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This article is about the medieval epic heroes. For other uses, see Bogatyr (disambiguation).
Three of the most famous bogatyrs, Dobrynya Nikitich, Ilya Muromets and Alyosha Popovich, are represented together in Victor Vasnetsov's 1898 painting Bogatyrs.

A bogatyr (Russian: богатырь; Old East Slavic богатырь) or vityaz (Russian: витязь) is a stock character in medieval East Slavic legends (byliny), akin to a Western European knight-errant. In modern Russian, the word is used to describe a knight, a warrior or, figuratively, a strong person.


Bogatyr is derived from baghatur, a historical Turco-Mongol honorific title.[1][2] The etymology of this word is uncertain, although the first syllable is very likely the Iranian word *baγ ‘god, lord’.[3]

An early non-Russian 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.")


Many Rusian 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.

Many of the stories about bogatyrs revolve around the court of Vladimir I of Kiev (958–1015). There served the most notable bogatyrs or vityazes: 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. Most of those bogatyrs adventures are fictional, and often included fighting dragons, giants and other mythical creatures. However, the bogatyrs themselves were often based on real people. Historical prototypes of both Dobrynya Nikitich (the warlord Dobrynya) and Ilya Muromets are proven to have existed.

The Novgorod Republic produced a specific kind of hero, an adventurer rather than a noble warrior. The most prominent examples were Sadko and Vasili Buslayev.

Later notable bogatyrs also include those who fought by Alexander Nevsky's side and those who fought in the Battle of Kulikovo.

Epic bogatyrs[edit]

Victor Vasnetsov’s «Vityaz at the Crossroads», 1878

Bogatyrs in films[edit]

  • Soyuzmultfilm animated films (directed by Ivan Aksenchuk):
    • Ilya Muromets (1975)
    • Ilya Muromets and Nightingale the Robber (1978)

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "богатир" in Etymological Dictionary of the Ukrainian Language, "Naukova Dumka", Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, Kyiv 1982 (Ukrainian)
  2. ^ "богатырь" in Vasmer's Etymological Dictionary (Russian)
  3. ^ Beckwith 2009, p. 387