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Zilant

Zilant (Russian:Зилант) is a legendary creature, something between a dragon and a wyvern. Since 1730, it has been the official symbol of Kazan. This winged snake is mentioned in legends about the foundation of Kazan.

A Zilant is a legendary creature with the head of a dragon, the body of a bird, the legs of a chicken, the tail of a snake, the ears of a canine, red wings, sharp teeth, dark-gray feathers and scaly dark-gray skin.

Contents

Coat of arms of Kazan Governorate (1730).
Zilant's conventionalized image was the official tamğa (sign) of Kazan's Millennium. قازان is a Tatar name of the city written in İske imlâ.

The word Zilant is the English transcription of Russian Зилант, itself a rendering of Tatar yılan/елан, pronounced (or sometimes ) and meaning a snake.

Modern flag of Kazan, officially adopted in 2004

The Tatars themselves, on the other hand, frequently refer to this creature with the Persian word Ajdaha (dragon) or Ajdaha-yılan (Dragon-snake). Tatars regarded it as a repulsive creature, corresponding to European and Persian dragons. According to Idel-Ural beliefs, any snake that survives for 100 years turns into an ajdaha.

The Zilant/Ajdaha differs from Aq Yılan (White Snake), which is the king of snakes. Aq Yılan or Şahmara (from Persian shah (king) and mar (snake) advised and helped epic heroes (batırlar), often by giving them gifts. As regards his beneficial influence on humans, Aq Yılan resembles Chinese dragons.

Chuvash and Mari (ethnic groups living in the area of Kazan alongside the Tatars) also have legends relating to the foundation of Kazan, but none of them refer to the Kazan dragon. After the 16th century, Russians acquired the foundation legend from Tatars. For Kazan Russians, Zilant had negative connotations, as it was represented as a Slavic dragon rather than as a snake.

Western culture has strongly influenced the popular perception of Zilant among citizens of Kazan, and many modern citizens imagine Zilant largely as a classically Western wyvern or dragon - as depicted in films.[citation needed]

No strong evidence survives that an image of a dragon or snake with wings occurred in any coat-of-arms of Kazan city or of the Kazan khanate before the Russian invasion of 1552. (Islam - the official faith of the khanate - prohibited making images of animals.) Modern Tatar villages do not have any such thing as coats of arms nor symbols of towns. (Note however that all raions of Russia adopted coats of arms recently (ca. 2004) and that the Russian Empire's uyezd centers had coats of arms before 1917). Zilant is proper name in the Russian language and the role of Zilant as a symbol of Kazan functions mostly as an element of Russian culture nowadays. Snakes with wings appear in legends in Tartar culture, and a dragon - ajdaha - plays a role in fairy tales.

Most legends related to Kazan are contradictory and Zilant is no exception. There are several variations on the Zilant legend.

According to one story, a beautiful damsel married a resident of Old Kazan. She had to get water from the Qazansu River and complained to the local khan his capital was poorly situated. She advised him to move the city to Zilantaw Hill, and the khan agreed. However, the hill was infested with numerous snakes which were "stout as a log". Their leader was a giant two-headed snake, i.e., Zilant. One head ate only grass, while the other swallowed virgins and youths. A wizard advised the khan to build a straw and wood near the hill. In spring, the snakes came out from their winter burrows and crept into the pile of straw. A knight errant was sent out to set the pile of straw on fire, burning out the snakes. They were deadly even in death, "killing people and horses with their stink". However, the gigantic two-headed snake-dragon escaped to the Qaban lakes. According to the story he still lives in the waters of the lake and, from time to time, takes vengeance on the citizens. According to other stories, the giant snake was transformed into Diü, a spirit who founded the underwater kingdom of the lake.

It is also said that Zilant did not escape to the lake but instead tried get revenge upon the knight, who by that time had ridden some 50 çaqrım away from Kazan. During the fight that followed, Zilant cut the hero into six parts. The knight, however, had managed to stab the dragon with his poisoned pike, and Zilant eventually died.

