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Old Russian Online

Lesson 5

Todd B. Krause and Jonathan Slocum

IV. The Path to Christianity in Early Russia

The second defining event of the early Russian state is the adoption of Christianity by prince Vladimir in 988 AD. In the simplest terms the fundamental reason for the singular importance of this event is that, as with the Southern Slavs before them, it is only with the arrival of Christianity that the Eastern Slavs enter the larger European historical record. The importation of Christianity brought with it a preoccupation with text, specifically with the text of the Bible, and this focus on the written word served to spur a culture of writing and bookish learning to a degree that had not yet been seen among the Eastern Slavs. The literary documents which provide us with a window into early East Slavic culture, and into the language which distinguished it, owe their very existence to this newfound interest in the written word.

But the second aspect of Christianity's adoption among the Rus that had dramatic repercussions for the rest of East Slavic history was how it occurred. Specifically the fact that Vladimir accepted the Christian teachings espoused by the clergy at Byzantium meant that the East Slavs remained politically aligned with Byzantium and focused on points east. This had the effect of putting up a sort of barrier between them and the rest of Western Europe, and so early Russia therefore neglected to take part in many of the cultural and religious movements that characterized the transition of Western Europe out of the Middle Ages and into the Modern Age.

Such a momentous decision obviously did not take place in a vacuum. We must therefore attempt to understand Vladimir's acceptance of the Byzantine recension in the context of the times.

IV.i The Historical Context

Already in the fourth century AD Christianity had found adherents north of the Black Sea. In particular the Goths had adopted Christianity, though they subscribed to the heretical teachings of Arius, who opposed the doctrine of Trinitarianism, whereby the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are supposed to be of the "same essence". But as the Huns invaded the region, the Goths were dislodged and a primary foothold of Christianity along the expanding steppe left with them. Following the Goths' departure numerous systems of belief, ranging from Islam, brought by Arabs to the shores of Greece, to paganism, brought by the Avars into Pannonia, began to vie for dominance in the reaches of Eastern Europe.

Christianity made its reentrance to Eastern Europe with the expansion of Charlemagne's empire in the late 8th century. It was Charlemagne who pushed out from his Frankish homeland and drove the Avars from their seat along the Danube. This reintroduced Christianity to the eastern frontier of Europe and opened a wave of Germanic missionary work. Moreover, Charlemagne legitimized his ascension by linking himself directly to the papal seat of power in Rome. This provided a model of imperial expansion and legitimation which numerous princes throughout Western Europe sought to emulate.

It was in this context that the princes of Moravia sent to Byzantium for missionaries. They had grown weary of encroachment by German-speaking missionaries who gave the liturgy in Latin. And so Constantine (later Cyril) and Methodius made their famous entrance into history in the middle of the 9th century by translating the liturgy into Old Church Slavonic in their various travels to Moravia.

Though the introduction of Byzantine Christianity to Moravia provided a strong bond between Byzantium and a large part of the Slavic world at the time, the Eastern Slavs for their part still let it be known that they were not immediately prone to being fast friends with the Byzantine Empire. Already in the early 9th century the Rus had pillaged the Byzantine city of Amastris. Byzantium subsequently militarized Cheronesus (Korsun) in the Crimea to protect its shipping routes in the Black Sea.

To add insult to injury, in 860 the Rus attacked Byzantium unexpectedly with 200 ships. As a consequence Byzantium struck an alliance with the Khazars in an effort to protect themselves from the Rus. But on a more conciliatory front, Byzantium sent a mission to convert the Rus to Christianity, with the hope of persuading them to a more friendly disposition toward the empire. Evidently this plan met with some success, as in 867 the Rus accepted a bishop.

But the strengthening of ties between Byzantium and the emerging Russian state only proceeded in fits and starts. Shortly thereafter, in 907, prince Oleg of Kiev attacked Byzantium to guarantee Rus trade rights with the empire. This was followed in 941 by a campaign led by Oleg's successor Igor, who also attacked Byzantium with a view to secure trade rights. Ultimately they were repulsed by the Greek fire, but undeterred Igor again led a force against Byzantium in 943. The emperor quickly agreed to reinstate the basic principles of the treaty struck after Oleg's original campaign, and Igor departed without entering the city.

Shortly after Igor's death at the hands of a regional tribe harried by his unceasing appetite for tribute, the Byzantine missions gained an unexpected convert. Sometime between 954-956 Igor's widow Olga, mother of Svjatoslav, is baptized in Byzantium. But upon assuming power Svjatoslav rejected Christianity and began a fierce offensive against neighboring kingdoms.

After defeating the Khazars to the southeast, Svjatoslav turns west in 968 at the behest of the Byzantine emperor to attack and defeat the Bulgarians along the Danube. He returns abruptly to Kiev as it falls under attack from the Pechenegs. Repulsing the Pecheneg onslaught, Svjatoslav decides he no longer wishes to remain in Kiev, and returns to Bulgaria to dethrone tsar Boris II and set up a capital at Pereiaslavets on the Danube. Svjatoslav's plans are thwarted when, in 971, the new Byzantine emperor defeats the Bulgarians, now allied with Svjatoslav, and reinstalls Boris II. Svjatoslav is forced to surrender and come to terms: he must cease his attacks on the Byzantine Empire, particularly in the Crimea, and must send military aid when requested. As Svjatoslav returns from Bulgaria to Kiev, he is attacked by the Pechenegs on the Dnieper. He is killed and his skull used by the Pecheneg leader as a drinking vessel. The Russian throne falls to Svjatoslav's son Jaropolk, who maintains power for less than a decade before being deposed by his brother Vladimir.

