Strata of the Novgorod Population in the Opasnaia Gramota of 1472

Slovene. 2015;4(1)


Journal Homepage

Journal Title: Slovene

ISSN: 2304-0785 (Print); 2305-6754 (Online)

Publisher: Moscow State University of Education

Society/Institution: Institute for Slavic Studies

LCC Subject Category: Language and Literature: Slavic languages. Baltic languages. Albanian languages

Country of publisher: Russian Federation

Language of fulltext: German, English, Croatian, Russian, Bulgarian

Full-text formats available: PDF



Pavel V. Lukin (Институт российской истории РАН (Москва))


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Time From Submission to Publication: 20 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

The article is devoted to a study of Novgorodian social terms mentioned in the Opasnaia Gramota, a charter which secured the inviolability of ambassadors during their stays abroad; the charter dates from 1472. There are two extant copies of this document: the original, written in Old Russian, and the contemporary Middle Low German translation. The Old Russian version was published by Anna L. Khoroshkevich in 1966. Now an edition of the Middle Low German translation is being prepared in Germany. By comparing two versions of the same text written in two different languages, one is able to draw some conclusions about the meaning of social terms mentioned in the charter. References to ‘well-to-do people’ (zhitii liudi), ‘merchants’ (kuptsy), and ‘black people’ (chernye liudi) are of particular interest. Zhitii liudi are called ‘well-to-do merchants’ (wolmagenden copluden) in the Middle Low German translation. Relying on this fact (along with other data), one can assume that at least in the 1470s, zhitii liudi may have been simultaneously merchants and landowners. In other words, one can imagine that all zhitii were merchants but not all merchants were zhitii. The charter shows also that the expression chernye liudi (in the Middle Low German translation: de gemene lude) in 15th-century Novgorod stood for the bulk of the common (but free) townsmen, and not for a particular group of the population that did not possess full rights. Finally, the Middle Low German translation of the charter clearly indicates that its author considered ‘merchants’ and ‘merchants’ children’ to have been either synonyms or similar terms without any significant difference apart from some minor negligible nuances. He translates both with the same expression, copludes kindere, and distinguishes them from ‘merchants’ elders’ (oldesten kopluden).