European and Russian dragons are generally depicted as evil. However, we consider that is because they were feared by mere mortal, thus they were misaligned, hunted and murdered by the likes of St. George and by those seeking the riches that were purportedly hidden in caves and in bodies of water by dragons.
Slavic dragons are found all over eastern Europe: Poland, ex-Yugoslavian states, the Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovakia.
In Slavic mythology, the word “zmey” (Bulgarian and Russian: змей, Macedonian: змеj) are used to describe a dragon.
In Romania, there is a similar figure, derived from the Slavic dragon and named zmeu. In Polish and Belarusian folklore, as well as in the other Slavic folklore, a dragon is also called smok (смок, цмок, smok).
As do all dragons, Slavic dragons have their peculiarities. The majority of Russian dragons however are Mongol in style, due to the enormous influence of the “Golden Horde,” Mongols lead by Temujin, who proclaimed himself supreme ruler of all Mongols in 1206 and assumed the title Genghis Khan.
The Slavic dragon is divided into two distinct groups: East Slavic and the South Slavic. The South Slavic can be further divided into two sub-species; the Zmaj (also known as the Zmej or Żmij), and the Aždaja or Aždaha. The East Slavic is called the Zmey Gorynych.
The Zmey Gorynych: Russia and the Ukraine
It has three heads and may have the power to regrow a head if severed, much like Greece’s Hydra. It is covered in green scales, and walks on its two hind paws. Its front paws are considerably smaller than its rear ones. It has the ability to breathe fire, and is lethal if it can reach you.
It is said to have some intelligence; enough to trick its victims, but not enough to escape unscathed from an obvious trap. Their large wings enable them to fly, and their huge size is a great advantage in battle. The only way to defeat the dragon is to cut all three heads off before they can grow back. Legend tells that the head can only grow back if there is at least one head remaining.
The Zmaj is found predominantly in Slovenia, and appears on the coat of arms of Ljubljana. Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia. They appear related to legends of Saint George, as the dragons appear to look very similar.
Unlike their eastern counterpart they are very intelligent, possessing great knowledge of the present, future, and past. They are also often benevolent and do not always harm humans, despite several legends. for example, the dragon of Ljubljana is said to protect the city from enemies, guarding it in times of need; they guard bridges, such as this Zmaj on the Dragon Bridge in Ljubljana.
The Zmaj is able to breathe fire, and has other magical abilities. They have great strength, and are always very rich. They hoard jewels, gold, and other items of worth, and often have a great castle. They are able to mate with mortal women, and many heroes are said to be the result of a union between a dragon and a mortal. If a particular individual becomes famous enough, he is often deified as a Dragon. Many Slavs became deified as dragons after fighting Turkic invaders such as the Mongols and Ottoman Empire.