The Slavic Dragons and the ethnic dispute
by Marisa E. Martínez Pérsico


Zmey, zmiy or zmaj are the names of the European Slavic dragon. Zmey is similar to the traditional dragon, but it is equipped with multiple heads. While it flies, breathes fire.

In Slavic countries, the dragons symbolize evil. One of them is called Turkic (or Zilant) and was used to represent the political-racial conflict that existed through many years between Slavs and Turks.

In the mythology of this region, the dragons acquire particular characteristics. These fantastic creatures are known by many names: In Russia and Bulgaria they are known as zmey; in the Old Slavic Church as zmiy; in Serb as zmaj; and in Poland as żmij. All these words are variant from a Slav word that means “serpent”.

In Russia and Ukraine, it was believed in the existence of a dragon called Zmey Gorynych, equipped with three heads that were able to spit fire simultaneously. The body was green, had two back legs and a pair of small front legs.

Other Russian dragons (per example, Tugarin Zmeevich) have names with Turkish origin, probably as a way to associate evil with Mongols and other inhabitants from the steppes.

This is why Saint George – which represents Christianity – gets to kill a Dragon – which represents Satan.  killing to the Dragon. This symbol is represented on Moscow’s city flag.

In Slovenia, the dragons are represented as animals of harmful nature, and they are linked to the Saint George’s legends. Nevertheless, the dragon does not always represent danger. The best example is the Ljubljana Dragon, who protects Ljubljana City with authentic benevolence; the city flag presents the figure of this dragon.

In Croatia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro, the dragon zmaj, zmei or lamja are represented like a monster of 3, 7 or 9 heads that spit fire.


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