, and I'm thinking next year I might put together a full Kievan Curricula, since I had far more fun teaching than I did fighting this year (Tuesday! Oy vey!). If anyone here in the Group took any of my 3 classes, I'd love some feedback on how I did! Just shoot me a note privately. The Shopping Class was much fun, for the Merchants as well as the students. Arab Boy had no idea that glass bracelets were period for Russia too! And as a note: I received NO preference, discounts or anything from the Merchants we visited. I and some others had taken Luceta's class on the folkloric meanings of Ukrainian Embroidery, and we were excited to find trim at Calontir Trim that had the same designs that Luceta taught. I didn't get to anyone else's classes, unfortunately, because of household obligations, but I have Plans for next Pennsic.

I thought it was a great Pennsic, despite the weather.


Slavic University of the Midrealm

December 8, 2007

Hosted by the Barony of Andelcrag, Canton of Three Walls, at the Palmer Lodge in Bertha Brock Park (2311 Bluewater Hwy, Ionia, MI, 48846).

This is the first-ever Slavic themed event hosted by the Slavic Interest Group. Classes are being taught on a variety of subjects relating to the garb, manners and jewelry of Slavic cultures in the SCA's time period. It will also feature a pot luck feast.

We have added quite a few more classes. Please check them out at the event's website ( http://www.midrealm.org/ talonvale/sigslum.html ). Also, if you are thinking about teaching at the U, please send me an email. We'd LOVE to have you here! I have heard a lot of feedback from people, and the turnout is expected to be very nice. So get your class info in to me ASAP ( Zygmunt Nadratowski, Tom Nadratowski, 8074 Parks Dr. E1, Spring Arbor MI 49283, moxfool@aol.com ).

And from co-autocrat Valkai Istvan:

To decorate the Hall for Slavic U and in keeping with the intent of this event, I would like to hang reproductions of banners or flags used in period with a written description of House, King, country, date, place, etc. to identify them. I will be making a House Flag of the Arpad dynasty and the Banner of St. Istvan (both early Hungarian flags).

We hope you will be attending and can bring them with you, if not and would still like your favorite to be displayed, you can send them to me and I will ensure they get back to you after the event.


A New Laurel

By Soraya Evodia

I have the great pride and pleasure to report that Liudmila Vladimirova doch has been invited to join the Order of the Laurel in Caid! Her primary area was “Russian Studies,” with a secondary in Bardic Arts (she tells great Russian folk tales and byliny ).

Liudmila was my apprentice for seven years, and was given her Journeyman's papers by me this spring, at a little private ceremony with a few Laurels who live near her (in San Diego - I live in L.A.) who volunteered to be her “Laurel aunts and uncle.” She has far exceeded everything I asked her to accomplish, and clearly knows a lot more than I do now, as she can read the Russian books I have collected over the years, while I learned what I know from carefully studying the pictures.

Liudmila will be elevated to the Order on November 10th, at Coronation. As I hope you can tell from this message, I am a proud “Mama” and I'm jumping for joy! Hooray for Liudmila!

Liudmila responds:

I am quite happy that Mistress Soraya is so happy. Well, actually I am quite happy myself -- I was not really expecting it, since she was in my house for two days prior to the event, and there was no hint of anything happening. I thought it would at least take a few more years of being active again before I would even get noticed. So there I was, sitting at a collegium table, having a conversation, when the queen came over to ask me about my hat. Since the hat was done with quite a few shortcuts compared to what I usually do, I got embraced and started explaining it...and then I saw a highly suspicious looking Soraya and a bunch of laurels behind her. I am not sure I was quite coherent answering the questions, but it was all very happy. Now I have to research Russian state occasions and vigil equivalents...And make a new, no shortcuts hat, and voshvy for a letnik ... Does anyone here have successful letnik voshvy pictures to look at? At least I have more competent people than me sewing it (thank you, Su and Brianna!)


The Clothing of the Film “With Fire & Sword” (Ogniem I Miecziem)

By Zygmunt Nadratowski

This movie (and its sequels Potop [The Deluge] and Colonel Wolodyowski ) have been a huge influence on those interested in Polish history. This influence is well deserved; based on a series of newspaper serials written in the early 1900's by Pulitzer Prize winning author Henry Sienkiewiecz (won for Quo Vadis? ), these books and their characters rapidly became well beloved in their home country of Poland. That popularity brought them to our shores, where they were widely read, by such people as (then) President Teddy Roosevelt. In fact, for many years in Poland, each new edition would sell out every other book published in the country, except the Bible!