This is the sequence of events leading up to Vladimir's decision to convert to Christianity. The Primary Chronicle recounts the process by which he arrives at his decision. Briefly, Vladimir sends envoys to the centers of practice of the major religions: Islam, Judaism, Western Christianity, and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. The envoys are impressed with Byzantium's Church of St. Sophia, and their report convinces Vladimir to accept Eastern Christianity. Vladimir subsequently attacks Cheronesus in the Crimea, and in exchange for not attacking Byzantium in the same fashion, he wins the hand of Anna, the Byzantine emperor's daughter, in marriage.

The Primary Chronicle therefore portrays the decision as a wise comparison of the major religions of the surrounding regions, in which Vladimir bases his decision on the obvious superiority of Byzantine worship. But the Primary Chronicle leaves out some crucial details (Majeska, 2009):

  • Vladimir already knew all these faiths. For example the Khazars were Jews and Svjatoslav had recently defeated them; the Bulgars on the Volga practiced Islam.
  • Christianity was already gaining sway among the Varangians: Olga had been baptized, and some Christian Varangians in Kiev had been killed for refusing to take part in pagan sacrifice.

It seems plausible, therefore, that Vladimir's decision was informed not only by a sage comparison of faiths, but also by the political exigencies that often force the hand of forward-leaning leaders. In particular we can isolate at least four different factors surrounding Vladimir's conversion that likely pushed him toward Byzantium (Majeska 2009):

  1. Vladimir captured Kiev from his brother Jaropolk with the assistance of a Viking force; they were now demanding payment.
  2. In 988 Vladimir sent 6,000 warriors to assist the Byzantine emperor Basil II in putting down a rebellion with forces directly threatening Byzantium itself.
  3. German emperor Otto II had sought Anna's hand in marriage but was rebuked as being of insufficient prestige.
  4. Christianity was rapidly spreading across Northern and Eastern Europe as a means of attaining prestige among the Western European empires.

Vladimir would not have been immune to consideration of the obvious benefits. On the one hand, as a Christian Vladimir would gain respect throughout the other European empires. On the other hand, by marrying Anna, Vladimir would immediately gain higher status than Otto II. The drawback, of course, was that to marry Anna Vladimir would have to accept the Eastern Orthodoxy. But Vladimir had likely already decided to do this. So finally, in 989, Vladimir declared Eastern Christianity the national religion of the Rus.

Reading and Textual Analysis

The passage below describes how Olga, not content with the punishment exacted, seeks further retribution with Derevlian visitors. Having done all she can to the envoys of the Derevlians, she determines to visit destruction upon the Derevlians in their own land. She couches her answers to the Derevlians' inquiries in oblique references to hide her intents, and she once more exacts revenge on the unsuspecting nobles. The extract lists lines 71-101.

71-74 - poslavši ōlĭga kŭ derevlęnomŭ reče imŭ, da ašče mę prositi pravo, to prišlite muža naročity, da v velicě čti pridu za vašĭ knęzĭ. eda ne pustętĭ mene ljudĭe kievĭstii.

  • poslavši -- past participle; feminine nominative singular of <posŭlati, -l'jǫ, -l'ješi> send, summon -- having sent
  • ōlĭga -- proper noun; feminine nominative singular of <Olĭga> Olga, Helga (Scandinavian name) -- Olga
  • -- preposition; <> (w. dat.) to, toward -- to
  • derevlęnomŭ -- adjective used as substantive; masculine dative plural of <drěvljaninŭ> Derevlian, from Dereva -- the Derevlians
  • reče -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <rešti, rekǫ, rečeši> say, tell -- said
  • imŭ -- pronoun; masculine dative plural of <*i> he -- to them
  • da -- conjunction; <da> in order to, that; may, let; and, then -- ...
  • ašče -- conjunction; <ašte> if, whether -- If
  • -- pronoun; accusative singular of <azŭ> I -- me
  • prositi -- verb; infinitive of <prositi, -šǫ, -siši> ask, demand -- to seek
  • pravo -- adjective; neuter nominative singular of <pravŭ> just, right, proper -- (it is) proper
  • to -- conjunction; <to> but, then, therefore -- then
  • prišlite -- verb; 2nd person plural imperative of <prisŭlati, -ljǫ, -lješi> send -- send
  • muža -- noun; masculine accusative plural of <mǫžĭ> man, husband -- men
  • naročity -- adjective; masculine accusative plural of <naročitŭ> established, well established, noteworthy, notable, noble -- noteworthy
  • da -- conjunction; <da> in order to, that; may, let; and, then -- so that
  • v -- preposition; <> (w. loc.) in; (w. acc.) into -- in
  • velicě -- adjective; feminine locative singular of <velikŭ> big, large, great -- the highest
  • čti -- noun; feminine locative singular of <čĭstĭ> honor, rank, reverence, feast, device, pattern -- honor
  • pridu -- verb; 1st person singular present of <priti, -idǫ, -ideši> come, arrive -- I go
  • za -- preposition; <za> (w. acc.) after, by, because of, for; (w. instr.) behind; (w. gen.) because of -- to
  • vašĭ -- adjective; masculine accusative singular of <vašĭ> of you, your (pl.) -- your
  • knęzĭ -- noun; masculine accusative singular of <kŭnęzĭ> prince -- prince
  • eda -- adverb; <jeda> if, if only, would that; that not, lest; unless, otherwise -- Otherwise
  • ne -- adverb; <ne> not -- not
  • pustętĭ -- verb; 3rd person plural present of <pustiti, -štǫ, -stiši> allow, let, free; send (away) -- will... release # Note the use of the present in what here must be construed either as a strict future tense or as a gnomic present (something generally true)
  • mene -- pronoun; genitive singular of <azŭ> I -- me # Note genitive with negation; the preceding use of the pronoun, , shows the direct object (Olga) in the accusative
  • ljudĭe -- noun; masculine nominative plural of <ljudĭje> (pl.) men, people; population, (a) people -- the... people
  • kievĭstii -- adjective; masculine nominative plural of <kyjevĭskŭ> of Kiev, of Kyiv, Kievan -- Kievan # Note the result -st- of second palatalization of -sk-

