The paper discusses the origin of pragmatic writing in Early Rus’ and its relationship to the Church Slavonic tradition. The emergence of birchbark literacy in Novgorod at about 1030 is treated as a by-product of the spread of church education under the reign of Jaroslav the Wise. The intermingling of lay and ecclesiastic affairs in the life of Lyudin konec of Novgorod is shown to have produded the breeding ground for the proliferation of birchbark writing in this part of the city.
This volume examines the role of epigraphic literacy within the newly introduced Christian culture and the developing tradition of literacy in Northern Europe during the Viking Age and the High Middle Ages. The epigraphic material under scrutiny here originates from Scandinavia and North-West Russia - two regions that were converted to Christianity around the turn of the first millennium. Besides traditional categories of epigraphic sources, such as monumental inscriptions on durable materials, the volume is concerned with more casual inscriptions on less permanent materials. The first part of the book discusses a form of monumental epigraphic literacy manifested on Scandinavian rune stones, with a particular focus on their Christian connections. The second part examines exchanges between Christian culture and ephemeral products of epigraphic literacy, as expressed through Scandinavian rune sticks, East Slavonic birchbark documents and church graffiti. The essays look beyond the traditional sphere of parchment literacy and the Christian discourse of manuscript sources in order to explore the role of epigraphic literacy in the written vernacular cultures of Scandinavia and North-West Russia.
Early polities are often called as tributary (from Latin tributum). It is a question of great importance but also of great difficulty which tributes (taxes) the Rus’ collected from the subjugated population in the 9-11th centuries. The oldest Rus’ian chronicle texts contain several references about an extraction of some taxes in favor of the Rus’, but these references are difficult to understand. The author interprets the chronicle reports with these references taking two approaches: 1) it is taken for granted that the chronicle preceding to “The Tale of Bygone Years” is preserved in the so-called Novgorod First Chronicle of Younger Redaction, and 2) the chronicle reports are compared with the evidence of non-Rus’ian origin (the treaties by Constantine Porphyrogentis, the Arabian geographers’ accounts from the 9-11th centuries etc.). The most important conclusions drawn by the author are: 1) the tribute rate matched to the “standards” common in Eastern Europe in the 9-11th centuries, and this was in fact a fur skin which corresponded in prize to 4-7 g silver, 2) the Rus’ian ruling class collected the tribute (dan’) during the yearly circuit around the subjugated territory, extracting also some naturalia for feeding as “gifts”; both the circuits and the naturalia were called as poliud’e, 3) the evidence on both the tribute rate and methods of extracting the tribute comes from different regions of Old Rus’ – from Novgorod to Kiev. This fact shows that the basic principles of tax system which the Rus’ applied to the subjugated territories were the same anywhere. These principles laid a foundation for the “tributary” dominance of the Rus’ in the 9-11th centuries.