While the archaeological evidence provides us with some understanding of the breadth of cultures present in the surrounding region and the extent of the commercial networks tying them to one another, it necessarily provides incomplete information as to how the Eastern Slavs rose from this cultural milieu to obtain some measure of prominence in the 10th century AD. For this we turn to the literary record.
Our principal source for the emergence of the Eastern Slavs as a cultural and political entity distinguishing itself, often by force, from the neighboring tribes is the Russian Primary Chronicle, also known as the Nestorian Chronicle after its author, or as the Tale of Bygone Years. For the purposes of understanding the earliest period of the nascent Russian state, this text too presents numerous difficulties, not least of which is the fact that it was composed in the early 12th century, centuries removed from the earliest events of the Russian polity that it purports to record.
One of the signature events marked down in the Primary Chronicle is the episode narrating the Invitation to the Varangians. From the narrative it is clear that the author considers the Varangians to be a Scandinavian people. They had formerly resided for a time among the Eastern Slavs, demanding tribute. But the dissatisfied Slavs ousted the unwelcome lot and they were forced to return to their homeland across the Baltic. For a time the Slavs enjoyed their freedom from tribute, but the Chronicle tells that they soon began to fight amongst themselves. Ultimately the strife increased to such a point that they sought an external arbiter: they invited the Varangians back to rule over them once more and stamp out the tribal discord.
The Chronicle records these events under the year 862 AD. This marks what scholars take to be the first indications of a rising Russian state. The Chronicle describes how three brothers from among the Rus, which the text notes is a particular subgroup among the Varangians, heeded the call and came to take their place as princes of their own respective territories among the Eastern Slavs. Quickly two of the brothers died, and the surviving brother, Rjurik, gained control over their territories as well. This marks the beginning of the first ruling dynasty in Russian history. From this lone Scandinavian prince the first several generations of Russian princes draw their heritage. But as we see from the development of the Chronicle, within a couple generations the names of the rulers have dropped their Scandinavian appearance in favor of clearly Slavic names, beginning with Svjatoslav, son of Igor, in turn son of Rjurik.
One of the principal questions, therefore, surrounding the nascent Russian state is what exactly was the nature of the relation between the Scandinavians and the Eastern Slavs as the Rus came to rule over them. After the purported arrival of the Scandinavian princes, to what degree did these foreign-born nobles assimilate into the Eastern Slavic culture? When does the term Rus truly cease to apply solely to an imported gentry and begin to apply to a uniform culture of Eastern Slavs as distinct from other ethnicities in the region? In seeking to answer these questions, we must understand something of the mix of cultures surrounding the Eastern Slavs, as well as the particular interaction with the Scandinavians and the early use of the term Rus.
The region between the Carpathians and the Urals during the 9th and 10th centuries was surely not inhabited only, nor even predominantly, by the Eastern Slavs. From the 7th century BC onward Greek and Latin sources speak of the Scythians, an Iranian people, above the northern shores of the Black Sea. They in turn yielded to the Sarmatians, another group arriving from the Iranian-speaking expanses of the Near East. By the 4th century AD we find that the Goths, a Germanic people, have moved into this region. But with the encroachment of the nomadic Huns driving in from the east, the Goths pushed west with disastrous consequences for the Roman Empire.
A similar story holds for the following centuries, with the Eurasian steppe proving as effective for the movement of peoples and invading armies as for the transport of fine silks and precious metals. The Huns in their turn were displaced by the Avars, a Turkic people who likewise swept in across the steppe. But by the 7th century this group too was pushed aside by the newly arrived Khazars. Their newly founded dominion, or khaganate, sat astride the northern shores of the Black and Caspian Seas. As such, Kiev found itself subject to Khazar influence, although it seems that this relationship showed more signs of mutual benefit through commerce than subjugation through strife. Though the Khazars were in origin a Turkic people, their seat of power Itil, at the mouth of the Volga on the Caspian shore, developed into a multicultural hub of regional trade. The ruling dynasty ultimately adopted Judaism as its official religion, in stark contrast to the wave of Christianity that emanated from Byzantium and ultimately engulfed early Russia.
