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This site's aim is to present a vivid image of Russian heraldry, and to provide the English-reading audience with reliable basic information on the armorial heritage and the current heraldic practice in Russia. So far a number of our sections is under construction, but we hope that the site may be already interesting and informative. Welcome to the Heraldic Russia!
ARMORIAL and GALLERIES:
Heraldists and Ideas in Russia: the Problem of ImmigrationAuthor: Michael Medvedev / Publication date: 2006-08-16
1. Medieval migrations and travels of heralds as a factor of heraldic unity in Europe.
THE BEGINNING: DIFFERENT CULTURAL BACKGROUNDS AND PERCEPTIONS
When we talk about English, French, German or Russian heraldry, we are not talking about different heraldries. We are talking about the different projections and “incarnations” of the heraldic tradition as a unique phenomenon. That is why heraldry needs international meetings and such works as medieval general armorials. Heinen and Lefevre created the common heritage and example for old and young local heraldic traditions. The question is, how some traditions translate their experience into others. I would like to examine this question using Russia as an example.
The specific features of Russian heraldry were determined by three main factors. These are: the local social and cultural context of the armorial usage; specific Russian preheraldry and, most importantly, the mutual influences of older heraldic traditions. It was this last factor which turned Russian heraldry into heraldry. It was the armorial importation which substituted for Russia a medieval experience of its own. And it was not only the importation of armorial decorative forms and the immigration of armigers, but mainly professional heraldic activity.
The medieval migrations of heralds and of armorials lead to European heraldic unity; but they were also a result of this unity. Heralds, and later learned heraldists, did not try to implant heraldry or encourage armorial expansion. They appealed to the people who usually accepted heraldry as a socio-cultural fact. But it was not so in Russia. Heraldists appeared in Russia almost together with heraldic notions. The personal influence of heraldists was often decisive; their separate deeds and inventions became fundamental precedents. Heraldists tried to talk about heraldic taste with others who often understood neither the juridical nor the iconographic nature of arms. Heraldists acted as pioneers of heraldry. This process was absolutely natural; the State recognized it but did not accelerate it.
Until the end of the seventeenth century a Russian man could hardly understand the phenomenon of arms. There were no domestic analogies; usually Russians of the time understood arms as signs on seals, which was a misleading interpretation, since images on private Russian seals were usually occasional and had no personal or hereditary emblematic meaning(1). There was even a curious expression “a seal in arms”(2) (pechat’ v gerbe, not “arms on a seal” but vice versa). This signified an emblem in armorial forms. The decorative forms of armorial origin were imported into Russia already in the 15th century but this resulted only in a superficial imitation.
The culture of emblems in Russia was suppressed by the culture of symbols and by ecclesiastical iconography.
Recently I had a pleasure to found and to discuss a good example for this lack of development in Russian emblematic culture: a coat of arms on a seal of Basil II the Blind, Grand Duke of Moscow, used in 1433(3). The seal is well-known and several times published, but its composition was traditionally misunderstood (“a monster”, “a monster’s head with open mouth gorged with a coronet” etc). In reality, the seal bears the full achievement of the Kings of Hungary of the first house of Anjou. At that time the Russians did not perceive this as an usurpation of someone’s emblem but only as a way of using the common symbol of power shared with a glorious neighbour.
In the 17th century these features of a Russian culture of signs remained influential. I must also add that the western treatises on heraldic theory were absolutely unknown in Russia. A potential Russian armiger could only observe imported examples and guess about the properly heraldic and juridical essence of arms and their elements such as, for example, a robe or a crown. The heraldic understanding of colour was perhaps the most difficult aspect for Russians.
Given such a situation, a heraldist was bound to become an alien. We know that in the third quarter of the 17th century Moscow was visited by a learned heraldist, called in Russian sources Lawrence Khurelich (or Khurelevich), mentioned in Russian sources as an officer of arms to the Holy Roman Emperor, specially sent to Russia. Khurelich was useful as a consultant on genealogy and on foreign heraldry, but not on Russian arms. There is a theory, or rather a historiographical myth, according to which Khurelich corrected tsarist symbols of power(4) but this can easily be dismissed.
The genealogical work written by Khurelich for the Muscovian government was indeed illustrated by slightly heraldized Russian emblems; but in “de luxe” contemporary copies of the work, embellished in full colour for the highest official bodies, all these emblems were reproduced in a free manner, without preserving fixed tinctures and heraldically normal attitudes(5). The “heraldization” was simply not noticed by the Muscovites.
