Boyan (bard)

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Boyan or Bayan is the name of a bard who was mentioned in the Rus' epic The Lay of Igor's Campaign as being active at the court of Yaroslav the Wise. He is apostrophized as Veles's grandson in the opening lines of The Lay (probably a reference to Veles as the patron of musicians). Historians have been unable to determine whether Boyan was his proper name (as Nikolai Karamzin and Fyodor Buslayev postulated) or all skalds of Rus were called boyans (Alexander Vostokov). The Russian button accordion known as the bayan was named after Boyan upon its invention in 1907.

Although The Lay is the only authentic source mentioning Boyan, his name became exceedingly popular with later generations. He is mentioned in the Zadonshchina and Pushkin's Ruslan and Ludmila. The folklorist Alexander Afanasyev considered Boyan a precursor of Ukrainian kobzars. Soviet scholars tended to associate him with the House of Chernihiv, assuming that he started his career at the court of Mstislav of Tmutarakan. Boris Rybakov supported this theory and linked his name to a graffito on the wall of Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev which mentions a purchase of "Bayan's land" by "Vsevolod's wife".


  • The Encyclopaedia of The Lay of Igor's Campaign, in five volumes. St. Petersburg, 1995. Volume 1, pages 147-153.

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