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Old Russian Online

Lesson 3

Todd B. Krause and Jonathan Slocum

III. External Influence on the Early Russian State

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.

III.i Surrounding Peoples

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.

III.ii Scandinavians

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.

Reading and Textual Analysis

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 - V lěto ,dz. u. n g.

  • V -- preposition; <> (w. loc.) in; (w. acc.) into -- In
  • lěto -- noun; neuter accusative singular of <lěto> year, summer -- the year
  • dz -- number; <dz> six; six thousand -- six thousand
  • u -- number; <u> four hundred -- four hundred
  • n -- number; <n> fifty -- fifty
  • g -- number; <g> three -- three

2-5 - V se že lěto rekoša družina igorevi ōtroci svěnĭlŭži isoděli sę sutĭ ōružĭemŭ i porty a my nazi. poidi knęže s nami v danĭ da i ty dobudeši i my.

  • V -- preposition; <> (w. loc.) in; (w. acc.) into -- In
  • se -- demonstrative pronoun; neuter accusative singular of <sĭ, se, si> this, this one -- this
  • že -- conjunction; <že> and, but -- ...
  • lěto -- noun; neuter accusative singular of <lěto> year, summer -- year
  • rekoša -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <rešti, rekǫ, rečeši> say, tell -- said
  • družina -- noun; feminine nominative singular of <družina> retinue, band of retainers, troop -- the retinue
  • igorevi -- proper noun; masculine dative singular of <Igorĭ> Igor, Ingvar (Scandinavian name) -- to Igor
  • ōtroci -- noun; masculine nominative plural of <otrokŭ> boy, servant -- retainers
  • svěnĭlŭži -- adjective; masculine nominative plural of <svěnĭlžĭ> of Sveinald, relating to Sveinald, Sveinald's -- Sveinald's
  • isoděli -- past participle; masculine nominative singular of <izodějati sę, -odějǫ sę, -oděješi sę> be dressed up, be adorned -- clothed
  • -- pronoun; accusative singular of <sebe> -self, oneself -- ...
  • sutĭ -- verb; 3rd person plural present of <byti, bǫdǫ, bǫdeši> be, become -- are
  • ōružĭemŭ -- noun; neuter instrumental singular of <orǫžĭe> weapon, sword -- with swords
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • porty -- noun; masculine instrumental plural of <pŭrty> (pl.) dress, clothes, garments -- garments
  • a -- conjunction; <a> and, but; if -- but
  • my -- pronoun; nominative plural of <azŭ> I -- we
  • nazi -- adjective; masculine nominative plural of <nagŭ> naked -- naked
  • poidi -- verb; 2nd person singular imperative of <poiti, -idǫ, -ideši> go, set out; go back, return -- Go
  • knęže -- noun; masculine vocative singular of <kŭnęzĭ> prince -- prince
  • s -- preposition; <> (w. gen.) (down) from; (w. instr.) with -- with
  • nami -- pronoun; instrumental plural of <azŭ> I -- us
  • v -- preposition; <> (w. loc.) in; (w. acc.) into -- after
  • danĭ -- noun; feminine accusative singular of <danĭ> tribute -- tribute
  • da -- conjunction; <da> in order to, that; may, let; and, then -- that
  • i -- adverb; <i> and; also, too, even -- ...
  • ty -- pronoun; nominative singular of <ty> you, thou -- you
  • dobudeši -- verb; 2nd person singular present of <dobyti, -bǫdǫ, -bǫdeši> get, attain -- obtain (it)
  • i -- adverb; <i> and; also, too, even -- as
  • my -- pronoun; nominative plural of <azŭ> I -- we

5-7 - posluša ixŭ igorĭ. ide v dereva v danĭ i primyšlęše kŭ pervoi dani nasilęše imŭ i muži ego.

  • posluša -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <poslušati, -ajǫ, -aješi> hear, listen -- heeded
  • ixŭ -- pronoun; masculine genitive plural of <*i> he -- them
  • igorĭ -- proper noun; masculine nominative singular of <Igorĭ> Igor, Ingvar (Scandinavian name) -- Igor
  • ide -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <iti, idǫ, ideši> go -- he went
  • v -- preposition; <> (w. loc.) in; (w. acc.) into -- to
  • dereva -- proper noun; masculine accusative plural of <Derevy> Dereva (placename) -- Dereva
  • v -- preposition; <> (w. loc.) in; (w. acc.) into -- after
  • danĭ -- noun; feminine accusative singular of <danĭ> tribute -- tribute
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • primyšlęše -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect of <primysliti, -šljǫ, -sliši> devise, contrive, invent; add to, increase -- he added
  • -- preposition; <> (w. dat.) to, toward -- to
  • pervoi -- adjective; feminine dative singular of <prŭvŭ> first -- the first
  • dani -- noun; feminine dative singular of <danĭ> tribute -- tribute
  • nasilęše -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect of <nasiliti, -ljǫ, -liši> do violence to, force, oppress (w. dat.) -- oppressed
  • imŭ -- pronoun; masculine dative plural of <*i> he -- them
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • muži -- noun; masculine nominative plural of <mǫžĭ> man, husband -- men
  • ego -- pronoun; masculine genitive singular of <*i> he -- his

7-11 - vozĭemavŭ danĭ poide vŭ gradŭ svoi. idušče že emu vŭspętĭ razmyslivŭ reče družině svoei iděte sŭ danĭju domovi, a ja vozŭvraščju sę poxožju i ešče.