There is also a legend about Zilant's return to Zilantaw. They say that Zilant re-established himself in a big cave near the hill. The dragon would occasionally fly over the panic-stricken city and drink water from the Black Lake. At first the people of the city paid tribute to him, but later they managed to kill him with a wizard's help.

Related legends

Main article: Chuvash dragon

According to one legend, when Bulgars came to found the town of Bilär, they discovered a big snake. They decided to kill it, but the snake begged for peace and pleaded with Allah to give her wings. Once she had her wings the snake flew away from Bilär.

Another great snake was said to live in a pagan tower temple at Alabuğa. Although the Bulgars adopted Islam as early as the 10th century, the snake survived until the time of Tamerlane's invasion after which it disappeared.

Ibn Fadlan, who visited Volga Bulgaria in the 10th century, referred to numerous snakes, especially in trees. Ibn Fadlan wrote about a huge fallen tree, longer than hundred ells. He saw a big snake at the trunk of the tree, almost as large as the tree itself. The Bulgars allayed his fears by assuring him that the snake was not dangerous.

The popular historian Lev Gumilyov pointed out in his Ancient Turks that the Kypchaks, one of the ancestors of modern Tatars, came from the Zheliang Valley in the Altay Mountains. In his opinion, the nearby Zheliang Mountain and Zheliang settlement were named after Zilant the White Snake. If there is any truth in Lev Gumilyov's idea, then the dragon of Kazan should be regarded as a remnant of the once popular Turkic totem.

These flying snakes were also known in Bolghar, Suar, Bilär and the other cities of Volga Bulgaria. For the most part, these snakes were benevolent. However, in the boundary fortresses of Kazan, Alabuğa and Cükätaw, legends about flying monsters flourished. One particular fortress on the Shishma River was known as Yılantaw, later russified as Yelantovo. Many scholars believe that Zilant, like other flying snakes, symbolized the evil rulers of the neighboring pagan peoples. The legendary burning of the snakes may symbolize the victory of Islam over paganism. Sceptics say that the Bulgars purposefully spread those legends in the border regions in order to dismay their neighbors.

There is also speculations that Zilant's origination was not from the White Snake, but the Falcon (Börket), an image similar to Zilant from an earlier epoch.

Zilantaw hill with Zilantov Monastery

Zilantaw Hill (originally Tatar Yılantaw/Елантау/Жылантау, Snake Mount), associated with Zilant legends, was formerly situated on the bank of Kazanka River. Some researchers support the view that Kazan was founded here, citing ancient Tatar legends as support. Other legends place the city foundation at Iske Qazan, the Qaban settlement, an Old Tatar settlement from the 16th century. However, these legends ignore the Kazan Kremlin, which is actually the oldest part of the city.

It is probable that a small settlement, not the city of Kazan, had existed at Zilantaw in the Bulgarian epoch (12th–14th centuries). The nearest settlement, Biş Balta, has been known since Khanate's epoch. In 1560 the Zilantov Monastery of Assumption was established on the hill. In recent centuries, the hill was covered with an old Russian cemetery, attested to since the Khanate's epoch. During the excavations in the 1970s, vestiges of an original monastery were unearthed. The most ancient layer contained indications of a great fire, lending support to the legend about the burning of the snakes. In historians' opinion this great fire would have occurred during the Mongol invasion.

Zilantaw actually used to be a high and waterless island, which would make it the best place for snakes to hibernate during winter. The nearest lake was called Zmeinoye or Zmievo, that is, Snake Lake. However, in 1957 Qazansu's course was changed so that the old riverbed, separated from the Kuybyshev Reservoir, was swamped. Nowadays, Zilantaw is an unpractical depressive area, surrounded by plants and depots. The old cloister was reopened here in 2005.

Some Tatar flags

Like Aq Bars, Zilant could have been one of the symbols of Volga Bulgaria prior to the Mongol invasion. Some also speculate as to whether Zilant was featured in the Kazan Khanate's insignia. Hollander Carlus Allard noted that The Cæsar of Tatars once had two flags, and Zilant was pictured on one of them, most likely the flag of Kazan.[citation needed]

After the conquest of Kazan in 1552, Ivan the Terrible adopted this image with the title of Kazan's khan (tsar). Zilant was also featured in a seal of False Dmitry I as well as a flag of Tsar Alexis. Early Russian images represent Zilant with one head, four chicken legs, a bird's body and a snake tail. This representation is thus a cockatrice rather than a dragon.

