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Dobrynya Nikitich, Ilya Muromets and Alyosha Popovich are represented together in Victor Vasnetsov's famous 1898 painting Bogatyrs.

The bogatyr (plural: bogatyri, from baghatur, an old Turkic term for a warrior, a military commander, or an epic hero) or vytiaz/vityaz (ukr. витязь or rus. витязь, a valiant warrior) was a medieval heroic warrior of Kievan Rus', akin to Western European knight errant.

An early usage of the word bogatyr was recorded in Sernitskiy's book "Descriptio veteris et novae Poloniae cum divisione ejusdem veteri et nova," printed in 1585 in an unknown location, in which he says, "Rossi… de heroibus suis, quos Bohatiros id est semideos vocant, aliis persuadere conantur."

Bylinas prominently feature stories about these heroes, as do several chronicles. Some of bogatyrs are presumed to be historical figures, while others, like giant Sviatogor, are purely fictional and possibly descend from Slavic pagan mythology.

Most of stories about bogatyrs revolve around the court of Vladimir I of Kiev (958–1015). There served the most famous vityazs: the trio of Alyosha Popovich, Dobrynya Nikitich and Ilya Muromets. Each of them tend to be known for a certain character trait: Alyosha Popovich for his wits, Dobrynya Nikitich for his courage, and Ilya Muromets for his physical and spiritual power and integrity, and for his dedication to the protection of his homeland and people.

Novgorod Republic produced a specific kind of hero, an adventurer rather than a noble warrior. The most prominent example is Sadko, another is Vasili Buslayev.

Later famous knights also include those who fought by Alexander Nevsky's side and those who fought in the Battle of Kulikovo.

Epic bogatyri

Victor Vasnetsov's "Knight at the Crossroads" illustrates the legend of Ilya Muromets

See also


  • Богатыри и витязи Русской земли: По былинам, сказаниям и песням. (1990) Moscow: "Moskovsky Rabochy" publishers (Russian)


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