How to Become a Russian Epic Storyteller

Russian epic poetry (which is sung, not read) has produced some of the most memorable characters in world literature. Many of the scenes, episodes, and characters from these epic poems inspire my own writing. If you happen to notice something familiar in the characters or events of my novel The Song of the Sirin, that’s probably because you’ve read a Russian fairy tale or epic poem (called bylini in Russian). But maybe…

Thor and Prophet Elijah: a case of mistaken identity?

I’m pleased and honored to welcome you all to my new online home on the Ancient Faith blogging platform. I am Nicholas Kotar, and I write epic fantasy novels inspired by Russian fairy tales. For me, these fairy tales are fascinating in and of themselves. But they also come from a complex history and folk culture that most people have never heard of. I myself knew it only superficially. So I started…

The strange tale of how Napoleon’s soldiers became Cossacks

You know that scene in Godfather II where young Vito is given the last name “Corleone” by the American border guard, only because he’s from Corleone? Turns out that my own last name may have a similar kind of history. The story (a bit legendary) is that our Kotar ancestor was not a Kotar at all, but he was from Kotor (Montenegro). In the early 19th century, he had the unfortunate fate…

Don’t blame the Byzantines: Why does Russia have such problems?

One of the early readers of my first novel complained that I had too many adjectives in my writing. He was absolutely right; I was inordinately, extremely, excessively enamored of beautiful, excellent, fabulous adjectives (and, apparently, adverbs too). I have since purged many of them (poor things). But I have noticed a disturbing trend of denigrating adjectives, as if it would be enough to just “pick a more colorful noun.” I’m still…

What do the most popular Russian insults actually mean?

Something a little less serious this week for your reading pleasure. I found a rather absurd little article about the historical origins of a few Russian insults. Not quite swear words, but almost. So don’t be scandalized. Instead, enjoy this exclusive (and not too serious) look into the incomprehensible Russian psyche. (Here’s the original Russian article). What do the most popular Russian insults actually mean? You may have noticed that Russians can…

The Curse of the Murdered Prince Dmitry of Uglich

Several episodes in Russian history are so fanciful that they read like novels. One of the more mysterious and interesting is the so-called “curse of Prince Dmitry.” This past Sunday, the Orthodox Church celebrated his memory as a “passion-bearer”—someone killed unjustly, who by his innocent suffering, emulated Christ’s own sacrificial death. But the story of Prince Dmitry, from a historical point of view, reads more like a mystery than a life of…

The Coronation of Nicholas II: Triumph and Tragedy

The problem of ideal government has bothered people for millennia. Perhaps until very recently, some people might have considered this problem to be resolved. Some honestly believed in the universal triumph of democracy as the perfect government. However, the current disaster of democracy both in the US and in other places may have shaken the faith of some. Others take heart in the defeats of such anti-establishment types as Marine le Pen,…

The Path of the Artist: remembering the art of Pavel Ryzhenko

As a writer, I find myself as inspired by painters as I am by other writers. One of my favorite artists is Pavel Ryzhenko, who died tragically while still in his forties. His paintings are almost all about important moments in Russian history. But their visceral realism is what I love most. There isn’t much glorification of the past, not in a dreamy, romantic sort of way. He saw things as they were, and…

“Moscow is the Third Rome”: a pivotal moment in Russian history?

My first novel The Song of the Sirin imagines a strange scenario: what if the early Russians were the chosen people of God? What would that look like? That may seem like my own brand of Russian triumphalism, but it’s more complicated than that. Russia, throughout its history, has gone through different phases of the “Russian idea.” Sometimes Russians isolated themselves, sometimes they tried to fit in with everyone else. But always, Russians have seen themselves as…

Fantasy for our time: my writer’s manifesto

Ask pretty much anyone what is the one pop-cultural event that they’re waiting for more than any other this year. What do you think they’ll answer? The new “American Gods” show? Marvel Hero-du-jour: Episode 4,302? The Empire Strikes Back: let’s do another rehash for 2017? I’m pretty sure it’s not any of those. I think it’s the premiere of season 7 of Game of Thrones. A cultural juggernaut Now, some of you…