  • vozĭemavŭ -- past participle; masculine nominative singular of <vŭzĭmati, -eml'jǫ, -eml'ješi> take, take up -- Having seized
  • danĭ -- noun; feminine accusative singular of <danĭ> tribute -- the tribute
  • poide -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <poiti, -idǫ, -ideši> go, set out; go back, return -- he went
  • -- preposition; <> (w. loc.) in; (w. acc.) into -- to
  • gradŭ -- noun; masculine accusative singular of <gradŭ> walled structure, walled fortification; garden, enclosed park; home, dwelling, household; city -- city
  • svoi -- adjective; masculine accusative singular of <svoi, svoe, svoja> own, one's own -- his
  • idušče -- participle; masculine nominative plural of <iti, idǫ, ideši> go -- having come # Should be dative singular to agree with pronoun; here frozen as gerund.
  • že -- conjunction; <že> and, but -- ...
  • emu -- pronoun; masculine dative singular of <*i> he -- ... # Together with the preceding participle, this should form a dative absolute. The construction is not absolute, however, since this pronoun refers to Igor, who is also the subject of the main clause.
  • vŭspętĭ -- adverb; <vŭspętĭ> back, toward the back, in reverse, in return -- back
  • razmyslivŭ -- past participle; masculine nominative singular of <razmysliti, -šljǫ, -sliši> think, consider -- (and) having changed (his) mind
  • reče -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <rešti, rekǫ, rečeši> say, tell -- he said
  • družině -- noun; feminine dative singular of <družina> retinue, band of retainers, troop -- to... retinue
  • svoei -- adjective; feminine dative singular of <svoi, svoe, svoja> own, one's own -- his
  • iděte -- verb; 2nd person plural imperative of <iti, idǫ, ideši> go -- Go
  • -- preposition; <> (w. gen.) (down) from; (w. instr.) with -- with
  • danĭju -- noun; feminine instrumental singular of <danĭ> tribute -- the tribute
  • domovi -- noun; masculine dative singular of <domŭ> house -- home
  • a -- conjunction; <a> and, but; if -- but
  • ja -- pronoun; nominative singular of <azŭ> I -- I
  • vozŭvraščju -- verb; 1st person singular present of <vŭzvratiti, -štǫ, -tiši> give back; (refl.) come back -- I will turn back
  • -- pronoun; accusative singular of <sebe> -self, oneself -- ...
  • poxožju -- verb; 1st person singular present of <poxoditi, -ždǫ, -diši> go, go around -- (and) will walk back
  • i -- adverb; <i> and; also, too, even -- yet
  • ešče -- adverb; <ešče> still -- again

11-13 - pusti družinu svoju domovi. sŭ malomŭ že družiny vozŭvrati sę želaja bolĭša iměnĭja.

  • pusti -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <pustiti, -štǫ, -stiši> allow, let, free; send (away) -- He sent
  • družinu -- noun; feminine accusative singular of <družina> retinue, band of retainers, troop -- retinue
  • svoju -- adjective; feminine accusative singular of <svoi, svoe, svoja> own, one's own -- his
  • domovi -- noun; masculine dative singular of <domŭ> house -- home
  • -- preposition; <> (w. gen.) (down) from; (w. instr.) with -- with
  • malomŭ -- adjective used as substantive; neuter instrumental singular of <malŭ> small, young -- a small (part)
  • že -- conjunction; <že> and, but -- and
  • družiny -- noun; feminine genitive singular of <družina> retinue, band of retainers, troop -- of (his) retinue
  • vozŭvrati -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <vŭzvratiti, -štǫ, -tiši> give back; (refl.) come back -- he returned
  • -- pronoun; accusative singular of <sebe> -self, oneself -- ...
  • želaja -- participle; masculine nominative singular of <želati, -lajǫ, -laješi> desire, want, wish for -- desiring
  • bolĭša -- comparative adjective; neuter accusative plural of <bol'ĭi> bigger, more -- more
  • iměnĭja -- noun; neuter accusative plural of <iměnĭe> having, possession, property -- possessions

13-19 - slyšavše že derevlęne jako ōpętĭ idetĭ. sdumavše so knęzemŭ svoimŭ malomŭ, ašče sę vŭvaditĭ volkŭ v ovcě, to vynositĭ vse stado, ašče ne ubĭjutĭ ego. tako i se -- ašče ne ubĭemŭ ego, to vse ny pogubitĭ -- poslaša k nemu glagoljušče, počto ideši ōpętĭ. poimalŭ esi vsju danĭ.

  • slyšavše -- past participle; masculine nominative plural of <slyšati, -šǫ, -šiši> hear -- heard # With this and the following participle, note the frequent use of participles in Old Russian in place of a finite (conjugated) verb form.
  • že -- conjunction; <že> and, but -- But
  • derevlęne -- adjective used as substantive; masculine nominative plural of <drěvljaninŭ> Derevlian, from Dereva -- the Derevlians
  • jako -- conjunction; <jako> as, when; in order to; that; because; (introduces quotation) -- that
  • ōpętĭ -- adverb; <opętĭ> back -- back
  • idetĭ -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <iti, idǫ, ideši> go -- he (was) coming
  • sdumavše -- past participle; masculine nominative plural of <sŭdumati, -ajǫ, -aješi> deliberate, consider, take counsel -- (and) sought counsel
  • so -- preposition; <> (w. gen.) (down) from; (w. instr.) with -- with
  • knęzemŭ -- noun; masculine instrumental singular of <kŭnęzĭ> prince -- prince
  • svoimŭ -- adjective; masculine instrumental singular of <svoi, svoe, svoja> own, one's own -- their
  • malomŭ -- proper noun; masculine instrumental singular of <Malŭ> Mal (name of a prince) -- Mal
  • ašče -- conjunction; <ašte> if, whether -- If
  • -- pronoun; accusative singular of <sebe> -self, oneself -- itself
  • vŭvaditĭ -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <vŭvaditi, -važdǫ, -vadiši> join; (refl.) introduce oneself, enter -- introduces
  • volkŭ -- noun; masculine nominative singular of <vlŭkŭ> wolf -- a wolf
  • v -- preposition; <> (w. loc.) in; (w. acc.) into -- among
  • ovcě -- noun; feminine accusative plural of <ovĭca> sheep -- the sheep
  • to -- conjunction; <to> but, then, therefore -- then
  • vynositĭ -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <vynositi, -šǫ, -siši> carry off, make off with -- make away with
  • vse -- adjective; neuter accusative singular of <vĭsĭ> all, every; whole -- the whole
  • stado -- noun; neuter accusative singular of <stado> herd -- flock
  • ašče -- conjunction; <ašte> if, whether -- if
  • ne -- adverb; <ne> not -- not
  • ubĭjutĭ -- verb; 3rd person plural present of <ubiti, -bijǫ, -biješi> kill -- they do... kill
  • ego -- pronoun; masculine genitive singular of <*i> he -- it
  • tako -- adverb; <tako> thus, in this way -- So
  • i -- adverb; <i> and; also, too, even -- also
  • se -- demonstrative pronoun; neuter nominative singular of <sĭ, se, si> this, this one -- (with) this
  • ašče -- conjunction; <ašte> if, whether -- if
  • ne -- adverb; <ne> not -- not
  • ubĭemŭ -- verb; 1st person plural present of <ubiti, -bijǫ, -biješi> kill -- we do... kill
  • ego -- pronoun; masculine genitive singular of <*i> he -- him
  • to -- conjunction; <to> but, then, therefore -- then
  • vse -- adjective; masculine accusative plural of <vĭsĭ> all, every; whole -- all # Note the masculine plural ending -e instead of the expected or -ja.
  • ny -- pronoun; accusative plural of <azŭ> I -- us
  • pogubitĭ -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <pogubiti, -bljǫ, -biši> destroy -- will destroy
  • poslaša -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <posŭlati, -l'jǫ, -l'ješi> send, summon -- They sent
  • k -- preposition; <> (w. dat.) to, toward -- to
  • nemu -- pronoun; masculine dative singular of <*i> he -- him
  • glagoljušče -- participle; masculine nominative plural of <glagolati, -l'jǫ, -l'ješi> say, speak -- saying
  • počto -- preposition; <po> (w. dat.) on, about (motion on surface); (w. acc.) on, after, on account of; (w. loc.) after, following, for + interrogative pronoun; neuter accusative singular of <kŭto> who -- For what
  • ideši -- verb; 2nd person singular present of <iti, idǫ, ideši> go -- do you return
  • ōpętĭ -- adverb; <opętĭ> back -- ...
  • poimalŭ -- past participle; masculine nominative singular of <poimati, -jeml'jǫ, -jeml'ješi> take, take away -- taken
  • esi -- verb; 2nd person singular present of <byti, bǫdǫ, bǫdeši> be, become -- you have
  • vsju -- adjective; feminine accusative singular of <vĭsĭ> all, every; whole -- all
  • danĭ -- noun; feminine accusative singular of <danĭ> tribute -- the tribute

