"Ancient Russian Clothing of the IX-XIII Centuries"
by M.G. Rabinovich
Chapter 3 of Drevyaya Odezheda Narodov Vostochnoj Evropy
Translation by Lady Sofya la Rus, Mka Lisa Kies
12 December 2006
[Translator's Note: As usual, parenthesis are from the original Russian text. Items in brackets are my comments
Literature and sources.
The study of the ancient Russian clothes has been conducted mainly by
archaeologists. Intact objects of clothing from the 9th to 13th centuries until
our time are not preserved, and main sources serve remains of clothes and
embellishments, found in excavations of the ancient Russian settlements and
burials, and also images on ancient frescoes, icons, princely illustrations that
is miniatures, and objects of applied art. These materials are matched with
mentions of clothing in written documents and narrative sources: chronicles,
saints’ lives, and various types of reports. They can give researchers also
matching ancient scenes and finds with more later objects of clothing and folk
art, in details from embroidery, carvings and murals right up to the nineteenth
to twentieth centuries.
Already at the end of the last century A. A. Spetson said that local differences
found primarily in kurgans of women’s ornament were not chance and that the set
of decorations worn for holiday women’s outfit was its own for each tribe (Spetson,
1899). From that time received a lot of new information about clothing of
village and city populations of ancient Rus. The first steps in its study were
undertaken in the summary work of A. A. Artsikhovskij (Artsikhovskij, 1948).
Later he made several additions and clarifications. There appeared also the
summary article of V. P.. Levashova about clothing of the village population of
ancient Rus (Levashova, 1966). Many monographs devoted to the history of
clothing contain short digressions about ancient Russian clothing (levinson-Necaheva,
1971; Gilyarovskaya,1945; Kireeva, 1976; Matejko, 1977). An extremely short
description of clothing of the ancient Russian peasants, city dwellers and
ruling class is also in the section “Formation of ancient Russian people”of the
ethnographical essay “People of the European part of the USSR” of the
many-volume series “Peoples of the world” (Narody, 1964, p. 112-114).
The archaeological research is devoted to the study of ancient fabrics (Nakhlik,
1963; Levinson-Nechaeva, 1959), and also to defining the various types of
ornament (Sedova, 1959; Zhurzhalina, 1961; Levashova, 1967; Nedoshivina, 1968;
Grinkova, 1955) and reconstruction of ancient Russian costume as a whole or its
parts (mainly headdress and shoes) (Levashova, 1968; Darevich, Frolov, 1978;
Savurova, 1974, 1976, 1978; Fekhner, 1976; Izyumova, 1959; Oyateva, 1965; Rikman,
1952; Rabinovich, 1964). Ethnographers worked in the main on ethnographic
attributes of archaeological finds and ancient illustrations, comparing them
with folk dress of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with the goal of
revealing the evolution of Russian costume and its individual parts (Maslova,
1956, 1978; Levedva, Maslova, 1967). This helped to reconstruct details of folk
costumes and the recent and in the distant past. Serious achievement has also
occured in the study and mapping of terms connected with spinning, weaving, and
making clothes. (Rorre, 1965; Levedeva, Maslova, 1967, maps 43, 54, 55).
Finally, questions of the history of Russian costume are touched in works
connected with the more general problems - the origin of eastern Slav peoples,
there inter-relations, ancient religion. (Gorodtsov, 1926; Rybakov, 1967;
Toltov, 1930; Tokarev, 1954; Kuftin, 1926).
The number of archaeological materials now has significatnly increased.
Application of modern methods of study to old and new finds (in particular
research of fabrics, leathers, etc.) allows to widen our presentation of
materials from which were made clothes and boots, and about the methods of their
preparation. The number of known ancient depictions of clothing has increased
also, thanks to both improvements in restoration work and new discoveries. In
particular, in the scientific evolution enters finds of a special group of
ornaments – bracelets, used, evidently, for the rusalka holidays (Rybakov, 1967;
Mongajt, 1967). In these depictions men and women are in ritual dance. These
bracelets give presentation about ritual functions of clothing.
depth analysis of written sources allow serious expansion of information about
ancient clothing, its parts and functions, and make more precise the
interpretation of this information.
new opening in the last decade of a group of sources – birchbark letters, as a
matter of fact joins with laws, allow to hope in the receipt of new information
also about the clothing of peasants and city dwellers (Artsikhovkij, Yanin,
1978; Yanin, 1975; Cherepnin, 1969).
The majority of the population of ancient Rus wore clothes and shoes of
materials originating in the property of each family. If this originally was
skins and leather, wood bark, and bast, then by the examined period had changed
already to fabrics of wool, linen, and hemp. Spinning and weaving occupied
women in every village and at first also in the city family. Of this speaks
archaeological finds in settlements and graves of a large number of combs for
combing fiber, various types of spindles [прялиц]
– weights for spindles, and also the spindles themselves, pins, combs and [донцев,
miter box? Type for “end”] of distaffs,
[heddle?] for warping thread, parts of
–horizontal looms, etc. (Levashova, 1959, p. 74-77; Kolchin, 1968, 1968, p.
64-72; Rabinovich, 1964, p. 278-280; Sedova, 1978, p. 95). Home-woven
materials, such as course broadcloth and linen, were basic materials from which
were sewn clothing of peasants and ordinary city dwellers. For winte,r clothing
was also sewn of skins of domestic animals (most of all sheep) more rarely from
the skins of wild animals, inasmuch as hunting for large beasts was a privilege
of the nobility.
Nobles and the city elite wore also in significant measure domestic materials
produced on their property by dependent people, but rather widely were used also
Already in the tenth to thirteenth centuries in villages and in cities were
prepared and were used to linen, and wool fabrics of various types. Linen fabric
was prepared on a horizontal loom. Among the methods of weaving are
distinguished tabby and twill. (Levinson-Nechaeva, 1959, p. 10-11). Coarse
linen was called tolstina, chastina, uzchina, [толстина,
чхатина, узчина] and still more thick
fabric of linen or hemp fiber was called votola or volota [вотола,
волота], more fine bleached linen was
called bel, ponyava [бель,
понява] (Levinson, 1966, p. 113; Rorre,
1965, p. 31). Course linen was called “sermyaga”, “opona” [сермяга,
опона], more fine “volosen’” [волосень].
As also for linen, for the preparation of
wool material was used complex patterned fabrics and bran’e [бранье].
The study of finds of clothing from peasant graves showed that already in the
12th and 13th centuries had appeared checked many-colored half-woolen fabric,
later called ponyovoj [поневой]
(Levinshon-Nechaeva, 1959, p. 22-27; Rorre, 1965, p. 31).
Linen fabric was mainly of a white collar, woolen fabric was the color of
natural wool (sheep, goat) or was dyed with bright colors (most widespread red,
green, yellow and black colors). Fabric of yarn dyed in different colors gave
strikingly multicolored (pestrina, pestryad’) [пестрина,
пестрядь] or checked material.
Imported (mainly Byzantine or eastern) material presented itself mainly in the
form of silk or gold fabric, aksamite, pavoloki [аксамит,
паволока] and others. They were very
expensive and accessible only to wealthy people. Not for nothing did the “Lay
of Igor’s Campaign” record among the most valuable booty, along with slaves,
“zlato and pavoloki and expensive oksamit” (SPI, p. 10-11). But even for city
dwellers and peasants, as we will see below, could be found, as decoration of
clothing, smaller pieces of these fabrics, often with local embroidery (Fekhner,
1976, p. 222-225).
