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National Slavic Symbols: Our National Animals And The Meaning Behind Them

Every country on the globe has its own national symbols – animals, flowers, adornments and other elements, which represent the people along with the historical and cultural heritage of said country. So what are the Slavic national symbols and what’s the meaning behind them?

Belarus – wisent

Belarus has one of the oldest and largest primeval forests on European territory. The European bison (wisent) can be found there and in only several other areas of the continent. It nearly became extinct after World War I, but fortunately, locals were able to save what remained of its population and to reintroduce the species once again thanks to the practice of captive breeding.

Bosnia and Herzegovina – none

Unlike most other Slavic nations, Bosnians don’t have an animal among their various national symbols.

Bulgaria – lion

The king of beasts, the lion, is the official national symbol of Bulgaria. Three lions are depicted on the country’s coat of arms, symbolizing the strength, nobility, courage and valor, represented by the majestic animals. One popular legend claims that the inspiration for the three lions (instead of one) came from the three old historical regions of Bulgaria – Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia.

Croatia – marten

Contrary to popular belief, the Dalmatian dog isn’t the national animal of Croatia – the marten is. During the Middle Ages, these animals’ pelt was highly prized as a trade currency instead of gold. Unsurprisingly enough, the marten’s symbolical meaning survived throughout the ages. Nowadays the local currency – the kuna – is actually the Croatian word for “marten”.

Czech Republic – double-tailed lion

The mighty lion is depicted in a plethora of heraldic images, including the ones of the Czech Republic. The Czech lion is double-tailed, which significantly differs it from the rampant lions other countries use. It rose as a royal emblem in the early days of the Kingdom of Bohemia, representing its fierce power and sovereignty.

Macedonia – lion

The Republic of Macedonia is yet another Slavic country, which uses the lion as its national animal. Depicted on its older coat of arms, the familiar lion’s strength and courage were also used as a beacon of hope during the 19th century Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization that fought against Ottoman rule on Slavic grounds. Even though it’s not used on the current coat of arms, the animal can still be spotted in quite a few emblems of local sports clubs, political parties and other organizations.

Montenegro – double-headed eagle

Regardless of the fact that double-headed eagles can’t be found anywhere in nature, let alone in this Slavic country, Montenegrin people have embraced this mythical animal as their official symbol, which is also present on their coat of arms. The symbolism behind the two heads of the bird is pretty straightforward – it depicts the unity between the Church and the Head of State.

Poland – white-tailed eagle

Spread across various regions of Eurasia, the white-tailed eagle has been Poland’s official bird and heraldic symbol for centuries. As opposed to what other national animals usually symbolize, the eagle’s meaning has more to do with its beauty rather than with anything else. Legend has it, the founder of Poland, Lech I, saw a white-tailed eagle on his travels and was taken aback by its beauty to such an extent that he decided to settle down in the area and to use the bird on his emblem.

Russia – bear

The anecdotal Russian bear (the Eurasian Brown Bear), is the national animal of Russia, but it wasn’t proposed by the Russian nation. Foreigners transformed the bear into a punchline for its menacing looks and cunning temperament on so many occasions that instead of refuting the image others painted for them, Russians eventually decided to embrace the bear for its positive qualities.

Serbia – wolf

Serbs are proud of their grey wolves and back in the old days there was even a law that forbade them from hunting and killing these beasts. Impossible to tame, fatally dangerous, brave, cunning, ferocious and proud – all of these aspects perfectly depict the symbolism grey wolves have for Serbia, and not just in literature and other forms of art. The Serbian word for wolf – Vuk – has been given to children and rulers for centuries as an indication of strength and fearlessness.

Slovakia – none

Slovaks haven’t embraced any of their local animals as an official or unofficial national symbol.

Slovenia – none

The people of Slovenia haven’t appointed a particular animal as their official national symbol. However, there are some endemic species, native only to Slovenian territory – the Lipizzaner horse, the olm salamander and the Carniolan honey bee.

Ukraine – nightingale

Despite not being mighty or menacing like other Slavic national animals, the nightingale has a different symbolic meaning for Ukrainians – the one of hope and happiness. According to a legend, nightingales flew from India all the way to Ukraine just to hear the people’s cheerful songs and to cheer them up with their own songs in return.

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