19-21 - i ne posluša ixŭ igorĭ. i vyšedše izŭ grada izŭkorŭstěnę derevlene ubiša igorę i družinu ego, bě bo ixŭ malo.

  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- But
  • ne -- adverb; <ne> not -- not
  • posluša -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <poslušati, -ajǫ, -aješi> hear, listen -- did... heed
  • ixŭ -- pronoun; masculine genitive plural of <*i> he -- them
  • igorĭ -- proper noun; masculine nominative singular of <Igorĭ> Igor, Ingvar (Scandinavian name) -- Igor
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- And
  • vyšedše -- past participle; masculine nominative plural of <vŭniti, -idǫ, -ideši> go into, enter -- having set forth
  • izŭ -- preposition; <iz> (w. gen.) from, out of -- from
  • grada -- noun; masculine genitive singular of <gradŭ> walled structure, walled fortification; garden, enclosed park; home, dwelling, household; city -- the city
  • izŭkorŭstěnę -- proper noun; masculine genitive singular of <Iskorostěnĭ> Iskorosten (name of a city) -- Iskorosten
  • derevlene -- adjective used as substantive; masculine nominative plural of <drěvljaninŭ> Derevlian, from Dereva -- the Derevlians
  • ubiša -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <ubiti, -bijǫ, -biješi> kill -- killed
  • igorę -- proper noun; masculine genitive singular of <Igorĭ> Igor, Ingvar (Scandinavian name) -- Igor
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • družinu -- noun; feminine accusative singular of <družina> retinue, band of retainers, troop -- retinue
  • ego -- pronoun; masculine genitive singular of <*i> he -- his
  • -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <byti, bǫdǫ, bǫdeši> be, become -- there were
  • bo -- conjunction; <bo> for -- for
  • ixŭ -- pronoun; masculine genitive plural of <*i> he -- of them
  • malo -- adjective used as substantive; neuter nominative singular of <malŭ> small, young -- (just) a few

21-23 - i pogrebenŭ bystĭ igorĭ. estĭ mogila ego u iskorŭstěnę grada v derevěxŭ i do sego dne.

  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- And
  • pogrebenŭ -- past passive participle; masculine nominative singular of <pogreti, -grebǫ, -grebeši> bury -- buried # Note the use of the past passive participle in a true passive construction
  • bystĭ -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <byti, bǫdǫ, bǫdeši> be, become -- was
  • igorĭ -- proper noun; masculine nominative singular of <Igorĭ> Igor, Ingvar (Scandinavian name) -- Igor
  • estĭ -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <byti, bǫdǫ, bǫdeši> be, become -- is
  • mogila -- noun; feminine nominative singular of <mogyla> grave, tomb, burial mound -- grave # Note the use of -i- after a velar consonant where -y- is expected
  • ego -- pronoun; masculine genitive singular of <*i> he -- his
  • u -- preposition; <u> (w. gen.) near, at, by -- near
  • iskorŭstěnę -- proper noun; masculine genitive singular of <Iskorostěnĭ> Iskorosten (name of a city) -- Iskorosten
  • grada -- noun; masculine genitive singular of <gradŭ> walled structure, walled fortification; garden, enclosed park; home, dwelling, household; city -- the city
  • v -- preposition; <> (w. loc.) in; (w. acc.) into -- in
  • derevěxŭ -- proper noun; masculine locative plural of <Derevy> Dereva (placename) -- Dereva
  • i -- adverb; <i> and; also, too, even -- even
  • do -- preposition; <do> (w. gen.) to, up to; (with numerals) about -- up to
  • sego -- demonstrative adjective; masculine genitive singular of <sĭ, se, si> this, this one -- this
  • dne -- noun; masculine genitive singular of <dĭnĭ> day -- day

23-26 - volĭga že bęše v kievě sŭ synŭmŭ sŭ dětĭskomŭ svętoslavomŭ i kormilecĭ ego asmudŭ. voevoda bě svěneldŭ, tože ōtĭcĭ mistišinŭ.