The most widespread material for shoes was wood bark and bast from which were
plaited lapti. But already in the 10th century, the shoes of a city
dwellers and peasants of wealthier status were prepared for the most part from
leather, either rawhide or tanned. Leather production was developed mainly in
cities and, in the period that we’re examining, was not separated yet from
cobblers. In villages the manufacturing of leather remained a home industry
(Levashova, 1959a; Rabinovich, 1964, p. 100-102). Ancient Rus new both thick
leather, yuft’ [юфть],
and also more thin leather, opoiku [опойку,
the manufacturing of leather went the skins of large horned cattle (for opoiku -
calf), and horses (Levashova, 1959a, p. 49), and goat (khoz – saf’yan) [хоз
Objects of clothing.
As already noted by researchers (Levinson-Nechaeva, 1971, p. 351), a
characteristic feature of ancient Russian dress and clothing was that the
costume of different levels of the population was distinguished primarily in the
number and variety of objects and materials, as in that time the cut of the
individual composing parts were identical. Peasants, city dwellers and nobles
wore identically cut shirts [рубаха],
but for the latter the shirt was of fine, often imported, fabric.
The general name of clothing, porty [порты],
is known already in the most ancient written sources. In this meaning it was
used already in the treaty Oleg with Byzantium (911) (PVL, I, p. 27) and used at
least until the seventeenth century. Portishchem [портищем]
was used as a name also for a piece of fabric. A different general name of
clothing, rizy [ризы],
was used, in all probability only from the time of acceptance of Christianity
with the primary meaning of ritual clothing, church vestments or formal clothing
of the ruling class; in church of literature it could mean generally any
clothing (for example, in the gospel “having two rizy, give to the needy”):
«Облачаяця в красоту риз своих,
помяни мя в незпраннем вретищи лежаща; на мягкой постели помяни мя, под единым
рубом лежашего, зимою умирающего, каплями досдебыми яко стрелами пронезема»
wrote Daniil Zatochnik to his father, prince Yaroslav Vsevolodovich (SDZ, p.
65-66; Rabinovich, 1966, p.. 199).
The word “vretishche” [вретище
actually indicated rough fabric, sackcloth, matting; “rub” [руб]
a piece of fabric. (Sreznevskij, I, stb. 321 – 322; III, stb. 184).
Next-to-skin clothing. [
“Rub” in the opinion of A.V. Artsikhosvkij was
also the all Slavic name for the set of ordinary people’s clothing consisting of
the shirt and narrow pants [рубахаь
порты] (Artsikhovskij, 1948, p. 234-235).
This same word indicated a piece or scrap
of fabric (“rubit’ – “rvat’” [рубить,
рвать]) (Sreznevskij, III, stb.184). One
has to think that this is the same ancient Russian root, for the name of the
next-to-skin men’s and women’s garment, rubakha, that exists up to our day.
сорочица] were for many sometimes the only
object of clothing. It was sewn of linen, or thin wool (tsatri [цатры]
ascetics–monks wore even rough vasyanitsu of horse hair), for the wealthy
it could be even of silk material. In cut, the ancient Russian shirt was
tunic-shaped, cut of one width of fabric folded in-half. Wedge–shaped inserts
widened the shirt to the hem, the rhomboid lastovitsy [ластовицы]
under the arm. The sleeves were made narrow and long. The opening of the
collar was round or quadrangular, with a slit either “straight” - in the middle
of the chest, more rarely “slanted” - on the left or right side of the chest.
Shirts with slanted openings are depicted on drawings from a Pskov manuscript of
the twelfth century (on the left side of the chest) (Rabinovich, 1964, p. 114)
and on an icon of the same time (on the right side of the chest) (Levashova,
1966, p. 116–117). In a kurgan near the city of Suzdal from the 13th
century was a grave of a woman in a shirt with an embroidered standing collar,
composed of two unequal parts (length 8 and 20cm), closing to the left, and
fastened on three buttons (Saburova, 1976, p. 226–230). Here, thus, can be
established the opening of the collar on the left side. The collar of the shirt
was fastened on one or a few buttons, of cast bronze, bone, and probably also
wood. [ I have seen wooden buttons among the archaeological finds.]
The man’s shirt was long to the knee (sometimes even longer). They wore them
untucked in, over their parents, belted with a narrow strap-belt (with metal
buckles and plaques) or fabric cords (possibly with castles). The collar, hem,
and edge of sleeves were decorated with embroidery (Maslova, 1978, p. 16).
The women’s shirts were usually made very long down to the foot (to the floor
“do polu”- from this, the word podol meaning bottom edge of clothing),
but could be also significantly shorter - to the calf. Extremely long were also
the sleeves, gathered in folds at the wrist and kept there with obruchi [обручи,
hoops] (bracelets). Let down, the sleeves were a lot longer than the hands.
Evidently, usually in home life, the sleeves were worn gathered up. Bronze
obruchi–bracelets, worn at the wrists in women’s graves, often having on the
inside the imprint of the decayed fabric of the sleeve. Let down sleeves were
proper for celebratory occasions. For example, for the rituals of the rusalka
dances. Depictions of the evening women with hanging down, drooping almost to
the ground, sleeves are found on the ritual rusalka bracelets of the twelfth
century (Rybakov, 1967). About the custom to dance “with letdown sleeves” speak
also the Russian folk story about the princess-frog (Andreev, No 402), from
which we learn that long sleeves could serve also has a unique women’s pocket,
and an instrument of sorcery.
V. Artsikhovskij considers that the womn’s shirt was not belted (Artsikhovskij,
1948, p. 239–241), but in depictions of women are visible belted shirts (sm
Radzivill chronicle, l. 3-6 ob.). The absence in the women’s graves of metal
buckles and plaques can show that women’s belts presented themselves as sashes
without any additional decoration besides tassels and were simply tied, and
women did not wear the strap-belt. V.P. Levashova considers for women were wool
tied belts (Levashova, 1966, p. 115-117). Such belts could in graves not be
Women’s shirts were decorated with embroidery or appliques of different fabrics
at the collar, hems, ends of sleeves, and probably more abundantly decorated
then the men’s shirts.
Pants (actually porty, gachy) [штаны
vs. порты, гачи]
supplemented the next to the skin clothing of men. Judging by the depictions,
they were not wide, and rather clearly outlined the legs. V. P. Levashova
considers that pants were cut from straight width of cloth, and in the legs were
sown in lastovitsy, the waist was made wide, with out a slit, and held up with a
cord], tied around the body (Levashova, 1966, page 117). It is difficult to
judge about the length of the pants inasmuch as they were worn only tucked into
boot tops or leg wraps [onuchi], but clearly, they were always longer than the
knee and probably did not reach the ankles.
is possible that on the lower part of the leg already in the 10-13th
centuries were worn nagolenniki, nogovitsy [наголенник,
(Sreznevskij, II, stb. 462). In any case, the Arabian traveler Ibn
Fadlan noted such gaiters in the clothing of the elite Slavs buried in Bulgaria
in the tenth century (Ibn Fadlan, p. 81). But evidently, as also later,
nogovitsy were accessories of clothing of rich persons. Peasants and poor city
dwellers wound around the shin and foot over their pants onuchi, long
narrow strips of material like later puttees. Onuchi and kopyttsa [копытца],
wool socks (Paterik, p. 26) were worn on the shin also by women.