Nor does the region become any more homogenous as we move northward. Spread throughout the forested regions of the north central plain we encounter numerous vestiges of Finno-Ugric tribes. Along the Kama river we find mentioned the Permians. Near the confluence of the Oka and Volga rivers early documents locate a tribe called the Meria. The Vesh, also a tribe of the Finno-Ugric family, inhabit the area surrounding the source of the Volga in the central Uplands. To the west, where the Baltic coast gradually begins to rise northward, sources place the Chud, probably to be identified with the Estonians. The many Finno-Ugric tribes left their impression on the Old Russian language and the placenames of the region.
Scholars generally agree that, in this earliest period of the dawn of Russian history, no people had a more profound and enduring impact than the Scandinavians. However the nature and scope of that impact has incited virulent scholarly debate that has only recently begun to subside. We have already seen that the Scandinavians early injected themselves into the burgeoning trade that was rising throughout Eastern Europe and the Eurasian Steppe. Archaeological finds confirm beyond doubt the presence of Scandinavian traders as early as the beginning of the 9th century, if not before.
A sober reading of the archaeological evidence admits that the Scandinavians maintained an early and consistent presence within the Eastern European forested lands and their waterways. But they were clearly one among many different ethnicities taking advantage of the natural bounty of the region, together with the rising trade network in the 8th and 9th centuries AD. Nevertheless artifacts and burial practices show that Scandinavians occupied an important place among these various ethnicities: often, if not themselves the founders, they were present close to the founding of many of the major trading outposts along the Baltic, the inland lakes, and the waterways. And their skill at mercantile enterprise greased the works of the nascent trading economy.
Where the true debate arises is in the prominence the Old Russian literary accounts afford the Scandinavians. In its most heated form, the debate for decades divided the scholarly community into "Normanist" and "anti-Normanist" camps: the former assigned to the Scandinavians a primary impetus for the formation of the emerging Russian state, while the latter largely rejected any notable influence whatsoever of Scandinavians on the Eastern Slavic peoples. In particular the debate surrounds the terms Rus (Rusĭ) and Varangian (Varjagi) and whether these terms should be taken to apply (solely) to Scandinavians or (also) to Slavs. The Old Russian Primary Chronicle recounts how the Rus and Varangians were Scandinavian people "from across the (Baltic) sea". Thus one of the principal documents on which scholars base their understanding of the early East Slavs makes a distinction between the Rus and Varangians, on the one hand, and the native East Slavic culture on the other. The implication is that, not only are the Rus a different people, but the are from a very different place.
But as the Old Russian narrative continues we see a shift in the use of the term Rus. Where in the initial invitation it clearly provided, from the perspective of the Slavic author, a differentiation between "us" and "them", its subsequent use blurs that distinction. As the story progresses, Rus seems to refer to groups which, although they certainly contained an element derived from that original Varangian influx, must also have contained members of local heritage. That is, the term Rus eventually applies to people who must be, and must always have been, Eastern Slavs.
The following extract, together with those from Lessons 4-7, form one continuous narrative. The narrative stems from a particular self-contained episode within the Primary Chronicle. The particular edition of the text we follow here is reproduced in Charles E. Gribble's excellent collection Medieval Slavic Texts. Volume 1: Old and Middle Russian Texts (1973), pages 158-160.
The episode below recounts the events surrounding the death of the prince Igor, son of Rjurik, and at that time ruler of Kiev. We find that Igor's wife Olga, angered by the death of her husband, seeks to exact revenge. The passage contains a description of the journey of the Derevlians as they travel to the court of Olga. We find a brief description of some of the geographic features of the region. The events are listed under the year 945 AD in the chronicle. The excerpt below lists lines 1-38 from Gribble's text.
1 - В лѣто ,ѕ. у. н г.
2-5 - В се же лѣто рекоша дружина игореви ѡтроци свѣньлъжи исодѣли сѧ суть ѡружьємъ и порты а мъӏ нази. поиди кнѧжє с нами в дань да и ты добудеши и мъӏ.
5-7 - послуша ихъ игорь. иде в дерева в дань и примъӏшлѧше къ первои дани насилѧше имъ и мужи єго.
7-11 - возьємавъ дань поиде въ градъ свои. идуще же ємѹ въспѧть размъӏсливъ рече дружинѣ своєи идѣте съ данью домови, а я возъвращю сѧ похожю и єще.