  • volĭga -- proper noun; feminine nominative singular of <Olĭga> Olga, Helga (Scandinavian name) -- Olga # Note the insertion of v- before initial o-.
  • že -- conjunction; <že> and, but -- But
  • bęše -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect of <byti, bǫdǫ, bǫdeši> be, become -- was
  • v -- preposition; <> (w. loc.) in; (w. acc.) into -- in
  • kievě -- proper noun; masculine locative singular of <Kyevŭ> Kiev, Kyiv (name of a city) -- Kiev
  • -- preposition; <> (w. gen.) (down) from; (w. instr.) with -- with
  • synŭmŭ -- noun; masculine instrumental singular of <synŭ> son -- (her) son
  • -- preposition; <> (w. gen.) (down) from; (w. instr.) with -- ...
  • dětĭskomŭ -- adjective; masculine instrumental singular of <dětĭskŭ> childish -- the child
  • svętoslavomŭ -- proper noun; masculine instrumental singular of <Svętoslavŭ> Svjatoslav, Svyatoslav, Sviatoslav (name of a prince) -- Svjatoslav # Note here and frequently elsewhere in the text the back jer in the instrumental singular ending, rather than the expected front jer : -omĭ. Such alternation is frequent both in Old Russian and Old Church Slavonic texts. One must be careful not to confuse such forms with the dative plural.
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- as well as
  • kormilecĭ -- noun; masculine nominative singular of <krŭmilĭcĭ> tutor, teacher, pedagogue -- tutor
  • ego -- pronoun; masculine genitive singular of <*i> he -- his
  • asmudŭ -- proper noun; masculine nominative singular of <Asmudŭ> Asmud, Asmund, Asmundr (Scandinavian name) -- Asmund
  • voevoda -- noun; masculine nominative singular of <voevoda> (military) commander, vojevoda -- (His) commander
  • -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <byti, bǫdǫ, bǫdeši> be, become -- was
  • svěneldŭ -- proper noun; masculine nominative singular of <Svěnĭldŭ> Sveinald (Scandinavian name) -- Sveinald
  • tože -- conjunction; <tože> also, and -- ...
  • ōtĭcĭ -- noun; masculine nominative singular of <otĭcĭ> father -- father
  • mistišinŭ -- adjective; masculine nominative singular of <mistišinŭ> of Mistisha, relating to Mistisha, Mistisha's -- of Mistisha

26-29 - rěša že derevlęne, se knęzę ubixomŭ ruskago. poimemŭ ženu ego volĭgu za knęzĭ svoi malŭ i svętoslava, i stvorimŭ emu jako že xoščemŭ.

  • rěša -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <rešti, rekǫ, rečeši> say, tell -- said
  • že -- conjunction; <že> and, but -- And
  • derevlęne -- adjective used as substantive; masculine nominative plural of <drěvljaninŭ> Derevlian, from Dereva -- the Derevlians
  • se -- interjection; <se> lo, behold -- Lo!
  • knęzę -- noun; masculine genitive singular of <kŭnęzĭ> prince -- the... prince
  • ubixomŭ -- verb; 1st person plural aorist of <ubiti, -bijǫ, -biješi> kill -- We have killed
  • ruskago -- adjective; masculine genitive singular of <rusĭskŭ> Rus (Rus'), of the Rus, relating to the Rus, Rusian, Russian -- Russian
  • poimemŭ -- verb; 1st person plural present of <pojęti, -imǫ, -imeši> take, seize -- (Let us) take # Either a present form used with imperative force, or poimemŭ a variant spelling of poiměmŭ
  • ženu -- noun; feminine accusative singular of <žena> woman, wife -- wife
  • ego -- pronoun; masculine genitive singular of <*i> he -- his
  • volĭgu -- proper noun; feminine accusative singular of <Olĭga> Olga, Helga (Scandinavian name) -- Olga
  • za -- preposition; <za> (w. acc.) after, by, because of, for; (w. instr.) behind; (w. gen.) because of -- for
  • knęzĭ -- noun; masculine accusative singular of <kŭnęzĭ> prince -- prince
  • svoi -- adjective; masculine accusative singular of <svoi, svoe, svoja> own, one's own -- our # Note the use of the 3rd person reflexive pronominal adjective when the referent is 1st person
  • malŭ -- proper noun; masculine accusative singular of <Malŭ> Mal (name of a prince) -- Mal
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- as well as # Linking the two direct objects of the verb, ženu and svętoslava.
  • svętoslava -- proper noun; masculine genitive singular of <Svętoslavŭ> Svjatoslav, Svyatoslav, Sviatoslav (name of a prince) -- Svjatoslav # This is a second direct object of poimemŭ, parallel to ženu. Note the use of the genitive instead of the accusative for Svętoslava, whereas we find the expected accusative form Malŭ after za.
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • stvorimŭ -- verb; 1st person plural present of <sŭtvoriti, -rjǫ, -riši> do, make -- we will do
  • emu -- pronoun; masculine dative singular of <*i> he -- with him
  • jako že -- conjunction; <jakože> as, like, than, so as to -- as
  • xoščemŭ -- verb; 1st person plural present of <xotěti, xoštǫ, xošteši> want, wish -- we wish

29-31 - i poslaša derevlęne lučĭšie muži čislomŭ .k. vŭ lodĭi k olĭzě.

  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- And
  • poslaša -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <posŭlati, -l'jǫ, -l'ješi> send, summon -- sent
  • derevlęne -- adjective used as substantive; masculine nominative plural of <drěvljaninŭ> Derevlian, from Dereva -- the Derevlians
  • lučĭšie -- comparative adjective; masculine accusative plural of <lučĭi, luče, lučĭši> better -- (their) best
  • muži -- noun; masculine accusative plural of <mǫžĭ> man, husband -- men
  • čislomŭ -- noun; neuter instrumental singular of <čislo> number -- by number
  • k -- number; <k> twenty -- 20
  • -- preposition; <> (w. loc.) in; (w. acc.) into -- in
  • lodĭi -- noun; feminine locative singular of <lodĭja> boat -- a boat
  • k -- preposition; <> (w. dat.) to, toward -- to
  • olĭzě -- proper noun; feminine dative singular of <Olĭga> Olga, Helga (Scandinavian name) -- Olga

31-35 - i pristaša podŭ boričevymŭ v lodĭi. bě bo togda voda tekušči vŭzdolě gory kievĭskija i na podolĭi ne sědęxu ljudĭe, no na gorě. gradŭ že bě kievŭ, ideže estĭ nyně dvorŭ gordętinŭ i nikiforovŭ.