74-77 - se slyšavše derevlęne sobraša sę lučĭšie muži iže derĭžaxu derevĭsku zemlju. i poslaša po nju.

  • se -- demonstrative pronoun; neuter accusative singular of <sĭ, se, si> this, this one -- this
  • slyšavše -- past participle; masculine nominative plural of <slyšati, -šǫ, -šiši> hear -- When... heard # Note the translation of the participle as a full subordinate clause with temporal force
  • derevlęne -- adjective used as substantive; masculine nominative plural of <drěvljaninŭ> Derevlian, from Dereva -- the Derevlians
  • sobraša -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <sŭbĭrati, -berǫ, -bereši> collect, gather -- (there) gathered
  • -- pronoun; accusative singular of <sebe> -self, oneself -- ...
  • lučĭšie -- comparative adjective; masculine nominative plural of <lučĭi, luče, lučĭši> better -- the best
  • muži -- noun; masculine nominative plural of <mǫžĭ> man, husband -- men
  • iže -- relative pronoun; masculine nominative plural of <iže> who, which -- who
  • derĭžaxu -- verb; 3rd person plural imperfect of <drŭžati, -žǫ, -žiši> hold, have power over, rule -- held power over
  • derevĭsku -- adjective; feminine accusative singular of <drěvĭskŭ> of Dereva, related to Dereva, Derevlian -- of Dereva
  • zemlju -- noun; feminine accusative singular of <zeml'ja> earth, land -- the land
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • poslaša -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <posŭlati, -l'jǫ, -l'ješi> send, summon -- they sent (them)
  • po -- preposition; <po> (w. dat.) on, about (motion on surface); (w. acc.) on, after, on account of; (w. loc.) after, following, for -- for
  • nju -- pronoun; feminine accusative singular of <*i> he -- her

77-79 - derevlęnomŭ že prišedŭšimŭ povelě ōlĭga movĭ stvoriti rĭkušče sice, izmyvše sę pridite ko mně.

  • derevlęnomŭ -- adjective used as substantive; masculine dative plural of <drěvljaninŭ> Derevlian, from Dereva -- the Derevlians
  • že -- conjunction; <že> and, but -- ...
  • prišedŭšimŭ -- past participle; masculine dative plural of <priti, -idǫ, -ideši> come, arrive -- When... arrived # Dative absolute. Note the translation with a full subordinate clause providing temporal force.
  • povelě -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <povelěti, -ljǫ, -liši> give a command, command -- ordered (them)
  • ōlĭga -- proper noun; feminine nominative singular of <Olĭga> Olga, Helga (Scandinavian name) -- Olga
  • movĭ -- noun; feminine accusative singular of <movĭ> a washing, bath -- a bath
  • stvoriti -- verb; infinitive of <sŭtvoriti, -rjǫ, -riši> do, make -- to take
  • rĭkušče -- participle; masculine nominative plural of <rešti, rekǫ, rečeši> say, tell -- speaking # Either a misspelling for rĭkušči, the proper feminine nominative singular, or an instance of a frozen masculine plural form functioning as a gerund
  • sice -- adverb; <sice> thus, so -- thus
  • izmyvše -- past participle; masculine nominative plural of <izmyti, -myjǫ, -myješi> bathe, wash -- (Once you) have washed # Note the use of a past participle to denote an action preceding the action denoted by the imperative.
  • -- pronoun; accusative singular of <sebe> -self, oneself -- yourselves
  • pridite -- verb; 2nd person plural imperative of <priti, -idǫ, -ideši> come, arrive -- come
  • ko -- preposition; <> (w. dat.) to, toward -- to
  • mně -- pronoun; dative singular of <azŭ> I -- me

79-82 - ōni že perežĭgoša istopku i vlězoša derevlęne. načaša sę myti i zaproša ō nixŭ istobŭku.