The shirt, pants, nogovitsy, onuchi and kopyttsa composed the next-to-skin
clothing which for the poorer levels of society were often their only clothing:
they wore them not only at home but in warm weather when working and also going
одежда]. For women the shirt was
supplemented by the loin clothing - unsewn pieces of checked half-wool fabric,
which were worn kept up with ties around the waist, with the edge in front
coming apart a little, leaving uncovered the hem of the shirt. What this
garment was called in ancient Rus is not known. Researchers think that the name
was not used for it earlier than the 16th
century. Before that, as already said, ponyovoj or ponyavoj were names for
linen fabric or the lower thin shirt, although could have existed under this
name also wool or half-wool fabric (Rorre, 1965, p. 31). Archaeological finds
of the eleventh to thirteenth century allow to present that colored checked
ponyovy (as we will tentatively call them) were unique for different ethnic
groups (Levinson-Nechaeva, 1971, p. 357–361).
About the upper clothing of ancient Rus we have rather little information. In
11th century sources is recorded as upper clothing the svita [свита].
Feodosij Pecherskij wore “on hairshirt svita votolyanu” (PVL, I, p. 129). V.I.
Dal’ derives this name from the verb “svivat’” [свивать]with
the meaning “odevat’” [одевать],
(Dahl’, IV, p. 154).
The svita as a garment evidently worn over the
shirt is recorded in the Novgorod birchbark letters of the 13th
century to which we will turn (Artsikhovskij, Borkovskij, 1958, letter 141, p.
17-18). Although the svita is recorded only in connection with men’s costume,
this is not a basis to consider it exclusively a men’s garment. In any case, in
later times the svita was worn both by men and by women. About the cut of the
svita there is no precise information. Judging by the depictions, upper clothing
of this type was long, approximately to the calf, and densely snugged to the
figure (old slavic “obleklo”) and sometimes had a turned-down collar and cuffs.
Its helm could have been decorated with embroidery (Artsikhovskij, 1948, page
247). Later the svita appears as a long open-front upper garment.
Better studied are upper cloak-like garments. The most widespread of its forms,
the votola, was, as shown by the very name, made originally of thick
linen or hemp fabric. This was a sleeveless garment, thrown over the shoulders
over clothing of the svita type. It was fastened at the neck and hung
approximately to the knee to to the calf. Possibly, the votola even had a hood
(Poppe, 1965; SRYa, bysh. 3, p. 73). The votoly were worn in ancient Rus by
all, from the “stinker” to the prince. But the princely formal votola was sewn
of expensive material. The absence in peasant graves of fibuli, cloak
fasteners, compel us to think that the votola of the “stinker,” in all
likelihood, was not fastened on a buckle or button, but fastened by some sort of
cord. But the precious votola of the elite, sometimes decorated with precious
stones, could have also beautiful clasps.
The votola was evidently the more widespread form of cloak, used by the poor.
Another form was the myatl’ [мятль],
recorded in sources of the 12th and 13th centuries. This
was not exclusively an eastern Slavic form of clothing: the myatl’ was worn, for
example, by Poles. Myatl’ is recorded mainly for princely servants[soldierly
service?], but evidently, was not an especially military garment. The rather
high fine (3 grivna) was applied if the myatl’ was torn in a fight, which allows
us to think that this was not an especially crude, cheap cloak. The cut of this
garment is not clear, and the color recorded only one time, black. Other forms
of cloak, the kisa [киса],
and in particular, kots’ [коць],
were used primarily in the princely-boyar environment (Sreznevskij, I, stb.
1305; Rorre, 1975, p. 16-17). It’s cut is also not known. A.V. Artsikhovskij
considers that the kots’ was widespread in Western Europe under the name
slavonika, “Slavic cloak” (Artsikhovskij, 1948, page 252). A long cloak,
almost to the heel, fastened at the right shoulder, the korzno (k”rzno,
kor”zno) [корзно, кързно,
корьзно] was worn, it seems, only by the prince. In any case, all recorded
korzno in the written sources are connected with the prince. Even the cloak
“korolya” only of Attila in the chronicle was called a korzno (Sreznevakij, I,
stb. 1404). The korzno, as a very luxurious garment, is contrasted in church
literature with the poor hairshirt (Paterik, page 52). There are numerous
depictions of the korzna in icons, frescoes, and miniatures. This always is a
precious cloak of bright Byzantine material, sometimes with fur edging. They
were worn over clothing of the svita type, which was usually visible between the
opening from the right side flap. The person dressed in a korzna had his own
right arm free, while the left was covered with the cloak flap.
From other types of cloak in the chronicle are known ludu [луду],
the gold fabric cloak of konunga [конунга]
Yakuna, or Gakona (PVL, I, page 100). Possibly rich cloaks were also recorded
in the chronicle in the year 1216 as embroidered with gold oplech’ya [оплечья],
but it seems to us more correct explanation that this name is for a “laid down
collar” (Sreznevskij, Idi, 787624), possibly fastened to some clothing or worn
separately, like the later barma.
The most widespread winter upper garment was the kozhukh [кожух].
It’s very name says that it was made of skins of animal with the fur inside.
The common people wore the kozhukha with
the “naked” sheepskin, as it would later become called, tulupy [тулупы]
or (more short garment) polushubki [полушубки],
also made mainly of sheepskin. The rich and the elites sewed expensive
kozhukhi, covered with gold Byzantine material, edged with lace [кружево],
and decorated with stones. In 1252, Daniil Galitskij dressed for a meeting with
foreigners “kozhukh of olovira Greek and gold lace flat sewn, and boots of green
khza sewn with gold” (PSRL, I, stb. 814). Expensive kozhukhi were desired
military spoils (SPE, Page eleven). If peasants and ordinary city dwellers wore
kozhukhi, to defend from the winter cold, then nobles dressed up with richly
decorated for clothing for prestige, possibly, and not for cold weather.
In studying headdress it is necessary to consider that ancient depictions cannot
give exhaustive information, in that the hierarchical presentations of that time
compelled artists to depict men for the most part without headdress, in
particular if in the drawing was a prince, which necessarily was drawn in a hat
(Artsikhovskij, 1944, p. 28). [In the presence of the prince, everyone else had
to take their hats off.] Exceptions were made for a few church hierarchs, who
are depicted in klobuki [ecclesiastical headdress]. Imported depictions of
skomorokhi [bards] are on the frescoes of the stairs of St. Sofia cathedral in
Kiev. On their heads, two musicians have pointed hats [kolpak,
with ends hanging a bit in back. A similar kolpak is on the head of the gusli
player depicted on one of the bracelets of the twelfth century. Among
archaeological finds is a dark-gray felt hat from the city of Oreshka and a
round summer hat plaited from pine roots with a flat crown and rather large brim
from Novgorod, reminiscent of the later Ukrainian bril’ [бриль],
or stylish at the beginning of our century, kanot’e [канотье].
