The conception of the history of the Polabian Slavs, and the interpretation of tribal structures, has changed several times since the formation of critical historiography. The article set the goal of summarising and expanding on some of the crucial points in historical research into the development of Slavic society in the Polabian area. Since the 19th century, researchers have adhered to the division of Slavs into three groups, Obodrites, Veleti/Lutici and Sorbes, which corresponds with the quantitative use in surviving contemporary sources. These three groups, and the entire tribal organisation, must, however, be put into the context of the history of barbarian Europe. The segmental structure of the Polabian tribes showed some signs of a tribal democracy, and given the military character of individual federations, the whole system could be called a military democracy; but because of the strong ties with religion and religious rites, the current discourse rejects the strict division of military and sacral characters of tribal institutions. Therefore, it is not quite possible to determine whether the tribal organisation of the Polabian Slavs was an equal alternative to Medieval states, as we know from Bohemia, Poland and Hungary.
The first part of the article presents historiographical problems relating to the warrior classes in Baltic and Finnish societies. In the second and third parts, it analyses Balt and Finnish societies relating to the formation of the warrior classes, with regard to the relationship between the chief/nobleman and the warriors, the meaning of the management of property and inheritance, and the vertical formation of relationships between noblemen and warriors. The written sources presented in the article show that at the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries, there was a stable institution of management and inheritance of property, which enabled noblemen and the warriors subordinate to them to increase their power with regard to other members of the community. This provided conditions for the formation of a ‘military democracy’, where the most important decisions concerning the community are approved not by all free members of the community, but by the noblemen and warriors subordinate to them. The basic idea of the article is that the ‘inheritance’ of the power/status of the noblemen is related to the right to inherit property (the castle and the surrounding territory, the homeland). It should be noted that by relating the management and inheritance of property to ‘inherited’ and acquired power, a vertical relationship appears between the nobleman and the warrior, which is based on subordination, not on consensus.
The article deals with the main types of social and military relations between the indigenous people and the new landlords that formed in the times of building and reinforcing the rule of the Teutonic Order in Warmia, a part of Prussia. These included military action and the military obligations of the indigenous people and their descendants in the 13th and 14th centuries. The issue is discussed in the context of the family ties of the Old Prussians. In the era of the conquest, and when building the territory of the Teutonic Order in Prussia, family rule over possessions was reinforced at the expense of other social relations. From the article, it is clear that the military potential of the Diocese of Warmia was supported mainly by the indigenous people, who were granted Kulm law and received other privileges. It also seems that Old Prussians not only fought alongside the Order (knights of the Old Prussian origin, small freemen, equites Prutheni), but also led the army of the diocese as bishopric vogts.
One of the more interesting rituals that functioned in Old Rus’ for centuries is the custom of cross kissing (крестноe целованиe), accompanying legal processes, such as taking oaths, public obligations, writing legal deeds, or concluding peace treaties. The earliest records of this ritual are evidenced clearly by the earliest chronicles and references in documents from that era. Due to the chronological structure and character of this work, which is clearly defined in the title of the article, the author’s attention is focused on the initial period of its functioning, until the end of the 13th century, in relation to contacts between Old Rus’ (Ruthenia) and Livonia. From Livonia, the parties participating in this ritual were Catholic bishops, Teutonic Knights, councillors from Livonian towns (Riga, Viljandi, Tartu and others), and even ordinary merchants. From Old Rus’, they were also participants in governments, merchants and warriors. From the historical sources, it can be stated here that the ceremony of kissing the cross was used quite commonly in legal acts between Old Rus’ and Livonia.
This article is devoted to an analysis of burials with weaponry from the Ostriv graveyard near the River Ros’, about 100 kilometres to the south of Kyiv in the Middle Dnieper area, excavated during 2017 and 2018. Weapons (axes, pila, sword pommels) were discovered in 11 burials, representing approximately 20% of the total number of burials, and about 60% of all male burials investigated in the graveyard. An analysis of the material from the graveyard (weapons and jewellery) refers burials to West Balt migrants: Old Prussians, Curonians and Skalvians. They probably protected hill-forts of Kyivan Rus’ in the Ros’ region. The archaeological finds were supported by historical sources: chronicles of Kyivan Rusʼ. They evidence about the activities of Yaroslav the Wise aimed at reinforcing the southern borders of Kyivan Rus’. But it is hard to say exactly when Yaroslav relocated West Balts to the region of the River Ros’. Nevertheless, according to written sources and archaeological material, it could be dated from 1030 to the middle of the 11th century.
The 13th and early 14th century was a time when Lithuania emerged as a grand duchy and became one of the biggest expansion forces in northeast Europe. Unfortunately, we have no information today about what the equipment of a Lithuanian warrior looked like at that time, except for archaeological data and poor historical sources. The aim of this article is to show that by using this apparently quite scanty information, we can create not only an image of the arms and armour used by a particular warrior; there is also a possibility to retrace specific features of warfare by Lithuanians. The search for analogues should not be limited to archaeology. Much information can be obtained from sources in the fine arts and applied arts. The analysis of Medieval art can be as important as research into weapons itself, because an archaeologically discovered object can easily be recognised in fine arts sources. However, this information should be analysed carefully, taking into account certain factors (the special conditions of Medieval art) that may cause the study to go in the wrong direction.
Since the second half of the 20th century, the phenomenon of warriors (fighters) as one of the most important components of Medieval warfare, has increased in popularity in Lithuanian historiography. Archaeologists and historians usually analyse Balt warriors differently, because of the different methodology and understanding of the development of the state; therefore, the genesis, functionality, structure and decay of warbands (supposedly, in the 14th century) are perceived very differently. This paper has three objectives: 1) descriptive research to revise different opinions on warriors between archaeologists and historians; 2) comparison to find similarities and differences in the understanding of warriors between the two disciplines; and 3) an analysis of the problems of the chronology, definition and arguments of warriors in works by Lithuanian archaeologists and historians. The article shows that the work of archaeologists and historians falls short of the method of comparison in analysing this development prior to the creation of military-social structures in Western and Central Europe. Also, only a few archaeologists and historians have attempted to define the meaning of the word ‘warrior’ within the social structures of Balt society.