Sofya la Rus in
These Current Middle Ages

I have been involved in the SCA in the Kingdom of Calontir since 1997. (I was in a bit of stealth mode for awhile because of the demands of my medical training and National Guard duties.) I started out with the idea that my persona would be in England in the late 1200s to early 1300s, because I liked the clothing worn in that period and it seemed like England would be easy to research. But then I decided that I should also use my knowledge of Russian in my medieval research, so I decided I would be a Russian woman born in 1272, who had somehow made her way to England/Calontir.

The name, Sofya, is the name of a saint associated with wisdom (her daughters were named Faith, Hope, and Charity.). It's a short name that isn't too hard for "foreigners" to say. And I also liked the fact that the Russian word for owl, sova, is phonetically similar. (I've always been fond of owls.) "Rus" has a double meaning. It would be pretty logical for my English neighbors to refer to me as Sofya "the Russian" although I have not been able to document this usage (nor have I come across a term that would have been used instead). The documented meaning of the name "Rus" in medieval England is related to the color red, which is Sofya's favorite color.

To see if the idea of a Russian in England was reasonable, one of the first things I researched for the SCA was how a Russian woman could have gotten to England. I came up with two likely ways - one northern via the trade routes of the Hanseatic league, and one southern via Crusaders/Pilgrims to the Holy Land going through Constantinople. At first, I tended to favor the southern route, because that would lead me close to Italy where women were allowed to study medicine in the Universities.

This was my next area of study - medieval medicine. My initial research resulted in the paper listed below. But my investigations are ongoing. I plan to develop a full medieval medical kit, and persona play to go with it. But I keep getting side-tracked by other interests.

Medieval Medicine

The major detour was not actually a detour at all. Obviously, if I were to be a medieval Russian woman, I needed to learn about medieval Russia. Some of the work was already done. I'd learned the Russian language in the Army along with some culture and history, and I'd continued my studies with a major in Russian in college. I'd even painted my own version of a Russian icon with real egg tempera on wood for a history class. But I still needed to learn more details of history, clothing, geography and culture for the period. The fruits of my Russian research has its own page. (There's a lot and it's growing.)

Russian Material

So then I moved to Heraldshill to finish my medical training where I got married to a fine gentleman of German ancestry (well, I'm mostly German, too, so I guess I can't hold that against him) who is willing to play along with this SCA thing. So I decided to stay in Heraldshill after my training was finished.

So as you can tell, SCA is the hobby that just keeps on growing. The more you do, the more there is to do. Picking an appropriate name, learning enough medieval calligraphy to write your name, sewing garb, sewing better garb, cooking period food, designing a coat of arms, learning to fight (which means getting some armor), figuring out how your persona might work with your significant other's, finding a period occupation to recreate, making a medieval covered wagon to go to a war, learning how to make a favorite craft technique "period"...

Sofya Jakovleva Kliucheneva was born in 6780 (1272) in the city of Nizhny Novgorod at the junction of the Volga and Oka Rivers. Her parents are Iakov Kliuchen and Iudita Beretina doch. She has one sister, Liubka Iasonova zhena, and a beloved niece and nephew, Magdalena and Iusha.

After the great Mongol raid of 6801 (1293) when Andrey Alexandrovich enlisted Tatar help to try to remove his older brother Dmitry from the Grand Princely throne, Sofya's family moved west to Novgorod the Great. Her father became a sexton for one of the churches, and there she learned about painting icons.

Sofya began to learn about medicine as way of showing Christian charity to the many foreigners involved in international trade out of Novgorod. The German merchants were particularly active through the Hanseatic league outpost there. In 1304 (6812), she was married to a Thuringian merchant, Sifrid von Eichelborn, of a woad-trading family out of Erfurt.

She now resides in the mythical Kingdom of Calontir, although the travels of her husband will take her to England, the Holy Roman Empire, and Russia. In Germanic lands, she is "Sofya die Russe" or "Sofya Sifridin." In England and the Knowne World, she is known as "Sofya la Rus" or, since the fall of 1309 (6817), Mistress Sofya la Rus, OL.


Mundanely, I was born in 1972 in northeast Iowa. My father, James Kies (pronounced like "Keys") has always been active in his local church. I went away to college in due course and, in 1993, came back from Army training newly fluent in Russian. After college, I moved on to medical school [where I started "playing" in Shadowdale] and further medical training [in Heraldshill]. In 2004, I got married and left the military and, in 2005, I finished my medical training. Now I have my own solo Family Medicine clinic in rural north central Iowa.

SCA History

1997 - Started attending meetings in Shire of Shadowdale (Iowa City, IA)

1998? - Attended RUSH in Axed Root and took class on Russian clothing from HL Seraphima Iaroslavna. Started Russian webpage later that year to sort out information from class handout.


2000 - Attended Midrealm Spring Crown Tourney in Dark River. Met Master Mordak Timofeeivich Rostovskogo in person.

2001 - Moved to Heraldshill.

2003 - Attended St. Augustine's Faire in Hampton. Taught first RUSH classes - Being Rus in these Current Middle Ages, Intro to Clothing of Early Rus.

2004 - Attended first Lilies. Taught two or three classes: Being Rus in these Current Middle Ages, Intro to Clothing of Early Rus.




2008 2009
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