Nevertheless at the same time the importation of armorial decorative forms into Russia was supported by heraldic notions, at last beginning to seep into Russia. The social importance of foreign military specialists and merchants was growing. In 1667 moreover, Eastern Ukraine was annexed and became a strong conductor of the Polish influence. I have to say that heraldry already existed in Ukraine at that time as a branch of the Polono-Lithuanian tradition(6). As it was noted by N.P. Likhachev, the idea that a nobleman must be armigerous became popular just before the reign of Peter the Great; and the Russian nobles began to invent arms for themselves(7). They mainly imitated Polish arms but sometimes also followed Baltic-German and other examples. Several immigrant families, including completely russified ones, petitioned for a recognition of their arms and received from the Posolsky Prikaz (Foreign Office) documents with a translation of Wappensagen from Polish armorials. There existed only Polish heraldic sources in the Foreign Office, and even the Divov family - of French origin - received a Polish coat of arms (yet at least with fleurs de lis)(8). The blazoning in these documents was even more naive than in the Polish ones(9).
With the Austrian grants a new source of influence appeared at the beginning of the 18th century: Some Russian high officials, such as Golovkin and Golovin received titles and augmented arms from Holy Roman Emperors. All these cases were of special importance to Peter I the Great who, proclaiming himself an Emperor, considered the Holy Roman Empire as a model for his own state.
RUSSIA’S FIRST HERALDISTS
Heraldists began their work in Russia in this context.
First and foremost is to be mentioned Baron F. von Huyssen. In Russian literature he is almost always considered a German. In reality he belonged to an old noble Dutch family. From the 1690s onwards, this professional lawyer served under Tsar Peter as a specialist for “westernization”, inviting foreigners and catering for pro-Russian propaganda in Europe. Sometimes Friedrich von Huyssen is considered as a person who influenced young Russian heraldry very strongly(10). It is known that Huyssen developed plans for supervising and controlling noble rights in Russia (including the armorial rights). He also invented an armorial interpretation (“correction”) of the Russian double-headed eagle (which was still a pre-heraldic emblem then) and published it twice in Vienna with commentaries. Yet research shows that the real reforms of the time stayed far short from Huyssen's projects. Having no direct influence on Russian official practice, Huyssen remained something of a side-show for Russia(11). Also the edition of the Russian eagle, addressed to the West, remained a fact of non-Russian heraldry.
Count James Bruce was in fact the first Russian heraldist. The career and the arms of this outstanding person were already described in the lecture delivered by Dr. Fedosov(12). So I shall limit myself to some important details.
James Bruce was born in Moscow, his father had immigrated from Britain. The future count was growing up in the semi-isolated multi-ethnic community of Muscovian foreigners. He took over his family arms from his father in a “continentalized’ form: with no marks of cadency, and with “patriotic” supporters (a lion gules and an unicorn proper) which were not an indication of a title(13). In fact, Bruce’s family descended from feudal barons but was a cadet line and never claimed the barony or the chiefship. The result as a whole was a mixture of Scottish and non-Scottish heraldry. No wonder that the honourable armorial augmentation, invented for himself as a count by Bruce in 1721, also shows a curious mixture of traditions.
According to the Tsarist letters patent(14), the second and the third quarters were granted to Bruce for his diplomatic service, especially for the negotiations with Sweden in the course of the Aland Congress. The charges in the first and fourth quarters correspond to the merits in the Northern War; they are evidently inspired by the walls and canon-balls, highly typical of the Swedish “frontier heraldry”.
By the way, Bruce participated also in the creation of the arms for Russian Lappland, in which case he followed the Swedish tradition again(15).
But let us return to Bruce’s own arms. The coronets with the baronial crown are of particular interest, located as they are on a more “honourable” place even than a coronet of a count, though Bruce never received a baronial title - either by succession or by grant. On Bruce’s bookplate moreover the coronets bear typical British forms: a slightly deformed lord’s coronet on the dexter side, an earl’s coronet on the sinister helmet(16). In the same form the coronets were shown on the personal seal of Bruce (I had a chance to see its imprint in the State Archives in Stockholm). One may presume that in the original letters patent the coronets had the same “non-continental” form.
The baron’s crown probably had to indicate the baronial descent of Bruce, which shows a continental approach to heraldry. The position of two coronets could show that the baronial dignity of the family existed prior to the count’s title, or maybe even a preference to a Scottish honour. It is important that on the tombstone of James’s untitled brother Roman (see note 12) the non-augmented family arms are ensigned with a Freiherrnkrone (with seven pearls visible).