  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- And
  • pristaša -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <pristati, -stanǫ, -staneši> stand near; be near, be present; come, arrive -- they arrived
  • podŭ -- preposition; <podŭ> (w. acc.) under, below (object of motion); (w. instr.) under, below (location) -- below
  • boričevymŭ -- adjective used as substantive; masculine instrumental singular of <boričevŭ> of Boris, relating to Boris; (subst. m.) the Borichev (a trail between upper and lower reaches of Kiev) -- the Borichev
  • v -- preposition; <> (w. loc.) in; (w. acc.) into -- in
  • lodĭi -- noun; feminine locative singular of <lodĭja> boat -- a boat
  • -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <byti, bǫdǫ, bǫdeši> be, become -- there was
  • bo -- conjunction; <bo> for -- For
  • togda -- adverb; <togda> then -- at that time
  • voda -- noun; feminine nominative singular of <voda> water -- water
  • tekušči -- participle; feminine nominative singular of <tešti, tekǫ, tečeši> run, rush, flow; follow, pursue -- flowing
  • vŭzdolě -- preposition; <vŭzdolě> (w. gen.) below, at the bottom of -- at the foot
  • gory -- noun; feminine genitive singular of <gora> mountain -- of the... hill
  • kievĭskija -- adjective; feminine genitive singular of <kyjevĭskŭ> of Kiev, of Kyiv, Kievan -- Kievan
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • na -- preposition; <na> (w. acc.) onto, against, for, to the extent; (w. loc.) on, at -- at
  • podolĭi -- noun; neuter locative singular of <podolĭje> valley, vale; base, foundation -- the base
  • ne -- adverb; <ne> not -- not
  • sědęxu -- verb; 3rd person plural imperfect of <sěděti, -ždǫ, -diši> sit, remain -- had not settled
  • ljudĭe -- noun; masculine nominative plural of <ljudĭje> (pl.) men, people; population, (a) people -- the people
  • no -- conjunction; <> but -- but
  • na -- preposition; <na> (w. acc.) onto, against, for, to the extent; (w. loc.) on, at -- on
  • gorě -- noun; feminine locative singular of <gora> mountain -- the hill
  • gradŭ -- noun; masculine nominative singular of <gradŭ> walled structure, walled fortification; garden, enclosed park; home, dwelling, household; city -- a city
  • že -- conjunction; <že> and, but -- And
  • -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <byti, bǫdǫ, bǫdeši> be, become -- there was
  • kievŭ -- proper noun; masculine nominative singular of <Kyjevŭ> Kiev, Kyiv -- Kiev
  • ideže -- adverb; <ide> where; since; however + conjunction; <že> and, but -- where
  • estĭ -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <byti, bǫdǫ, bǫdeši> be, become -- is
  • nyně -- adverb; <nyn'ja, nyně> now -- now
  • dvorŭ -- noun; masculine nominative singular of <dvorŭ> court, courtyard; home, household -- the court
  • gordętinŭ -- adjective; masculine nominative singular of <gordjatinŭ> of Gordjata, of Gordyata -- of Gordjata
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • nikiforovŭ -- adjective; masculine nominative singular of <nikiforovŭ> of Nicephorus -- Nicephorus

35-38 - a dvorŭ knęžĭ bęše v gorodě ideže estĭ dvorŭ demĭstikovŭ za svętoju bogorodiceju nadŭ goroju. dvorŭ teremyi, bě bo tu teremŭ kamenŭ.

  • a -- conjunction; <a> and, but; if -- But
  • dvorŭ -- noun; masculine nominative singular of <dvorŭ> court, courtyard; home, household -- the... court
  • knęžĭ -- adjective; masculine nominative singular of <kŭnęžĭ> of a prince, relating to a prince, princely -- prince's
  • bęše -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect of <byti, bǫdǫ, bǫdeši> be, become -- was
  • v -- preposition; <> (w. loc.) in; (w. acc.) into -- in
  • gorodě -- noun; masculine locative singular of <gradŭ> walled structure, walled fortification; garden, enclosed park; home, dwelling, household; city -- the city # Note the alternation, within a few lines, between gradŭ and gorodŭ.
  • ideže -- adverb; <ide> where; since; however + conjunction; <že> and, but -- where
  • estĭ -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <byti, bǫdǫ, bǫdeši> be, become -- is
  • dvorŭ -- noun; masculine nominative singular of <dvorŭ> court, courtyard; home, household -- the court
  • demĭstikovŭ -- adjective; masculine nominative singular of <demestikovŭ> of the domesticus, relating to the domesticus (originally within Byzantine tradition a term denoting the leader of certain guard units; later a term applied to certain civil and ecclesiastical posts, in particular to the choir leader) -- of the domesticus
  • za -- preposition; <za> (w. acc.) after, by, because of, for; (w. instr.) behind; (w. gen.) because of -- behind
  • svętoju -- adjective; feminine instrumental singular of <svętŭ> holy, blessed -- the Holy
  • bogorodiceju -- noun; feminine instrumental singular of <bogorodica> mother of God -- Mother of God # Likely the title of a church.
  • nadŭ -- preposition; <nadŭ> (w. acc. or instr.) over, above -- above
  • goroju -- noun; feminine instrumental singular of <gora> mountain -- the hill
  • dvorŭ -- noun; masculine nominative singular of <dvorŭ> court, courtyard; home, household -- (It is) the... court
  • teremyi -- adjective; masculine nominative singular of <trěmĭnŭ> of a tower, relating to a tower, relating to a castle -- tower
  • -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <byti, bǫdǫ, bǫdeši> be, become -- was
  • bo -- conjunction; <bo> for -- for
  • tu -- adverb; <tu> there; then -- there
  • teremŭ -- noun; masculine nominative singular of <trěmŭ> tower, castle; home, residence -- a tower
  • kamenŭ -- noun; masculine genitive plural of <kamy> stone, rock -- of stones

Lesson Text

1 V lěto ,dz. u. n g.

2-5 -
V se že lěto rekoša družina igorevi ōtroci svěnĭlŭži isoděli sę sutĭ ōružĭemŭ i porty a my nazi. poidi knęže s nami v danĭ da i ty dobudeši i my. 5-7 -
posluša ixŭ igorĭ. ide v dereva v danĭ i primyšlęše kŭ pervoi dani nasilęše imŭ i muži ego. 7-11 -
vozĭemavŭ danĭ poide vŭ gradŭ svoi. idušče že emu vŭspętĭ razmyslivŭ reče družině svoei iděte sŭ danĭju domovi, a ja vozŭvraščju sę poxožju i ešče. 11-13 -
pusti družinu svoju domovi. sŭ malomŭ že družiny vozŭvrati sę želaja bolĭša iměnĭja. 13-19 -
slyšavše že derevlęne jako ōpętĭ idetĭ. sdumavše so knęzemŭ svoimŭ malomŭ, ašče sę vŭvaditĭ volkŭ v ovcě, to vynositĭ vse stado, ašče ne ubĭjutĭ ego. tako i se -- ašče ne ubĭemŭ ego, to vse ny pogubitĭ -- poslaša k nemu glagoljušče, počto ideši ōpętĭ. poimalŭ esi vsju danĭ. 19-21 -
i ne posluša ixŭ igorĭ. i vyšedše izŭ grada izŭkorŭstěnę derevlene ubiša igorę i družinu ego, bě bo ixŭ malo. 21-23 -
i pogrebenŭ bystĭ igorĭ. estĭ mogila ego u iskorŭstěnę grada v derevěxŭ i do sego dne. 23-26 -
volĭga že bęše v kievě sŭ synŭmŭ sŭ dětĭskomŭ svętoslavomŭ i kormilecĭ ego asmudŭ. voevoda bě svěneldŭ, tože ōtĭcĭ mistišinŭ. 26-29 -
rěša že derevlęne, se knęzę ubixomŭ ruskago. poimemŭ ženu ego volĭgu za knęzĭ svoi malŭ i svętoslava, i stvorimŭ emu jako že xoščemŭ. 29-31 -
i poslaša derevlęne lučĭšie muži čislomŭ .k. vŭ lodĭi k olĭzě. 31-35 -
i pristaša podŭ boričevymŭ v lodĭi. bě bo togda voda tekušči vŭzdolě gory kievĭskija i na podolĭi ne sědęxu ljudĭe, no na gorě. gradŭ že bě kievŭ, ideže estĭ nyně dvorŭ gordętinŭ i nikiforovŭ. 35-38 -
a dvorŭ knęžĭ bęše v gorodě ideže estĭ dvorŭ demĭstikovŭ za svętoju bogorodiceju nadŭ goroju. dvorŭ teremyi, bě bo tu teremŭ kamenŭ.

