Old Russian swords. Procurement and import substitution

Old Russian swords. Procurement and import substitution

As you know, coming with a sword to Russia is fraught with death from such a weapons. Indeed, the Russian army possessed a large number of swords and with their help repeatedly met enemies. The first swords appeared with her no later than the 9th century, and quickly enough such samples became widespread, becoming one of the main weapons of infantry and cavalry. The swords served for several centuries, after which they gave way to a newer and more progressive blade weapon.


Swords of the 9th-11th centuries found in the Gnezdovsky mounds. Photo Mihalchuk-1974.livejournal.com


Sword story


Traditionally история swords in Russia is divided into two main periods. The second begins in the IX century. and covers the first half of the X century. It is to this period that the oldest archaeological finds in the lands of the Eastern Slavs belong. It is believed that by the IX-X centuries. swords managed to get wide distribution in other parts of Europe, and soon came to our region, where they were appreciated.

The first swords in Russia belonged to the so-called. Carolingian type. Such weapons were found in various graves in different regions, mainly near the centers of political and economic life. To date, more than a hundred swords of the first period have been discovered and studied.


Finds swords until the sixties inclusive. Map from the book of A.N. Kirpichnikova "Old Russian weapons", issue. 1, "Swords and sabers of the IX-XIII centuries."

In the X-XI centuries. there was a gradual crowding out of the Carolingian sword. He was replaced by a sword of the Romanesque or Capetian type. Similar weapons are found in burials and in the cultural layer from the 10th to the 13th centuries. It is curious that the swords of the second period, despite its longer duration, were preserved in smaller quantities - no more than 75-80 units. The small number of finds is explained by the disappearance of the tradition of burying weapons with the owner.

Apparently, it was after the X century. finally formed all the famous traditions associated with swords. The sword was considered an important attribute of power and troops. Various phraseological units associated with blades also appeared. The sword has become synonymous with power methods.

Procurement and import substitution


The origin of the swords of Old Russian rati is extremely interesting. The first samples of such weapons were brought from foreign lands. Then, purchases of imported products continued and remained relevant for several centuries. Foreign gunsmiths, having a certain head start in time, managed to work out the necessary technologies and produced high-quality weapons.


Types of hilt swords, related to the IX-X centuries. Table from the book of A.N. Kirpichnikova "Old Russian weapons", issue. 1, "Swords and sabers of the IX-XIII centuries."

The main supplier of swords for Ancient Russia was the Carolingian Empire. Weapons were also purchased from Varangian craftsmen. Some of the swords came in fully finished form, while others bought in the form of only a blade or blank for it. The blade was supplemented with a locally made handle.

Swords and blades of foreign origin can be identified by the corresponding brands. Thanks to this, the origin of several dozen finds from different regions was unequivocally established. For example, swords with the stigma “ULFBERHT” are quite widespread both in our country and in Europe.

Over time, the old Russian blacksmiths mastered the production of their own swords, however, the results of this are still a topic of controversy. The production and sale of swords in Russia has been repeatedly mentioned in the works of foreign travelers and chroniclers, but such data do not quite fit with real archaeological finds.



Later swords of the 11th-13th centuries table from the book of A.N. Kirpichnikova "Old Russian weapons", issue. 1, "Swords and sabers of the IX-XIII centuries."

At the moment, there are only a few swords that are uniquely produced in Russia. The first is a sword from metro Foshevataya (Poltava province), dated the first half of the 11th century. On both sides of his blade are the inscription “KOVAL” and “PEOPLE” (or “PEOPLE”). By design and execution, this sword resembles the Scandinavian ones. The second find was made at the end of the 19th century. in the Kiev province. It was an 28-cm sword fragment with significant damage. On the surviving part there was an engraving “SLAV”.

Cyrillic inscriptions on these artifacts suggest their ancient Russian origin. Thus, the fact of the production of swords in Russia is confirmed. At the same time, output volumes, share in rati weapons, etc. remain unclear. Perhaps the answers to all such questions will appear later, according to the results of new discoveries and research.

Ways of development


Archaeological finds show that in Russia the same basic types of swords were used as a whole, as in other regions of Europe. First of all, this was facilitated by active purchases of imported weapons. As for the swords of local production, their creators worked with an eye on foreign experience - which led to the observed consequences.


A ULFBERHT-branded sword found in Gnezdovo (above). Wikimedia Commons Photos

Swords of the first period, IX-X centuries, usually have a length of less than 1 m and weigh no more than 1-1,5 kg. Blades made using various technologies have survived. Swords with steel blades welded onto an iron base were widespread. Solid iron swords are also known. Handles of different types were used, including different design.

In addition to various hallmarks on the finds, there are signs of decoration. Also, similar features of weapons are mentioned in historical sources. The wealthy and noble swordsmen could afford to decorate their weapons with copper, silver or gold inlay, etc. In particular, this design had a broken sword with the inscription "SLAV".

After the X-XI centuries. there is a change in design. Improving the technology has made it possible to lighten swords and bring their weight to 1 kg with a length of up to 85-90 cm. Longer and heavier swords appear, up to 120 cm and 2 kg, as well as lightweight items for cavalry. A characteristic feature of later swords is a gradual decrease in the width of the valley, associated with improved manufacturing techniques.


A modern replica of the sword "LUDOSHA KOVAL". Photo Mihalchuk-1974.livejournal.com

Along with the construction of the sword, the methods of its use changed. During the first centuries, the Old Russian sword, like its foreign counterparts, was primarily a chopping weapon. In the XI-XII centuries. the idea of ​​piercing strikes arises and is being introduced, which leads to a change in the design of the handle and cross. In the XIII century. sharpened swords appeared, equally suitable for cutting and pricking. Thus, the functions of swords gradually changed, but their initial capabilities remained basic and did not give way to new ones.

End of an era


According to archeology, already in the X century. Old Russian warriors met with a curved blade - a saber. Over the next several centuries, a straight and curved blade were used in parallel, each in its own niche. The saber was of most interest for the cavalry, where it gradually replaced the existing types of swords. However, not all riders switched to such weapons. The infantry also kept swords.

Significant changes in weapons began after the XIII century. Changes in tactics and combat techniques have led to an increase in the role of sabers and a reduction in the spread of swords. Such processes took a lot of time, but led to well-known results. By the XV-XVI centuries. swords finally gave way to more advanced weapons that meet current requirements. Their era is over.

General trends


Swords came to Russia from other countries and quickly took their place in the equipment of warriors. Such weapons met the requirements of their time and allowed foot or equestrian fighters to effectively solve existing problems. Swords were successful and convenient weapons, which allowed them to remain relevant for several centuries.


Reconstruction of the inscription on the sword "SLAV". Figure A.N. Kirpichnikova / rus-druzhina.ru

As follows from known data, most of the swords in Russia were of foreign origin. Accordingly, the development of such weapons followed major European trends. There was also our own production, but the lack of data on it does not allow us to draw serious conclusions. Apparently, local blacksmiths-gunsmiths also tried to follow foreign trends, and their swords turned out to be similar to imports.

Following foreign trends taking into account local requirements has led to well-known results. Purchased and forged swords generally met current requirements and developed in accordance with various factors. Thanks to this, swords remained one of the main weapons of warriors for several centuries, but then they had to give way to weapons of new classes.
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