But this find is connected to a later period, the 14th to 15th
centuries (Artsikhovskij, b.g., p. 286). One can only propose that peasants and
ordinary city dwellers wore hats of fur, felt, and wicker, and that the fashion
in headdress was diverse.
Well known by numerous depictions is the ancient Russian princely hat, this most
important symbol of noble rule. The form of it is a half-spherical crown of
bright material with fur (in all likelihood, stable) trim, and turns out to be
extremely long lasting (see colored insert). The first depiction of a Russian
prince in such a hat is connected to the 11th century. In the 14th
century, a gold 8-wedge skullcap of Bukharskij work was received as a gift, and
the Moscow prince ordered to attach to it a stable edging to increase its
resemblence to the traditional princely hat, and only then did it become the
great princely, and later also tsarist, crown. This is the famous “Cap of
Monomakh” (Spetson, 1906, 1909; Rabinovich, 1957). The tsar was crowned with it
until the end of the 17th century.
The ancient Russian women’s headdress has been studied better than the men’s
thanks to the abundance of archaeological finds. The custom, that married women
must carefully cover their hair (“bareheaded woman” could supposedly somehow
injured those around her, with the “lighted, hair”), obviously, has its roots in
the deep ages in pre-Christian times.
Girls in ancient Rus, as also later, could go without such headdress, which
would cover all the hair. Hanging down to shoulders or braided in one or two
braids, their hair was often held in place with a venchik [венчик],
a narrow band of metal or bright material encompassing the head and fastened or
tied at the back of the head (Saburova, 1978, p. 410). The more complex, richly
decorated venchik was called a koruna [коруна]..
Are known the remains of such koruny, made on a wire framework, in a Kiev hoard
of pre-Mongol times. Evidently, the decoration of this koruna was an attribute
of a rich urban girl and had a high cost. Somewhat more modest venchiki, but
still supplied with metal decorations, evidently were worn even by peasant girls
in the north Russian lands (Saburova, 1974, p. 90–94). The girls’ venchik and
koruna did not cover either the crown of the head or the hair let down to the
The woman’s headdress - the povoj [povoj], judging by depictions, was
towel-like, about this speaks the term “ubrus”, towel, recorded in the
chronicles in connection with the headdress. It was one owned around the head,
covering all the hair of the woman, and hung down sometimes on the shoulder, and
both ends could hang on the chest. The person, who tore off from a woman’s
povoj so that she was bareheaded, was punished in Novgorod in the 12th
century with a high fine, two times higher than for damage to a cloak (GVNiP, p.
55–56; NPL, p. 15), because in that situation the woman was considered
Archaeological finds allow to reconstruct also the more complex form of ancient
women’s headdress. Already A.V. Artsikhovskij considered in a Viatichi grave of
Moscow territory of 12th to 13th century the remains of a headdress in the form
of rows of wool ribbon with fringe hanging to the side of the face (like
widespread later in Ryazan territory uvivki, shirinki, kistej [увивки,
ширинки, кистей] or the Tambovskoj
(Artsikhovskij, 1930, p. 101) (Figure 10в).
In peasant graves of the 10th to 11th
centuries excavated in the Vologodski region were found remains belonging, in
the opinion of M.A. Saburova, both to a towel-like headdress covered with pulled
aside downward special “heavy” [грузиками]
ends, and also to a kokoshnik embroidered with plaques (Saburova, 1974, p. 89,
Embroidery with small glass beads on the edge of
fabric headdress, covering the brow of women, is traced by us in peasant graves
of the 12th century to the north of Moscow at the modern Povorovka station
(Rabinovich, 1939, p. 90 – 91; Veksler et al, 1973, p. 20–22). V.P. Darkevich
and V.P. Frolov more definitely recover the headdress of city dwellers in the
material of hordes found in old Ryazan. In their opinion, the wealthy city
dwellers wore in the 13th century “horned” kika with embroidery of gold on the
ochel’ye [forehead area] (Darkevich, Frolov, 1978, p. 351, Fig. 8). The
headdress of city dwellers from the Moscow elite of the 12th century was
reconstructed by N.S. Shelyapina according to information of archaeological
observation in the Moscow Kremlin. This is also a kichka- shaped headdress with
richly embroidered ochel’ye [forehead area] (Shelyapina, 1973, p. 90). Not engaged specifically
in the reconstruction of headdress as a whole, the B.A. Rybakov showed a method
of wearing the Chernigov kolti hanging down also from the ornamented front part
on some kichka-shaped headdress (Rybakov, 1949, p. 55, Fig. 23).
such form, in this examined period, evidently can trace a total of 3 types of
women’s headdress, which developed further in later times: towel-like (povoj),
kichka-shaped and, third, kokoshnik. The geographic regions of these cannot be
exactly fixed in view of rarity of finds, but it interesting to note, that the
kokshnik is met in the North, the kichka-shape dress is in ancient Ryazan and
Chernigov lands; the povoj, it appears was the most widespread – it is met both
in the northern and the southern Russian lands.
Shoes. Shoes, as already stated, were made in the examined time, of bark,
leather, and maybe also fur (Fig. 11). Neither wooden carved-out shoes, so
widespread in western Europe, nor felt shoes, were known in ancient Rus.
The most widespread men’s and women’s shoes were lapti, lychenitsy, lychaki
[лапти, лыченицы, лычаки]
shoes, woven, as shown by the very name, of wood bark or bast [luba] - bast
[lyka]. Bast lapti were primarily peasant shoes. Already the first record of
them in the chronicle at the end of the 10th century (under the year 985)
contrasts “laptnikov” - the peasant with the more wealthy city dweller, who wore
boots (PVL, I, p. 59). “Better to have legs dressed in bast in your home,
rather than in soft boots in boyars’ court” [Лучше
бы ми нога своя видети в лыченицы в дому твоем, нежели в черлене сапозе в
боярстем дворе] wrote Daniil Zatochnik to
his father, prince Yaroslav, in the 12th century (SDZ, p. 60). Thus, lapti were
mainly a peasant shoe. But they are significantly older than the peasantry.
instruments for weaving lapti, are found in the settlements of the early iron
age forest region of European Russia from the first millennium C. E. (Kachanova,
1954, p. 32; Smirnov K.A., 1974, p. 62). Lapti, as with other woven things,
were made not only by peasants but also city dwellers. Bone and metal kochedyki
are found in pre-Mongol layers of small cities (Rabinovich, 1957, p. 276;
buckles, 1959, p. 121–123, 126–127). Lapti were woven in every family for their
own needs, in that connection this was man’s work, just as spinning and weaving
was the domestic occupation of women. Not for nothing was widespread the little
bast picture in the 18th century showing such a family idyll: “The husband lapti
weave, the wife thread spins” [Muzh lapti pletet, zhena nitki pryadet.]
(Rovinskij, 1900, page 111).
the cities, the weaving of shoes was a bit improved: in excavations we find
lapti of mixed weave: bast including leather straps on the sole or even lapty
fully woven of leather straps. Thus appears to improve the quality of the
shoe. Lapti of bast were worn very briefly: in winter, a week to ten days, in
summer in the working times, 3 to 4 days (Bakhros, 1959, p. 32). One must think,
that in cities, the roadways decreased the period of wear of the lapti still
more and to reinforce the sole of the lapti with leather was extremely
advisable. Possibly for the rich city dwellers were made even some fancy
“lapotki” - woven shoes “lapottsy semi silk”, which the Russian bylini, inclined
to hyperbole, furnished even with precious stones (Bakhros, 1959, p. 122).
