Summer AS XLVI (2011)
Volume XVI, Issue 4 (#62)

From the Nachalnik

About a month ago, shortly after Facebook decided to “upgrade” the SIG page, we had a flurry of postings to the site. Part of that activity was caused by an over-eager member posting a series of videos about Hungarian arts and some folks complained about the sudden surge in volume (which, in turn, added to the number of posts). However, the hotter topic turned out to be about what was appropriate and inappropriate to post to a Slavic Interest Group. The question was posed by people who are not actually active in our group (we have no membership requirements, after all, and our Facebook group is “open”), but in spite of that, I thought it was a good question: why are Hungarian arts relevant to Slavic studies?

What I posted at the time was the following: “ For folks who are old enough to remember the Cold War, this is a logical extension of how this region was studied in the era when the US government funded research into (and grouped together) any regime under the control of Moscow as 'Slavic.' It is thus a label used for convenience, not for ethnic identity.”

The funny thing is that I hadn't really thought anything about our decision to be so all-inclusive in a long time. It is true that Slavic ethnic groups are very different from Magyars, Karellians, Georgians, Armenians, Central Asians, and others that we embrace here. However, keeping it all combined together has always made sense to me because the resources are linked together. Thanks to the Soviet empire, the intellectual communities of these groups (and even a few others that we don't embrace, like the Mongols) are tied and interconnected. Their scholarly traditions are also shared. So, for research purposes, it makes sense to work together. It doesn't make us similar, just similarly challenged.

This issue includes my annual survey of Pennsic classes and Mordak's announcement about the annual Pennsic gathering, which will be a bit more informal this year, but hopefully as much fun as previous ones. We also have the second part of Sofya's piece on calligraphy. Enjoy!


Pennsic Gathering

By Mordok Timofei'vich

Come one, come all! Bring your projects, your books, your music, your Slavic foods and drink! Let us share your new triumphs, discoveries and insights into the cultures we love and share! It's a party and celebration of not only Slavic culture but all the cultures that interacted with them and helped shape them!

This year the meeting will be held in my camp, Famdamily, in our new block at Ledevoe Poboische and Agincourt (where the former RV parking was) at 6pm on August 7 . The Serengeti bus runs right by camp to save walking.

Some of you may remember the rather informal, party-type atmosphere of the last SIG meeting I hosted. If not, my firm belief is that sharing and teaching goes well with noshing, laughter and potables! See you there!


Pennsic Classes

By Paul Wickenden of Thanet

As is our annual tradition, I wanted to provide my own informal survey of the offerings at Pennsic University this year to highlight classes which may be of interest to SIG members because of their subject matter or the instructor. My apologies if I overlooked any appropriate classes.


Wednesday, August 3

10am – Simple Gerdany. An easy gerdany (Ukrainian beadwork) necklace. Lady Anastasia Petrovna Chernaya


Thursday, August 4

9am – Fabric 101 . Overview of period appropriate fabrics, fabric use, fabric types; identify fabric using a burn test or chemical test. Hands-on. Handout and swatch fees. Bring pencil for notes. THL Maria Pienkneplotno


Saturday, August 6

12noon – Beginning Pysanky . Pysanky are "Ukrainian Easter eggs," though the art was and is known throughout the Balkan region. Class will begin with a brief history of the art form and a demonstration of basic techniques, after which students are invited to create their own designs, referring to common motifs in the handouts or working entirely from their own imaginations. Lady Muirgheall O'Riein

4pm – Icons and Panel Painting . Egg tempera is one of the earliest painting mediums, an ancient medium dating to the Egyptians and used throughout history. Byzantine Icons, Fra Angelico, Mantegna and Botticelli used egg tempera, as well as the Sienese painters- Duccio di Buoninsegna, the Lorenzetti brothers, Giovanni di Paolo, Sassetta. Virtually all panel paintings executed before the 1400s used solely the yolk of the egg. This hands-on workshop will cover basic egg tempera techniques. Lady Dosalena Sophia della Mirandola


Sunday, August 7

11am – Byzantine Iconography . An introduction to the ancient art of Byzantine Icons, also known as Icon writing- theology in line and color. An in-depth overview of its origins in Egyptian painting, history, symbolism, and technique. Part I is lecture, part II hands-on. Lady Dosalena Sophia della Mirandola


Monday, August 8

9am – Life of Women in Medieval Russia . The Chronicles tell all about what life was like for men, but what was life like for women? In this class we will discuss what a typical day was like for a woman in medieval Russia as well as the impact of women in Russian society. We will touch on the impact of women in government, stories, ceremonies, and various other parts of daily life. Boiarynia Katrusha the Skomorokh

2pm – Khazar 101 . This course is a survey introduction looking at the history, clothing, culture and interrelationship of the Khazar Kaganate from the 7th C to 12th C.; who were they, and why we should care. Baron Khadir bar Yosef Ha-Kuzari


Tuesday, August 9

9am – Fabric 101. See above.


