- 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, Russiaand 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 Mountainrising 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-armswhich remains a symbol of Poland to this day.
Other variations of Lech's name (pronounced|lɛx) include: Lechus [
Reges Et Principes Regni PoloniaeAdrian Kochan Wolski; RiksarkivetE 8603; BUV 126.96.36.199 [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 Latinname Bohemus or German Böhm.
A variant of this legend, involving only two brothers, is also known in the
Czech Republic. As described by Alois Jirásekin "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 dialectof Krapina in Zagorje(northern Croatia) and in the Chakavian dialectof 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 1295in 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 Czechsand the Ruthenians(or modern-day Russians, Ukrainiansand 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.
* [http://info-poland.buffalo.edu/classroom/legends/L3B.pdf A version of the legend] (
* [http://users.aol.com/jjnowicki/poleagle.htm Another variant of the legend]
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