Russian version

Copyright © 2001 by Sergei V. Rjabchikov. All Rights Reserved.


by Sergei V. Rjabchikov

A picture and words are presented on the fragment of a Tmutarakan' amphora (a private collection), see figure 1. It is severely damaged.

Figure 1.
The figure of a church is located above the figure of a wolf. The word nik is written down near the sign of the church. The word vseslv is written down near the sign of the wolf. I think that Nik is the proper name of Saint Nikon of Kievo-Pechersk and Tmutarakan', and Vseslv is the proper name of Prince Vseslav of Polotsk. The church may denote the Tmutarakan' monastery of Saint Nikon. The contrast between "above" and "below" corresponds here to the contrast between Saint Nikon and Prince Vseslav. It should be recognized that the contrast between "above" and "below" is the contrast between paradise and hell in conceptions of medieval Europe (Ivanov 1991: 234).

Prince Vseslav hid in Tmutarakan' from 1069 till 1071 (Zakharov 1976: 294). According to Slovo o polku Igoreve (The Song of Igor's Host), a masterpiece of the earliest Russian literature, this Prince turned into a wolf. I proved that prophetic Boyan, the author of ancient Russian tradinional poems, created the bylina (poem) Volh Vseslav'evich, otherwise the Magician Vseslav'evich [Vseslav] (Rjabchikov 2000: 13). It reports that the magician Vseslav'evich (Vseslav) turned into a bright falcon, a wolf, an aurochs with golden horns.

In conformity with the History of Herodotus (Book IV), the Neuri (the Scythians, the ancestors of the Slavs) were sorcerers as they could turn into wolfs. A plot demonstrating the transformation of a wolf into a man is registered in the Indo-Aryan art (Shilov 1995: 231). The idea "the shaman is stronger than the warrior" is reflected in some ancient poems; the heroes turn into a cow, a bull, a horse, a wolf, a boar, a snow leopard (Abaev 1994: 12, 14). The same idea of the half-sorcerer-half-warrior bears on the Vseslav type.

Why is the name of Saint Nikon written down on this fragment? It is known that he supported a struggle against paganism and collected such messages included later in the Russian Primary Chronicle in the paragraph of 1071 (Priselkov 1996: 69-70). I suppose that he criticized the witchcraft of Vseslav. The singer Boyan said that the Prince would not avoid the court of God per the Song of Igor's Host. Since Boyan lived in Tmutarakan' (Kozlovsky 1928), he could know about Saint Nikon's point of view. It should be borne in mind that an autograph of prophetic Boyan is inscribed on a Tmutarakan' amphora's fragment (Rjabchikov 2000: 13).

I conclude that the plot depicted in figure 1 is connected closely with the creative work of Boyan. It is possible that the picture and text studied hereabove are created by this singer.


Abaev, V.I., 1994. "Shaman sil'nee voina". In: V.Y. Petrukhin (ed.) Istoriko-etnograficheskie issledovaniya po fol'kloru. Sbornik statey pamyati Sergeya Alexandrovicha Tokareva. Moscow: Vostochnaya Literatura, pp. 11-9.

Ivanov, V.V., 1991. Verkh i niz. In: S.A. Tokarev (ed.) Mify narodov mira. Vol. 1. Moscow: Sovetskaya Entsiklopediya, pp. 233-4.

Kozlovsky, I.P., 1928. Tmutarakan' i Tamatarha-Matarha-Taman'. Izvestiya Tavricheskogo obshchestva istorii, arkheologii i etnografii, 2: 58-72.

Priselkov, M.D., 1996. Istoriya russkogo letopisaniya XI - XV vv. St. Petersburg: "Dmitry Bulanin" Publishers.

Rjabchikov, S.V., 2000. Tmutarakanskie graffiti. Krasnodar: Stil.

Shilov, Y.A., 1995. Prarodina Ariev: Istoriya, obryady i mify. Kiev: SINTO.

Zakharov, V.A., 1976. Chto oznachaet "... do kur'' Tmutorokanya" v "Slove o polku Igoreve"? "Slovo o polku Igoreve" i pamyatniki drevnerusskoy literatury. Trudy otdela drevnerusskoy literatury. Vol. XXXI. Leningrad: Nauka, pp. 291-5.

Copyright © 2001 by Sergei V. Rjabchikov. All Rights Reserved.

Published 9 July 2001.

Sergei V. Rjabchikov, Krasnodar, RUSSIA.

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Rjabchikov, Sergei V., 2001. Saint Nikon and Prince Vseslav: A Plot on the Fragment of a Tmutarakan' Amphora. "THE SLAVONIC ANTIQUITY" Home Page (


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