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Cernigov was one of the Russian principalities in the Middle Ages. It lay east of Kiev on the lower reaches of the Desna (Krt. 67.III). The principality was conquered by Olgerd of Lithuania around 1365 / '70 and from that time belonged to this Grand Principality. At the beginning of the 16th century it was conquered by the Grand Duke of Moscow.


Rulers of  Cernigov [1])                                                                                                 

Svjatoslav II

† 1076


† 1115

Wsevolod II

† 1146


† 1164

Svjatoslav III

† 1195



Wsevolod the Black

Possibly “Vsevolod of Cernigov

Michael of Novgorod

Prince of Novgorod 1224 & 1229

Prince of Cernigov 1224-1242

Prince of Halicz 1235-1238


The bird on these coins of Novgorod is explicitely called orel’ / орелъ (Eagle). Probably these coins date from the (last) personal union of Novgorod and Cernigov: 1224-1230.


Rostislav of Novgorod

Prince of Novgorod 1229-1230

Prince of Halicz 1238-1239

Prince of Cernigov 1242-1243


The personal union of Galicia and Cernigov between 1235 and 1243 may explain that the coat of arms of Galicia and that of Cernigov were both a black crowned eagle on a white field, the eagle of Cernigov plus a processional cross. That of Galicia does not occur until the beginning of the 15th century, that of Cernigov only in the 17th century and therefore there must have been an older, lost source for both. It is not likely that there is a talking coat of arms, i.e. the eagle is black (cerny) because of the name Cernigov.


In the 40s of the 13th century, Cernigov came under Mongolian rule and, as previously reported, and in the hands of the Grand Duke of Lithuania around 1365, after which the history is roughly clear.


From the Mongolian era there is a coat of arms of Transylvania with a sword per pale on a green field

Arms or flag of  “Transylvania” 1350 ca [2]


The quote with this coat of arms in the Book of Knowledge (p.61) is as follows:

From Maxar (= Orenburg) I went to the kingdom of Siluana which they call Septem Castra and the Greeks call it Horgiml (Situated in Russia). It is encircled by two great rivers, the Turbo (= Dniestr) and the Lusim (= Dniepr). In this kingdom there is a great city called Sarax (= Saragerio (?)). The king has for a device a green flag with a red scimitar. The people are schismatic Christians.


Trying to understand this quite enigmatic passage we may remark that:


The sword is probably the “ Sword of Islam”  or Dhu ‘l- Fakar. This sword was the emblem of a chief commander in the Islamic world and was depicted mainly on flags. Usually the sword is accompanied by the Shahada: “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his apostle”  in arab script. Green is the colour of the cloak of Muhammad but also the colour of the caesar or the highest military official after the Emperor or Khan. As such it is an requivalent of the christian eagle.

This suggests that the arms in the Book of Knowledge were those of a muslim (Chief-) Commander of the Golden Horde.

Therefore the arms may refer to for example Demetrius,  Prince of the Tatars, playing a role in the in the Battle of Blue Waters in 1362/63, or any other Tatar commander in Cernigov.


This sword is repeated a two hundred years later on the seal of Iwan the Terrible with the title of Cernigov:

печатъ черниговскя

On the seal of Iwan the Terrible, 1556



1672 Coat of arms of Cernigov as in the Titularnike (1672): Argent, a crowned eagle reguardant, in his sinister claw a procession-cross per bend proper.  L.: Cernigovski. (Speransov, pp. 80-81) [3]



1698 A seal of Cernigov, showing a soldier with a banner. L.: печатъ ево црскго иресветлювелиест черниговскаго ратушн магнестрата (Seal of the royal council of Cernigov). N.D.

By order of  the Little Russian (ruler?) Ivan Petrovich (Winkler, 1899, p. V; Speransov, fig. 130b)


1729 Черниговской - черны орелъ одноглавый подъ короно, въ лѣвой ногѣ крестъ желтъй, а корона носъ и ноги желтые-жъ (Winkler, 1899 p. XVI)


Arms of the City of Cernigov: adopted 1782 06 04


Arms: Argent, a crowned eagle reguardant, in his sinister claw a procession-cross proper/Or. Одноглавныи золотою короною орелъ, держащий въ лѣвомъ когтѣ, позлащенный крестъ въ серебряномъ полѣ ( старый гербъ) (Winkler, 1899 p. 166)


Little Russia / Малороссия


Crowned coat of arms of the Governorate of Malorossiya

On a map. 1800


The Cernigov Governorate (Черниговская губернiя), also known as the Government of Cernigov, was a governorate in the historical Left-bank Ukraine region of the Russian Empire, which was officially created in 1802 from the Malorossiya Governorate (Little Russian Govt.) with an administrative centre of Cernigov. The Little Russian Governorate was transformed into the General Government of Little Russia and consisted of Chernigov Governorate, Poltava Governorate, and later Kharkov Governorate.


For Little Russia see also:  Zaporozhian Host

After Ströhl


1856 12 08 Arms of the Governorate of Cernigov: Argent, an eagle crowned, billed and clawed Or, in his sinister claw a procession-cross per bend proper. Crown: The Imperial Crown of Russia. Garland: Branches of oak tied with a ribbon Azure.  (Winkler 1899, p. 193, Ströhl 1902)


The borders of modern Chernihiv Oblast are roughly consistent with Chernigov Governorate, but also include a large section of Sumy Oblast and smaller sections of the Kiev Oblast of Ukraine, in addition to most of the Bryansk Oblast, Russia.


Chernihiv Oblast was created as part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic on 15 October 1932.



Coat of arms of Cernihiv Oblast, adopted 11.07.2000


Arms: Argent, a two-headed eagel Sable crowned, billed an unguled Or, langued and clawed Gules, on its breast an escutcheon Azure an emblem Or for Mstislav I Vladimirovich the Great (*1076-†1132), Grand Prince of Kiev (1125–1132).


Æ See illustration in the head of this article



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© Hubert de Vries 2019-09-24




[1] After Wertner

[2] Book of the Knowledge of all the kingdoms, lands, and lordships that are in the world. (ca 1350) Works issued by the Hakluyt Society. 2nd series N° XXIX. 1912.

[3] Lvov, D. & I. Maximov: Tsar's Book of Titles (Царский Tитулярник), 1672.


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