In 1730 a royal decree established Zilant as a coat of arms of the Kazan Governorate. It was described in the decree as a "black snake, crowned with the gold crown of Kazan, red-winged on the white field". Being the coat of Kazan, Zilant was incorporated into the Russian Imperial coat of arms. The image was added to the arms of all the towns in the governorate. Zilant also appeared on the coat of arms of Kashira, a town located to the south of Moscow, as it was an appendage town of the exiled Kazan khan Ğäbdellatíf back in the 16th century. After 1917, the governorate was abolished and along with it, all the imperial emblems that featured Zilant.

Kazan Metro interior
Coat of arms of Moscow

Discussion about restoring Zilant as a city symbol resumed in the 1990s. Supporters of Zilant referred to the state insignia of the Khanate of Kazan. Some Tatar nationalists, however, dismissed the use of Ajdaha-Zilant as an evil symbol of aggression, derogatory to the Tatars and their statehood. They also pointed out that Zilant might be construed as the dragon killed by Saint George as represented on the Coat of arms of Moscow. According to this popular interpretation, Saint George would then symbolize Muscovy, and the "dragon" would symbolize Kazan.

It was eventually decided that Zilant should be associated with Aq Yılan (White Snake) as a positive Turkic spirit. During the Millennium of Kazan in 2005, Zilant was reinstated as a symbol of Kazan. It is now featured in the coat of arms of Kazan and as well as in the municipal jack.

Zilant could be seen at the decorative elements all over Kazan. The most prominent is a fountain The Qazan (2005), stylized as cauldron.

  • KAI Zilant is a handball club in Kazan.
  • Zilantkon (or Zilantcon) is a popular annual fantasy and RPG festival that takes place in Kazan in the first ten days of November.

Gallery

  • Fountain in the
    Millennium Park of Kazan

  • Fountain in the
    Millennium Park of Kazan

  • A seal of Ivan IV

  • A fragment of the seal, Zilant

Coats of arms

  1. transliteration: qazan
  2. pronounced , Cyrillic: Аждаһа, Iske imla: اژدها
  3. "Ajdaha/Аждаһа". Tatar Encyclopaedia (in Tatar). Kazan: The Republic of Tatarstan Academy of Sciences. Institution of the Tatar Encyclopaedia. 2002.
  4. Cyrillic: Ак Елан, Iske imla: آق یلان
  5. pronounced
  6. "Şahmara/Шаһмара". Tatar Encyclopaedia (in Tatar). Kazan: The Republic of Tatarstan Academy of Sciences. Institution of the Tatar Encyclopaedia. 2002.
  7. Cyrillic: Шаһмара, Iske imla شاهمار
  8. Cyrillic: батыр
  9. pronounced
  10. This is a modern name of the lake. That time it was known as Çerek Kül, i.e. Foul Lake, sometimes noted in Russian chronicles as Poganoye
  11. (in Russian) Рафаэль Мустафин, "Озеро Кабан", Казань, 1989.
  12. pinyin; original source was Chinese: ?墚
  13. (in Russian) Gumilevica
  14. pronounced or
  15. also Зилантова гора/Zilantova gora in Russian
  16. Russian: Зилантов Успенский женский монастырь
  17. (in Russian) Zilantov Monastery Web-site
  18. natinalflaggen.de
  19. https://web.archive.org/web/20060205004740/http://www.handball.kai.ru/
  20. http://www.zilantkon.ru
Wikimedia Commons has media related toZilant.
  1. Ancient Kremlin
  2. Early Tatar flags
  3. (in Russian) Статья на "Уфолог.ру"
  4. (in Russian) Легенда Царства Казанского

