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The first recorded mention of  Smolensk was 863 AD, two years after the founding of Kievan Rus'. According to Russian Primary Chronicle, Smolensk (probably located slightly downstream, at the archaeological site of Gnezdovo) was located on the area settled by the East Slavic Radimichs tribe in 882 when Oleg of Novgorod took it in passing from Novgorod to Kiev. The town was first attested two decades earlier, when the Varangian chieftains Askold and Dir, while on their way to Kiev, decided against challenging Smolensk on account of its large size and population.

Although spared by the Mongol armies in 1240, Smolensk paid tribute to the Golden Horde, gradually becoming a pawn in the long struggle between Lithuania and the Grand Duchy of Moscow.


Yury Svyatoslavich or Georgy Svyatoslavovich (Юрий Святославович or Георгий Святославович) was the last sovereign ruler of the Principality of Smolensk and Bryansk (1386–95, 1401–04) whose life was spent in vain attempts to fend off aggression by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

In 1386 a war broke out between Algirdas' sons, Skirgaila and Andrei of Polotsk. The latter fled from Polotsk to Smolensk and asked Yury's father for help. The armies of Smolensk and Skirgaila clashed near Mstislavl in the Battle of the Vikhra River. After Yury's father was killed in battle and his brothers were taken prisoner, the Lithuanians approached Smolensk and allowed Yury to assume the throne on certain conditions, after exacting a sizable indemnity from him.

In 1395, while Yury was visiting his father-in-law, Oleg Korotopol of Ryazan, Grand Duke Vytautas the Great (Vitovt) of Lithuania took Smolensk and installed his governor there. Four years later, Vytautas was routed by the Tatars in the Battle of the Vorskla River. In 1401, Yury and Oleg made use of his plight to retake Smolensk and Bryansk, where the pro-Lithuanian boyars were promptly executed.

In fall 1401, Vytautas laid siege to Smolensk but was forced to retreat after signing an armistice. Two years later, Smolensk withstood a two-week siege by Vytautas. Solicitous to preclude a new attack, Yury went to the Grand Duchy of Moscow to ask Vasily I for help against Vytautas (who was Vasily's father-in-law). Although Yury promised to bequeath his possessions to Vasily, the Muscovite ruler hesitated to accept this proposal, until the boyars of Smolensk opened the city gates to Vytautas and surrendered Yury's capital to his old enemy in 1404. Thus Smolensk was lost to Russians for more than a century.

As Vasily was eager to accuse Yury of shortsightedness, the latter left Moscow and proceeded with his son to Novgorod, where he was treated honourably and was given an appanage of thirteen towns, including Porkhov and Tiversk. In 1406, he returned to Moscow, reconciled himself with Vasily and was sent to govern Torzhok in his name. While there, he attempted to seduce the wife of his cousin, Prince Semyon of Vyazma. When she refused his advances, Yury killed her and her husband and, afraid of the imminent punishment, fled to the Golden Horde, where he died soon thereafter, in 1407.

Yury had two daughters, Anastasia, wife of Grand Duke Švitrigaila of Lithuania, and Elena, wife of Yury of Zvenigorod and mother of the famous Dmitry Shemyaka. He also had a son Fedor who joined the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem in 1412.


After the city's incorporation into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, some of Smolensk's boyars (e.g., the Sapiehas) moved to Vilnius; descendants of the ruling princes (e.g., the Tatishchevs, Kropotkins, Mussorgskys, Vyazemskys) fled to Moscow


The territory of Smolensk was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania since 1404, but a voivodeship was established only in 1508. Just six years later, in 1514, it was lost to the Grand Duchy of Moscow during the Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars.The voivodeship was recaptured by the Commonwealth in 1611 during the Polish–Muscovite War (1605–18). To recapture the city, the Tsardom of Russia launched the so-called "Smolensk War" against the Commonwealth in 1632. After a defeat at the hands of king Wladislaw IV, the city remained in Polish–Lithuanian hands. and was lost again in 1654 during the Russo-Polish War (1654–67).[Even when the territory was under Russian control, Poland and Lithuania claimed it as a titular voivodeship]

In the 1667 Truce of Andrusovo, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth renounced its claims to Smolensk.