  • ōni -- demonstrative pronoun; masculine nominative singular of <onŭ, ono, ona> that, that one -- they
  • že -- conjunction; <že> and, but -- And
  • perežĭgoša -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <prěžešti, -žegǫ, -žežeši> burn -- they heated
  • istopku -- noun; feminine accusative singular of <istŭbŭka> tent, hut; bathhouse -- the bathhouse
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • vlězoša -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <vŭlěsti, -lězǫ, -lězeši> enter; descend (into) -- entered
  • derevlęne -- adjective used as substantive; masculine nominative plural of <drěvljaninŭ> Derevlian, from Dereva -- the Derevlians
  • načaša -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <načęti, -čĭnǫ, -čĭneši> begin -- They began
  • -- pronoun; accusative singular of <sebe> -self, oneself -- ...
  • myti -- verb; infinitive of <myti, myjǫ, myješi> bathe, wash -- to bathe
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • zaproša -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <zaprěti, -prǫ, -preši> close, shut -- they shut
  • ō -- preposition; <o (ob)> (w. loc.) around; about, concerning; for; by; (w. instr.) at, by, along; (w. acc.) against -- around
  • nixŭ -- pronoun; masculine locative plural of <*i> he -- them
  • istobŭku -- noun; feminine accusative singular of <istŭbŭka> tent, hut; bathhouse -- the bathhouse

82-83 - i povelě zažeči ja ō^ dverii. tu izgorěša vsi.

  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- And
  • povelě -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <povelěti, -ljǫ, -liši> give a command, command -- she gave the command
  • zažeči -- verb; infinitive of <zažešti, -žegǫ, -žežeši> set on fire, ignite, burn -- to burn
  • ja -- pronoun; masculine accusative plural of <*i> he -- them
  • ō^ -- preposition; <otŭ> (w. gen.) of, from; by -- from
  • dverii -- noun; feminine genitive plural of <dvĭrĭ> door, front door, entrance -- the doors
  • tu -- adverb; <tu> there; then -- There
  • izgorěša -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <izgorěti, -rjǫ, -riši> burn up -- they... perished (in the flames)
  • vsi -- adjective; masculine nominative plural of <vĭsĭ> all, every; whole -- all

83-87 - i posla kŭ derevlęnomŭ rĭkušči sice, se uže idu k vamŭ. da pristroite medy mnogi vŭ gradě ideže ubiste muža moego, da plačju sę nadŭ grobomŭ ego i stvorju tryznu mužju svoemu.

  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- And
  • posla -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <posŭlati, -l'jǫ, -l'ješi> send, summon -- sent
  • -- preposition; <> (w. dat.) to, toward -- to
  • derevlęnomŭ -- adjective used as substantive; masculine dative plural of <drěvljaninŭ> Derevlian, from Dereva -- the Derevlians
  • rĭkušči -- participle; feminine nominative singular of <rešti, rekǫ, rečeši> say, tell -- saying
  • sice -- adverb; <sice> thus, so -- thus
  • se -- interjection; <se> lo, behold -- Lo!
  • uže -- adverb; <juže, uže> already -- Now
  • idu -- verb; 1st person singular present of <iti, idǫ, ideši> go -- I will go
  • k -- preposition; <> (w. dat.) to, toward -- to
  • vamŭ -- pronoun; dative plural of <ty> you, thou -- you
  • da -- conjunction; <da> in order to, that; may, let; and, then -- So
  • pristroite -- verb; 2nd person plural imperative of <pristroiti, -strojǫ, -stroiši> prepare, make ready, arrange -- make ready
  • medy -- noun; masculine accusative plural of <medŭ, medu> honey -- honey
  • mnogi -- adjective; masculine accusative plural of <mŭnogŭ> much, many -- great (quantities of)
  • -- preposition; <> (w. loc.) in; (w. acc.) into -- in
  • gradě -- noun; masculine locative singular of <gradŭ> walled structure, walled fortification; garden, enclosed park; home, dwelling, household; city -- the city
  • ideže -- adverb; <ide> where; since; however + conjunction; <že> and, but -- where
  • ubiste -- verb; 2nd person plural aorist of <ubiti, -bijǫ, -biješi> kill -- you killed
  • muža -- noun; masculine genitive singular of <mǫžĭ> man, husband -- husband
  • moego -- adjective; masculine genitive singular of <moi, moe, moja> my, mine -- my
  • da -- conjunction; <da> in order to, that; may, let; and, then -- so that
  • plačju -- verb; 1st person singular present of <plakati, plačǫ, -češi> weep, mourn -- I may mourn
  • -- pronoun; accusative singular of <sebe> -self, oneself -- ...
  • nadŭ -- preposition; <nadŭ> (w. acc. or instr.) over, above -- over
  • grobomŭ -- noun; masculine instrumental singular of <grobŭ> grave, ditch -- grave
  • ego -- pronoun; masculine genitive singular of <*i> he -- his
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • stvorju -- verb; 1st person singular present of <sŭtvoriti, -rjǫ, -riši> do, make -- conduct
  • tryznu -- noun; feminine accusative singular of <trizna, tryzna> contest, prize; stadium; trench, track; funeral repast, commemoration of the dead -- a wake
  • mužju -- noun; masculine dative singular of <mǫžĭ> man, husband -- for... husband
  • svoemu -- adjective; masculine dative singular of <svoi, svoe, svoja> own, one's own -- my

87-88 - ōni že to slyšavše sŭvezoša medy mnogi zělo. vŭzvariša.