11-13 - пусти дружину свою домови. съ маломъ же дружинъӏ возъврати сѧ желаӏа больша имѣньӏа.
13-19 - слъӏшавше же деревлѧне ӏако ѡпѧть идеть. сдумавше со кнѧземъ своимъ маломъ, аще сѧ въвадить волкъ в овцѣ, то въӏносить все стадо, аще не ѹбьють єго. тако и се -- аще не ѹбьємъ єго, то все нъӏ погубить -- послаша к нему глаголюще, почто идеши ѡпѧть. поималъ єси всю дань.
19-21 - и не послуша ихъ игорь. и въӏшедше изъ града изъкоръстѣнѧ деревлене ѹбиша игорѧ и дружину єго, бѣ бо ихъ мало.
21-23 - и погребєнъ бъӏсть игорь. єсть могила єго ѹ искоръстѣнѧ града в деревѣхъ и до сего дне.
23-26 - вольга же бѧше в києвѣ съ съӏнъмъ съ дѣтьскомъ свѧтославомъ и кормилець єго асмудъ. воєвода бѣ свѣнелдъ, тоже ѡтьць мистишинъ.
26-29 - рѣша же деревлѧне, се кнѧзѧ ѹбихомъ рускаго. поимемъ жену єго вольгу за кнѧзь свои малъ и свѧтослава, и створимъ єму ӏако же хощемъ.
29-31 - и послаша деревлѧне лучьшиє мужи числомъ .к. въ лодьи к ользѣ.
31-35 - и присташа подъ боричєвъӏмъ в лодьи. бѣ бо тогда вода текущи въздолѣ горъӏ києвьскиӏа и на подольи не сѣдѧху людьє, но на горѣ. градъ же бѣ києвъ, идеже єсть нъӏнѣ дворъ гордѧтинъ и никифоровъ.
35-38 - а дворъ кнѧжь бѧше в городѣ идеже єсть дворъ демьстиковъ за свѧтою богородицею надъ горою. дворъ теремъӏи, бѣ бо ту теремъ каменъ.
1 В лѣто ,ѕ. у. н г.
В се же лѣто рекоша дружина игореви ѡтроци свѣньлъжи исодѣли сѧ суть ѡружьємъ и порты а мъӏ нази. поиди кнѧжє с нами в дань да и ты добудеши и мъӏ. 5-7 -
послуша ихъ игорь. иде в дерева в дань и примъӏшлѧше къ первои дани насилѧше имъ и мужи єго. 7-11 -
возьємавъ дань поиде въ градъ свои. идуще же ємѹ въспѧть размъӏсливъ рече дружинѣ своєи идѣте съ данью домови, а я возъвращю сѧ похожю и єще. 11-13 -
пусти дружину свою домови. съ маломъ же дружинъӏ возъврати сѧ желаӏа больша имѣньӏа. 13-19 -
слъӏшавше же деревлѧне ӏако ѡпѧть идеть. сдумавше со кнѧземъ своимъ маломъ, аще сѧ въвадить волкъ в овцѣ, то въӏносить все стадо, аще не ѹбьють єго. тако и се -- аще не ѹбьємъ єго, то все нъӏ погубить -- послаша к нему глаголюще, почто идеши ѡпѧть. поималъ єси всю дань. 19-21 -
и не послуша ихъ игорь. и въӏшедше изъ града изъкоръстѣнѧ деревлене ѹбиша игорѧ и дружину єго, бѣ бо ихъ мало. 21-23 -
и погребєнъ бъӏсть игорь. єсть могила єго ѹ искоръстѣнѧ града в деревѣхъ и до сего дне. 23-26 -
вольга же бѧше в києвѣ съ съӏнъмъ съ дѣтьскомъ свѧтославомъ и кормилець єго асмудъ. воєвода бѣ свѣнелдъ, тоже ѡтьць мистишинъ. 26-29 -
рѣша же деревлѧне, се кнѧзѧ ѹбихомъ рускаго. поимемъ жену єго вольгу за кнѧзь свои малъ и свѧтослава, и створимъ єму ӏако же хощемъ. 29-31 -
и послаша деревлѧне лучьшиє мужи числомъ .к. въ лодьи к ользѣ. 31-35 -
и присташа подъ боричєвъӏмъ в лодьи. бѣ бо тогда вода текущи въздолѣ горъӏ києвьскиӏа и на подольи не сѣдѧху людьє, но на горѣ. градъ же бѣ києвъ, идеже єсть нъӏнѣ дворъ гордѧтинъ и никифоровъ. 35-38 -
а дворъ кнѧжь бѧше в городѣ идеже єсть дворъ демьстиковъ за свѧтою богородицею надъ горою. дворъ теремъӏи, бѣ бо ту теремъ каменъ.