Wednesday, August 10

3pm – Khazar Life . This class is a deeper look into the Khazar lifestyle, clothing, foods, culture, government and society. Khazar 101 is not required. Changes this year will include clothing information for both male and female, more detail on foods and education. Baron Khadir bar Yosef Ha-Kuzari


Thursday, August 11

11am – Beginning Pysanky. See above.

4pm – Conversational Russian . This is a basic conversational Russian class. The class covers the alphabet and pronunciation. Then we will cover common phrases useful in every day life. The second half of the class focuses on SCA-related phrases and expressions. Lady Lada Monguligin


Friday, August 12

1pm – Baba Yaga: Not For the Faint of Heart . We all know the stories, but how was the Baba Yaga created? Was cannibalism really prevalent in eastern Europe? Was her house just a depiction of death houses personified? Come to this class to find these out and more. Boiarynia Katrusha the Skomorokh

3pm – SCA Khazar Persona . So you think you want to be a Khazar. Good choice. This course will look at the Khazars from the skin out. Clothing, foods, arms and amour, lifestyle, skills and who and how to fit into the Known World. Khazars were traders on the Silk Road, fighters, scholars and very well dressed. They did it all and so can you. Baron Khadir bar Yosef Ha-Kuzari


Medieval Russian Calligraphy and Illumination
Part II: A More Period Pseudo-Russian Hand

By Sofya la Rus

It is impossible to convey a thousand years of Russian manuscript art in one or two short articles. In part one, I presented a few examples of calligraphy and illumination to give a taste of the range of Russian manuscript forms. Here, I will provide details about how I re-create a classic medieval Russian hand.


History of the Cyrillic Alphabet

The Cyrillic alphabet was derived from the Greek uncial alphabet. It is associated with the famous saints Cyril and Methodius, who first converted Slavic people to Christianity. It was likely created by their students doing missionary work in Bulgaria in the late 800s.

The Cyrillic alphabet was preceded by the Glagolitic alphabet, which did not completely disappear until the 12th century in Russia (and survived longer elsewhere). Glagolitic may have been the alphabet that was actually created by St. Cyril in Great Moravia. To my eye, it resembles Armenian.

There are hints of the existence of an earlier Russian alphabet, of which no examples survive.

Example of Glagolitic


Developing a Russian-Style Latin Alphabet

Most pseudo-Russian scribal hands used in These Current Middle Ages are based on the modern Russian alphabet which has 33 letters. Since many of these letters have no equivalent in the Latin alphabet, and vice versa, these pseudo-Russian hands are handicapped from the start.

Novgorod "School Board" with 36 Letters


However, the period Russian alphabet had many more letters, several of which resemble letters in the Latin alphabet. In addition, some of the Russian letters were written differently in the Middle Ages, which makes it easier to convert them to Latin-esque forms.

However, there are still a couple of letters that have to be “made up.”


Old Russian Alphabet, ustav (uncial), 11th - 13th cent., 43 letters

Old Russian Alphabet, polustav (half-uncial), 14th - 15th cent., 42 letters


My Russian-Style Alphabet

My “everyday” writing is based on the birchbark letters and the alphabet on the writing board below. It is simple and suitable for use with modern pens and pencils that cannot reproduce calligraphic effects of wide and narrow lines.

Writing Board


My formal pseudo-Russian hand is based on the Kiev Psalter and other mid-period examples. It seems to be the “classic” Russian hand from which all the others can be derived.

Kievan Psalter, 14 th Century


The Russian hand most closely resembles insular majuscule and artificial uncial in Western calligraphy

Western Uncial, Book of Kells, c800


The Russian hand is crisp and clear compared to Western European writing of the same time period, and is deceptively complex to execute.

Gothic Bible Written in Belgium, 1407


Another Russian Psalter, 1397


Details of the Alphabet

•  Letter height is 3-4 pen widths

•  The space between lines is slightly greater than the letter height

•  Basic pen angle is horizontal with very frequent exceptions, see below

I recommended trying slightly different variations of each letter, based on the different hands seen in the surviving manuscripts, to see which feel most natural for you. You can see my continued efforts to practice and perfect my technique even on my “final” work sheets, below.

•  Letters formed with a primarily horizontal pen: b, (d), g, h, i, j, m, n, (o), p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, y

•  Letters formed with a primarily vertical pen: c, e, f, o, (p), (q)

•  Letters formed with a primarily diagonal pen: a, d, k, l, x, (y), z

Serifs are formed by twisting the pen, and the diagonals of letters such as “d” and “l” also benefit from twisting the pen to get the stroke to fade off at the end properly.

Sample of the Hand


Worksheets for My Pseudo-Russian Alphabet.

I have more than one form for some letters, depending on how "Russian" a form I think I can get away with. For example, there is more freedom at the end of a word to use unusual letters than at the beginning of a word. And common words can be written with stranger letters than uncommon words.