  • ōni -- demonstrative pronoun; masculine nominative singular of <onŭ, ono, ona> that, that one -- they
  • že -- conjunction; <že> and, but -- And
  • to -- demonstrative pronoun; neuter accusative singular of <tŭ, to, ta> that, that one -- this
  • slyšavše -- past participle; masculine nominative plural of <slyšati, -šǫ, -šiši> hear -- having heard
  • sŭvezoša -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <sŭvesti, -zǫ, -zeši> bring together, collect, gather -- gathered
  • medy -- noun; masculine accusative plural of <medŭ, medu> honey -- honey
  • mnogi -- adjective; masculine accusative plural of <mŭnogŭ> much, many -- great (quantities of)
  • zělo -- adverb; <zělo> very -- exceedingly
  • vŭzvariša -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <vŭzvariti, -rjǫ, -riši> cook -- They cooked (it)

88-90 - ōlĭga že poimši maly družiny, legŭko idušči, pride kŭ grobu ego.

  • ōlĭga -- proper noun; feminine nominative singular of <Olĭga> Olga, Helga (Scandinavian name) -- Olga
  • že -- conjunction; <že> and, but -- But
  • poimši -- past participle; feminine nominative singular of <pojęti, -imǫ, -imeši> take, seize -- having gathered
  • maly -- adjective; feminine genitive singular of <malŭ> small, young -- a small # For expected neuter accusative singular as substantive: malo družiny
  • družiny -- noun; feminine genitive singular of <družina> retinue, band of retainers, troop -- retinue
  • legŭko -- adverb; <lĭgŭko> easily -- easily
  • idušči -- participle; 2nd person feminine nominative singular of <iti, idǫ, ideši> go -- going
  • pride -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <priti, -idǫ, -ideši> come, arrive -- arrived
  • -- preposition; <> (w. dat.) to, toward -- at
  • grobu -- noun; masculine dative singular of <grobŭ> grave, ditch -- grave
  • ego -- pronoun; masculine genitive singular of <*i> he -- his

90-92 - plaka sę po muži svoemŭ. i povelě ljudemŭ svoimŭ sŭsuti mogilu veliku, jako sospoša. i povelě tryznu tvoriti.

  • plaka -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <plakati, plačǫ, -češi> weep, mourn -- She wept
  • -- pronoun; accusative singular of <sebe> -self, oneself -- ...
  • po -- preposition; <po> (w. dat.) on, about (motion on surface); (w. acc.) on, after, on account of; (w. loc.) after, following, for -- for
  • muži -- noun; masculine locative singular of <mǫžĭ> man, husband -- husband
  • svoemŭ -- adjective; masculine locative singular of <svoi, svoe, svoja> own, one's own -- her
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- And
  • povelě -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <povelěti, -ljǫ, -liši> give a command, command -- she ordered
  • ljudemŭ -- noun; masculine dative plural of <ljudĭje> (pl.) men, people; population, (a) people -- people
  • svoimŭ -- adjective; masculine dative plural of <svoi, svoe, svoja> own, one's own -- her
  • sŭsuti -- verb; infinitive of <sŭsuti, sŭsŭpǫ, sŭsŭpeši> collect, heap up -- to heap up
  • mogilu -- noun; feminine accusative singular of <mogyla> grave, tomb, burial mound -- burial mound
  • veliku -- adjective; feminine accusative singular of <velikŭ> big, large, great -- a great
  • jako -- conjunction; <jako> as, when; in order to; that; because; (introduces quotation) -- so that
  • sospoša -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <sŭsuti, sŭsŭpǫ, sŭsŭpeši> collect, heap up -- they built (it) up
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- And
  • povelě -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <povelěti, -ljǫ, -liši> give a command, command -- she ordered (them)
  • tryznu -- noun; feminine accusative singular of <trizna, tryzna> contest, prize; stadium; trench, track; funeral repast, commemoration of the dead -- a wake
  • tvoriti -- verb; infinitive of <sŭtvoriti, -rjǫ, -riši> do, make -- to conduct

92-94 - po semĭ sědoša derevlęne piti. i povelě ōlĭga ōtrokomŭ svoimŭ služiti pred nimi.

  • po -- preposition; <po> (w. dat.) on, about (motion on surface); (w. acc.) on, after, on account of; (w. loc.) after, following, for -- after
  • semĭ -- demonstrative pronoun; neuter locative singular of <sĭ, se, si> this, this one -- this
  • sědoša -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <sěděti, -ždǫ, -diši> sit, remain -- sat down
  • derevlęne -- adjective used as substantive; masculine nominative plural of <drěvljaninŭ> Derevlian, from Dereva -- the Derevlians
  • piti -- verb; infinitive of <piti, pijǫ, piješi> drink -- to drink
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- And
  • povelě -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <povelěti, -ljǫ, -liši> give a command, command -- ordered
  • ōlĭga -- proper noun; feminine nominative singular of <Olĭga> Olga, Helga (Scandinavian name) -- Olga
  • ōtrokomŭ -- noun; masculine dative plural of <otrokŭ> boy, servant -- servants
  • svoimŭ -- adjective; masculine dative plural of <svoi, svoe, svoja> own, one's own -- her
  • služiti -- verb; infinitive of <služiti, -žǫ, -žiši> minister (to), serve -- to minister
  • pred -- preposition; <prědŭ> (w. acc. or instr.) before, in front of -- before
  • nimi -- pronoun; masculine instrumental plural of <*i> he -- them

94-96 - rěša derevlęne k olĭzě, kdě sutĭ družina naša, ixŭ že poslaxomŭ po tę.