1 In the year 6453.
2-4 In this year the retinue said to Igor, "Sveinald's retainers are clothed with swords and garments, but we are naked. Go, prince, with us after tribute, that you obtain (it) as we." 5-7 Igor heeded them: he went to Dereva after tribute, and he added to the first tribute. He and his men oppressed them. 7-11 Having seized the tribute, he returned to his city. Having come back (and) having changed his mind, he said to his retinue, "Go home with the tribute. But I will turn back (and) will walk back yet again." 11-13 He sent his retinue home and with a small (part) of his retinue he returned, desiring more possessions. 13-19 But the Derevlians heard that he (was) coming back, (and) sought counsel with their prince Mal, "If a wolf introduces itself among the sheep, then it will make away with the whole flock, if they do not kill it. So also (with) this: if we do not kill him, he will destroy us all." They sent to him, saying, "For what do you return? You have taken all the tribute." 19-21 But Igor did not heed them. And having set forth from the city Iskorosten, the Derevlians killed Igor and his retinue, for there were (just) a few of them. 21-23 And Igor was buried. His grave is near the city Iskorosten in Dereva even to this day. 23-26 But Olga was in Kiev with her son, the child Svjatoslav, as well as his tutor Asmund. His commander was Sveinald, father of Mistisha. 26-29 And the Derevlians said, "Lo! We have killed the Russian prince. (Let us) take his wife Olga for our prince Mal, as well as Svjatoslav, and we will do with him as we wish." 29-31 And the Derevlians sent their best men, 20 by number, in a boat to Olga. 31-35 And they arrived below the Borichev in the boat. For at that time there was water flowing at the foot of the Kievan hill and the people had not settled at the base, but rather on the hill. And there was a city, Kiev, where the court of Gordjata and Nicephorus now is. 35-38 But the prince's court was in the city, where the court of the domesticus is behind the Holy Mother of God above the hill. (It is) the tower court, for there was a tower of stones.
After the o, jo- and a, ja-declensions the next most numerous class of nouns is the i-stem declension. Not only does it contain a large number of very common words, but over time words from less well-represented declensions often had a tendency to adopt endings from the i-declension. The u-declension by contrast contains very few words; the words it does contain, however, often come from the inherited core vocabulary of the language.
The i-stem declension ultimately derives its name from its role as representing the reflexes of the original declension of short-*i-stem nouns in Proto-Indo-European. But by a lucky twist of fate, or of historical phonology, the name remains apropos due to the fact that -и appears in a large number of the declensional endings, and those endings which do not contain -и often contain -ь- [-ĭ-]: in particular we see this in the dative plural, where we found the historical thematic vowel in the twofold declension. Thus, in contrast to the twofold or o, jo-declension, the name of the i-declension serves as a useful mnemonic device. Less helpful is the alternate terminology employed by some scholars: the simple nominal declension.
For the most part the nouns of the i-declension are feminine, though some masculine nouns also belong to this declension. For example, гость 'guest' and господь 'lord' are masculine i-stems, while вьсь 'village' and кѹпѣль 'bath' are feminine. The feminine noun кость 'bone' and the masculine noun путь 'way, path' serve to illustrate the declension.
As we have seen numerous times in other declensions, the rules pertaining to strong/weak and tense jers apply. For example the front jer in the instrumental singular костью [kostĭju] is tense, so we often find the sequence -ĭj- vocalized as -и-: костию. Moreover, in the instrumental singular путьмь, the first (penultimate) jer falls in strong position, so that we occasionally find this form written as путємь. Similarly for other forms throughout the paradigm.
One also encounters situations in which i-stem nouns adopt endings from the twofold declension: whereas господь 'lord' typically shows the form господи in both genitive and dative singular, we occasionally find twofold forms господа and господу, respectively.
The u-declension consists of a handful of nouns, exclusively masculine, which maintain reflexes of the original Proto-Indo-European *u-stem nominal inflection. For example, the following masculine nouns belong to the u-declension: домъ 'house', чинъ 'order', станъ 'camp'. In Indo-European terms, the inflectional endings of this declension broke down into two types: those forms showing stem-final *-u- and those showing stem-final *-oō(t) or *-eō(t). The former provides the zero-grade of the root, the latter the *o- and *e-grades, respectively. In the linguistic evolution of Common Slavic we find that tautosyllabic *oō and *eō yield *u, while in heterosyllabic position they yield *-ov-. The latter occurs in particular before endings beginning with a vowel. This distinction provides for the characteristic alternation between endings showing -у- and endings showing -ов- that runs through the u-declension paradigm.
The masculine noun сынъ 'son' serves to illustrate the inflectional pattern followed by u-stem nouns.
In this declension we find one of the few instances in which Old Russian texts appear more conservative than those of Old Church Slavonic. In particular, as is typical of Old Russian declensions, we see the Proto-Indo-European thematic vowel appear in the dative plural: сын-ъ-мъ, where the penultimate -ъ- is the regular Common Slavic reflex of PIE short *-u-, and hence also in both Old Church Slavonic and Old Russian. But in this particular form, we never find this reflex; rather we always find OCS съӏномъ. We would expect such a form in both Old Church Slavonic and Old Russian, either by virtue of the fact that the penultimate back jer is in strong position and so would vocalize as -о-, or because, owing to the relatively small number of u-stem nouns, we might expect conflation with the endings of the much more common o-stem nouns. In Old Russian we do in fact find the dative plural съӏномъ alongside съӏнъмъ for just this reason (whichever of the two choices it happens to be); but in Old Church Slavonic, as it happens, the more archaic reflex never appears in the extant texts. This applies as well for the instrumental singular съӏнъмь: this archaic form appears in Old Russian, but never in Old Church Slavonic, which retains only the fully vocalized form съӏномь.
As the above discussion might lead one to believe, Old Russian texts commonly show u-stem nouns with forms inflected along the lines of o-stems: thus the u-stem домъ 'home' shows an o-stem dative singular дому alongside the normal u-stem dative домови. This process works in both directions, so that the proper name Ольгъ 'Oleg', an o-stem noun, shows dative singular Ольгови.
Moreover, in a palatalized environment the sequence -jov- often fronts to -jev-. Thus instead of *конови (unattested) as an alternate to the expected dative коню 'to the horse', we find конєви; similarly we find воробиєвє 'sparrows' for the nominative plural of воробии. In addition, we even find the -ов- suffix inserted as if part of the nominal stem before another full ending: e.g. dative plural сыновомъ 'to the sons'.
Adjectives in Old Russian fall broadly into two categories: definite and indefinite, sometimes called long-form and short-form, or compound and simple, respectively. The indefinite category is the more basic in the sense that its formation is simpler, while the definite category derives its forms from a process of composition. In the broadest terms, the indefinite adjectives employ the endings of o- and jo-stem nouns for masculine and neuter forms, while they employ the endings of a- and ja-stem nouns for feminine forms. By contrast, definite adjectives employ not only the endings of the indefinite adjectives just described, but they append to these corresponding forms of the third person pronoun *и.
This section treats the indefinite adjectives. As with the nouns whose endings they employ, the indefinite adjectives fall into two basic classes: hard and soft stems.
The hard indefinite adjectives, or hard simple twofold adjectives, take their masculine and neuter forms from the o-stem nominal paradigm as outlined in Section 3.1 and their feminine forms from the a-stem nominal paradigm as outlined in Section 3.2. The adjective добро 'good' serves to illustrate the paradigm.
As with the twofold nominal declension, palatalization of stem-final velars occurs in those positions where historically they followed a front vowel. For example the adjective вєликъ 'great' has masculine genitive singular вєлика, but locative singular вєлицѣ and nominative plural вєлици. Moreover, note that the vocative of adjectives always remains identical to the corresponding nominative form; there is no special vocative ending in the singular, unlike the twofold declension of nouns.