Copper coin, 15th century [1]


At about the same time, the barrel with a gamayun became famous because its image adorned the banners of Smolyan (Bulgaria) in the famous battle of Grunwald in 1410, when the staunchness of the name of Smolensk soldiers contributed to the victory of the united Slavic-Lithuanian army over the German knights [2]


A Gamayun is a prophetic bird of Slavic folklore It is a symbol of wisdom and knowledge and lives on an island in the mythical east, close to paradise. She is said to spread divine messages and prophecies, as she knows everything of all creation, gods, heroes, and man. Like the Sirin and the Alkonost, other creatures likewise deriving ultimately from the Greek myths and siren mythology, the Gamayun is normally depicted as a large bird with a woman's head (missing of the Smolensk Gamayun)

In fact the bird on the Smolensk gun prophesied a certain death of the one it was aimed at.


After the capture of Smolensk by the Lithuanians, Prince Yuri Svyatoslavovich fled to Moscow with his son Fedor. For some time, he lived in Novgorod, and then “left for Nemtsi” (Germany), from where he probably got to the famous council of Konstantz  in 1414.

His arms are in the report about the Council of Konstantz of 1414-1417. In Konstantz, there was a change in the seal of Prince Fyodor to the Western European style. The cannon was replaced by the cut off rear half of a lion, the bird was replaced by an eagle pecking at the lion's body.



hertzog fedur von wisse russen und her zu schmolentzgi

Ulrich Richental 1414-‘17 fol 140


Arms: ¼: 1&4: Gules,  a cross Argent; 2&3: Azure. a lion’s rump Or, and a bird picking its wound Argent.


The arms are quarterly of the Order of St John of Jeruzalem which Fedor had joined in 1412 and of a device for Smolensk which had been lost to Lithuania





Marcus Ambrosius. In the "Chronicle", published in Augsburg in 1536, there is an inscription indicating that this coat of arms belonged to Prince Fyodor of Smolensky, the son of Yuri Svyatoslavovich.


Smolensk Territory

From: Ambrosius Marcus de Nissa: Arma Regni Poloniae. 1572 [3]

Seal of the voivode of Smolensk [4]


Lithuanian Red Banner

Voivodeship of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, later Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

1508–1654 [5]


In order to repel future Polish–Lithuanian attacks, Boris Godunov made it his priority to heavily fortify the city. Consequently on his 1602 Heralidc seal the title for Smolensk reads: Great Duke of Smolenskee.

And on the seal of Alexei of 1660:  (great Duke of), Smolenskee


In the Titularnike of 1672 also the arms of Smolensk appear:




On the golden plate of Alexander Mihailowich, 1675


Smolensk Govenorate



Smolensk Province



Seal of Smolensk Knighthood 1725


Smolensk Govenorate

1708-1713 / 1726-1775


On 28 July  [O.S. 17 July] 1713, Smolensk Governorate was abolished and its territory was divided between Moscow and Riga Governorates. Smolensk Province  (1713-1726) was created as a result. The governorate was re-established in 1726, and Smolensk Province was re-incorporated into the Governorate. In 1775, it was included, along with parts of Moscow and Belgorod Governorates, into Smolensk Viceroyalty. The governorate was again restored in 1796

Smolensk Governorate (2) 1730


Smolensk Viceroyalty



The Smolensk Viceroyalty  was an administrative-territorial unit of the Russian Empire that existed in 1775-1796 with the center in the city of Smolensk.


Arms of the Viceroyalty on a map


Viceking of Smolensk [6]


Official dress: Red jacket , grey trousers, white vest and stockings and black hat

Arms: Argent  a Sable guncarriage on a grassy ground with a mythycal bird perched proper


Smolensk Governorate




Smolensk Governorate (4)  08.12.1856


Arms: Argent, a gun carriage Sable with a myhical bird perched proper.

Crown: An imperial Russian crown

Garland: Branches of oak Or tied with the ribbon of  the Order of St. Andrew


Eventually, on 14 January 1929, Smolensk Governorate was abolished and its territory was included into  Western Oblast.


Western Oblast 



After the October Revolution, Smolensk Governorate was the base of independent Western Oblast/Western Commune, Soviet Socialist Republic of Belarus, Lithuanian–Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (Litbel), and finally incorporated into the Russian SFSR.