Zilant
Zilant Language Watch Edit Zilant Russian Zilant is a legendary creature something between a dragon and a wyvern Since 1730 it has been the official symbol of Kazan This winged snake is mentioned in legends about the foundation of Kazan A Zilant is a legendary creature with the head of a dragon the body of a bird the legs of a chicken the tail of a snake the ears of a canine red wings sharp teeth dark gray feathers and scaly dark gray skin Contents 1 Nomenclature and etymology 2 Legends 2 1 Related legends 3 Interpretations 4 Zilantaw in Kazan 5 Zilant as a state symbol 6 Zilant in art and culture 6 1 Gallery 6 1 1 Coats of arms 7 See also 8 Notes 9 ReferencesNomenclature and etymology Edit Coat of arms of Kazan Governorate 1730 Zilant s conventionalized image was the official tamga sign of Kazan s Millennium قازان is a Tatar name of the city 1 written in Iske imla The word Zilant is the English transcription of Russian Zilant itself a rendering of Tatar yilan elan pronounced jɯˈlɑn or sometimes ʒʲɯˈlɑn and meaning a snake Modern flag of Kazan officially adopted in 2004 The Tatars themselves on the other hand frequently refer to this creature with the Persian word Ajdaha dragon 2 or Ajdaha yilan Dragon snake Tatars regarded it as a repulsive creature corresponding to European and Persian dragons According to Idel Ural beliefs any snake that survives for 100 years turns into an ajdaha 3 The Zilant Ajdaha differs from Aq Yilan White Snake which is the king of snakes Aq Yilan 4 or Sahmara 5 from Persian shah king and mar snake 6 7 advised and helped epic heroes batirlar 8 often by giving them gifts As regards his beneficial influence on humans Aq Yilan resembles Chinese dragons Chuvash and Mari ethnic groups living in the area of Kazan alongside the Tatars also have legends relating to the foundation of Kazan but none of them refer to the Kazan dragon After the 16th century Russians acquired the foundation legend from Tatars For Kazan Russians Zilant had negative connotations as it was represented as a Slavic dragon rather than as a snake Western culture has strongly influenced the popular perception of Zilant among citizens of Kazan and many modern citizens imagine Zilant largely as a classically Western wyvern or dragon as depicted in films citation needed No strong evidence survives that an image of a dragon or snake with wings occurred in any coat of arms of Kazan city or of the Kazan khanate before the Russian invasion of 1552 Islam the official faith of the khanate prohibited making images of animals Modern Tatar villages do not have any such thing as coats of arms nor symbols of towns Note however that all raions of Russia adopted coats of arms recently ca 2004 and that the Russian Empire s uyezd centers had coats of arms before 1917 Zilant is proper name in the Russian language and the role of Zilant as a symbol of Kazan functions mostly as an element of Russian culture nowadays Snakes with wings appear in legends in Tartar culture and a dragon ajdaha plays a role in fairy tales Legends EditMost legends related to Kazan are contradictory and Zilant is no exception There are several variations on the Zilant legend According to one story a beautiful damsel married a resident of Old Kazan She had to get water from the Qazansu River and complained to the local khan his capital was poorly situated She advised him to move the city to Zilantaw Hill and the khan agreed However the hill was infested with numerous snakes which were stout as a log Their leader was a giant two headed snake i e Zilant One head ate only grass while the other swallowed virgins and youths A wizard advised the khan to build a straw and wood near the hill In spring the snakes came out from their winter burrows and crept into the pile of straw A knight errant was sent out to set the pile of straw on fire burning out the snakes They were deadly even in death killing people and horses with their stink However the gigantic two headed snake dragon escaped to the Qaban lakes According to the story he still lives in the waters of the lake and from time to time takes vengeance on the citizens According to other stories the giant snake was transformed into Diu a spirit who founded the underwater kingdom of the lake It is also said that Zilant did not escape to the lake but instead tried get revenge