Monday, August 31, 2020

Circassian Heraldry Originated with Crusader Conquest of Constantinople, Medvedyev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 29 – Mikhail Medvedev, who took the lead in developing symbols for Abkhazia and the Circassians in the early 1990s and who today is a leading specialist in this field, says that the first coats of arms used by Circassians came from Crusader units that sacked Constantinople.

            That is just one of the indications of both the antiquity of Circassian coats of arms and also of the significance of that nation, a significance that led over the centuries not only to a lively development of heraldry among the Circassians but also to the influence of that tradition on Crimea, Russian and Georgian family shields (

            Medvedev first attracted widespread attention for his original research and activities in 1992 when he published an analytic report on the history of Circassian coats of arms and its influence on his design of symbols for the Adygey Republic, Naima Neflyasheva, who blogs at North Caucasus Through the Centuries, says. 

            Circassian heraldry, Medvedev says, arose long before Russian did. The former first appeared at the time of the Crusades while the Russians did not adopt coats of arms until the 15th century, taking as their models German, Swedish, and, as unexpected as this may seem, Circassian shields.

            A large number of Russian family coats of arms contain Circassian elements, although often those who use them have forgotten this origin. The same thing is true in Georgia. And that pattern underscores the importance and vitality of the Circassian nation half a millennium ago, Medvedev says.

            Russian symbols before that time, the specialist says, were not true coats of arms but rather pictures used to identify a place or a family to the largely illiterate population around them. Among the Circassians, however, the rules of heraldry were accepted and applied rigorously.

            As can be seen, the expert says, “the descendants of the Circassian aristocracy who came into Rus were proud of their roots to the point that their coats of arms were quite out of the ordinary.” And as a result, they became “an integral part of the Russian heraldic tradition” and remain so.

            Medvedev says that he expects this tradition to be developed by Circassians now, less for families than for municipal and regional governments who are increasingly concerned about linking themselves to this national tradition.

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