The use of British coronets evidently was a patriotical manifestation, a sign of “family nostalgia”. But we also can be sure that Bruce consciously played with the difference of local traditions. He knew of the idea that a coronet is a part of a crest, not a separate sign of dignity. This conception, being commonly accepted in England, influenced Scottish theory and practice as well(17). Thus, using British coronets as a separate sign of dignity, Bruce ingeniously placed them in a continental way to avoid usurpation of British honours.
We know that James Bruce also corrected in 1715 the augmented arms for counts Apraksin(18); but we hardly can consider these arms as a pure example of his own heraldic style. There are two brightly specific features in the Apraksin’s coat of arms(19). One is the crossed banners: a crest, or quasi-crest placed between helmets above the crown directly on the shield. The other feature is that the main augmentation is relatively unusual: a double-headed eagle but in changed colours, not sable on or. Analogous elements do we find in the arms of Golovin, a Russian family, created counts of the Roman Empire in 1701 (with a rich armorial augmentation granted in 1702). The first count Golovin was a predecessor of the first count Apraksin as a prominent military leader of the Russian navy, and it was important for Apraksin to obtain a grant similar to the grant bestowed on Golovin. Bruce incarnated this idea or, more probably, only corrected an existing project.
But nevertheless there is one detail in the Apraksin arms which is evidently typical for Bruce. The count’s crown is on the sinister helmet, just as it is in the Bruce’s own arms. In augmented designs he always gave precedence to the family arms.
PROFESSIONAL HERALDISTS AT WORK
Peter the Great wanted Bruce to put Russian provincial arms in order, in collaboration with another titled erudit, the first count Tolstoy(20). But both these statesmen were too busy to carry out this work. Finally a professional heraldist was invited: Count Francesco Santi from Piemont. Santi had studied heraldry and connected subjects in Paris, had then been a court officer to the Landgrave of Hessen-Homburg and served for a while in Spain. Santi was not only a learned specialist but also a perfect artist whose works combined the splendour of the baroque with heraldic correctness. Looking for active heraldic work, Santi decided to devote himself entirely to the young Russian heraldry. In 1717 he was presented to Peter the Great in Amsterdam with recommendations from the Landgrave; but in 1722 only, after long negotiations and with the help of Bruce, Santi was made the first Russian officer with purely armorial duties. Santi did a great job at turning Russian pre-heraldic territorial emblems into provincial arms. His aim was to compile the full arms of the Empire. He also designed arms for towns, cloisters, families, corrected already existing arms, and worked out general programs of heraldic activity in Russia. His detailed project of reform for the Russian heraldic authority(21) was inspired partly by medieval practice, partly by French, and partly by British tradition. Such cosmopolitanism is very typical for Santi. One of his reference books was Philip Jacob Spener’s «Opus Heraldicum».
Santi tried not to reach any important decision without taking the council of other people, such as count Bruce, the Swedish Baron Stromfelt and others. Santi’s secretary and collaborator was Andrew Alrow (Olrow?) who, perhaps, represented the British traditions even more directly than Bruce.
In his work with municipal arms Santi tried to consider the local features, traditions and history. His working language was French, and Santi’s official Russian translator naïvely interpreted the term ‘sable’ as “Sandy or black colour” etc.(22). Yet at the same time we find, for example, a polonism in the blazon for the Demidov’s arms: “labry” for mantling(23).
There is a prevalent opinion that Santi artificially introduced French norms and customs in Russian heraldry; but this opinion is quite naive, based as it mainly is on Santi’s conflict with Livonian nobles. In 1725 the military officer von Ditmar and twelve other ethnically German noblemen from Livonia petitioned for the confirmation of their rights and arms. One of the achievements contained a banner without any explanation for such an honour; a newly-ennobled officer adopted arms with a crest. Santi considered these arms as “contradicting the heraldic rules” and insisted on correcting them; but a part of the petitioners decided that the changes were too radical and appealed about the corrections to the Supreme Privy Council of the Empire(24). It is notable that only the corrections themselves were discussed, not Santi’s right in general to correct arms in the name of the Crown. Later no heraldic authority in Russia enjoyed such power, as the grants and changes of arms had become an Imperial prerogative.
One can believe that all this shows the distance between French-educated Santi and the eastern European situation. But in reality Count Santi was limited not by his nationality as such but by theoretical notions. He was a believer in heraldry on paper. The heraldry which he knew, learned and loved, was very correct, legally motivated, and full of bright, clear symbolism, called by Menestrier “l'image hieroglyphique"(25). In Russia, Santi tried to follow Colombier (whose book was his main manual), making practice as close to the sublime theory as possible. Anywhere in Europe such ideas would contradict the living practice(26). As far as the grants and confirmations were issued to the ‘Russians properly’, Santi succeeded in following the French theory (so he rejected a crest desired and applied for by the newly-ennobled Demidov family), but in the case of the Russian/Baltic Germans with their strong armorial traditions this appeared less easy.