Translation

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.

Grammar

11. i- and u-Stem Nouns

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.

11.1. i-Stem Nouns

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 -i appears in a large number of the declensional endings, and those endings which do not contain -i often contain -ĭ- [-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, gostĭ 'guest' and gospodĭ 'lord' are masculine i-stems, while vĭsĭ 'village' and kupělĭ 'bath' are feminine. The feminine noun kostĭ 'bone' and the masculine noun putĭ 'way, path' serve to illustrate the declension.

    Singular   Dual   Plural           Singular   Dual   Plural
N   kostĭ   kosti   kosti           putĭ   puti   putĭe
A   kostĭ   kosti   kosti           putĭ   puti   puti
G   kosti   kostĭju   kostĭi           puti   putĭju   putĭi
L   kosti   kostĭju   kostĭxŭ           puti   putĭju   putĭxŭ
D   kosti   kostĭma   kostĭmŭ           puti   putĭma   putĭmŭ
I   kostĭju   kostĭma   kostĭmi           putĭmĭ   putĭma   putĭmi
V   kosti   kosti   kosti           puti   puti   putĭe

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 kostĭju [kostĭju] is tense, so we often find the sequence -ĭj- vocalized as -i-: kostiju. Moreover, in the instrumental singular putĭmĭ, the first (penultimate) jer falls in strong position, so that we occasionally find this form written as putemĭ. Similarly for other forms throughout the paradigm.

One also encounters situations in which i-stem nouns adopt endings from the twofold declension: whereas gospodĭ 'lord' typically shows the form gospodi in both genitive and dative singular, we occasionally find twofold forms gospoda and gospodu, respectively.

11.2. u-Stem Nouns

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: domŭ 'house', činŭ 'order', stanŭ '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 -u- and endings showing -ov- that runs through the u-declension paradigm.

The masculine noun synŭ 'son' serves to illustrate the inflectional pattern followed by u-stem nouns.

    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   synŭ   syny   synove
A   synŭ   syny   syny
G   synu   synovu   synovŭ
L   synu   synovu   synŭxŭ
D   synovi   synŭma   synŭmŭ
I   synŭmĭ   synŭma   synŭmi
V   synu   syny   synove

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: syn-ŭ-mŭ, where the penultimate -ŭ- 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 synomŭ. 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 -o-, 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 synomŭ alongside synŭmŭ 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 synŭmĭ: this archaic form appears in Old Russian, but never in Old Church Slavonic, which retains only the fully vocalized form synomĭ.

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 domŭ 'home' shows an o-stem dative singular domu alongside the normal u-stem dative domovi. This process works in both directions, so that the proper name Olĭgŭ 'Oleg', an o-stem noun, shows dative singular Olĭgovi.

Moreover, in a palatalized environment the sequence -jov- often fronts to -jev-. Thus instead of *konovi (unattested) as an alternate to the expected dative konju 'to the horse', we find konevi; similarly we find vorobieve 'sparrows' for the nominative plural of vorobii. In addition, we even find the -ov- suffix inserted as if part of the nominal stem before another full ending: e.g. dative plural synovomŭ 'to the sons'.

12. o- and a-Stem Adjectives

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 *i.

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.

12.1. Hard Indefinite Adjectives

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 dobro 'good' serves to illustrate the paradigm.

    Masculine   Neuter   Feminine
N Sg.   dobrŭ   dobro   dobra
A   dobrŭ   dobro   dobru
G   dobra   dobra   dobry
L   dobrě   dobrě   dobrě
D   dobru   dobru   dobrě
I   dobromĭ   dobromĭ   dobroju
V   dobrŭ   dobro   dobra
             
N Du.   dobra   dobrě   dobrě
A   dobra   dobrě   dobrě
G   dobru   dobru   dobru
L   dobru   dobru   dobru
D   dobroma   dobroma   dobrama
I   dobroma   dobroma   dobrama
V   dobra   dobrě   dobrě
             
N Pl.   dobri   dobra   dobry
A   dobry   dobra   dobry
G   dobrŭ   dobrŭ   dobrŭ
L   dobrěxŭ   dobrěxŭ   dobraxŭ
D   dobromŭ   dobromŭ   dobramŭ
I   dobry   dobry   dobrami
V   dobri   dobra   dobry

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 velikŭ 'great' has masculine genitive singular velika, but locative singular velicě and nominative plural velici. 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.

12.2. Soft Indefinite Adjectives

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 sin'ĭ 'blue' serves to illustrate the paradigm.

    Masculine   Neuter   Feminine
N Sg.   sin'ĭ   sin'e   sin'ja
A   sin'ĭ   sin'e   sin'ju
G   sin'ja   sin'ja   sin'ě
L   sin'i   sin'i   sin'i
D   sin'ju   sin'ju   sin'i
I   sin'emĭ   sin'emĭ   sin'eju
V   sin'ĭ   sin'e   sin'ja
             
N Du.   sin'ja   sin'i   sin'i
A   sin'ja   sin'i   sin'i
G   sin'ju   sin'ju   sin'ju
L   sin'ju   sin'ju   sin'ju
D   sin'ema   sin'ema   sin'jama
I   sin'ema   sin'ema   sin'jama
V   sin'ja   sin'i   sin'i
             
N Pl.   sin'i   sin'ja   sin'ě
A   sin'ě   sin'ja   sin'ě
G   sin'ĭ   sin'ĭ   sin'ĭ
L   sin'ixŭ   sin'ixŭ   sin'jaxŭ
D   sin'emŭ   sin'emŭ   sin'jamŭ
I   sin'i   sin'i   sin'jami
V   sin'i   sin'ja   sin'ě

Some adjective stems end in a front glide, such as boži- [božĭj-] 'of god, divine'. In such instances the masculine nominative singular ending [] combines with the glide to yield -i: božĭi [božĭjĭ], or due to the tense position of the first jer, božii.

