The bogatyr (Russian: богатырь; Old East Slavic богатырь, Ukrainian: богатир; from baghatur, a historical Turco-Mongol honorific) is a stock character in medieval East Slavic legend (byliny), akin to a Western European knight-errant.
From Russian богатырь (bogatýr’), from a Turkic language, probably Khazar, from Old Turkic bagatur (“hero”), from Proto-Turkic *bAgatur (“hero”), possibly from Proto-Altaic *mi̯àga ("glory, praise"). Compare Turkish bahadır, Mongolian баатар (baatar), Tatar баһадир (bahadir). Cf. the name of the Xiongnu Chanyu, MC 冒頓 (*maɣu-tur). This Turkic word was borrowed into numerous surrounding languages (Iranian, Mongolian etc.). Modern forms like batɨr, batur are back-borrowings from Mongolian. Forms of the type baxatir - back-borrowings from Persian. Cognate with Middle Mongolian maqta-, maxta- (“to laud, carol”), from Proto-Mongolic *magta- (“to praise, glorify”), Evenki migdi- ("to be noisy, produce noise"), Oroch magui- ("to shamanize"), from Proto-Tungus-Manchu *m[ia]g-, Middle Korean 말 (māl, “speech”) (from Proto-Korean *mār < *maga-r), Old Japanese 申す (mawos-, “to speak (polite)”) (from Proto-Japonic *màw).
Many Kievan Rus' epic poems, called Bylinas, prominently featured stories about these heroes, as did several chronicles, including the 13th century Galician–Volhynian Chronicle. Some bogatyrs are presumed to be historical figures, while others, like the giant Svyatogor, are purely fictional and possibly descend from Slavic pagan mythology.
Most of the stories about bogatyrs revolve around the court of Vladimir I of Kiev (958–1015). There served the most notable bogatyrs or vityazs: the trio of Alyosha Popovich, Dobrynya Nikitich and Ilya Muromets. Each of them tends to be known for a certain character trait: Alyosha Popovich for his wits, Dobrynya Nikitich for his courage, and Ilya Muromets for his physical and spiritual power and integrity, and for his dedication to the protection of his homeland and people.
An early usage of the word bogatyr was recorded in Sernitskiy's book "Descriptio veteris et novae Poloniae cum divisione ejusdem veteri et nova," ("A description of the Old and the New Poland with the old, and a new division of the same,") printed in 1585 at an unknown location, in which he says, "Rossi… de heroibus suis, quos Bohatiros id est semideos vocant, aliis persuadere conantur." ("Russians... try to convince others about their heroes whom they call Bogatirs, meaning demigods.")
- Ilya Muromets, regarded as the greatest of the bogatyrs, from Murom
- Dobrynya Nikitich – from Ryazan (based on a historical warlord of Vladimir I)
- Alyosha Popovich – from Rostov
- Svyatogor, a giant knight who bequeath his strength to Ilya Muromets (purely fictional)
- Gavrila Alexich of Novgorod, who served Alexander Nevsky in Battle of Neva (historical)
- Ratmir of Novgorod, who served Alexander Nevsky in Battle of Neva (historical)
- Vasili Buslayev of Novgorod
- Peresvet, who sacrificed himself against the Tatars at the Battle of Kulikovo (historical)
- Anika the Warrior
- Duke Stepanovich
- Dunaj Ivanovich
- Volga Svyatoslavovich (possibly based on Oleg of Novgorod)
- Sukhman The Bogatyr
- Nikita the Furrier
- Mikula Selyaninovich ("Mikula the Villager's Son")
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- Bylina, oral epics of the Slavic world
- Victor Vasnetsov (1848–1926), Russian painter of depictions of bogatyrs
- Slavic mythology
- Богатыри и витязи Русской земли: По былинам, сказаниям и песням. (1990) Moscow: "Moskovsky Rabochy" publishers (Russian)
- "богатир" in Etymological Dictionary of the Ukrainian Language, "Naukova Dumka", Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, Kyiv 1982 (Ukrainian)
- "богатырь" in Vasmer's Etymological Dictionary (Russian)
- Эрванд Севортян (ред.) (1974–), Этимологический словарь тюркских языков, Москва
- Sergei Starostin, Vladimir Dybo, Oleg Mudrak (2003), Etymological Dictionary of the Altaic Languages, Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers (ToB Etymology: *mi̯àga)