Unfortunately I have no time here to communicate more about Santi’s very interesting life and noble personality. I should only like to note that in 1727 Santi’s heraldic activity was terminated by his sudden arrest. In the heraldic and biographical literature Francesco Santi is normally mentioned as a member of the de Santi family from Tuscany. This information is given by Gritzner, Troynitsky and others(27). But in reality Santi belonged to the ancient ghibellinian family de Santi from Alessandria.
It worth mentioning that the arms granted in Russia to the posterity of Francesco Santi consist of the arms of the family de Santis and of the Santi from Alessandrian, both distorted.
On March 3, 1730 Empress Anne approved an armorial of Russian provinces and towns(28), developed partly according to the projects of Santi but generally put in order by General (later Field Marshal) Count von Muennich, an immigrant from Oldenburg who was assisted by the painter A. Baranov. Muennich’s influence on young Russian heraldry was really significant; yet in essence it was the influence not of the German heraldic traditions but that of the international culture of baroque allegories, diletantically interpreted by Muennich. Some emblematic manoeuvres, made by Muennich, are especially noteworthy, e.g. the ‘demilitarization’ of the Finnish and Estonian civic and provincial arms which passed under Russian jurisdiction from Sweden. Muennich removed all canon-balls from these arms. To the coat of arms of Karelia (two hands with swords) he added a crane in its vigilance as a symbol of watchfulness in peace(29).
I must also mention Johann Simon Beckenstein, a German gentleman originating from the Baltic provinces, a doctor of the University of Koenigsberg and a professor of law. He was one of the initiators of University education in Russia. From the end of the 1720s onwards he delievered lectures on heraldry at the University. He also published a heraldic treatise - the first such treatise to be edited in Russia - but written in German, inspired mainly by the Baltic German customs and totally lacking Russian examples(30). Beckenstein tried to collect some but was unsuccessful: the Russian heraldic authorities were paralized by Santi’s arrest. Beckenstein’s audience was completely German. He intended to bridge German and Russian heraldry but in effect he helped German armigers in Russia to preserve their semi-separate heraldic status and their specific traditions.
Beckenstein participated also in the official heraldic activity in Russia, designing armorial projects on several occasions. The existing arms of the University of St. Petersburg are based on Beckenstein’s draft(31). He also invented some projects for civic arms; some of them were simply not used whereas others went out of use very soon.
From 1741 till 1758 the official Russian heraldic practice was led by Vasily Adodurov. A man of outstanding knowledge and abilities, Adodurov was also a talented and learned heraldist. He belonged to an old Russian noble family but the sources of his professional manner were evidently foreign. So his project for regimenting heraldic attributes in Russian princely arms is rather far away from German or Polish analogies(32). It seems that in this case, Adodurov was inspired by the British norms which he was not unfamiliar with. He e.g. studied “The Science of Heraldry” by Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh(33). At the same time the coat of arms designed by Adodurov for Counts Chernyshov follows the ‘Austrian style’ of augmentations, only the original family arms being of Polish origin(34).
One of Adodurov’s purposes lies with the standard armorial augmentation for members of the Life Guard Company (Sable on a chevron or between three mullets Argent as many grenades fired Proper. Partly this was an imitation of regimental symbols. Ordinary companions used the augmentation impaling arms of their own - usually invented for this occasion. Some prominent companions were allowed to use “a chief of the Company” or to marshal the “noble chevron” with other augmentations. There was also the crest attached to the augmentation. All these honours were hereditary). This specific detail was misinterpreted more than once by the Austrian heraldic authorities(35), thereby curiously reflecting earlier Russian misinterpretations of Austrian heraldic forms.
A MIXTURE OF DIFFERENT HERALDIC INFLUENCES
So Russia became the object of very different foreign heraldic influences. And these influences were accepted with spontaneous selective-ness. The imported features which appeared to be appropriate for a Russian context were preserved and the features not matching the local situation dropped out from practice. Russian heraldry became a proper heraldry of its own by way of heraldic import and it became Russian because of the eclectic nature of this import.
Sometimes the use of foreign heraldic norms and customs in Russia led to a paradox. For example, marks of cadency could not be introduced in Russia, for the traditional Russian mentality considered a noble family as a common of equal or almost equal members. There was a strong hierarchy in the society, in each particular family, but not in ‘ligneage’. Nevertheless, lambels and borders were used quite successfully in municipal heraldry as indicators of the relations of towns(36) and territories.