The soft indefinite adjectives, or soft simple twofold adjectives, by contrast, derive their masculine and neuter forms from the jo-stem nominal paradigm of Section 3.1 and their feminine forms from the ja-stem nominal paradigm of Section 3.2. The adjective син҄ь 'blue' serves to illustrate the paradigm.
Some adjective stems end in a front glide, such as божи- [božĭj-] 'of god, divine'. In such instances the masculine nominative singular ending -ь [-ĭ] combines with the glide to yield -и: божьи [božĭjĭ], or due to the tense position of the first jer, божии.
The first introduction in this series to the more general paradigm of pronominal declension was with the third person pronoun *и 'he'. There we first encountered the surest marker of pronominal declension, namely the masculine and neuter genitive singular ending in -го. Old Russian contains a wide range of pronouns, all of which employ this genitive ending and many of the remaining features exhibited by the third person pronoun. Moreover several adjectives, both possessive and other, follow the pronominal declension rather than the twofold declension of nouns. Generally speaking, pronouns and adjectives exhibiting the pronominal declension fall into two categories: hard and soft, based largely on whether the genitive singular ending -го is preceded by the vowel -о- or -є-, respectively.
The hard stem pronominal declension is characterized by a masculine and neuter genitive singular in -ого. The same declension also typically exhibits a genitive and locative plural in -ѣхъ for all genders. The distal deictic pronoun онъ 'that one there' serves to illustrate the paradigm.
The common deictic pronoun тъ 'that one' also declines according to the hard stem pronominal declension, as well as the correlative demonstratives овъ... овъ 'this... that, the one... the other' and овъ... инъ 'this one here... that one there'. The adjective мъногъ 'much, many' follows the same declension, showing the effects of second palatalization in certain case forms, such as masculine dative plural мънозѣмъ and instrumental plural мънозѣми.
A masculine and neuter genitive singular in -єго characterizes the soft stem pronominal declension. This declension also typically exhibits a genitive and locative plural in -ихъ for all genders. The proximal deictic pronoun сь 'this one here' illustrates the paradigm.
|N Sg.||сь, сьи||сє, сьє||си, сия|
|A||сь||сє, сьє||сю, сью|
|N Pl.||си, сии||си, ся||сиѣ|
We see in the above paradigm the introduction of a secondary form сьи. Phonetically this represents [sĭjĭ], and as usual the sequence -jĭ- is represented as -и-. Since the first jer, inasmuch as it precedes a yod, is tense, it may also be written as -и-, and so we frequently find the form сии. Alternately, since the first jer is strong, yet soft, we may find it vocalized as -є-: сєи. The same rules apply throughout the remainder of the paradigm, leading to a large list of possible variant forms.
In addition the personal possessive adjectives follow the above paradigm of the soft declension. The adjective мои 'my' serves to illustrate the paradigm.
We also find in the declension of possessive adjectives the introduction of plural endings proper to the hard pronominal declension, such as genitive and locative plural моѣхъ, as well as dative plural моѣмъ.
The remaining personal possessive adjectives follow the same declension: твои 'thy, your'; свои 'one's own'; нашь 'our'; вашь 'your'; and even the relative-interrogative possessive adjective чьи 'whose'.
The extremely common adjective вьсь 'all, every, whole' displays a declensional paradigm which contains a mixture of elements from both the hard and soft pronominal declensions. The paradigm is as follows.
The term aorist denotes a past tense formation which, in contrast to the imperfect, serves to represent a completed past action, with no reference to the so-called internal structure of the action. By internal structure we mean such characteristics as the temporal duration of an action (i.e. whether or not it requires an extended period of time to occur) or its continuity (i.e. whether it is a single, continuous action that unfolds over an unbroken time interval; or whether it amounts to a sequence of repeated actions, each individual one being more or less instantaneous, and only the sequence as a whole requiring an extended time interval to occur). By saying that the aorist denotes a completed past action with no reference to internal structure, we are stipulating
These two stipulations combine to render the aorist an essentially point-like past tense, whereas the imperfect by contrast suggests an open-ended interval beginning in the past. In concrete terms, while the imperfect might have the connotation in English of a form like I was jogging, the aorist would be rendered by I jogged. In the former, the grammatical form itself highlights that the action took place over an interval of time; in the latter, there is no such reference: only the lexical content of the verb jog provides the connotation of an expanse of time, inasmuch as one generally finds it difficult to jog instantaneously.