Cyrillic Numerals

Russians indicated numbers using letters of the alphabet with the addition of a special squiggle (a titlo) on top. For simplicity, the graphic to the right omits the titlo.


Selected References

•  Birchbark letters -

•  Drogin, Marc. Medieval Calligraphy: Its History and Technique. Dover, New York, 1980.

•  Kolchin, B.A. and T.I. Makarova. Drevnaia Rus, Byt i kultura. Science, Moscow, 1997.

•  Moscow Museum of Art and Industry. Medieval Russian Ornament in Full Color From Illuminated Manuscripts. Dover, New York, 1994.

•  Past of Russia in Pics - lots of period manuscripts (Seems to be password protected, now.)

•  Popova, Olga. Russian Illuminated Manuscripts. Thames and Hudson, New York, 1984.

•  Shepherd, Margaret. Calligraphy Alphabets Made Easy. General Publishing Co. Ltd, Toronto, 1986.

• - my other stuff


Deli Delicious: A Small Piece of Russia and Poland in the Heart of Ohio

By Mordok Timofei'vich

Just east of Columbus, a stone's throw from I-70, lies a hole-in-the-wall deli, where Russian is the everyday language and the shelves are stocked with delicacies normally seen in Moscow, Warsaw, Kiev and Cracow (as well as the Crimea). With the improbable name of Deli Delicious, it's the first stop of the thriving local Russian community for reminders of home, or just familiar comfort foods after a tough day of living life.

One half is an extremely well-stocked liquor store with a vodka selection second to none. The other half is a deli, with meats, dried fishes, pickled vegetables of an almost infinite variety as well as breads, sauces and a full selection of Russian candies rarely experienced outside the borders of the Old Country. The list is endless, but if you hunger for authentic Russian soups of at least a dozen varieties on that next cold day, they each come in a soup starter kit. If you like traditional breads on the side, I saw flaxseed, large and small European rye, brick, farmer's rye and Borodynsky, not to mention several varieties of wheat groats. If you prefer your bread in a more liquid form, 64 oz bottles of Kvass are available, commercially produced outside Moscow.

Provided your sweet tooth rules you as mine does me, then besides candies of a couple dozen varieties there are jams and jellies from the Crimea, the Ukraine, the Baltics, Russia, Poland and the Czech Republic. Tucked away in a corner by the ramp leading up to the deli were several varieties of refrigerated Russian cakes with the title TOPT [tort]. If your tastes run to the opposite spectrum and pickled anything is to your liking, then you are one with the Russians themselves, to judge by the nearly endless variety of pickled items.  

Large restaurant sized jars of pickled tomatoes shared space with huge cans labeled pickled cucumbers in brine. Back on the shelves were pickled apricots sharing space with pickled strawberries, peaches, mushrooms of several varieties (oyster, bolete, mixed, etc), red peppers, sweet pickles, salad vegetables, all devoted to traditional tastes for pickled preservation. I was personally intrigued by the pitted sour cherries.

Then I found the spreads and canned fishes. Side by side like rows of new adventures were cans of perch, muskie, carp, sturgeon, whitefish, walleye, sea bass, salmon, and a fish I had never encountered before, sprat, in varieties including Riga, to Black Sea, and even one simply named “big.” In the deli counter, sharing space with shelf on shelf of cheeses and meats were dried fishes of several varieties, including bullhead carp.

To wash down this treasure of foods were many of the flavors of Poland, Russian, Georgia. Not the one wrapped around the Atlanta of Scarlett O'Hara fame, but the one that is the fruit basket of the former Soviet republics and Comrade Stalin's youth. There are Polish fruit juices and Russian fruit juices, carbonated and not, in addition to several varieties of Georgian dry white and red wines and Krimskoye (“a premium Crimean Red champagne”). According to Igor, my friendly and unflappable host, all of Russia in Columbus is a customer here. If your tastes run to obscure Russian movies in retro VHS tapes like I collect, then an entire rack sits next to a refrigerated counter stuffed with medicines produced in Russia and racks of magazines in Cyrillic.

If you want an adventure during your yearly migration to the sun bleached, wind swept fields of Pennsic, then Googlemap or Mapquest “Deli Delicious” (located at 2177 East Livingston Avenue, Columbus, Ohio) or look for Exit 103B and head north until you find Livingston Ave. Your GPS should nail it right off. But look hard, it's tucked into an aged strip mall, but well, well worth the effort! I plan to make a stop to supply myself with noshing materials to share at the SIG meeting. Who's with me?



•  Rebecca Lewis writes: Thought this might be useful for people interested in medieval Poland:
”Coronations: Medieval and Early Modern Monarchic Ritual” edited by Janos M. Bak, is freely available online here:;query=;brand=ucpress and chapter 9 discusses the various ceremonial parts in the coronation of a new ruler in medieval Poland. (At the very least, it may provide some inspiration for ceremonial happenings in the SCA?)


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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 (