After all, lapti had also a well-known advantage over other dense and heavy
shoes: in them, for example, was not retained water. Woven of linden/lime bast
lapti were widespread among the eastern Slavs and their neighbors, western
Slavs, Balts, Finno-Ugrics, and in all likelihood, as has already been said,
came to these peoples from tribes living in the forest belts of the early iron
age. And the method of weaving differed in the western regions (later Belarus
and part of the Ukraine), where were widespread lapti of “straight” weave (right
angle squares), and eastern (later great Russian), where predominated lapti of
angled weaving (slanted squares) (Bakhros, 1959, page 23). Evidently, this
difference dates back to the ancient Slavic tribes. Lapti of angled weave were
fairly attributed, for example, to the Viatichi (Moscow or Viatich type)
(Maslova, 1956, p. 716-719). Novgorod Slovene lapti were also of angled weave,
but not of linden/lime bark, but of birchbark. And lapti of the Radimichi,
Dregovichi, Drevlianin, and Polianin could be of straight weave.
Simple leather shoes were porshni (poraboshni, postoly, morshni) [поршни,
порабошни, постолы, моршни] They were
made usually of one rectangular piece of rawhide leather. Possibly, originally
on this shoe was sewn even not of leather but the unprocessed skin of wild or
small domestic animals (Zelenin, 1927, page 239).
Porshni were widespread among peasants, however, evidently, somewhat less than
lapti. Among city dwellers they were considered poor shoes. Worn, full-of-holes,
and patched porshni and their remains are frequent finds in the cultural layers
of Russian cities (Bakhros, 1959, p. 40-41; Rabinovich, 1964, p. 100-102). In
Novgorod, old Ladoga and Moscow along with simple porshni, are left pieces with
sewn paired corners and a cord passed through the upper edge, and find also
openwork porshni, decorated on the nose with slits. There were also porshni sewn
of two pieces of leather (Izyumova, 1959, p. 200; Oyatova, 1965, p. 50).
Porshni and lapty were fastened to the shin with long leather povorozami
or hemp oborami, crisscrossed a few times on the shin over the onuchi.
Slanted squares are often drawn in antiquity on the shins of people shod in
lapty or in porshni.
ancient Rus are often met more complex leather shoes, sewn of several pieces,
from sewn on soft podoshvoj ( this very name from the word, “podshivat’”
[to sew on]) and at least, covering the whole foot, some higher than the ankle.
The front edge opened at the instep of the foot. Evidently, this could take, as
in sources from the 10th century, the name cherevik, chereviki. [черевик,
черевики] The origin of this name is
connected, evidently, with chereviem [черевием]
, leather from the chreva, the belly of the animal (Bakhros, 1959, page
192). Chereviki are met in excavations in cities, and very rarely in rural
kurgans. This was, consequently, a shoe of city dwellers, which was worn also by
wealthy peasants of nearby villages. Chereviki were found, for example, in a
kurgan of the 13th century d. Matveevskaya to the south of Moscow (Latysheva,
1959, page 52–54).
The rather complex pattern and the existence of soles allows us to suppose that
chereviki were made already by specialist-bootmakers. Porshni sewn of two pieces
of leather were called chereviki among the western Slavs (Bakhros, 1959, page
Most widespread shoe for city dwellers were sapogi, [boots] which
peasants almost never wore. Not for nothing did the chronicle parable of the
10th century cited above contrast peasant-lapty-wearers with city dwellers shod
in boots. The remains of boots are met in excavations in cities extremely often
- much more often than the remains of chereviki, porshni, and much more than
lapty. In artisan areas, where the leather–boot workshops were, boots are met
often - in the tens and hundreds, and scraps, in the thousands. The very name of
this type of shoe, sapog, is found, as has already been said, in ancient Russian
sources already in the 10th century, researchers, however, do not consider this
a native Russian term, but traced ancient Turkic or pro-Bulgar (Bakhros, 1959,
p. 207). Ancient Russian boots had soft soles sewn from several layers of thin
leather, somewhat pointed or blunt noses, and rather short boot tops, lower than
the knee. The upper edge of the boot top was cut at an angle, so that the front
was higher than the back, and the seams were set along both sides of the leg
(Rikman, 1952, p. 39; Isyumova, 1959, p. 212-214; Rabinovich, 1969, p. 286-288).
Smart boots were decorated with trim material along the edge of the boot top,
and sewn with colored threads and even pearls. Heels and hard soles among the
finds of boots in excavation from the 10th to 13th centuries are usually not
traced. They sewed boots on a wooden shoe last without a difference between the
left and right foot; either these were broken in on the foot, or were worn
alternately on the right or left. Judging by archaeological finds, in boots
were shod city dwellers rich and poor, men, women and children. The boots of
rich city dwellers were distinguished with better manufactured leather, bright
colors (yellow, red et cetera.), and expensive embroidery. Boots, like both
cherviki and lapty, worn in all likelihood over onuchi, portyaki or chulok
[puttees, leg wraps, stockings?].
The ancient Russian costume was supplemented by multiple decorations of metal,
stone, glass and other materials. The heads of women and maiden-bride’s were
decorated with metal ornaments which were sewn to the headdress, hung down,
entwined in the hair, and passed through ear lobes. These ornaments originally
were in special forms for each tribe (about this we will speak), later under the
influence of the cities, appeared “extra tribal” forms of ornament (mainly with
different forms of assumed [напускными]
metal beads) and the specifically urban ornaments, kolti. Besides the
ornaments (“temple rings”, as they’re called by archaeologist), the head could
be decorated with a metal venchik [венчик],
on this same headdress was sometimes embroidery of small glass beads, bicera [бус
On the neck were worn metal hoops [обруч],
grivni or ozherl’e of metal, stone and glass beads, the favorite
set of which was also originally unique for each tribe. The hypothesis of M. B.
Fekhner was that the difference in the set of beads worn was not ethnic, but
chronological in character appears bad to us (Fekhner, 1959; Rabinovich, 1962).
In the composition of ozherl’e are met both bronze little bells, which are also
sometimes sewn on clothing as buttons. The embroidery of the standing collar of
the rubakha and the buttons fastening the collar served also as decorations. On
the wrist were worn different types of hoops [обручи],
bracelets, and on the fingers, perstni [перстни,
rings]. These defined the set of ornaments of ancient Russian women. In
distinction from neighboring Finno-Ugric and Letto-Lithuanian peoples, the Slavs
did not know either an abundance of different types of noisemaking ornaments, or
hoops decorating the shin of the leg. Temple ornaments were characteristic for
all Slavs. L. Niderle noted that, in comparison with their neighbors, Slavic
women were not so richly decorated, but their decoration was distinguished by
elegance and fine craftsmanship (Niderle, 1956, p. 242-247).