Proto-Slavic inherited two types of aorist construction from Proto-Indo-European. In the first, the endings follow directly upon the verbal root, or upon the thematic vowel appended to the verbal root. Naturally this formation has received the name root aorist. In the second, the suffix *-s- intervenes between the root and thematic vowel. As this formation pervades Greek past tense formation, and as the *-s- appears as sigma in Greek, this formation has been termed the sigmatic aorist.
Within Proto-Slavic, however, we find the advent of a new aorist formation, aptly titled the new aorist, or the ox-aorist after its characteristic suffix. Though Old Church Slavonic retains both the root and sigmatic aorists alongside the new aorist, Old Russian has largely eliminated the earlier formations in favor of the later. We will nevertheless discuss briefly the two more archaic aorists, since those verbs which retain those forms still occur frequently in the Old Russian texts.
Construction of the aorist, regardless of the particular formation, begins with identification of the infinitive-aorist stem. We have already outlined in the discussion of the imperfect in Section 4.2 how one arrives at this stem. Briefly, one takes the infinitive, undoes any sound changes that resulted from the addition of the infinitive marker -ти, and then removes the -ти altogether. The remaining verbal stem serves as the stem for the construction of the aorist.
The root aorist is often termed the asigmatic aorist, to distinguish it from its sigmatic cousin, or merely the simple aorist to highlight the fact that it has no distinguishing suffix. This formation has all but completely disappeared from Old Russian by the time the extant texts were written down, except in two situations:
Of the true root aorists that survive into Old Russian, the most prevalent is that built to ити 'to go', with stem ид-. The root aorist paradigm of this verb is listed below.
In the chart above, those forms listed in parentheses do not occur in the Old Russian texts.
The second verb to exhibit a root aorist formation is рєчи 'to speak', with stem рєк-. Again, the root aorist forms occur only in the second and third person singular, and they are identical: рєчє, derived from CS *rekes in the second person, from *reket in the third.
The sigmatic aorist derives its name from the addition of *-s- to the root preceding the thematic vowel. Though several verbs show conjugations following this pattern in Old Church Slavonic, only one such verb remains in Old Russian: рєчи 'to speak', with stem рєк-. The sigmatic aorist paradigm of this verb is as follows.
Again we see the intrusion of the root aorist in the second and third person singular with the common form рєчє. But in the remaining forms we see the presence of the s-suffix. The first person singular рѣхъ follows via the ruki rule (cf. Section 6.5) from *re:k-s-om > *rěksŭ > рѣхъ, though the front environment prevents this retraction in the third person plural: *re:k-s-nt > *rěksę > рѣша. Note the lengthening of the root vowel that typically accompanies the addition of the sigmatic suffix. This lengthening occurred in the Proto-Indo-European period, so that its result in Old Russian is not a change in vowel quantity, but rather in vowel quality. In this instance we see the natural reflex PIE *e: > CS *ě of the long vowel, rather than of the expected short root vowel PIE *e > CS *e.
By far the most common aorist formation in Old Russian is the new aorist or ox-aorist. As with other aorist formations, construction of the new aorist begins with the infinitive-aorist stem. To this Old Russian adds a suffix which appears mostly as -ox-, but as -os- before endings beginning with a consonant, and as -ош- in the third person plural. The ox-suffix does not appear at all in the second and third person singular. To this suffix Old Russian then adds the endings encountered above in other aorist formations. Where the infinitive-aorist stem ends in a vowel, the -o- of the the ox-suffix does not appear. The verbs рєчи 'to speak', with infinitive-aorist stem рєк-, and знати 'to know', with infinitive-aorist stem зна-, serve to illustrate the paradigm.
In the second and third person singular we once again note the retention of root aorist forms. We see that the ending -є of these forms does not appear when the stem ends in a vowel. We also see clearly that the infinitive-aorist stem, here рєк- for the verb рєчи, contains stem-final sounds in the form that precedes any sound changes that might occur upon adding the infinitive suffix -ти. Thus, for example, грє-ти 'to row', from *greb-ti, builds the aorist on the stem грєб-. The verb ити 'to go' also builds a new aorist, with stem ид-. The forms of these verbs are as follows.
