History

Top 5 Russian Medieval Weapons

Weapons
fotoas13 /Depositphotos.com

Throughout Russia’s history, there have been many offensive and defensive wars. Some of them were against their Eastern neighbors (like Mongols), and some of them were against Western.  

So, it comes as no surprise that they had a lot of arms at their disposal (they were almost constantly warring with someone). 

The medieval period lasted (roughly) from the 5th century to the end of the 15th century. This period is also called the Middle Ages. 

In this article, we are going to talk about some of the weapons that the Russian military and Russian people used for various reasons (mostly to kill other people and/or to defend themselves).

But, before we start, if you are interested in Slavic history and would like to learn more about it, be sure to check out this article about the famous Slavic Warriors.

Russian Medieval Weapons

1. Viking Sword

Viking sword, as a Russian military weapon, you’ve got to be joking? Well, I am not! The basis of the modern Russian state (or one of them at least) was a country called Kievan Rus.

Kievan Rus is considered to be the first Slavic state [1]. So, what does the first Slavic state have to do with Vikings? The answer is simple. Kievan Rus was ruled by the members of the Rurikid dynasty and the Rurikid dynasty was originally founded by a Viking.

His name was prince Rurik, and he first established himself as ruler of Novgorod (around 860) [2]. Prince Rurik was a capable ruler and was able to form a dynasty that would rule for many centuries. 

So, because of all of that, it wasn’t that uncommon for Russians to be using this famous piece of equipment – the Viking sword. 

As one of the most famous swords in the world (apart from maybe, the Japanese katana) Viking sword was a part of Russian medieval history, until the mid-13th century when the Rurik dynasty collapsed. 

2. Rogatina – The Bear Spear

As the name suggests, this heavy spear was most commonly used for hunting bears and other large animals. Apart from that, it was one of the main types of weapons carried by the standard militia (mostly farmers that were called into action).

In Slavic countries, this weapon was known as rogatina. The first mention of this weapon was found in Kievan Chronicles. In there, it says that this type of medieval armament was used for hunting as well as warfare.

The spear was long and had a large head (it was made to hunt bears, after all).

3. Norman Sword

Norman swords were popular in Eastern as well as in Western Europe. It is widely considered a transitional piece (between the Viking sword and a regular arming sword that was popular in the late middle ages).

The blades of Norman swords were typically longer when compared to Viking swords. They were much more durable, (as the technology was greatly improved over time). 

4. Crossbow

Crossbows were used since the time of Ancient Rome and were often used in battle to a devastating effect. They were much easier to use (when compared to regular bows, short or long it doesn’t matter).

The earliest records of a crossbow being used in Russia are from the 12th century. Crossbows were used in the battle of Novgorod (also known as the Battle on The Ice) in 1242.

The last mentions of crossbows in Russian army records are from the late 15th century [3].

5. Sabers

Russian sabre has been in use since the 9th century. It became one of the most prominent swords, sometime after the 14th century. 

Sabers came in many different shapes and sizes and were mostly used by cavalry members. They had a curved blade and were in many ways different from regular swords.

The most famous of Russian swords is called Shashka. Although not strictly a medieval weapon (as it became popular in the 17th century) shashka is still worth mentioning, as it was one of the most popular arms at that time.

FAQ

What Kind of Armor Did They Use in Medieval Russia?

During the early period of Kievan Rus, the armor that was most in use was called lamellar armor. But, that all changed after the Mongol invasion. 

In fact, the armor was not the only thing that changed after the Mongol invasion of Medieval Russia. Weapons as well as military tactics underwent a substantial change. Why?

Well, because the previous tactic they employed wasn’t working against the Mongols. After the Mongol invasion, lamellar armor was replaced with new and better types of armor. Some of them are called Zertsalo (which translates to mirror).

The Bottom Line

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article about weapons from early Russian history.  We’ve talked about some of the most famous (and best) arms from Russian medieval history. 

In medieval Russian, having a good blade at your side could mean the difference between life or death. That’s why Russian people employed a wide range of arms and armaments. 

The ruler of the first Slavic state was called prince Rurik and he was an ex-Varangian guard member. Prince Rurik was a founder of one of the most famous dynasties in the world, called the Rurikid dynasty. 

If you are interested in learning more about arms that were used by the Slavic folk (and yes this includes the people of Russia as well), be sure to check out this article about Slavic weapons

References

  1. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Kyivan-Rus
  2. https://www.britannica.com/place/Veliky-Novgorod
  3. https://en.topwar.ru/165192-arbalet-po-russki-samostrely-ratnikov.html

About the author

Meet the Slavs

Posts by the Meet the Slavs Team.

Meet the Slavs is your most comprehensive online resource about Slavic people, their cuisine, culture, history, mythology, and more.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment