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Annalistic Writing and the Development of Written Culture (Novgorod of the 11th and the First Half of the 12th Centuries)

Timofey V. Guimon


The author studies key moments in the history of early Novgorodian annalistic writing in the context of other written practices in Novgorod. The first, very brief annalistic notes were made by clerics of the St. Sophia Cathedral in the middle of the 11th century, at the time when, in Novgorod, writing was becoming part of the everyday life of clerics as well as of the lay elite and the administration. The first systematic historical works (an annalistic compilation and a collection of lists) appear in the 1090s, when we see the spread of book production beyond St. Sophia and the start of the mass usage of princely seals. The beginning of the systematic keeping of annalistic records in the 1110s was probably stimulated by the creation and the revisions of the Primary Chronicle in Kiev but, at the same time, it is around 1117 that the posadnik’s seal appears, and this reflects a shift in the political balance in Novgorod. The 1130s were the time when the earliest extant documents granting lands, incomes, and privileges to church institutions were issued, and some other innovations in written culture also took place at around that time. In 1132 the annals previously kept for the prince passed to the control of the archbishop. Their content changed and official accusations relating to the behavior of princes began to be included. Thus, it was in the 1130s  that the rights, privileges, and mutual positions of the actors in Novgorodian politics started to be fixed in writing.


Novgorod; writing; written culture; annals; chronicles; annalistic writing; Middle Ages; Old Rus’


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