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Falconer:Falcon, Sokol, Finist

A falcon hunt was probably the most favored entertainment for the nobility in medieval Russia. This phenomenon of life in the Russian state is reflected by the fact that from the fourteenth until the seventeenth century, the Chief of the Council of Falcon Hunting (known as the "Sokolnichiy Prikaz") was one of the most important and influential people in the Tsar's court. Retaining such a post was not necessarily the easiest thing to do in those days, as the Monarchs were sometimes fierce. As legend has it, during Ivan the Terrible's rule, the chief of the "Prikaz Sokolnichiy" lost one of the Tsar's favorite falcons. During the hunt the unfortunate falconer released the falcon, which flew into the air, never to be seen again. Ivan the Terrible was so upset, that he told the falconer to go into the fields and find the falcon, or otherwise be beheaded. After walking for several days through the fields of what is now known as the "Sokolniki" district of modern Moscow, the falconer prayed to the Lord for mercy, fearing his certain execution by the tyrant, Ivan the Terrible. Then a miracle happened; the falcon landed on the ground by the falconer as he stood in prayer. Thus the chief or the "Sokolnichiy Prikaz" was saved and the Tsar was pleased to have his favorite falcon back. The falconer, grateful for his life, built a small church in Sokolniki, on the spot where the falcon landed on the ground. Presently in Moscow there is a beautiful park called Sokolniki Park, and an entire district of the City is called Sokolniki. The word Sokol in Russian means falcon. Today the little church built by the falconer of Ivan the Terrible still stands amidst the fields of what used to be the Royal Falcon Game Grounds. Composed and translated by
Michael I. Marinchenko
Edited by Richard Bowden.