Rus – What does it mean?

Sometime last year, I offered to help make garb for a friend and asked him what time period and style interested him. Being a typical early period fighter-type guy in the SCA, I knew he was leaning towards the Viking-age, but when he said Rus I had to pause. “What do you mean by Rus?” I asked.

How little did I know that this one simple question pushed me into my rabbit hole, and I have little hope of ever returning. The general idea of a Russian Viking is not hard to find, but as a serious costumer I wanted to know what makes the costumes of the Russian Vikings different from all of the other Viking-age outfits. My rabbit hole question is trying to define the garb of the elusive “Rus.”

Before I could do that, there were many other questions I needed to answer. Did the Rus exist as a separate and distinctly different culture from the other Viking groups of the time? What made them different? How would they have defined themselves?  What distinguishes a Viking-Rus grave from a grave of a native Slavic or someone from the East?

And then the more penitent questions for me: What extant evidence do we have?  What is the current hypothesis that the Russian archaeologists propose concerning the costumes?

With as many people bandying about the term Rus and with as many books written on the subject, one would think it would be a cut and dry answer. Not so much! I’m still searching for these answers, but I want to share what I’ve learned so far and what I will learn.  My posts on this may be slow since I’m painstakingly translating Russian archaeology articles, but when one wants to know about something, it is best to go to those with the most access.

First of all, for my personal use, I am defining Viking-Rus as those settled in Russian areas who were of Scandinavian origin culturally.  What does that mean?  Whether or not they were born in Russia or in Norway, I’m focusing on the people who still had connections to the Scandinavian Viking culture.

How is this determined?

One word: graves.  An archaeologist determines what someone is culturally based on how the dead person was physically treated and what items were in their resting place.  What about a DNA test? you ask.  Those are really expensive and most archaeology departments are not that well funded.  Maybe some future culture will value the information more and swing for a slew of DNA tests, but until then we have body remains and grave finds.  And that topic deserved its own blog post.

I hope you enjoy this series. Leave comments and questions – I always appreciate them and we learn best from each-other.

Rus Embroidery #2

I have insomnia. It’s been getting worse for years, and it’s more normal than a full night’s sleep.  Partly why I research so much is that it passes the long nights.  Once every few weeks I crash and that always happens at the most importune times, like when I get a chance to hang out with my besties at a birthday party.

It also leaves me pretty empty to post on my blog, even if I have another Rus embroidery pattern ready to go.

For a few months, I’ve been fascinated by the Russians. I’m in touch with several Russian Viking-reenactment groups, and they are so cool!  Two distinct difference, other than that they battle each other with real swords and no face plate, jump out at me.  First, they are serious about their authenticity in costuming.

I’m not an authenticity enforcer.  The only time I inspect someone else’s garb for authenticity is either when they ask directly or I’m judging garb at an Arts & Sciences event.  I hold myself to the rules of authenticity because I find it challenging, fascinating and a personal goal.  I do not go around casting aspersions on others.

Not that the Russian reenactors  are authenticity enforcers either, but they hold themselves to those same standards I aim for.

The second difference is that they share documentation.  Not that I am criticizing my fellow artisans of the Known Realm, but there is a tendency to hoard knowledge that I do not like.  It is not that one has the information that makes them special; it is putting that information in practice and, even more importantly, inspiring others to do the same that makes one truly extraordinary.  I strive to be that kind of an extraordinary artist.

Rus Embroidery #2

This design is based off of an embroidered cuff found in a Viking-age dig in the city of Sharhorod.  I put the pertinent data in the picture so that you can use it for documentation.  Please give me credit for the design if you do.  It makes me happy to know that someone used my work, and if anyone has questions, they can direct them my way.

The first design if for a neckline.  I love, love, lurv embroidered necklines.  Enlarge the picture until it fits your neck. It might be easier to do on a xeroz rather than a printer since it will take paper larger than the A4 size.hem sharhorod 2 wm

The second design looks more like the original and can be used for cuffs or hemlines.  It also gives you a contrast to the neckline design so that you can see how I changed the design to fit the curves.

hem sharhorod 1 wm

I’m already working on a Rus design that has both Celtic-like knotwork and fleur de lis, two of my favorite design elements!

Embroidered Neckline #1 – Rus based

I’m trying to expand my designs for necklines and wanting to base my patterns on period artwork.  The ones I like the most combine curves and plant elements.  I found this one based on a 10th – 11th century Rus sword. Making the design curve around the neck was trickier than I thought it should be, but I think it came out rather nice.

To use it, enlarge it until the neck hole is large enough for your neck. It will probably take at least two A4 sheets of paper, possibly 4.  Tape it together on the reverse side of the pattern.  I use Sulky iron-on transfer pens to get the pattern onto the fabric.

Remember, it is best to work the embroidery before doing anything other than cutting out the body piece.

rus sword design 10th c 2 wm

Matching cuff and edge trim.

cuff2

Updated 3/27/2016

Found the original picture of the sword hilt where the design came from.

Typical pattern of the Kievan Rus X-XI, this comes from the hilt of the sword, Kiev (Ukraine). Date about 1000 AD.
Kirpichnikov, AN Ancient weapon. Moscow: the Leningrad-Dep of Science, 1966. Archaeology of the USSR. p117

neckline 1