The costume of ancient Russian men was significantly less decorated than that of
women. For the poor person ornament was limited to buckles and plaques - the
“set” for the belt. More prosperous peasants wore also a hat with a sewn on
metallic decorations, for which, in the 12th to 13th centuries, was often used
crosses; in such cases the cross was by no means to be considered symbols of
Christian religion, in that they were found in pagan burials (Latysheva, 1954,
p. 52-53). Significantly more rich was the set of men’s ornament in the
princely-boyar environment. The princely otrok-courtier sometimes wore on the
neck a grivna. Gold grivni of a certain type were a mark of distinction or
favor from the prince (PVL, I, p. 95). The long upper clothing of the rich
person could have, on the chest, paired figured fasteners (Rybakov, 1949, p.
38-39), and the cloak thrown over the shoulders, beautiful buckles. It is
especially necessary to note the precious regalia of the prince, barmy,
in that time presenting itself as a chain of gilded silver or gold medallions
with enamel ornament (Mongajt, 1967, Fig. 13-14).
Sets of Clothing
try now to present the full set of clothing and decoration of different
ethno-territorial and social groups in ancient Rus.
The costume of female peasants consisted of the
long rubakha. Married women and maiden-bride’s wore also a checked loin garment,
that was later called the povyova. On the head of maidens were the venets or
koruna, for married women the povoj, kika or kokoshnik. On the feet, lapty with
leg wraps [onuchi] or leather porshni, or, now and then, chereviki.
Ethno-territorial differences of women’s peasant costume, traced evidently to
ancient tribal isolation, expressed rather distinctly in the set of ornaments
[priveski], the pattern of the ponyova, and method of weaving the lapty. The
most important mark of these differences were the set of bronze or silver
ornaments [priveski], the decoration of the hairdo and headdress, the
combination of beads in the necklace, and several types of rings [perstni]
(figure 13). Thus, for the Krivichi., the favorite were temple ornaments in the
form of rather large rings (archaeologists call them bracelet–shaped [браслетообразный])
with a few at each site of a face (or, according to some information,
intertwined in the hair on the sides in a row from one ear to the other) and a
necklace [ozhelrl’e] of gold and silver glass beads. The Novgorod Slovenes wore
temple ornaments similar to Krivichi., but with rhomboid ornamental widenings
(so called rhombo-shield-type). Their beads were many-side, crystal and silver.
Living in the basin of the Oka River, the Vyatichi wore in a similar way,
seven-bladed ornaments (a full set of them was seven items, 3 on one sidae and 4
on the other side of the face) and a necklace [ozher’ye] of pinkish [розоватый]
bi-pyramidal carnelian [сердоликовый
– a type of chalcedony of red or orange
color] and white sphere-shaped crystal or glass beads. Their western neighbors,
the Radimichi, wore similar seven-bladed ornaments. Further to the west, the
Severlianins wore temple ornaments of wire, turned into the form of a spiral.
For the Drevlianin on the Volyna [river?] the favorite were small wire rings
(so called ring-shaped [перстнеобразный]).
One to two such rings were worn also by women of other tribes, but for the
Drevlianians a lot of them were worn.
Living in Poles’e, the Dregovichi wore temple ornaments with beads copper grains
(Artsikhovskij, 1930, p. 7-88). Several searchers consider the separate kinds
of priveski-amulets also to be tribal marks (Zhurzhalina, 1961). Along with
these types of ornaments characteristic for specific tribal dress, were also
all-Slavic ornaments. The most ancient of these L. Niderle considers the
so-called ehsovidnye [s-shaped] priveski, widespread also among the western
Slavs (Niederle, 1913a, Tab. XXIX, 10, 11). But for our theme, probably the
more interesting priveski are those appearing in the 12th and 13th centuries and
already having no particular characteristic for any ancient tribe. Such
3-bead-temple rings, priveski with 3 smooth or openwork spherical beads, were
created evidently in Kiev and spread widely in all the territory of ancient Rus.
This is an example of the influence of urban fashion, displacing gradually the
traditional tribal ornaments. Not for nothing, precisely in the ancient
territory of the Polianin tribe around Kiev is generally absent the
characteristics of particular traditional costume during the period examined by
us. Similar occurrences were also in other areas of ancient Rus. Thus, the
traditional seven-bladed ornaments of the Vyatichi received at first, new
elements of ornament in the form of stylized depictions of letters on the
blades, and later still a newer form, turned into a still more fancy large
openwork metal plate with different numbers of grown-together blades and
stylized figures of animals (Artsikhovskij, 1947, p. 80-81; Rabinovich, 1962, p.
61-69; Levashova, 1967, p. 7-54; Nedoshivina, 1969, p. 118-121). One can think
that these priveski were also the work of urban (probably Moscow) workshops.
Concerning beads, many of them were imported already in the time of the
domination of traditional tribal dress (Fekhner, 1959, p. 162). But some were
the favorite decorations of a few tribes, while others were widespread among
many tribes. To the latter is connected the so called fish-shaped beads of blue
glass originating in Central Asia.
the future the traditional set of beads were replaced by beads of urban
manufacture. More long life had temple ornaments, which it is true, were
strongly changed in form, losing their metallic manner of execution, and serving
as details of peasant women’s headdress, “pushkov” and “per’ev” (in the south),
and embroidery of kokoshniki (in north) (Grinkova, 1959, page 40).
Stable turned out also the traditional method of weaving loin clothing and the
plaiting of lapty. Still in the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th
century in the southern Russian provinces, by the color scheme and size of the
checked pattern of ponyova could be recognized peasants from definite regions
and even from specific villages (Maslova, 1956, page 621). Preserved in Ryazan,
Tombov, Orlov and Kaluga provinces were blue checked panovas, to our opinion,
especially connected by researchers with the ancient tribal dress of the
Vyatichi; adjoining this region from the west is the territory where was
preserved the povyova of red checks, still laying in ancient lands of the
Radimichi (Lebedeva N.I., 1956, p. 535-536, figure 35 map). An analogous
picture could be seen on a map of the widespread lapty. From the territory of
the Vyatichi primarily coincided the Moscow type of lapti of angled weave,
somewhat more widely in the territory of the Radimichi was the Belorus type of
lapty of straight weave, in ancient Novgorod land dominated the northern type,
also of the angle weave, but with narrow sides (Maslova, 1956, p. 716-719).
The costume of ancient Russian peasants was original and beautiful. One could
present, for example, the women of Ryazan or Moscow lands, the ancient territory
of the Vyatichi, in a white rubakha with red embroidery, blue-checked ponyova,
elaborate headdress, decorated with embroidery and appliques of gold Byzantine
fabric, with white silver or reddish bronze ornaments, in a necklace of rose
colored carnelian and white crystal beads, and sometimes even with a grivna on
the neck. On the fingers of the hand, enamel and lattice rings, on the wrists,
bronze bracelets. And the outfit of peasants of more western lands (for
example, Gomel’shchina) was still more red, inasmuch as the povyova was in a red
is necessary to note, however, that this was festival (more precisely even,
wedding) dress, in which women were also buried. Everyday clothing had to be
not always combined with such a rich ornament. In general, tribal decoration
such as the ponyova, was worn by a married women and maiden-brides. The burials
of girls, who have not yet reached full maturity, such decorations usually do
not contain. In them are found only small little wire rings, plaited in the
braids of all Slavic tribes (Latysheva, 1954, p. 54). Preserved still in the
19th to 20th centuries, the ceremony of the maiden putting on the povyova
(sometimes before the very wedding) allows us to suppose that in distant past
such a ritual initiation was connected with putting on the distinctive parts of
clothing and decoration. That certainly concerns women’s headdress, the putting
on of which composed the main part of the wedding ritual, the function of it
known to all.