upon the knight who by that time had ridden some 50 caqrim 9 away from Kazan During the fight that followed Zilant cut the hero into six parts The knight however had managed to stab the dragon with his poisoned pike and Zilant eventually died There is also a legend about Zilant s return to Zilantaw They say that Zilant re established himself in a big cave near the hill The dragon would occasionally fly over the panic stricken city and drink water from the Black Lake 10 At first the people of the city paid tribute to him but later they managed to kill him with a wizard s help 11 Related legends Edit Main article Chuvash dragon According to one legend when Bulgars came to found the town of Bilar they discovered a big snake They decided to kill it but the snake begged for peace and pleaded with Allah to give her wings Once she had her wings the snake flew away from Bilar Another great snake was said to live in a pagan tower temple at Alabuga Although the Bulgars adopted Islam as early as the 10th century the snake survived until the time of Tamerlane s invasion after which it disappeared Ibn Fadlan who visited Volga Bulgaria in the 10th century referred to numerous snakes especially in trees Ibn Fadlan wrote about a huge fallen tree longer than hundred ells He saw a big snake at the trunk of the tree almost as large as the tree itself The Bulgars allayed his fears by assuring him that the snake was not dangerous Interpretations EditThe popular historian Lev Gumilyov pointed out in his Ancient Turks that the Kypchaks one of the ancestors of modern Tatars came from the Zheliang 12 Valley in the Altay Mountains In his opinion the nearby Zheliang Mountain and Zheliang settlement were named after Zilant the White Snake If there is any truth in Lev Gumilyov s idea then the dragon of Kazan should be regarded as a remnant of the once popular Turkic totem 13 These flying snakes were also known in Bolghar Suar Bilar and the other cities of Volga Bulgaria For the most part these snakes were benevolent However in the boundary fortresses of Kazan Alabuga and Cukataw legends about flying monsters flourished One particular fortress on the Shishma River was known as Yilantaw later russified as Yelantovo Many scholars believe that Zilant like other flying snakes symbolized the evil rulers of the neighboring pagan peoples The legendary burning of the snakes may symbolize the victory of Islam over paganism Sceptics say that the Bulgars purposefully spread those legends in the border regions in order to dismay their neighbors There is also speculations that Zilant s origination was not from the White Snake but the Falcon Borket an image similar to Zilant from an earlier epoch Zilantaw in Kazan Edit Zilantaw hill with Zilantov Monastery Zilantaw Hill originally Tatar Yilantaw Elantau Zhylantau 14 Snake Mount 15 associated with Zilant legends was formerly situated on the bank of Kazanka River Some researchers support the view that Kazan was founded here citing ancient Tatar legends as support Other legends place the city foundation at Iske Qazan the Qaban settlement an Old Tatar settlement from the 16th century However these legends ignore the Kazan Kremlin which is actually the oldest part of the city It is probable that a small settlement not the city of Kazan had existed at Zilantaw in the Bulgarian epoch 12th 14th centuries The nearest settlement Bis Balta has been known since Khanate s epoch In 1560 the Zilantov Monastery of Assumption 16 was established on the hill In recent centuries the hill was covered with an old Russian cemetery attested to since the Khanate s epoch During the excavations in the 1970s vestiges of an original monastery were unearthed The most ancient layer contained indications of a great fire lending support to the legend about the burning of the snakes In historians opinion this great fire would have occurred during the Mongol invasion 11 Zilantaw actually used to be a high and waterless island which would make it the best place for snakes to hibernate during winter The nearest lake was called Zmeinoye or Zmievo that is Snake Lake However in 1957 Qazansu s course was changed so that the old riverbed separated from the Kuybyshev Reservoir was swamped Nowadays Zilantaw is an unpractical depressive area surrounded by plants and depots The old cloister was