Dobrynya Nikitich and Zmey Gorynych

Alexey Antonov’s Studio

An extract from ‘Byliny’ collection edited by L. M. Leonov

Dobrynya Nikitich and Zmey GorynychDobrynya Nikitich and Zmey GorynychDobrynya Nikitich and Zmey Gorynych

The victory over Zmey Gorynych was the first and the most famous deed of Dobrynya Nikitich, the middle of the three famous Russian bogatyrs. By handing these epic tales from generation to generation, people endowed folk heroes with the personal qualities that were important to them. For instance, Dobrynya’s unique quality that often comes upin bylinas is worldliness, which encompasses not only bravery, but also great diplomacy, good manners, literacy and creativity. In brief, his exceptional bogatyr power is complemented by his accomplishment and wisdom.

His opponent, Zmey Gorynych, a three-headed dragon who spits fire, symbolises irrational epic evil. This bylina tells the story of two battles between Dobrynya and Zmey. Dobrynya defeats his opponent in both battles, although Zmey Gorynych survives the first battle, which is unusual for Russian epic tales. The first fight was triggered by the fact that Dobrynya broke an unspoken rule that forbids swimming in the river where Zmey lived, while the second fight was required to free the niece of Prince Vladimir, Zabava Putyatishna, and lift the curse from all of ancient Rus.

Interestingly, having defeated Zmey to save Zabava, Dobrynya finds many hostages in the dragon’s den, including some foreign princes. After accomplishing the task set by Prince Vladimir (which is uncommon for the bogatyr epic tales), Dobrynya transforms this act into a truly heroic deed as he liberates ancient Rus from the oppressive Zmey Gorynych.

The vivid and striking composition is based on contrasting colours: the red coat and shirt (jasper) with golden chain mail and helmet (pyrite) of Dobrynya Nikitich and the bright green Zmey. Zmey’s wings are so skilfully carved that the edges of the jasper stones become semi-transparent.

An extract from ‘Byliny’ collection edited by L. M. Leonov

...Said Dobrynya, Nikita’s son:

‘Hail to you, accursed Zmey!

Why did you fly through the city of Kiev

And carry away the Prince’s niece,

Young Zabava Putyatishna?

Surrender the Prince’s niece

Without a battle and without a fight and bloodshed!’

Then the accursed Zmey

Told Dobrynya Nikitich:

‘I shall not surrender the Prince’s niece

Without a battle and without a fight and bloodshed!’

And a great battle and a great fight started.

They fought for three whole days,

But Dobrynya could not defeat Zmey.

Dobrynya was about to give upon Zmey,

When a voice from the heavens announced to Dobrynya:

‘Young Dobrynya, Nikita’s son!

You’ve fought with Zmey for three whole days,

Fight with Zmey for three more hours,

And you will defeat the accursed Zmey!’

Then Dobrynya fought for three more hours,

And he killed defeat the accursed Zmey.

Zmey spilled its blood.

...Then the mother dampearth opened wide

And swallowed Zmey’s blood.

Then Dobrynya went through the caves,

Through the deepcaves that they were.

There were forty tzars and forty sons of tzars,

Forty kings and forty sons of kings,

And of common people there were great numbers.

Then Dobrynya Nikitich

Told tzars and the sons of tzars,

The kings and the sons of kings

‘Go there where you were brought from.

And you, young Zabava Putyatishna,

It is for you that I travelled for so long,

Let us go to the city of Kiev,

To the gentle Prince Vladimir.’

Dobrynya Nikitich and Zmey Gorynych

Alexey Antonov’s Studio


Design: Timofey Paus

Craftsmen: Faris Khayrlanamov, Oleg Koshelev

Jeweller: Pavel Vetrov

Materials: quartz rock, pyrite, jasper, tiger’s eye, dolerite, rhodonite, calcedony, gold, silver.

Dimensions: 54 × 50 × 50 cm