Facebook keeps suggesting me an old Outdoor Life story about world’s most legendary hunters. Understandably, most people on the list come from either the U.S. or Britain and its former colonies. Yet, Russia has a number of hunters who deserve the status of a legend, and I’ll try to tell you about some of them. Today’s story is about the Jankovskis of the Pacific Far East, the land where the taiga meets the tropics.
The topic of this post was to be determined by a poll, but it ended in a tie, so I’ll try to match the expectations of both parties in one go. Continue reading
A Cossack (left) demonstrating his flintlock gun to a Strelets (member of Russian Czar’s regular armed forces in the XVII century), armed with a regulation matchlock. A modern, but historically correct image by Nikolai Fomin, from illustrations to Mikhail Krechmar‘s book on Russian conquest of Siberia.
The use of flintlocks by Siberian frontierspeople was documented as early as the late XVI century, and if a Cossack could get such a gun, so could an average peasant from Central Russia. This supports the point made in the previous post.
Winter. Hunting. Freedom.
by Aleksei Morozov.
Condensed translation into English by the author.
Allow me, dear reader, to take you on an imaginary Russian hunt as it used to be 200 years ago. No, we shall not go coursing with borzoi dogs like the noble heroes of Tolstoy and Turgenev. We are going to hunt like the people who comprised 80 to 90% of Russians two centuries ago: the serfs. Continue reading
Czar Alexey Mikhailovich (1629-1676; r. 1645-1676) was perhaps the most sporting of Russian monarchs; the first Russian dedicated hunting book ever – “Урядник сокольничья пути” (The Master of the Way of Falconry) – is said to be composed by him personally, or at least at his direct and competent supervision.
Hawking and coursing, naturally, comprised the lion’s share of Czar Alexey’s sport, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t room for firearms. Guns were used to dispatch the cripples that escaped to water, and when waterfowl would not rise from their safe position in the middle of the lake, the Czar’s hunters would fire their guns at the birds, to make them fly.
On February 14th, Russian Orthodox Chirch celebrates the day of Saint Trifon.
According to the canonic story, one of the falconers in the hunt of Ivan the Terrible was called Trifon. During one of the hunts, Trifon somehow let escape an especially valuable falcon, and had to recover the bird or face one of the punishments that were the reason why Ivan IV got his moniker. After three days of fruitless search, Trifon fell asleep under a tree, having made his prayers first. Then his patron saint appeared to him in a dream, as a youth on a white horse with a falcon on his hand, and told him to take the bird and return to the Czar. When Trifon avoke, he saw the falcon perched on the tree under which he was lying. The Czar gave Trifon a generous reward for recovering the bird, and Trifon in turn used the reward to put up a chapel dedicated to St. Trifon on the place where he found the falcon (the extended version of the story has it that the falcon was found at the estate of a Boyar, whose daughter Trifon eventually married). St. Trifon has since been honored in Russia as patron saint for hunters and fishers.
The first record of hunting birds with firearms in Russia dates back to 1602. Prince Johann, brother of Christian, King of Denmark, travelled to Moscow to be engaged to Xenia, daughter of Boris Godunov, then Czar of Russia. On his way, Prince Johann shot “little ducks” with a samopal (a “self-firing” gun, i.e., a wheel lock or a flint lock), and “returned to town late and was very pleased”, writes Nikolai Kutepov in his “Great Princes and Czars Hunting on the Rus’, IX-XVI Centuries” (1896).