Lech, Czech and Rus

According to an old legend, Lech, Čech and Rus were eponymous brothers who founded the three Slavic nations:
* Poland (poetically also known as "Lechia"),
* Bohemia ("Čechy" – now the major part of the Czech Republic), and
* Ruthenia ("Rus'", whose successor states are now Belarus, Russia and Ukraine).

Variants of the legend

In one of the legend's variations, the three brothers went hunting together but each of them followed a different prey and eventually they all traveled in different directions. Rus went to the east, Čech headed to the west to settle on the Říp Mountain rising up from the Bohemian hilly countryside, while Lech traveled to the north until he came across a magnificent white eagle guarding her nest. Startled but impressed by this spectacle, he decided to settle there. He named his settlement (gród) Gniezno (Polish adjective from "gniazdo", or "nest") and adopted the White Eagle as his coat-of-arms which remains a symbol of Poland to this day.

Other variations of Lech's name (pronounced|lɛx) include: Lechus [Reges Et Principes Regni Poloniae Adrian Kochan Wolski; Riksarkivet E 8603; BUV [http://www.staropolska.gimnazjum.com.pl/barok/Varia/Wolski.html] Quote: LECHUS adest, a quo deducta colonia nostra est.] , Lachus, Lestus and Leszek. Czech, or Praotec Čech (pronounced IPA| [ˈpra.otɛʦ ʧɛx] ; Forefather Čech) also comes under the Latin name Bohemus or German Böhm.

A variant of this legend, involving only two brothers, is also known in the Czech Republic. As described by Alois Jirásek in "Staré pověsti české", two brothers came to Central Europe from the east: Čech and Lech. As in the Polish version, Čech is identified as the founder of the Czech nation ("Češi" pl.) and Lech as the founder of the Polish nation. Čech had to climb up the mountain Říp, look to the landscape and settled with a tribe in the area, whereas Lech continued to the lowlands of the north.

A similar legend (with partly changed names) was also registered in folk tales at two separated locations in Croatia: in the Kajkavian dialect of Krapina in Zagorje (northern Croatia) and in the Chakavian dialect of Poljica on the Adriatic Sea (central Dalmatia). The Croatian variant was described and analysed in detail by S. Sakač in 1940. [Krapina-Kijev-Ararat, "Priča o troje braće i jednoj sestri". Život 21/3: 129–149, Zagreb]

Legend versus reality

The earliest Polish mention of Lech, Čech and Rus is found in the "Chronicle of Greater Poland" written in 1295 in Gniezno or Poznań. In Bohemian chronicles, Čech appears on his own or with Lech only; he is first mentioned as "Bohemus" in Cosmas' chronicle (1125).

The legend suggests the common ancestry of the Poles, the Czechs and the Ruthenians (or modern-day Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians) and illustrates the fact that as early as the 13th century, at least three different Slavic peoples were aware of being racially- and linguistically-interrelated, and, indeed, derived from a common root stock. Genetic data may validate Fact|date=April 2007 this element of the legend (see: Haplogroup R1a1).

The legend also attempts to explain the etymology of these people's ethnonyms: Lechia (another name for Poland), the Czech lands (including Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia), and Ruś (Ruthenia). In fact, the term "Lechia" derives from the tribe of Lędzianie. See also: Etymology of Rus and derivatives.

A prominent Renaissance Polish man of letters, Jan Kochanowski, in his essay on the origin of the Slavs, makes no mention of the third "brother", Rus. Moreover, he dismisses the legend entirely, stating that "no historian who has taken up the subject of the Slavic nation [...] mentions any of those two Slavic leaders, Lech and Czech". He goes on to assume that "Czechy" and "Lachy" are quite probably the original names for the two nations, although he does not dismiss the possibility that there might have been a great leader by the name Lech whose name replaced the original and later forgotten name for the Polish nation. [Jak Kochanowski, "Proza polska", Universitas, Kraków 2004, pp. 19-21 (in Polish)]

Oaks of Rogalin

Lech, Čech and Rus are also the names given to three large oaks in the garden adjacent to the palace in Rogalin, Greater Poland. Each of them is more than 700 years old.


External links

* [http://info-poland.buffalo.edu/classroom/legends/L3B.pdf A version of the legend] (PDF)
* [http://users.aol.com/jjnowicki/poleagle.htm Another variant of the legend]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Lech — can refer to: NOTOC Personal names* Lech (name), a Slavic, especially Polish, first name, e.g. ** Lech, Czech and Rus, a legend, from which Poland s archaic/poetic name, Lechia, derives ** Lech, founder of Poland, father and founder of Poland (or …   Wikipedia

  • Czech — may refer to: Czech cuisine Anything from or related to the Czech Republic, a country in Europe Czech language Czechs, the people of the area One of three mythical brothers, Lech, Czech and Rus The word is also contained in the names of some… …   Wikipedia

  • Rus — may refer to: *Rus (region), a historical name for a region in Eastern Europe inhabited by Eastern Slavs *Kievan Rus, a medieval state centred on Kiev from 880 to the middle of the 12th century *Rus Khaganate, a polity in eastern Europe in the… …   Wikipedia

  • Lech — m Polish: name of the legendary founder of the Polish race, brother of the Czech and Rus who gave their names to the Czechs and Russians respectively. All three of these names are of very ancient origin and uncertain derivation. Pet form: Leszek …   First names dictionary

  • History of the Czech lands — Czech history This article is part of a series Samo s Realm …   Wikipedia

  • List of twin towns and sister cities in the United Kingdom — This is a list of places in the United Kingdom having standing links to local communities in other countries. In most cases, the association, especially when formalised by local government, is known as town twinning (though other terms, such as… …   Wikipedia

  • Gniezno — Infobox Settlement name = Gniezno imagesize = 250px image caption = Cathedral in Gniezno image shield = POL Gniezno COA.svg pushpin pushpin label position = bottom subdivision type = Country subdivision name = POL subdivision type1 = Voivodeship… …   Wikipedia

  • Slavic mythology — is the mythological aspect of the polytheistic religion that was practised by the Slavs before Christianisation. The religion possesses many common traits with other religions descended from the Proto Indo European religion. Zbruch Idol. Contents …   Wikipedia

  • Bohemia — ( cs. Čechy; [There is no distinction in the Czech language between adjectives referring to Bohemia and to the Czech Republic; i.e. český means both Bohemian and Czech .] Audio de|Böhmen|Böhmen.ogg; la. Bohemia; pl. Czechy) is a historical region …   Wikipedia

  • Slavic peoples — legend|#004040|South SlavicThe Slavic peoples are an ethnic and linguistic branch of Indo European peoples, living mainly in Europe. From the early 6th century they spread from their original homeland (most commonly thought to be in Eastern… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”