Rus Articles Journal

How the words “Russian“ and “bear“ became nearly synonyms?

“Are afraid - means, respect“. Not really pleasant principle, but very effective - especially in policy. With weak nobody agrees and carries on conversation as equals. Once small Northern Korea gave a hint at existence of own nuclear weapon, the USA right there weakened it sanctions. What to tell about mightier countries. It is no secret that the same United States in the world are not especially loved, but understand that not to respect the state with the strongest army - themselves more expensive...

Also let a bear as a symbol of Russia, her enemies thought up, Russians as a result accepted this symbol as native. Though put in it a bit different contents...

Idea of Russia as to “the country of bears“ developed not incidentally. The matter is that by the end of the Middle Ages clumsy of densely populated Western Europe, mainly, beat out. The last individuals rather crushed and took refuge in the almost impassable mountain woods.

And here on boundless open spaces of Russia the bear felt quite comfortably and was considered as an animal as habitual. Used it for the most different purposes: when - for amusement, when - for intimidation, and sometimes - and for this purpose and another at once.

So, according to the English diplomat Jerome Gorsey, the tsar Ivan the Terrible liked to arrange indicative executions in the spirit of the Roman emperors, using as executioners of live bears. That the show was to more dramatic, rebellious monks handed “on great favor of the sovereign“ long peaks for defense. It helped, however, for a while...

Jerome Gorsey:

“The bear guessed the monk on his fat clothes, it with rage snatched on it, caught and shattered to it the head, broke off a body, legs and hands as a cat a mouse, tore to pieces his dress in scraps, did not reach its meat, blood and bones yet. .“.


However, duels with a bear were not only destiny fateful. For many it was let also dangerous, but sport (or as spoke then, “a valiant entertainment“). For example, at the tsar Mikhayle Romanov psar Kondraty Korchmin who amused more than 10 years public especially caused a stir, battling against bears.

Bear entertainments were popular also at the time of Peter I. So the prince F. Yu. Razumovsky liked to drive about across St. Petersburg embracing bears or in the vehicle harnessed by them. All this disgrace reached such scales that in 1750 Peter I`s daughters - the empress to Elizabeth - was even necessary to issue the decree forbidding to keep these animals in Moscow and St. Petersburg. However the furious predator continued to be used by the cheerful companies for unpretentious and cruel jokes.

L. N. Tolstoy “War and peace“:

“are perfect robbers, especially Dolokhov, - the guest said. - He is Marya Ivanovna Dolokhova`s son, such respectable lady and what? You can imagine: three of them got somewhere a bear, put with themselves in the carriage and carried to actresses. The police came running to appease them. They caught quarter and attached him a back with a back to a bear and let a bear in Moika; the bear floats, and quarter on him“.

A.S. Pushkin “Dubrovsky“: by

“Outside at Kirill Petrovich brought up ordinary several bear cubs and made one of the main entertainments of the Pokrovsk landowner.

... The got hungry bear will be locked, happened, in the empty room, having tied him a rope for the ring which is screwed in in a wall. Led ordinary the beginner to doors of this room, unintentionally pushed him to a bear, doors were locked, and left the unfortunate victim alone with the shaggy hermit. The poor guest, with torn off hollow and till it bleeds scratched, found a safe corner soon, but was forced sometimes the whole three hours to stand having driven into the corner and to see how the furious animal two steps away from it roared, jumped, became on racks, was torn and endeavored to reach it“.


began to Tame bears in Russia already for a long time. A time they were even used in the ceremonies connected with fertility - for example, driven on fields or forced to cross through the lying woman (if that long could not become pregnant). In Ukraine pregnant women pointed a finger at clumsy: if that was silent - means, the boy will be born if he growled - the girl...

But, of course, the main duty of a manual bear was to amuse respectable public - often together with a goat (the truth, as a goat the person in a mask always acted). The buffoon drove an animal for a ring in a nose, forced to go on hinder legs, to somersault, dance, and after representation - to raise money in a cap. Trained a bear sometimes in very cruel way. For example, bear cubs were placed in a cage with a copper bottom then the bottom was slowly heated while the unfortunate small animal did not rise by hinder legs and did not begin to dance from pain. Over time “masked“ in shape of a goat and a bear there were constant participants of a Christmas Christmas-tide and celebrations of Maslenitsa.

Not all Christians liked “devilish“ skomorosh of representation. For example, the famous archpriest Habakkuk beat once and banished not only buffoons, but also them... bears (as you can see, the leader of Old Believers was in excellent physical shape).

Archpriest Habakkuk:

“And I, the sinner, after Christ being jealous, expelled them, broke both mugs and tambourines in the field it is uniform at many, and took away bears of two great: one bruise and pak it recovered, and released another in the field“.


In the West long time was considered that bears in Russia such quantity that they freely roam about streets of the cities. The foundation to these rumors was laid by “Notes about Moskovia“ of the Austrian diplomat Gerberstein where it in style of real “horror“ described the hunger which burst in Russia in the winter of 1526.

Gerberstein of “Note about Moskovia“ (16th century) :

“Besides, then found dead on roads of many which in those regions drive usually the bears trained to dance. And bears broke into the houses; at the sight of their peasants crowd ran from their attack and perished outdoors from cold the most pathetic death“.
Therefore even circus actors of Western Europe surely insisted

that their bears most that on is, “Russians“ from “the far northern woods“.

The reputation of Russia as an ancestral lands of bears was strengthened once again by the Moscow circus which showed real miracles of training. In 1920 - e years of these predators taught to ride bicycles (you remember Korney Chukovsky - “Bears by bicycle went...“?) in 1950 - e - on motorcycles, and then bears learned to go by horses, to somersault on bars and even to play hockey.

Joke: the trained bear who Ran away from circus got to

on theft of the motorcycle.


Can remember also the well-known bear of Voytek who became the peculiar “son of a regiment“ in the Polish army.

Whether soldiers were excellent trainers, whether Voytek was by nature capable, but soon he learned very smart tricks. For example, to salute or... to help to bring ammunition. The last at a bear left by itself - once he approached the car with shells, got up on hinder legs, and soldiers, having seized the moment, put to it in forepaws a box. Soon the bear became the constant loader and strongly helped in 1944 during battle at Monte - Kassino with Italy. As a result, 22 - I the company even chose to itself a new emblem on which Voytek bearing a shell was represented. And once the bear even managed to tire out on a palm tree of the Arab spy working for Germans...

To train bears not so easily as can seem. They poorly developed a mimicry therefore it is hard to guess that at a predator in this or that the moment on mind. Bears at “critical“ teenage age when they begin to brawl are especially dangerous, badly obey and can is unforeseen a misfortune.

Next time we will talk about further evolution of an image of “the Russian bear“.