reopened here in 2005 17 Zilant as a state symbol Edit Some Tatar flags Like Aq Bars Zilant could have been one of the symbols of Volga Bulgaria prior to the Mongol invasion Some also speculate as to whether Zilant was featured in the Kazan Khanate s insignia Hollander Carlus Allard noted that The Caesar of Tatars once had two flags 18 and Zilant was pictured on one of them most likely the flag of Kazan citation needed After the conquest of Kazan in 1552 Ivan the Terrible adopted this image with the title of Kazan s khan tsar Zilant was also featured in a seal of False Dmitry I as well as a flag of Tsar Alexis Early Russian images represent Zilant with one head four chicken legs a bird s body and a snake tail This representation is thus a cockatrice rather than a dragon In 1730 a royal decree established Zilant as a coat of arms of the Kazan Governorate It was described in the decree as a black snake crowned with the gold crown of Kazan red winged on the white field Being the coat of Kazan Zilant was incorporated into the Russian Imperial coat of arms The image was added to the arms of all the towns in the governorate Zilant also appeared on the coat of arms of Kashira a town located to the south of Moscow as it was an appendage town of the exiled Kazan khan Gabdellatif back in the 16th century After 1917 the governorate was abolished and along with it all the imperial emblems that featured Zilant Kazan Metro interior Coat of arms of Moscow Discussion about restoring Zilant as a city symbol resumed in the 1990s Supporters of Zilant referred to the state insignia of the Khanate of Kazan Some Tatar nationalists however dismissed the use of Ajdaha Zilant as an evil symbol of aggression derogatory to the Tatars and their statehood They also pointed out that Zilant might be construed as the dragon killed by Saint George as represented on the Coat of arms of Moscow According to this popular interpretation Saint George would then symbolize Muscovy and the dragon would symbolize Kazan It was eventually decided that Zilant should be associated with Aq Yilan White Snake as a positive Turkic spirit During the Millennium of Kazan in 2005 Zilant was reinstated as a symbol of Kazan It is now featured in the coat of arms of Kazan and as well as in the municipal jack Zilant in art and culture EditZilant could be seen at the decorative elements all over Kazan The most prominent is a fountain The Qazan 2005 stylized as cauldron KAI Zilant is a handball club in Kazan 19 Zilantkon or Zilantcon is a popular annual fantasy and RPG festival that takes place in Kazan in the first ten days of November 20 Gallery Edit Fountain in the Millennium Park of Kazan Fountain in the Millennium Park of Kazan A seal of Ivan IV A fragment of the seal ZilantCoats of arms Edit Arsk Arca 1781 Chistopol Cistay 1781 Kazan Qazan 1781 Laishev Layis 1781 Mamadysh Mamadis 1781 Spassk Bolgar 1781 Tetyushi Tates 1781 Kashira Moscow Oblast 1998See also EditList of dragons in mythology and folklore Yilbegan Yuxa and Chuvash dragon Vere Celen are related mythological creatures CockatriceNotes Edit transliteration qazan pronounced ʌʒdɑˈhɑ Cyrillic Azhdaһa Iske imla اژدها Ajdaha Azhdaһa Tatar Encyclopaedia in Tatar Kazan The Republic of Tatarstan Academy of Sciences Institution of the Tatar Encyclopaedia 2002 Cyrillic Ak Elan Iske imla آق یلان pronounced ʃʌhmʌˈrɑ Sahmara Shaһmara Tatar Encyclopaedia in Tatar Kazan The Republic of Tatarstan Academy of Sciences Institution of the Tatar Encyclopaedia 2002 Cyrillic Shaһmara Iske imla شاهمار Cyrillic batyr bʌˈtɯr pronounced ɕʌˈqrɯm This is a modern name of the lake That time it was known as Cerek Kul i e Foul Lake sometimes noted in Russian chronicles as Poganoye a b in Russian Rafael Mustafin Ozero Kaban Kazan 1989 pinyin original source was Chinese 墚 in Russian Gumilevica pronounced jɯlɑnˈtaʊ or ʒʲɯlɑnˈtaʊ also Zilantova gora Zilantova gora in Russian Russian Zilantov Uspenskij zhenskij monastyr in Russian Zilantov Monastery Web site natinalflaggen de https web archive org web 20060205004740 http www handball kai ru http www zilantkon ruReferences EditWikimedia Commons has media related to Zilant Ancient Kremlin Early Tatar flags in Russian Statya na Ufolog ru in Russian Legenda Carstva Kazanskogo Retrieved from https en 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