Coats of arms
of Belarusan houses

In ancient Slavonic and other societies the predecessors of national crests were family emblems and symbols which occurred on various objects to mark their owner. At the time of the Kievan Rus (9th - 11th c.) the feudal lords used the image of a trident, possibly the stylization of an eagle. Tge sign of Duke Iziaslau

An emblem of Iziaslau Uladzimiravic, Prince of Polack (980-1001)

Coats of arms in their traditional form (a knight's shield) appeared in Belarus in the 14th-15th century and spread quickly, especially after the union with Poland in 1413, when the 47 most significant families of the Belarusian gentry were granted their own coats of arms. Such coats of arms were often orientated to European heraldic traditions. The influence of French, German and particularly Polish heraldry was noticable. Later local subjects were also introduced into many coats of arms.

Apart from the basic element, the shield, coats of arms consisted of numerous additional elements. The crests of temporal lords (knights, counts or members on the gentry) had a crown on top, whereas those of members of the clergy contained church symbols (such as a mitre, for example). In addition there were often banners and weapons in the margin. Coat of arms of Ahinski House

Coat of arms of Ahinski House

After Belarus became part of Russia at the end of the 18th century, not only the Belarusian gentry but also other old families had to give up their titles and lost the right to their family crests. Sometimes their descendants had to struggle for decades with all the authorities from Minsk to St. Petersburg to get their rights back. Many of them did not succeed.
After the October Revolution of 1917 the Soviet authorities passed a special decree which declared all rights to particular coats of arms forfeited.
Go to Belarusan heraldry main page | History of Belarus | Virtual Guide to Belarus

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