13. Pronominal Declension

The first introduction in this series to the more general paradigm of pronominal declension was with the third person pronoun *i 'he'. There we first encountered the surest marker of pronominal declension, namely the masculine and neuter genitive singular ending in -go. 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 -go is preceded by the vowel -o- or -e-, respectively.

13.1. Hard Stem Pronominal Declension

The hard stem pronominal declension is characterized by a masculine and neuter genitive singular in -ogo. The same declension also typically exhibits a genitive and locative plural in -ěxŭ for all genders. The distal deictic pronoun onŭ 'that one there' serves to illustrate the paradigm.

    Masculine   Neuter   Feminine
N Sg.   onŭ   ono   ona
A   onŭ   ono   onu
G   onogo   onogo   onoě, onoja
L   onomĭ   onomĭ   onoi
D   onomu   onomu   onoi
I   oněmĭ   oněmĭ   onoju
V            
             
N Du.   ona   oně   oně
A   ona   oně   oně
G   onoju   onoju   onoju
L   onoju   onoju   onoju
D   oněma   oněma   oněma
I   oněma   oněma   oněma
V            
             
N Pl.   oni   ona   ony
A   ony   ona   ony
G   oněxŭ   oněxŭ   oněxŭ
L   oněxŭ   oněxŭ   oněxŭ
D   oněmŭ   oněmŭ   oněmŭ
I   oněmi   oněmi   oněmi
V            

The common deictic pronoun 'that one' also declines according to the hard stem pronominal declension, as well as the correlative demonstratives ovŭ... ovŭ 'this... that, the one... the other' and ovŭ... inŭ 'this one here... that one there'. The adjective mŭnogŭ 'much, many' follows the same declension, showing the effects of second palatalization in certain case forms, such as masculine dative plural mŭnozěmŭ and instrumental plural mŭnozěmi.

13.2. Soft Stem Pronominal Declension

A masculine and neuter genitive singular in -ego characterizes the soft stem pronominal declension. This declension also typically exhibits a genitive and locative plural in -ixŭ for all genders. The proximal deictic pronoun 'this one here' illustrates the paradigm.

    Masculine   Neuter   Feminine
N Sg.   sĭ, sĭi   se, sĭe   si, sija
A     se, sĭe   sju, sĭju
G   sego   sego   seě, seja
L   semĭ   semĭ   sei
D   semu   semu   sei
I   simĭ   simĭ   seju
V            
             
N Du.   sija   sii   sii
A   sija   sii   sii
G   seju   seju   seju
L   seju   seju   seju
D   sima   sima   sima
I   sima   sima   sima
V            
             
N Pl.   si, sii   si, sja   siě
A   siě   si, sja   siě
G   sixŭ   sixŭ   sixŭ
L   sixŭ   sixŭ   sixŭ
D   simŭ   simŭ   simŭ
I   simi   simi   simi
V            

We see in the above paradigm the introduction of a secondary form sĭi. Phonetically this represents [sĭjĭ], and as usual the sequence -jĭ- is represented as -i-. Since the first jer, inasmuch as it precedes a yod, is tense, it may also be written as -i-, and so we frequently find the form sii. Alternately, since the first jer is strong, yet soft, we may find it vocalized as -e-: sei. 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 moi 'my' serves to illustrate the paradigm.

    Masculine   Neuter   Feminine
N Sg.   moi   moe   moja
A   moi   moe   moju
G   moego   moego   moeě, moeja
L   moemĭ   moemĭ   moei
D   moemu   moemu   moei
I   moimĭ   moimĭ   moeju
V            
             
N Du.   moja   moi   moi
A   moja   moi   moi
G   moeju   moeju   moeju
L   moeju   moeju   moeju
D   moima   moima   moima
I   moima   moima   moima
V            
             
N Pl.   moi   moja   moě
A   moě   moja   moě
G   moixŭ   moixŭ   moixŭ
L   moixŭ   moixŭ   moixŭ
D   moimŭ   moimŭ   moimŭ
I   moimi   moimi   moimi
V            

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 moěxŭ, as well as dative plural moěmŭ.

The remaining personal possessive adjectives follow the same declension: tvoi 'thy, your'; svoi 'one's own'; našĭ 'our'; vašĭ 'your'; and even the relative-interrogative possessive adjective čĭi 'whose'.

13.3. Mixed Pronominal Declension

The extremely common adjective vĭsĭ '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.

    Masculine   Neuter   Feminine
N Sg.   vĭsĭ   vĭse   vĭsja
A   vĭsĭ   vĭse   vĭsju
G   vĭsego   vĭsego   vĭseě, vĭseja
L   vĭsemĭ   vĭsemĭ   vĭsei
D   vĭsemu   vĭsemu   vĭsei
I   vĭsěmĭ   vĭsěmĭ   vĭseju
V            
             
N Du.   vĭsja   vĭsi   vĭsi
A   vĭsja   vĭsi   vĭsi
G   vĭseju   vĭseju   vĭseju
L   vĭseju   vĭseju   vĭseju
D   vĭsěma   vĭsěma   vĭsěma
I   vĭsěma   vĭsěma   vĭsěma
V            
             
N Pl.   vĭsi   vĭsja   vĭsě
A   vĭsě   vĭsja   vĭsě
G   vĭsěxŭ   vĭsěxŭ   vĭsěxŭ
L   vĭsěxŭ   vĭsěxŭ   vĭsěxŭ
D   vĭsěmŭ   vĭsěmŭ   vĭsěmŭ
I   vĭsěmi   vĭsěmi   vĭsěmi
V            
14. The Aorist System

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

  1. that, by virtue of being completed, both the beginning and end of the action have occurred, so that there is no possibility that the action may be viewed as potentially continuing up until the time of utterance; and
  2. that, by virtue of excluding reference to internal structure, the beginning and end of the action, and hence the middle as well, cannot be distinguished from one another.

