Chubinsky A.N. (2020). Ob opisi oruzhejnoj kazny Borisa Godunova 1588 g. [On the Inventory of Boris Godunov’s Weapon Treasury. The year of 1588]. Istoricheskoe oruzhievedenie [Weapons History Journal], № 9, pp. 82 — 117.

Chubinsky A. N.

Abstract: The inventory of boyard Boris Fyodorovitch Godunov’s treasury 1588, was published about one hundred fifty years ago. The part of the document with weapon descriptions is the oldest Russian inventory of the hand-held weapons, armour and other military equipment. The inventory was made before Godunov’s obtention of the monarch title, but the objects listed there could be later incorporated in the royal arsenal. This important document has not been in focus of a special research of weapon historians yet. The author analyzes the inventory layout, the problems of classification and terminology, and possibility to find out the design of the objects listed.

In the inventory the weapons are generally grouped according to types, while the chapter titles repeat the names of such weapons as saadaks (bowcases and quivers), sabers, rogatinas (heavy spears), samopals (fire arms), helmets, etc. The order the chapters were organized in shows the weapons to have been basically divided into the edged ones, including bows, the fire arms, including cross bows, and the defensive weapons. The starting of arms listing with saadaks is no accident. Most probably, it reflects the oriental tradition, which presumes bow to be a status weapon of a horseman. In the inventory along with the chapter called “Boris Fyodorovitch’s saadaks“ there is the one under the name “Servants’ saadaks”, but for the rest categories of weapons the division on the ceremonial arms used by Godunov himself and the combat ones is not very distinctive.

In terms of quantity in the inventory of 1588 predominate sabers (they are fifteen), small arms (there are twenty two samopals, one arkobus, fifteen pishchals), helmets (there are ninety four of them and one arming cap), but the most common is the ring armour, counting one hundred and sixty nine pieces, though mostly they are the servant ones. The weapons vary geographically. The most part of sabers are Turkish, three pieces are of Iranian workmanship and one saber is of Hungarian origin. The helmets represent the wider range of national variants (the “Moscow“, Iranian, Turkish, “Circassian“, “Lithuanian“, “German“), the armour suits are also Russian, European and Oriental. However, these geographical remarks must not be necessarily treated as a matter of fact. The fire arms are usually European ones, equipped with wheel locks, but there are also pieces of Russian workmanship, which were probably mounted with Russian snaphaunce.

The chapter names do not define the base level classes of objects, while two of them, “Plate armour“ and “Ring armour“, incorporate the terms that are catchall for several groups of different type objects.  The most interesting section is located in the middle of the inventory.  In disregard of the document typology layout it describes ostrich-plumes, a wimpel, a helmet and a shield, both marked with the name of Boris Godunov. All these objects in accordance with the rules of blazonry correspond with the main elements of coat of arms, that are crest (plume, wimpel), helmet and shield. This concurrency looks fantastic because the first Russian coat of arms following European examples appeared not earlier than the second half of the 17th century.

The total number of weapons, which in the inventory of the 1588 was marked with the name of Boris Godunov, is much larger than the quantity of actual personal weapons of any other tsar of the Romanov dynasty in the 17th century.

The terminology concerning arms and armour used in the inventory of 1588, should not be always considered as the basis for the typology classification of the objects. For instance, in 1588, the word “knife“ could designate a curved blade dagger (Turkish knife like a saber), “English rogatina“ was probably a halberd, while the term samopal (“a pair of short samopals with iron stocks”) worked occasionally as a name of a handgun. The armour terminology is the most difficult for comprehension. Sometimes type and origin of a weapon is not at all understandable. For example, it is just conceivable that the “German gunskup“, which was described the last among the helmets, is a helmet, as the word “German“could mean “Western-European“, while the term gunskup was not used in any other Russian document.

Whether any of the weapons listed in the inventory of 1588 survived to this day remains unclear. There are no firm evidences to attribute a famous baidana with a Russian inscription on every ring from the collection of the Kremlin Armoury chamber to Boris Godunov.

Unfortunately, the inventory was not published in full. The index of the inventory of Boris Godunovs personal property is appended to the article.

Keywords: Boris Godunov, medieval weapons, the Kremlin Armoury chamber, Russian arms, Russian armour, samopals.

Category: Articles

Received: October 4, 2020 Accepted: November 10, 2020 Published: December 15, 2020

License: Copyright © 2020 The Author, The Center of Support and Development of Actual Research in the Field of Historical Weaponry (АНО «Центр поддержки и развития актуальных исследований в области Исторического оружиеведения»). This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons CC-BY license (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.