Западная область, (Zapadnaya oblast) was an oblast of the R.S.F.S.R from 1929 to 1937. Its seat was in the city of Smolensk. The oblast was located in the west of European Russia, and its territory is currently divided between Bryansk, Kaluga, Pskov, Smolensk, and Tver Oblasts


Smolensk Oblast 

27 .09.1937- present


Arms: Smolensk

Crown: A Ducal crown

Order: The ribbon of the Order of  St. Stanislaus

Garland: Of oakleaves and cornflowers

Мотто: ЖНЕСТГИБАЕМЫЙ ДУХ ВСЕ ПРЕВОЗМОЖЕТ (an unbending spirit will overcome everything)


See illustration in the head of this article


Smolensk Diocese



Smolensk Voivodeship had three senators: the Bishop, the Voivode, and the Castellan of Smolensk. It was divided into two counties: those of Smolensk and Starodub. After its annexation by the Russian Empire, it continued to exist as a so-called fictitious voivodeship, with sejmiks taking place at a Bernardine Church in Wilno. Furthermore, the fictitious title of Bishop of Smolensk remained in use. Last Bishops before the partitions of Poland were Adam Naruszewicz, and Tymoteusz Gorzeński.


RK,Bishops of Smolensk


Piotr Parczewski 1636–1649

Franciszek Dołmat Isajkowski 1650–1654

Hieronim Władysław Sanguszko 1655–1657

Jerzy Białłozor 1658–1661

Kazimierz Pac 1664–1667

Gothard Jan Tyzenhaus 1668–1669

Aleksander Kotowicz 1673–1685

Konstanty Kazimierz Brzostowski 1685–1687

Eustachy Kotowicz 1688–1704

Jan Mikołaj Zgierski 1706–1710

Aleksander Mikołaj Horain 1711–1716

Ludwik Karol Ogiński 1717–1718

Karol Piotr Pancerzyński 1721–1724

Bogusław Korwin Gosiewski 1725–1744

Jerzy Mikołaj Hylzen 1745–1763

Gabriel Wodzyński 1772–1788

Adam Stanisław Naruszewicz 1788–1790

Tymoteusz Paweł Gorzeński 1790–1809


Coat of arms of Bogusław Gosiewski, Bishop of Smolensk, 1737




OMON in the Smolensk region (Smolensk)

Located in the city of Smolensk. Title until 2011: Special Forces Police Unit (OMON)




Arms: Smolensk

Crest: Achievement of the Ministry of Internal Affairs

Supporters: Two swords in saltire

Motto: СЛУЖИМ РОССИИ ЦЛУЖИМ ЗАКОНУ (“We serve Russia,  we serve the Law”).




 The size of the badge is 30 ´ 46 mm.

Until 2012, a small emblem operated, the color of the ribbons was red, the previous motto of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia “SERVICE TO THE LAW - SERVICE TO THE PEOPLE” was written on the slogan tape of the achievement and ribbon of the badge:





Small emblem

Achievement until 2012

GGR of the Russian Federation:

No. 5334

Badge  until 2012

GGR of the Russian Federation:

No. 5335

SOBR in the Smolensk region (Smolensk)

Located in the city of Smolensk. In 2002-2011, it was called the Special Purpose Police Unit (OMSN).

emblems of the special rapid response detachment (sobr) of the ministry of internal affairs of russia in the smolensk region

Until 2012, a small emblem operated, and on the slogan ribbon of a large emblem and on a ribbon on a badge was written the previous motto of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs “SERVICE TO THE LAW - SERVICE TO THE PEOPLE”:




Arms: Vert, on a black cannon with a gun carriage Or a golden Gamayun bird, and a chief Argen,t a wall embattled Gules. Within a bolted bordure Or,

Crest: The achievement of the Ministry of Internal Affairs

Supporter: A sword per bend






The size of the badge is 30x46 mm.



Small emblem until FROM 2012

Big emblem until 2012

GGR of the Russian Federation: No. 5332

Breastplate until 2012

GGR of the Russian Federation




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 © Hubert de Vries  2020-11-27




[1] Speransov, N.N. : Zemelnije Gerbi Rossii XII-XIX vv. Coats of Arms of Russian Principa­lities, XII-XIX cent. Izdatelsvo Sovjetskaja Rossija. Moskva, 1974.  

[2]  Speransov op. cit . p. 38

[3] Zygmunt Gloger:  Historical Geography of the Lands of Old Poland: Description of the Smolensk Voivodeship:

[4]  Speransov op. cit . p. 38

[5] Paulmy (Antoine-René d'Argenson, marquis de). Recueil d'armoiries polonaises. Bibliothèque nationale de France. Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, Ms-X, fol. Y. Ms-1114.

[6]  From: Изображение губернских, наместнических, коллежских и всех штатских мундиров.

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