Significantly more modest was men’s peasant costume. It consisted of pants and
рубахи], long to the knee and belted with
a strap-belt or tied belt, on which was carried (sometimes on special bronze
rings) different necessary items, which modern men carry in pockets: fire steel,
combs, sometimes a small knife, etc.. The only ancient tribal mark in men’s
clothing (if we do not consider lapty) was the belt buckle (for example, for
Viatichi were characteristic “lyre-shaped” forms). On the head, peasant men
wore felt hats, sometimes with sewn-on ornaments, and on the feet, lapty with
or stockings [ногавицы],
or more rarely, chereviki. Such was peasant next-to-skin clothing in which, in
warm times, was even worn outdoors (Figure 14). In cold times, men and women
wore sermyagi [сермяги]
of coarse wool fabric, the men, votolu [cloak]; in winter frost, kozhukhy and
Urban costume of that time was formed on the foundation of the village costume.
For ordinary female city dwellers, it was the same long rubakha, loin clothing
of the ponyova type, the headdress, povoj, kika or kokoshniki, and on the feet,
for the most part, boots. Depictions of the dancing women on bracelets of the
12th century (figure 15) allow us to see that the povyova could be tucked up in
front, showing the richly embroidered helm of the rubakha (Mongajt, 1967, Fig.
19; Rabinovich, 1978, p. 158, Fig. 9). Both the rubakha and the ponyova were
closed up under a belt and reach to the ankle or to the calf. A. V.
Artsikhovskij considered that the man’s rubakha in the city was shorter than
that in villages (Artsikhovskij, 1948, p. 241), not reaching the knee.
The ornaments of city dwellers and this time were extremely close to those of
traditional peasants. However, little by little, there became widespread new
things, about which we have already spoken. These were priveski in the form of
rings with attached beads, which could decorate the headdress, but it seems more
often were put through the ear lobe, earrings. In the city, all the more
widespread was the fashion to decorate the wrists. Besides traditional metal
hopes, in the 12th century there appeared wide metal-plate cast-silver bracelets
with depictions of the rusalka dances (Rybakov, 1967, p. 93) (Fig. 16). But
probably still more specifically urban were many-colored glass bracelets, which
were worn in many numbers on each arm not only by the rich but also ordinary
city women. Pieces of glass bracelets are found in the hundreds, and in large
cities in the thousands. One must think that these bracelets were inexpensive,
they way they were discarded, and broken. In the peasant graves they are met
very rarely and even close to the city, not more than one piece of the set.
is interesting to compare decorations found in large cities with those in small
cities. In the latter are met ornaments of traditional form, like those usually
worn by the neighboring village population. For example, in Ekimautsa, temple
rings of the Tivertsi and, in Moscow and Peremyshla Moscow, Vyatichi type. In
larger cities, reaching already significant growth in the 10th century, are met
ornaments belonging to different sets (for example, in Polianin Kiev,
decorations of the Tivertsi, and in Novgorod, decorations of the Vyatichi and
Radimichi etc.) (Fedrov, 1953, p. 150-151; Rabinovich, 1978, p. 67-68). This
might show that in large cities could be met women of different origins, wearing
each her own traditional decoration, or that different types of decoration could
come into one set, belonging to one woman, that is in a blending of ancient
ethno-territorial types of ornament. But the disappearance of ancient tribal
isolation interests of city women occurred mainly on account of the spread of
new, purely urban forms, about which we spoke above. Man’s costume in the city
also, as women’s, was closely tied to peasant costume and consisted mainly of
rubakha and pants, but going outside, city dwellers, evidently wore also the
svita. Clothing was supplemented by the hat and boots. An interesting list of
items worn is in receipts given out the first half of the 13th century to
Novgorodian moneylender for a certain Grishka and Kosta: “ A Grishna kozhukhe,
svita, sortsitsa,, shyapka. A Kostina svita, sorotsitsa… A sapgi Kostini. A
drougii Grishkini” (Artsikhovskij, Borkovskij, 1958, letter 141, p. 17). Here is
enumerated the whole set of men’s costume excluding the pants: sorochka [shirt,
rubakha], svita, shapka, sapogi, kozhukh.
Probably the rubakha and possibly, also the svita, were belted. Finds of belt
buckles in cities are not rare. City dwellers, like peasants, wore outdoors the
sleeveless cloak, votola and, in winter, kozhukh (men and women).
Costume of the elite.
The clothing of elite city dwellers, nobles and rich merchants, were
supplemented by many objects which were not worn either by peasants or by city
dwellers of the lower classes. This applied primarily to upper clothing worn
indoors for celebratory events, and in particular, for garments worn outside.
Only prince Svyatoslav Igorevich, the simplicity of form of life which was
emphasized in the Russian chronicle, could appear at a meeting with the
Byzantine emperor in an emphatically not rich clothing.
“Beard on him was not,” wrote Byzantine historian Lev Diakon, “but above on his
lip a thick excessive abundance of hair. His head was completely bare; on one
side of it hung a lock, signifying nobile origin; in one ear hung a gold earring
decorated with two pearls with a ruby in the middle. His clothing was white
with nothing else distinguishing it apart from cleanliness” (Cit.. in:
Artsikhovskij, 1948, p. 243-244). Prince and svita were, evidently, in linen
with a white shirt and pants. The whiskers and one forelock of the prince are
well known later among Zaporozhe “oseledets”. The single item of luxury was the
gold earring with precious stones.
But in the same 10th century, Arabian author Ibn Fadlan noted that funeral
clothing of elite Slavs was very rich. In the preparation was used up
approximately 1/3 of the property. He wrote that before placing the body of the
dead in the ship, “they dressed on it loose trousers [шаровары],
and gaiters [гетры],
and boots and jacket [куртку]
and a kaftan of brocade with buttons of gold, and on the head a hat of brocade
and stable” (Ibn Fadlan, page E.-81). If we do not pay attention to the foreign
terms used by this Eastern writer (for example “kaftan”, “sharovary” or
“kalansuva” - hat), we see here the almost whole complex of clothing of ancient
Russian elite: pants and shirt (which here, possibly is being called kurtka),
stockings [nogovitsy] and boots, upper formal open-front clothing with precious
buttons and a hat with sable trim. Not recorded only the upper sleeveless
cloak, korzno. But then again, in another place Ibn Fadlan says, evidently,
precisely about such a cloak, with which Slavs “covered one side, allowing one
of his arms to go out from it” (Ibn Fadlan, page 80-81). The cloak covering the
whole figure, which Ibn Fadlan called “kisa”, was also, probably, the reason
that other objects of clothing were not then noted (“they wore neither jacket
nor kaftan”), he wrote later.
