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Once Again on the Novgorod Birchbark Letter No. 724

Aleksey A. Gippius


The article contains a critical assessment of two alternative interpretations of the birchbark letter No. 724, proposed by Valentin L. Yanin and Andrei A. Zalizniak (editors of the birchbark collection No. 10, in 2000) and by Pavel V. Petrukhin (2009). According to the former, the document, in which the author describes the difficulties of collecting tribute in the north-eastern periphery of the Novgorod Land, was written between 1161 and 1167, a date based on the identification of the names Zakharia and Andrei mentioned in the text with the Novgorod posadnik Zakharia (1161–1167) and Prince Andrei Bogoliubsky of Suzdal. However, as Petrukhin has shown convincingly, the editors’ treatment of the conflict does not conform to the political circumstances of this period as they are known from the chronicles. According to Petrukhin, the document was written half a century later and reflects a routine conflict between local administrators rather than a political confrontation between Novgorod and Suzdal. I argue that the editors’ interpretation can be modified in light of Petrukhin’s criticism; such a reinterpretation does not presuppose a re-dating of the document and retains the identification of Zakharia and Andrei with historical figures of the 1160s as well as the linguistic analysis proposed by Zalizniak.


birchbark documents; Veliky Novgorod; Suzdal; Zavolochye; boyardom; posadnik; Prince Andrei Bogoliubsky; Old Novgorod dialect


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