  • rěša -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <rešti, rekǫ, rečeši> say, tell -- aksed
  • derevlęne -- adjective used as substantive; masculine nominative plural of <drěvljaninŭ> Derevlian, from Dereva -- the Derevlians
  • k -- preposition; <> (w. dat.) to, toward -- ...
  • olĭzě -- proper noun; feminine dative singular of <Olĭga> Olga, Helga (Scandinavian name) -- Olga
  • kdě -- interrogative adverb; <kŭde> where, when -- Where
  • sutĭ -- verb; 3rd person plural present of <byti, bǫdǫ, bǫdeši> be, become -- is
  • družina -- noun; feminine nominative singular of <družina> retinue, band of retainers, troop -- retinue
  • naša -- adjective; feminine nominative singular of <našĭ> our, of us -- our
  • ixŭ že -- pronoun; masculine genitive plural of <*i> he + conjunction; <že> and, but -- which # Genitive object, plural with collective sense of družina
  • poslaxomŭ -- verb; 1st person plural aorist of <posŭlati, -l'jǫ, -l'ješi> send, summon -- we sent
  • po -- preposition; <po> (w. dat.) on, about (motion on surface); (w. acc.) on, after, on account of; (w. loc.) after, following, for -- for
  • -- pronoun; accusative singular of <ty> you, thou -- you

96-97 - ōna že reče, idutĭ po mně sŭ družinoju muža moego.

  • ōna -- demonstrative pronoun; feminine nominative singular of <onŭ, ono, ona> that, that one -- she
  • že -- conjunction; <že> and, but -- And
  • reče -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <rešti, rekǫ, rečeši> say, tell -- said
  • idutĭ -- verb; 3rd person plural present of <iti, idǫ, ideši> go -- They are coming
  • po -- preposition; <po> (w. dat.) on, about (motion on surface); (w. acc.) on, after, on account of; (w. loc.) after, following, for -- after
  • mně -- pronoun; locative singular of <azŭ> I -- me
  • -- preposition; <> (w. gen.) (down) from; (w. instr.) with -- with
  • družinoju -- noun; feminine instrumental singular of <družina> retinue, band of retainers, troop -- the retinue
  • muža -- noun; masculine genitive singular of <mǫžĭ> man, husband -- of... husband
  • moego -- adjective; masculine genitive singular of <moi, moe, moja> my, mine -- my

97-98 - jako upiša sę derevlęne, povele ōtrokomŭ svoimŭ piti na nę.

  • jako -- conjunction; <jako> as, when; in order to; that; because; (introduces quotation) -- As
  • upiša -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <upiti sę, -pĭjǫ, -pĭješi> become inebriated, get drunk -- had become drunk
  • -- pronoun; accusative singular of <sebe> -self, oneself -- ...
  • derevlęne -- adjective used as substantive; masculine nominative plural of <drěvljaninŭ> Derevlian, from Dereva -- the Derevlians
  • povele -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <povelěti, -ljǫ, -liši> give a command, command -- she ordered
  • ōtrokomŭ -- noun; masculine dative plural of <otrokŭ> boy, servant -- servants
  • svoimŭ -- adjective; masculine dative plural of <svoi, svoe, svoja> own, one's own -- her
  • piti -- verb; infinitive of <piti, pijǫ, piješi> drink -- to fall # Taken by most scholars as a scribal error for iti or poiti
  • na -- preposition; <na> (w. acc.) onto, against, for, to the extent; (w. loc.) on, at -- upon
  • -- pronoun; masculine accusative plural of <*i> he -- them

98-101 - a sama ō^ide kromě i povelě družině sěči derevlęne. i isěkoša ixŭ ,e. a ōlĭga vozŭvrati sę kievu i pristroi voi na prokŭ ixŭ.