Ancient depictions of nobles, about which we have already spoken, allow us to
suppose the formal costume of men was a long, to the calf, cloak, are under
which was visible, wrapping the body, clothing of the svita type and also
colored boots, and a half-spherical hat edged with fur. The korzno and svita,
of expensive Byzantine material, was edged with galloon. The mention of bare [исподней]
rubakha of the prince allows us to conclude that the nobility wore as
next-to-skin garment the same rubakha and pants that ordinary people did, but.
as justly supposes A. V. Artsikhovskij, of expensive material. He notes also
that patterns and shades of fabrics of the various parts of the princely costume
were selected very carefully. The most smart were considered clothing and shoes
of various hues of red color, “chchervlenye” (vermilion) and “bagryanye”
(carmine). (Artsikhovskij, 1948, p. 248, 252-255) and the very word “red” meant
Women’s rich costume was composed of a long (to the ankle) rubakha or dress
(under which could be a another rubakha), over which they wore sometimes still
another dress, belted with a gold belt, but shorter and with more wide sleeves,
so that was it visible the richly decorated hem and sleeve cuff of the lower
garment. This clothing was supplemented by a long cloak, fastened at the right
shoulder, similar to the korzna, and a povoj and colored boots (Fig. 1 colored).
large Russian cities were there were many rich people are found in large numbers
silver and gold women’s ornaments. Sometimes they are even buried in the earth
The headdress of rich urban women was decorated with precious kolti, in the ears
were earrings, on the neck was the grivna and ozherl’ya [necklace] of beads of
artistic jewelers work, and on the arms wide massive bracelets. In the costume
of rich ancient Russian urban women we do find neither the ponyova, nor tribal
About children’s clothing in this period, information is very little. Judging
by what we said above about the ponyova and tribal ornaments, rural girls, and
possibly also city girls, went about in one shirt [rubashka]. Some later
information allows us to suppose that also little boys, until reaching full
maturity, did not wear pants (Maslova, 1956, page 555), consequently they also
went in one shirt [rubashka]. But a young prince was dressed just as the adults
only without the korzna (at least so he is depicted on the miniature from the
Izbornik of Svyatoslav) (see p. 1 of the colored insert).
Clothing in the Family and in Society
The functions of clothing in ancient Russian life were various. It not only
protected from intense heat and cold, but appeared also as a most important
social and ethnic mark, distinguished warriors in battle, and many huge prestige
meaning, and fulfilled important functions in various rituals. The well-known
saying that we become acquainted through dress, traces its roots in hoary
antiquity. By the clothing, on meeting a woman, one could determine from where
she originated, whether she is married, peasant or city dweller, rich or poor
and even gather if she was taking part in any ritual. All these signs were
especially important outside the home, in that domestic, indoor clothing was, in
all likelihood, much simpler than outdoor clothing. However, many functions of
clothing applied even in the narrow family circle. The hair of married women,
for example, could not be “freed” even at home, since, in distinction from men
and maidens, married women even at home did not take off their headdress. As
concerns ornaments, the full set was worn, in all likelihood, only going out of
the house and on holidays. Judging by the depictions in miniatures of the
Radzivill chronicle, working outside the home women did not wear loin clothing,
ponyovy. Embroidery on clothing, besides purely aesthetic function, had also
protective function; it was regarded as a guard (Fig. 17). Therefore even at
home they went about in rubakhas which were embroidered at the collar, hem, and
cuffs. Especially richly were embroidered those objects of clothing which were
used for various types of ritual activities. Researchers note that still in the
19th century most richly of all were embroidered, for example, the rubakhas in
which they went out to the first mowing (Maslova, 1978, p. 16-17). One can
think that in antiquity similar activities were extremely more frequent.
Analysis of depictions on the bracelets recorded above, worn for rusalka dances,
brings the conclusion that clothing of dancers was decorated with embroidery
extremely more richly than usual: the helm of the women’s rubakha was covered
with many stripes of ornament, as also were the long lowered cuffs of the
sleeves (Rybakov, 1967, p. 93). One must say that this manner of freeing
sleeves from the bracelets in the time of the dances, letting them down
extremely lower than the wrist and dancing, waving them, probably, arose from
some magical ritual activity. Judging by depictions on bracelets from old
Ryazan, during the rusalia, in drinking from the ritual bowl, women took it over
their hanging sleeves, while the men took the bowl directly with their hands.
ordinary times, men and women were in headdress outdoors. But man had to “lomat’
shapku” [remove the hat] in a sign of respect before meeting those of higher
social position. Therefore men are depicted in the majority of miniatures in
the Radzivill chronicle without hats. Women for reasons stated above, always
stayed in headdress. The inviolability of the povoj of married women was
preserved, as already noted, by law, the violation of this inviolability was
punished with a high fine.
We’re not concerned here with the clothing of ecclesiastical figures and the
ritual clothing of orthodox clergy, because this was Byzantine clothing. A
different opinion of researchers is only in that the set of clothes of monks and
priests already from the very beginning was penetrated by objects of folk
clothing like the recorded above svita, worn on the monks khiton, or the votoly
over the vestments of a bishop.
have already spoken about the celebratory clothing and regalia of Russian
princes - the princely hat, barma and cloak. It remains to say a few words
about military clothing, about which we have only fragmentary information. Over
chain mail they wore, as visible in depictions on seals and icons, in general,
ordinary upper clothing, korzno, votoly, sometimes svita. The clothing of rich
and elite warriors was distinguished by expensive embroidery. It is known, for
example, that in the 13th century, they tried to seize warriors in such clothing
(“ashche budet zlatom oplech’e shito”) alive, in order to receive the ransom (Rabinovich,
1947, p. 95). In military clothing already very early appeared marks allowing
to distinguish in battle one from another, thus elements of military uniform.
Thus, in 1016, Novgorodians fought against Kievians in a towel-like [полотенчатых]
headdress, resembling the eastern turban: before the battle spoke Yaroslav to
the druzhina: “mark, wrap around your head your ubrus” (NPL, p. 175). The
chronicle, and also the author of the “Lay of Igor’s campaign”, notes the gold
helmet as a mark of the prince-commander. Possibly, already in that time served
as an attribute of the military leader the gold helmet, gold cloak, and gold
belt, which more clearly is reflected in the sources later, 14th to 16th
tracing the development of objects of ancient Russian clothing and the set of
them inherent to various ethnicities, ages and social groups of the eastern
Slavs in the 9th to 13th century, one needs to note that this process proceeded
under the influence of internal causes, connected with ethnic and socio-economic
development of the ancient Russian people, as also under the influence of
interaction with neighbors. Local details of clothing, coming from changes of
ancient tribal details, taking form in a process of development (consolidation,
and then later also stratification) of the ancient Russian people, and close
society with neighboring Slavic and non-Slavic peoples. Researchers note, in
particular, general features in costume of Russians and their Baltic and
Finno-Ugric neighbors (Kuftin, 1926; Tolstov, 1530; Levashova, 1968). Extremely
important was also the influence of the growth of cities and urban style on the
development of clothing.
Besides that, extremely durable turned out ancient eastern Slav elements such
as, for example, the women’s loin clothing, polikovaya [поликовая]
women’s rubakha, the straight and angled collar slit of the men’s rubakha, the
branaya [brocade?] technique of weaving, and lapty. They remained
characteristic for all three eastern slav peoples, Russian, Ukrainian and
Byelorussia (Tokarev, 1954; p. 21-31; Maslova, 1954, p. and 52) through the
course of many centuries.
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