In the second half of the 18th century Russian practice was supervised by heraldists of different nationalities, different personal styles and abilities. Prince M. Shcherbatov was a very ‘correct’ armorist, but not an inventive one; I. von Enden was a witty amateur, influential A. Volkov can be qualified as a naive error-maker, etc. But all this represented already an inner process for Russian heraldry. By now Russia was not any more a neutral region open to all heraldic influences. It had become a marche d'armes. This was expressed in the stormy normalizing activity of Emperor Paul I (1796-1801) and his heraldic officers. Paul’s armorial legislation was not a cause but an indicator of the Russian tradition's wholeness. The reforms were oriented toward the existing precedents.
We see that Russian heraldry was formed not as resulting from a simple heraldic expansion of its direct neighbours (Germany, Poland etc.) but in a more complicated process. Finally local tradition became specifically Russian.
Naturally, this specific feature was not a guarantee for quality. I do not mean to say that the Russian tradition of the time contained much more so-called “bad heraldry” than other contemporary local traditions did. The problem consisted in a lack of “good heraldry”, of domestic heraldic antiquities, of an armorial medieval past. The romantic interest in the Motherland’s past usually just walked by heraldry.
BACK TO BASICS
In the middle of the 19th century this state of affairs was partly compensated by a quest for the roots of Russian arms in the emblematic and sphragistic usage of Old Russia - their real connections being quite poor. The academic form of this conception was expressed in the fundamental book “Russian Heraldry” by A. Lakier (edited in St. Petersburg in 1855)(37). A. Lakier understood arms as a phenomenon of Western history but searched for analogies and parallel examples in medieval Russia. Lakier’s efforts in this area were not very successful but they gave rise to imitations. In heraldic practice the same idea inspired Baron B. von Koehne. He tried to combine formal purism, derived from the theoretical heraldic literature, with his eyes specially bent on to Russian antiquities. Alas, this outline is not the place for a characterization of Russian heraldry as such.
Bernhard von Koehne was the last outstanding immigrant heraldist in Russia. He belonged to a German Jewish family converted to Christianity, graduated from the University of Berlin and – already being on the Russian service – created a Baron of the Principality of Reuss. In the famous Doepler’s drawing representing the full achievement of “Der Herald” we find Koehne’s arms (a lion and a palm tree quartered) on the sixteenth place. From 1857 on Koehne was head of the Armorial Section of the Heraldry Office Department of the Senat. In this position he tried to be visibly loyal and visibly Russian. Koehne’s ideas of being Russian and of being heraldically correct produced a special armorial style, almost always identified by foreign authors as “a Russian manner” and by Russians as “a foreign, imported and alien” one.
Koehne’s reform of the Russian Imperial heraldry, worked out in 1850s, was based on attention paid to the old traditions of the country (mainly to the pre-heraldic and non-heraldic ones, and even to ecclesiastical iconography); but in Russia the reform was widely criticized as an anti-Russian, roughly westernalist, “Prussian” one, concocted by a “German spy” etc.(38).
Another of Koehne’s reforms concerned civic and provincial heraldry. Koehne invented special standard indicators of status - a sui generis uniform for arms. This pattern, finally approved by the Decree issued by Alexander II in 1857, though not an imitation of the Napoleonic one, was nevertheless of similar essence(39). Koehne’s idea was to lay down specific Russian features; but he reflected only the bureaucratic understanding of a town and a province - not as a community but as an item in the administrative system. Ironically, it was the same Alexander II who granted new rights of self-administration to the local authorities.
The reform was approved but was of little success. The towns which had to change their arms usually boycotted new norms or distorted them. The numerous drafts prepared by Koehne were simply not used. The capital cities (St. Petersburg and Moscow) reformed their arms, and new grants were issued according to the Koehnist outline. But it was far from general Russian practice, which this time appeared to be able to resist the intervention. A great part of Koehne’s work in these and other areas was made in vain. Only in 1990-ies, the newly established Heraldry Service of Russia started to apply the Decree of 1857, as far as possible, to the local practice; now this principle is maintained by the Heraldic Council to the President of Russia.
Basically, one must look for the medieval past of Russian heraldry not in Russia but to the West of its borders. The ancient local traditions of symbolic and emblematic usage are represented in family and public arms by some iconographic motives only. The real key to Russian heraldry is the problem of foreign influences, the problem of migrations of heraldists and their ideas.
1. This situation was eloquently described by KOTOSHIKHIN. See: KOTOSIXIN G.: O Rossii v carstvovanie Alekseja Mixajlovica. Oxford, 1980, p.42.
|© 2006 The.Heraldry.Ru / M. Medvedev|