13.10.2020 change 13.10.2020
Szymon Zdziebłowski
Szymon Zdziebłowski

“Patriotic’ January Uprising Polish sword found in Bulgaria

A ‘patriotic sword’ used during the January Uprising of 1863-1864 has been found in Bulgaria.

The sword, engraved with the words Vivat Szlachcic Pan i fundator wojska ('Long live the Noble Lord and founder of the army’), was discovered near Veliko Tarnovo where it is now being housed in the town’s Archeological Museum. 

According to researchers, the weapon, which would have belonged to an officer, was probably taken from an insurgent by someone in the Tsarist army, who later fought in the Russo-Turkish War in Bulgaria.

Noticing the Polish inscription, the museum contacted Professor Piotr Dyczek from the Antiquity of Southeastern Europe Research Center of the University of Warsaw, which conducts a number of research projects in Bulgaria.

He found that the inscription had been altered. Modelled on 18th-century sabres and karabelas, the sword was normally covered with patriotic motifs: the Eagle, the Pahonia and an inscription.

Professor Dyczek said: “Most often it was +Vivat najwyższa władza szlachty, Vivat Wolne Sejmiki i Posły+ (+Long live the highest authority of the nobility, Long live Free Parliaments and Delegates+) with the Lithuanian Pahonia, and on the other side +Vivat Szlachcic Pan i fundator wojska, Vivat wola i dobro powszechności+ ('Long live the Noble Lord and founder of the army, Long live the will and the common good+). 

“These exact symbols and inscriptions can be found on the sabre from Bulgaria.”

He added: “The sabre was probably the spoils of an officer of the Tsarist army who participated in the suppression of the January Uprising in 1863 and 1864, who then fitted it with a silver hilt typical for a shashka - a sabre with an open hilt with a split pommel.”

The same cavalry officer or Cossack commander probably later fought in another armed conflict, the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878, and used the sabre in combat. This type, the shashka, was convenient for horse-borne combat.

The Russo-Turkish War was of cardinal importance for the Bulgarians, because the Bulgarian state re-emerged after almost 500 years of the Ottoman domination (from 1396). On the night of June 27, 1877, Russian troops commanded by General Dragomirov crossed the Danube at Svishtov, after which the main forces crossed there.

Warsaw archaeologists have been studying ancient Novae (near the city of Svishtov) for over half a century. Novae was a legionary camp built in the 1st century AD by the Roman legion as a permanent base of the First Italian Legion in the Lower Danube Lima (the border of the Roman Empire) in the Moesia Inferior province.

PAP - Science in Poland, Szymon Zdziebłowski

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