Given this amount of popularity, it is natural that re-enactors and re-creators would gravitate towards these films, especially given how prominent they are in the Polish-American community. Of the three, With Fire & Sword is easily the best of the group, in terms of costuming and production value. And since all three are now widely accessible (available from, among many places, EBay and www.polart.com), many people will naturally look towards them as a source on the still-hard-to-find examples of clothing in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. For the main characters, the cut and finish of the garments are nearly 100% accurate. You could do a lot worse than to pick one of the main characters to design your next or first outfit from. In fact, in the notes section of the DVD, they explain that the producer went to great lengths to insure that the costumes were not only accurate in cut, but also in terms of fabric. They even went to the length to create some of the other props by using period construction! According to the DVD notes, it took them six months to cast all the cannon used from bronze, using period construction, and they even matched each troop type (e.g., Husaria, Tatars) with the correct horses. It is logical to conclude that this attention to detail would also extend to fabric choices as well.

They did such a fine job, that I am going to only concentrate on those idiosyncrasies that are not accurate for either the SCA's timeline, or actual historic timeline. But given that this is a movie, you have to wonder just exactly how historically accurate the costumes were. We'll explore that in this article.



Thankfully, overall, the costumes in this movie are accurate. I cannot say for certain on those of the supporting actors (since they are only on screen briefly, and look fine from a distance), but they have the correct look and appear to have the correct cut.

For example, the scene where Pan Zagloba interrupts the Ukrainian wedding – the look of the peasant costumes fit descriptions by Turnau and others, but since they are not subject to many close-ups, it is nearly impossible to say if they were cut correctly.

One example of an incorrect item in the movie is the method of closure on some of the Senator's zupan s, as in the scene where Prince Jeremy is talking with the three Senators. In the book, Portret Filmu, you can clearly see that some of the zupans are closed with the sides of the garment being butted together. Could they have been simply closed together in this fashion in period? Sure, but all our current research, as well as all the period iconography, indicates that the overwhelming majority of zupan s were closed with the right breast overlapping the left one.


Pectoral Plaques

The character Pan Longinus wears a pectoral plaque ( ryngryf ) in the movie. However, these were not commonly worn until the 1700's. This appears to be artistic license, based on the piety of the character. One of the foremost authorities in hussar research, Dr. Zydslaw Zygulski Jr., documents another ryngryf , in a private collection in Warsaw, also from the 1700's.



The sashes worn at each characters' waist are appropriate for the mid-1600's time period (these are under the saber belts). However, for the SCA's time period, they wore a type of sash called a siatczane . This is woven of silk, and has a webbed appearance at the end. All the period iconography seen by this author shows that sashes were worn with the ends tucked trimly under the saber belt, until the mid 1600's, when they began to have the ends left out, sometimes with tassels on them. At this point, they became more extravagant, made of carmine silk.


Hussar Wings

The author's current armor is made to look like a ‘Classic' hussar, from the time of the Cossack Rebellion. One question that commonly comes up, after mention of this, is “Where are your wings?” As striking as the wings are, sadly, most period sources never describe hussars wearing their wings into battle. In his most current book, Richard Brzezinski says:

“By 1575 it is clear that some wings were worn on the back, but the overall impression is that all these early wings are of the same ‘naturalistic type' worn by Serbian and Bosnian deli and grenzer scouts…the first reliable illustration of a back mounted frame wing is in 1645. By the 1590's a new site for the wing had been found at the back of the saddle…By 1600 clear images of these saddle-mounted wings…were so plentiful, that there can be no doubt that this was the main type worn until the 1650's.”

So, you are on very shaky factual ground if you want to push the point that you could have had back mounted wings on your hussar breastplate, the same kind of ground that you need to have in order to be a frock coat wearing “privateer” in Elizabeth's navy. The author will indeed have a set of wings to go with his kit – because they look cool! And he will also be perfectly willing to use this anachronism to educate anyone who comments upon them!


