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Stratum Plus. 2000. № 6

S. V. Beletskii (St.-Petersburg, Russia)

The Origin of the Russian Heraldry




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Pages: 366-424


The term «heraldry» is not used with the personal and urban emblems of the Russian Middle Age. Indeed, in XIV-XVII Russia did not know stems. There were, however, signs, which undoubtedly were symbols of power. These were the Rurik dynasty’s bidents or tridents; their images are found on various objects, including the earliest coins and stamps. Majority of researchers are inclined to interpret them as personal and family symbols of the Russian knyazes in X-XIII c. The Rurik dynasty’s signs treated as stems face an essential difficulty. The stem’s layout follows strict rules, its inheritance is also strictly regulated. Meanwhile, the written records do not mention any rule on inheritance of the dynasty’s tamga. The same signs would be ascribed to different knyazes upon an assumption that a son of a trident’s owner could use a bident, and after that could use the trident again. If so, then it seems there were no laws in transmitting the signs from one generation to another, and hence, the signs are heraldic in essence. A conclusion on chaotic rules of inheritance of the signs, however, is wrong, because genealogical schemes have been built so far upon various ideas about personifications of the signs depending on the place they were found and dating of the object. To overcome this hypothetic practice, a new research has been pursued of the primary record. It reviewed objects dated by X – XI cc. with images of the Rurik’s dynasty: coins (Chapter 1), stamps (Chapter 2), graffiti on coins (Chapter 3), drawings on household items and walls of temples (Chapter 4), the so-called “heraldic pendants” (Chapter 5), potter’s stamps (Chapter 6) and graffiti on bludgeon made of horn (Chapter 7). The research has crowned with a genealogical scheme (fig. 35) containing personified signs of the Russian knyazes. It established that a simple bident was used by the ruling dynasty since Igor, and could be used already by his father Rurik. Until the IV generation the sign was inherited without any changes. Its first transformations took place in time of Svyatoslav’s sons: one of them, Yaropolk, was entitled to receive the family’s bident, Oleg changed its leg’s shape, and Vladimir used trident when his father was still alive. Apparently, it was during Svyatoslav’s sons’ fight for their father’s heritage that Rurik’s family sign transformed into personal-family one. This transition to use of personal-family signs is also connected with representatives of the V generation of the dynasty. Svyatopolk Yaropolchich, the only son of Svyatoslav’s eldest son, used his family’s bident till 1013, later to change its form. St. Vladimir’s sons originally used to possess personal-family signs: Vysheslav added a cross to the leg of his father’s trident; his younger brothers would change the shape of the central dent. The same principle by which the elder son changes the leg of the inherited trident can be seen with representatives of VI-VII generations – grand- and great-grandchildren of Vladimir Svyatoslavich. So, Russia not only had a set-up structure of personal and family signs, but also followed a detailed order of their inheritance. One can be sure ascertaining that in X-XI cc. there was a peculiar heraldic system in Russia, and Rurik dynasty’s signs we find today are Russia’s earliest stems.



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