  • a -- conjunction; <a> and, but; if -- Then
  • sama -- adjective used as substantive; feminine nominative singular of <samŭ> self, oneself -- she
  • ō^ide -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <otiti, -idǫ, -ideši> go out, depart -- stepped
  • kromě -- adverb; <kromě> (adv., prep. w. gen.) outside, far away, on the side, against -- out
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • povelě -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <povelěti, -ljǫ, -liši> give a command, command -- commanded
  • družině -- noun; feminine dative singular of <družina> retinue, band of retainers, troop -- (her) troop
  • sěči -- verb; infinitive of <sěšti, sěkǫ, sěčeši> cut down; scratch, carve; sacrifice, slaughter -- to cut down
  • derevlęne -- adjective used as substantive; masculine accusative plural of <drěvljaninŭ> Derevlian, from Dereva -- the Derevlians
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- And
  • isěkoša -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <isěšti, sěkǫ, sěčeši> cut down; kill, slaughter -- they killed
  • ixŭ -- pronoun; masculine genitive plural of <*i> he -- of them
  • e -- number; <e> five; five thousand -- five thousand
  • a -- conjunction; <a> and, but; if -- Then
  • ōlĭga -- proper noun; feminine nominative singular of <Olĭga> Olga, Helga (Scandinavian name) -- Olga
  • vozŭvrati -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <vŭzvratiti, -štǫ, -tiši> return; turn away; (refl.) leave -- returned
  • -- pronoun; accusative singular of <sebe> -self, oneself -- ...
  • kievu -- proper noun; masculine dative singular of <Kyevŭ> Kiev, Kyiv (name of a city) -- Kiev # Note the use of the dative to mark the destination, rather than the accusative
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • pristroi -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <pristroiti, -strojǫ, -stroiši> prepare, make ready, arrange -- prepared
  • voi -- noun; masculine accusative plural of <voji> fighter; (pl.) troops, army -- (her) army
  • na -- preposition; <na> (w. acc.) onto, against, for, to the extent; (w. loc.) on, at -- against
  • prokŭ -- adjective used as substantive; masculine accusative singular of <prokŭ> remaining, left over; (subst.) the remnants, the rest -- the rest
  • ixŭ -- pronoun; masculine genitive plural of <*i> he -- of them

Lesson Text

71-74 -
poslavši ōlĭga kŭ derevlęnomŭ reče imŭ, da ašče mę prositi pravo, to prišlite muža naročity, da v velicě čti pridu za vašĭ knęzĭ. eda ne pustętĭ mene ljudĭe kievĭstii. 74-77 -
se slyšavše derevlęne sobraša sę lučĭšie muži iže derĭžaxu derevĭsku zemlju. i poslaša po nju. 77-79 -
derevlęnomŭ že prišedŭšimŭ povelě ōlĭga movĭ stvoriti rĭkušče sice, izmyvše sę pridite ko mně. 79-82 -
ōni že perežĭgoša istopku i vlězoša derevlęne. načaša sę myti i zaproša ō nixŭ istobŭku. 82-83 -
i povelě zažeči ja ō^ dverii. tu izgorěša vsi. 83-87 -
i posla kŭ derevlęnomŭ rĭkušči sice, se uže idu k vamŭ. da pristroite medy mnogi vŭ gradě ideže ubiste muža moego, da plačju sę nadŭ grobomŭ ego i stvorju tryznu mužju svoemu. 87-88 -
ōni že to slyšavše sŭvezoša medy mnogi zělo. vŭzvariša. 88-90 -
ōlĭga že poimši maly družiny, legŭko idušči, pride kŭ grobu ego. 90-92 -
plaka sę po muži svoemŭ. i povelě ljudemŭ svoimŭ sŭsuti mogilu veliku, jako sospoša. i povelě tryznu tvoriti. 92-94 -
po semĭ sědoša derevlęne piti. i povelě ōlĭga ōtrokomŭ svoimŭ služiti pred nimi. 94-96 -
rěša derevlęne k olĭzě, kdě sutĭ družina naša, ixŭ že poslaxomŭ po tę. 96-97 -
ōna že reče, idutĭ po mně sŭ družinoju muža moego. 97-98 -
jako upiša sę derevlęne, povele ōtrokomŭ svoimŭ piti na nę. 98-101 -
a sama ō^ide kromě i povelě družině sěči derevlęne. i isěkoša ixŭ ,e. a ōlĭga vozŭvrati sę kievu i pristroi voi na prokŭ ixŭ.

Translation

71-74 Olga, having sent to the Derevlians, said to them, "If it is proper to seek me, then send noteworthy men, so that I go to your prince in the highest honor. Otherwise the Kievan people will not release me." 74-77 When the Derevlians heard this, there gathered the best men who held power over the land of Dereva. And they sent them for her. 77-79 When the Derevlians arrived, Olga ordered them to take a bath, speaking thus: "Once you have washed yourselves, come to me." 79-82 And they heated the bathhouse, and the Derevlians entered. They began to bathe, and they shut the bathhouse around them. 82-83 And she gave the command to burn them from the doors. There they all perished in the flames. 83-87 And she sent to the Derevlians, saying thus, "Lo! Now I will go to you. So make ready great (quantities of) honey in the city where you killed my husband, so that I may mourn over his grave and conduct a wake for my husband." 87-88 And having heard this, they gathered exceedingly great (quantities of) honey. They cooked it. 88-90 And Olga, having gathered a small retinue, going easily, arrived at his grave. 87-92 She wept for her husband. And she ordered her people to heap up a great burial mound, so that they built it up. And she ordered them to conduct a wake. 92-94 After this the Derevlians sat down to drink. And Olga ordered her servants to minister before them. 92-96 The Derevlians asked Olga, "Where is our retinue, which we sent for you?" 96-97 And she said, "They are coming after me with the retinue of my husband." 97-98 As the Derevlians had become drunk, she ordered her servants to fall upon them. 98-101 Then she stepped out and commanded her troop to cut down the Dervelians. And they killed 5,000 of them. Then Olga returned to Kiev and prepared her army against the rest of them.

