Slovene (Dec 2018)

“Novgorod the Great”

  • Pavel V. Lukin

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 7, no. 2
pp. 383 – 413


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The aim of the paper is to examine the concept that was crucial for the Novgorod’s political identity in the time of independence — ‘Novgorod the Great’ (Veliky Novgorod). The author takes into account not only mentions of this phrase in Novgorodian medieval documents and narratives, but also considerable and highly important evidence originating from other Russian lands and abroad (Hanseatic and Lithuanian documents written in Middle Low German and Latin). A review of the relevant publications shows that, at present, the issue still remains a controversial one. The author comes to the following conclusions. In Hanseatic documents, written in Middle Low German, ‘Novgorod the Great’ was already being mentioned since at least 1330s, which is more than sixty years earlier than is considered in the current conventional view. For the first time ‘Novgorod the Great’ is mentioned not in a Novgorodian text but in a Kievan one — in the account from the Hypatian Chronicle of 1141. In the second half of the 12th century it appeared in the principality of Vladimir-Suzdal, and only much later was adopted by Novgorodians themselves. While in Southern and North-East Rus’ ‘Novgorod the Great’ was initially used to distinguish Novgorod on the Volkhov River from local and smaller Novgorods (Novgorod-Seversky and Nizhny Novgorod), Novgorodians employed it to glorify their polity. In this case it could stand for three different things: the city of Novgorod, the whole polity (Novgorod republic), and ‘the political people’ of Novgorod, i.e. those of the Novgorodians who enjoyed full citizenship rights. DOI: 10.31168/2305-6754.2018.7.2.15