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John Sloan

Alexander Nevski

Our cover illustration is of Alexander Nevski, prince of Novgorod and later Grand Prince of Vladimir. He defeated the Swedish invaders on the Neva River in 1240 and then the Teutonic Knights at Lake Chud in 1242. He is shown wearing a long kol'chuga, single-piece buturliki, naruchi, and an early sholom. He carries a chekan in his right hand and is wearing both a myech and nosh on his belt. He carries the typical Varangian kite (almond) shaped shield. This painting was commissioned by John Sloan and created by Zubov in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Prints are available.) The following are the principal references used to compile this information. Vinklyer, P, von Oruzhiye, St. Petersburg, 1894. Fedorov, B. G. Voorushyeniye russkoi armii za XIX stolyeniye, St Petersburg, 1911. Dyenisov, M. M., Porshnov, M. E. Russkoye Oruzhiye XI - XIX vekov. Moskva, 1952. S. K. Bogoyavlyeiskii, "Vooruzhyeniye Russkikh voisk v XVI - XVII vekov." in journal of Academy of Science of the USSR, Institute of History. Kirpichnikov, A., and A. Yurasovskii, Russkye Dospyekhi X - XVII vekov, Moscow, 1991. Istorichyeskoye opisaniye odyezhdi i vooruzhyeniya rossieskikh' voisk' c risynakami sostavlyennoye po bisochaishfmy povyel'niyu. chast' pyervaya, St Petersburg, 1899. Tarassuk, Leonid, Claude Blair, The Complete Encyclopedia of Arms and Weapons, Bonanza Books, Italy, 1986. The B/W illustrations are from Viskovatov's massive work on the history of Russian uniforms. The color illustrations are of the members of the Alexander Nevski Film and Pagent Society. The best recent reference is Mikhael Gorelik's Warriors of Eurasia, Montvert Publications. See also his articles in Tseghaus magazine and the pamphlet Bitva na Kalke 31 May 1223, Izdatel'stvo Izograf, Moskva, 1994. There are a few, but excellent, illustrations and extensive text describing how kol'chugi and some other types of armor were manufactured in Sbornik nauchnikh trudov po materialam gosudarstvennoi oruzheinoi palata - Gosudarstvennaya oruzhyenaya palata moskovskogo kremlya, published in 1954 by Iskusstvo, Moskva. To return to or access the main page on Russia please go to Xenophon. We now have many photos of the collection of medieval arms and armor in the Kremlin armory museum. And there are a few items of medieval armor in the Artillery Museum in St Petersburg.

Table of Contents

Part I - General discussion
Part II - Principal Terms with illustrations of individual items.
Part III - Illustrations of individuals wearing complete armor.
Part IV -Weapons Table - showing usage by century.


Cover Frontspiece to the edition of the Viskovatov collection published in Russia in 1890's.

Historians divide the development of arms and armor in Russia into three periods. The first or "Norman" period from the 9th to the 13th centuries is characterized by the use of the kolchuga - mail shirt - for body armor; the mech - long straight sword - as offensive weapon; theshelm - round, hemispherical iron cap - for helmet; and the long, almond shaped "kite" shield.
The second period began in the 13th century with a transition to a more Eastern, Mongol and Tatar-influenced style of weaponry during which sabers, round shields and eastern style body armor appeared in general use.
At the beginning of the 17th century the third period saw the gradual introduction of Western influences and the Oriental styles wained slowly.
Russians categorize medieval arms and armor as follows:
Offensive: kolushchyeye - thrusting weapons, (including sabel, konchar, mech, nosh, and kindjal); metatel'noye - shooting (launching) weapons (including kolchan, djid, naluch, saadak, samostrel and sulitsa ); ru'yashchyeye - chopping weapons (including berdysh, sovna and rogatina); and udarnoye - striking weapons (including bulava, chekan, klevets, palitsa, shestoper, and topor).
Defensive: dospekh orbronya - body armor (including pantsir, baidana, bakhteretz, kalantar', kol'chuga, kuyak, nagavits, tyegilyai, yushman and zertsalo); sholom or shlyem - head or neck protection - helmet (including barmitsa, litchina, misyurka, shishak, shlyem, yalovets and yerikhonka); and the shchit - shield (including the tarch).

Here is an illustration of a wide variety of arms and armor worn and carried by members of the St. Petersburg, Alexander Nevski Society, now renamed "Druzhina". Varangians For more photographs of this redoubtable group go to Part III. An extensive list of web sites on all aspects of military history is located in the military history section of the main Xenophon web site.

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