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 -ti, and then removes the -ti altogether. The remaining verbal stem serves as the stem for the construction of the aorist.

14.1. Asigmatic 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:

  1. isolated remnants of the aorist of a pair of common verbs, and
  2. in the second and third person singular aorist of most verbs, where the root aorist forms seem to have replaced the etymologically expected forms in both the sigmatic and ox-aorist paradigms.

Of the true root aorists that survive into Old Russian, the most prevalent is that built to iti 'to go', with stem id-. The root aorist paradigm of this verb is listed below.

    Singular   Dual   Plural
1   (idŭ)   (idově)   (idomŭ)
2   ide   (ideta)   (idete)
3   ide   (ideta)   (idu)

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 reči 'to speak', with stem rek-. Again, the root aorist forms occur only in the second and third person singular, and they are identical: reče, derived from CS *rekes in the second person, from *reket in the third.

14.2. Sigmatic Aorist

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: reči 'to speak', with stem rek-. The sigmatic aorist paradigm of this verb is as follows.

    Singular   Dual   Plural
1   rěxŭ   rěxově   rěxomŭ
2   reče   rěsta   rěste
3   reče   rěsta   rěša

Again we see the intrusion of the root aorist in the second and third person singular with the common form reče. But in the remaining forms we see the presence of the s-suffix. The first person singular rěxŭ follows via the ruki rule (cf. Section 6.5) from *re:k-s-om > *rěksŭ > rěxŭ, though the front environment prevents this retraction in the third person plural: *re:k-s-nt > *rěksę > rěša. 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 of the long vowel, rather than of the expected short root vowel PIE *e > CS *e.

14.3. New Aorist

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 -oš- 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 reči 'to speak', with infinitive-aorist stem rek-, and znati 'to know', with infinitive-aorist stem zna-, serve to illustrate the paradigm.

    Singular   Dual   Plural           Singular   Dual   Plural
1   rekoxŭ   rekoxově   rekoxomŭ           znaxŭ   znaxově   znaxomŭ
2   reče   rekosta   rekoste           zna   znasta   znaste
3   reče   rekosta   rekoša           zna   znasta   znaša

In the second and third person singular we once again note the retention of root aorist forms. We see that the ending -e of these forms does not appear when the stem ends in a vowel. We also see clearly that the infinitive-aorist stem, here rek- for the verb reči, contains stem-final sounds in the form that precedes any sound changes that might occur upon adding the infinitive suffix -ti. Thus, for example, gre-ti 'to row', from *greb-ti, builds the aorist on the stem greb-. The verb iti 'to go' also builds a new aorist, with stem id-. The forms of these verbs are as follows.

    Singular   Dual   Plural           Singular   Dual   Plural
1   greboxŭ   greboxově   greboxomŭ           idoxŭ   idoxově   idoxomŭ
2   grebe   grebosta   greboste           ide   idosta   idoste
3   grebe   grebosta   greboša           ide   idosta   idoša

Certain anomalies, however, present themselves. For example, reči 'to speak' also shows signs of a stem rĭk- alongside the more common rek-: rkoša 'they said'. Similarly the verbs teči 'to run' and žeči 'to burn' show stems tĭk- and žĭg-, respectively.

Moreover verbs whose stem derives from an etymological nasal, or -r-, among a handful of others, often show an ending -tŭ in the second and third person singular. Athematic verbs, such as dati 'to give' and věděti 'to know', also show an alternate suffix -stŭ in these forms, which in certain instances may derive originally from a stem-final -d followed by the -tŭ suffix just mentioned. Consider the following examples.

Infinitive   Meaning   Stem   2nd/3rd Sg.   OCS
vŭz-ja-ti   take   vŭzja-   vŭzjatŭ   vŭzęti
na-čja-ti   begin   načja-   načjatŭ   nacęti
u-mere-ti   die   umrě-   umrětŭ   umrěti
da-ti   give   da(d)-   dastŭ   dati
věd-ě-ti   know   věd-   věstŭ   věděti

Verbs with the -nu- suffix show two different aorist formations. In one formation, the ox-aorist is built from the stem including the nu-suffix. In the other formation, the nu-suffix itself is dropped and the ox-aorist is built directly to the remaining stem. The verb dvig-nu-ti 'to move' illustrates the forms.

    Singular   Dual   Plural           Singular   Dual   Plural
1   dvigŭ   dvigoxově   dvigoxomŭ           dvignuxŭ   dvignuxově   dvignuxomŭ
2   dviže   dvigosta   dvigoste           dvignu   dvignusta   dvignuste
3   dviže   dvigosta   dvigoša           dvignu   dvignusta   dvignuša

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.

15. Genitive Objects & Negation

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.

15.1. Genitive Objects

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: ubiša Igorja i družinu ego "They killed Igor and his retinue" (Primary Chronicle). Here we see that the aorist ubiša 'they killed' takes the direct object družinu 'retinue' (from the feminine noun družina) in the accusative as expected. But rather than employing the normal accusative Igorĭ of the proper noun Igorĭ '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: poiměmŭ ženu ego Olĭgu za kŭnjazĭ svoi Malŭ, i Svjatoslava... "Let us take his wife, Olga, for our prince, Mal, and Svjatoslav..." (Primary Chronicle). Here ženu (from žena 'wife') and Olĭgu (from Olĭga 'Olga') show the distinct accusative singular appropriate to feminine nouns. But Svjatoslava (from Svjatoslavŭ 'Svjatoslav'), also the direct object of poiměmŭ '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 družina '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: to prisŭlite muža naročity, da vŭ velicě čisti poidu za vašĭ kŭnjazĭ "... 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 muža (from mužĭ 'man'), together with the adjective naročity (from the adjective naročitŭ 'distinguished'), distinctly show the endings of the accusative plural.

15.2. Genitive with Negation

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: i ne posluxa ixŭ Igorĭ "and Igor didn't listen to them", or slightly more literally "and Igor didn't hear them", emphasizing the fact that posluxa expects a direct object (Primary Chronicle). Rather than the proper accusative plural ě or ja (cf. OCS ), we find the direct object in the genitive plural ixŭ. Similarly ne věsi zakona "You don't know the law" (Primary Chronicle), where the proper accusative would be zakonŭ '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: nyně u vasŭ něstĭ medu ni skory "Now there is neither honey nor wine in your possession" (Primary Chronicle). Here medu is the genitive singular, rather than the expected nominative of the u-stem noun medŭ 'honey'. Likewise skory is the genitive singular of the feminine noun skora 'fur'.