12th century sword found in Russia may have belonged to Ivan the Terrible
A new theory has been put forward by a Russian archaeologist to explain the mystery of a 12 th century blade made in Germany, adorned in Sweden, and found in Siberia – the sword may have belonged to Tsar Ivan the Terrible, given to him as a gift at the time of the conquest of Siberia.
According to a report in the Siberian Times , the medieval sword was discovered by accident in 1975 during excavations led by archaeologist Vyacheslav Molodin to study Bronze Age settlements and cemeteries on the banks of the River Om in Novosibirsk, Siberia.
The Novosibirsk Oblast in Russia ( Wikipedia)
Alexander Lipatov, head of the excavation team, disobeyed a brief regarding where to dig and investigated an area near a large birch tree. It was then that the magnificent discovery was made. Lying just 5 centimeters beneath the grass, was the well-preserved sword measuring about a meter long with a typical iron hilt with a clearly expressed crossbar guard and tripartite pommel. It was beautifully inscribed with writing on both sides. Given its position and depth it was clear that the sword had not been deliberately buried.
The sword was found near the River Om in Novosibirsk, Siberia ( Wikipedia)
The sword presented somewhat of a puzzle. Its style was not typical in Russia or across Asia. In fact, it is the only weapon of its kind ever found in Siberia. Further investigations revealed that it was dated to the late 12 th or early 13 th century and originated in the Rhine basin of Germany before going to the Swedish mainland, or the island of Gotland, to be adorned with an ornate silver handle and Norse pattern. The Latin inscription was decoded by experts at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and reads: “In the name of the mother of our saviour eternal, eternal Lord and Saviour. Christ Jesus Christ.”
The 12 th century sword discovered in Novosibirsk, Russia. Credit: The Siberian Times
View more images of the sword on Siberian Times .
“There has been widespread debate about how the sword ended up in Russia, with assumptions it was either carried along a trade route, or taken as a spoil of war from skirmishes in the region,” reports the Siberian Times. “According to Arab historians, in the middle of the 12th century there was an ancient northern path through Russia to the River Ob, called the Zyryanskaya road or Russky tes. Over the centuries archaeologists have found a treasure trove of coins, silver vessels and medieval jewellery in the Urals and lower reaches of the Ob, having travelled from the west.”
However, Molodin explained that the difficulty with this theory is that the area in which the sword was found, is separated from the lower and middle sections of the River Ob by hundreds of kilometers of thick forests and swamps.
Molodin has a different proposal. According to his new theory, the sword may have belonged to Tsar Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible), who was the Grand Prince of Moscow from 1533 to 1547 and Tsar of all the Russias from 1547 until his death in 1584. Ivan’s acquisition of territory enabled a relationship with Europe, especially through trade, and this may account for how the sword ended up in Ivan’s hands. Molodin proposes that the weapon was then taken from the royal armory by the legendary warrior Ivan Koltso, a gift from Ivan ahead of the conquest of Siberia, led by Cossack leader Yermak Timofeyevich.
Yermak's Conquest of Siberia, a painting by Vasily Surikov, 1895 ( Wikipedia)
The sword was uncovered at the base of a tree in the Baraba forest-steppe, less than three kilometers from where it is thought Koltso died in battle. Could the sword have fallen from Koltso’s hands during battle?
“The sword falls out of the hands of the hero and drops to the ground under a young birch tree,” Molodin told Siberian Times. “I am not sure that I am right, imagining all this, but the legend is really beautiful.”
For now, Molodin’s theory remains unproven, but if he is right, the discovery of the sword would certainly be one of the most important archaeological finds in Siberian history.
Crowned in Moscow in 1547, Ivan IV became the first Tsar of Russia and leader of the largest nation the world had ever seen. His legacy remains complex. Ivan was an able diplomat, a prominent theologian, a patron of arts and trade, and one of the most well-educated people of his time. But in later years he become notorious as a ruthless rulers, who slaughtered thousands, and in a rage, killed his own son. After Ivan’s death on March 18, 1584 the ravaged country was left to his intellectually disabled son, Feodor.
A portrait of Ivan IV by Viktor Vasnetsov, 1897 ( Wikipedia)
Featured image: Ivan IV of Russia ("Ivan the Terrible") demonstrates his treasures to the ambassador of Queen Elizabeth I of England, by Alexander Litovchenko, 1875 ( Wikimedia)