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Stratum Plus. 1997

Rabinovich R.A. (Kishinev, Moldova)

“Wolves” of Russian chronicles (about totemic origin of the ethnic name “Ulichi”)

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Pages: 178-199

The article is dedicated to investigation of the origin of ethnic name of slavonic tribe “Ulichi”, mentioned by russian chroniclers in Eastern Europe in the IX-X cent.
The spelling of ethnic name “Ulichi” in russian chronicles is of non-standart character: there exist numerous variants of the spelling by this term in different chronicles. The Author considers initial, primary variants for all them to be two: “Ultsi” and “Lutichi”. Such a conclusion makes possible to assume an ethnic Kinship of Russian “Ulichi” and Baltic Slavonic tribal union of the VIII-XII cent., which is known under the same combination of ethnic names: “Viltsi” and “Lutichi”.
The information taken from written sources concerning Slavs provides material for solving the problem of the origin of ethnic names: as for Baltic Viltsi — so for Russian Ultsi as well.
The author considers the ethnic name “Ulichi” to be of a totemic origin and means “wolves”.
M.Eliade gave two versions for the “obtaining” of a name “Wolves” by an ethnos or a tribe.
According to the first version this name is obtained from a God or a mythological forefather, who revealed himself in an appearence of a wolf, or who was reared by a she-wolf. Legends of such a kind is well known for various ethnoses, especially for ancient Turks, but there are no examples of such legends in the case of ancient Slavs.
The Author is prone to attribute to ancient Slavs the second M.Eliade’s version: an ethnos “obtains” name “Wolves” by borrowing it from a group of people named so according to a rite, who ritually imitate behavior and outer appearance of wolves. Such ritual imitation of a wolf accompanies ritual warrior initiations and existence of youth warrior unions and fraternities.
On the basis of analysis of etnological slavonic materials and numerous written sources (Greek, Central and Western European, Russian relating to VI-XIII cent.) the Author proves his supposition, that ethnic name “Ultsi” (“Ulichi”) means “wolves”, and it is a self-naming, which derives from totemic notions of some of slavonic tribes about a wolf.
Materials shown in the article speak about existence in the slavonic enviroment of Early Middle Ages — of a wide-spread institution of “warrior fraternities”: young warrior’s unions; members of which performed rites of a ritual reincarnation into “wolves”, — simirlarly with the same tradition in “warrior-wolves fraternities” of other Indo-European ethnoses: Daks, Greeks, Teutonics and so on.

Information about author:

Roman Rabinovici
(Kishinev, Moldova). Doctor of history. High Anthropological School.
E-mail: [email protected]

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