Certain anomalies, however, present themselves. For example, рєчи 'to speak' also shows signs of a stem рьк- alongside the more common рєк-: ркоша 'they said'. Similarly the verbs тєчи 'to run' and жєчи 'to burn' show stems тьк- and жьг-, respectively.
Moreover verbs whose stem derives from an etymological nasal, or -r-, among a handful of others, often show an ending -тъ in the second and third person singular. Athematic verbs, such as дати 'to give' and вѣдѣти 'to know', also show an alternate suffix -стъ in these forms, which in certain instances may derive originally from a stem-final -д followed by the -тъ suffix just mentioned. Consider the following examples.
Verbs with the -ну- suffix show two different aorist formations. In one formation, the ox-aorist is built from the stem including the ну-suffix. In the other formation, the ну-suffix itself is dropped and the ox-aorist is built directly to the remaining stem. The verb двиг-ну-ти 'to move' illustrates the forms.
We find in the above paradigm another illustration of the fact that the -o- of the ox-suffix does not appear when the aorist stem ends in a vowel.
Old Russian shares with Old Church Slavonic some special uses of the genitive case that are somewhat unexpected when viewed in comparison to other ancient sister languages within the Indo-European family. These uses occur with sufficient frequency that they merit attention early in the study of Old Russian.
Old Russian shows the emergence of a special treatment of direct objects. Old Russian generally places the direct object of a transitive verb in the accusative, as do others of the ancient Indo-European languages. But when the direct object happens to be human and male -- i.e. a man -- Old Russian regularly puts the direct object in the genitive case. For example: убиша Игоря и дружину єго "They killed Igor and his retinue" (Primary Chronicle). Here we see that the aorist убиша 'they killed' takes the direct object дружину 'retinue' (from the feminine noun дружина) in the accusative as expected. But rather than employing the normal accusative Игорь of the proper noun Игорь 'Igor', we see that Old Russian places the male human direct object in the genitive case. The following example shows that Old Russian makes a clear distinction between women and men: поимѣмъ жєну єго Ольгу за кънязь свои Малъ, и Святослава... "Let us take his wife, Olga, for our prince, Mal, and Svjatoslav..." (Primary Chronicle). Here жєну (from жєна 'wife') and Ольгу (from Ольга 'Olga') show the distinct accusative singular appropriate to feminine nouns. But Святослава (from Святославъ 'Svjatoslav'), also the direct object of поимѣмъ 'let us take', clearly shows the genitive singular ending.
It seems that this tendency to distinguish direct objects that are men does not always extend to groups. In the previous example we saw that дружина 'retinue' retains the accusative, even though it clearly represents a group of men. But in such a situation we might argue that the noun represents a collection, and so not men per se. Consider however the following example: то присълитє мужа нарочитъӏ, да въ вєлицѣ чисти поиду за вашь кънязь "... then send me your best men, that I marry your prince in great honor" (Primary Chronicle). Here we clearly have direct reference to men, but the word мужа (from мужь 'man'), together with the adjective нарочитъӏ (from the adjective нарочитъ 'distinguished'), distinctly show the endings of the accusative plural.
Another striking feature of Old Russian is the interaction of the genitive case with negation. In particular, the direct object of a transitive verb takes the genitive in the presence of negation. For example: и нє послуха ихъ Игорь "and Igor didn't listen to them", or slightly more literally "and Igor didn't hear them", emphasizing the fact that послуха expects a direct object (Primary Chronicle). Rather than the proper accusative plural ѣ or я (cf. OCS ѩ), we find the direct object in the genitive plural ихъ. Similarly нє вѣси закона "You don't know the law" (Primary Chronicle), where the proper accusative would be законъ 'law'.
Even more noteworthy is the extension of this trend to the actual subject of a sentence. Specifically, in the presence of negation the subject of the verb may take the genitive rather than the nominative. This typically occurs in statements concerning the existence of some quantity, or the lack thereof, where the verb is a copula like 'be'. For example: нынѣ у васъ нѣсть мєду ни скоры "Now there is neither honey nor wine in your possession" (Primary Chronicle). Here меду is the genitive singular, rather than the expected nominative of the u-stem noun медъ 'honey'. Likewise скоры is the genitive singular of the feminine noun скора 'fur'.