Pan Wolodjowsky's leather outfit

Pan Wolodjowsky wears a simple outfit of a zupica (a knee-length or less zupan ), leather breeches and boots, and a short cloak for his appearances in the movie. However, this appears to be artistic license, as if the director is trying to impress upon us what a tough, no-nonsense kind of warrior he is – he is never shown in anything other than this outfit for the entire film. Given the amount of period iconography that describe the luxurious fabrics their clothing was made from, Wolodjowski's outfit is clearly the exception to the rule. Period accounts list zupica and zupans worn on campaign as being made from linen or wool, not leather.



In conclusion, With Fire and Sword, is excellently done; for a movie, this amount of dedicated research is unheard of. Just remember that many of the things you see in this movie are outside the SCA's time period by anywhere from 20 to 50 years, so be cautious with what you attempt to re-create and educate yourself on your subject so you know when you are fudging because something looks too neat not to wear!

With Fire and Sword makes an excellent introduction to Polish costuming of the Renaissance and baroque periods.




Color and Dyes in Medieval Russian Clothing

By Sofya la Rus

Ancient frescoes indicate that the clothing of the Russian nobility was multi-colored and used striking combinations of fresh, rich tones. The Novgorod birchbark letters mention “portishche zeleni” and “portishche golubine” (i.e., green and sky blue clothing), “zolotnik zelenogo sholku” (a measure of green silk). And other examples are found regularly. One princess owned dresses in white, gold, yellow, crimson, green, and red.

In 1628 V. Ya Vorontsov complained that on the road from the city of Shuya he was robbed by peasants whose garments he described. The house serf wore a light blue coat, a red caftan and cherry hat. The other peasants had azure and cherry-colored hats.

Colored fabrics were called krashenin and included homespun linen dyed blue, green and red. The raw color of unbleached linen predominated in peasant clothes with some bleached white linen and colored fabrics. The Russian language records dozens of terms for describing cloth colors.

In the 9th-13th centuries, linen fabric was mainly of a white color. Wools were the natural color of the wool or dyed with bright colors - mostly red, green, yellow and black colors. The favorite color of clothing in the 13th-17th centuries was red, followed by black, and then yellow, green, blue and white. The latter predominated numerically (used in linens, shirts, etc.).

The popularity of red is demonstrated in archeological finds, among which more than half are fabric of reddish-brown tones, however one finds also black, and bluish, and green, and light-brown. (Linen fabrics are underrepresented in archeological digs, because linen is very poorly preserved.)

The abundance of red tints in the costumes of ancient Russians is explained by the fact that red was the color of protection in superstition and the fact that there were numerous natural dyes for red-brown colors. It is also the color of the sun in Russian poetic imagery.

In archeological finds, fabrics were woven of wool of natural brown, black or other colors, others were dyed with such organic dyes as chervets [insect-based dyes in the cochineal family] and chernil'nyye oreshki [oak gall]. Also used in dyeing were mineral substances – ocher, red iron-ore [ zheleznyak ] and others.

Fabrics were dyed mainly with vegetable dyes, but also with animal dyes. Blue dye was made from son-travy (pasque flower?), cornflower, and blueberry/huckleberry [Vaccinium spp and Gaulussacia spp, all called ?????? in Russian]. Yellow came from blackthorn or droka [a steppe plant in the bean family, see below], and leaves (or bark sheets?) of birch. Golden-brown was provided by onion peels, oak and pear bark. Red brown dyes came from buckwheat, St. John's wort, wild apple tree bark, alder and buckthorn.

Adam Nahlik analyzed fabrics from the Novgorod excavations for evidence of dyes. He notes that the action of soil acids have made many of the archeological fabrics look rather brown, disguising their original hues. .

Novgorod fabric mordants according to Nahlik included: chromium salts, tin, iron, iron chloride (?), clay (ocher?), tonin (tanin?), acid (?).

By comparison, modern mordants listed by Brown are: alum, chrome, tin, iron, copper/blue vitriol, tannin. Other treating agents - cream of tartar, Glauber's salt.

Medieval dyes conspicuous by their absence from my Russian references include: lichens, murex, saffron, safflower, weld, woad.

The information below from Pushkareva, Kolchin, Nahlik and Stepanova is specific to medieval Rus. Kramer, Castino, and Brown are modern Western dyers.

References :



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