Grammar

21. Further Consonant-Stem Nouns

We have already seen some examples of the declension of consonant stems, or the so-called e-declension, specifically the declension of v-stem and of n-stem nouns. In this section we continue that discussion. The basic outline is the same: the nominative singular shows a special form, but this is replaced by a suffix which remains throughout the rest of the paradigm. To this we append the inflectional endings, characterized by the -e of the genitive singular. With v-stems and n-stems we have not exhausted the suffix types which appear in Old Russian. In the following sections we outline the major stem types that remain.

21.1. s-Stem Nouns

The s-stem declension encompasses a small number of predominantly neuter nouns which occur quite frequently in the texts. Many of these nouns show their Indo-European heritage with striking clarity. For example once we take into account the loss of final *-s in Common Slavic and the loss of intervocalic *-s- in Greek, Old Russian nebo 'heaven', with genitive singular nebese, recalls morpheme for morpheme its Greek cousin nephos, with genitive singular nephous from earlier *neph-es-os. Other nouns in the declension follow the same basic pattern: an ending -o in the nominative and accusative singular (deriving from an original PIE *-os), but a suffix -es- persisting throughout the remainder of the paradigm to which the e-declension endings are added.

The neuter noun slovo 'word' is cognate with Greek klewos and Sanskrit šravas, both 'fame', and shows Old Russian's close affiliation with Sanskrit in the satem subgroup of languages, where the palatovelar consonants (such as Greek k-) evolved into true palatals (Old Russian s- [s-] and Sanskrit š-). The forms of slovo serve to illustrate the Old Russian declension.

    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   slovo   slovesě   slovesa
A   slovo   slovesě   slovesa
G   slovese   slovesu   slovesŭ
L   slovese   slovesu   slovesĭxŭ
D   slovesi   slovesĭma   slovesĭmŭ
I   slovesĭmĭ   slovesĭma   slovesy
V   slovo   slovesě   slovesa

We note in the instrumental plural that the ending is -y rather than the ending -ĭmi encountered in the paradigm of kamy.

By the time of the Old Russian texts the s-declension was no longer productive, that is, new nouns were no longer being adopted into, or inflected according to, this declension. It therefore comes as little surprise that nouns of this declension should appear with inflectional forms adopted from other more productive declensions. For example, the influence of the i-declension can be felt in the alternate genitive and locative singular form slovesi. The influence of the o-stem and i-stem nouns is particularly strong in the paradigms of the nouns oko 'eye' and uxo 'ear'. These nouns typically occur only in the singular and dual.

    Singular   Dual           Singular   Dual
N   oko   oči           uxo   uši
A   oko   oči           uxo   uši
G   očese   očĭju           ušese, uxa   ušĭju
L   očese   očĭju           ušese   ušĭju
D   očesi   očima           ušesi   ušima
I   očesĭmĭ   očima           ušesĭmĭ   ušima
V   oko   oči           uxo   uši

In the singular of uxo we see the intrusion of the o-stem declension with the re-formed genitive singular uxa. But in the dual forms of both nouns we see the complete overhall of the declension in accordance with the inflection of the i-stem nouns.

Note that the change k > č in the paradigm of oko and the change x > š in the paradigm of uxo both arise as a result of first palatalization.

21.2. nt-Stem Nouns

Another small class of consonant-stem nouns is that of the nt-stem declension. These nouns derive from a class showing the suffix *-ent in Proto-Indo-European. In final position this became *-ę in Common Slavic, yielding in Old Church Slavonic, but -ja or -a in Old Russian due to the general loss of nasalization in vowels. Preceding a vowel-initial ending, however, the tendency to re-analyze syllable boundaries meant that PIE *-ent-V- became Common Slavic *-en-tV-, hence *-ętV-. Thus we find Old Church Slavonic -ęt- and Old Russian -jat- or -at- as the suffixes that pervade the rest of the paradigm.

In general the nouns of this declension are diminutives built to other nouns, such as otroča 'child' from otrokŭ 'boy, servant' (compare OCS otročę from otrokŭ). All nouns in this declension are neuter. Old Russian otroča 'child' and telja 'calf' illustrate the forms.

    Singular   Dual   Plural           Singular   Dual   Plural
N   otroča   otročatě   otročata           telja   teljatě   teljata
A   otroča   otročatě   otročata           telja   teljatě   teljata
G   otročate   otročatu   otročatŭ           teljate   teljatu   teljatŭ
L   otročate   otročatu   otročatĭxŭ           teljate   teljatu   teljatĭxŭ
D   otročati   otročatĭma   otročatĭmŭ           teljati   teljatĭma   teljatĭmŭ
I   otročatĭmĭ   otročatĭma   otročaty           teljatĭmĭ   teljatĭma   teljaty
V   otroča   otročatě   otročata           telja   teljatě   teljata

Some nouns of this declension show interference from the i-stem nouns. Thus dětja 'child' has singular forms, such as the genitive dětjate, which follow the above pattern, but plural forms influenced by the i-declension: nominative and accusative plural děti, genitive plural dětĭi, locative plural dětĭxŭ, instrumental plural dětĭmi. One feminine noun of particular importance, desjatĭ 'ten', shows a mixture of forms from nt- and i-declensions. The forms are listed below.

    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   desjatĭ   desjati   desjate
A   desjatĭ   desjati   desjati
G   desjate   desjatu   desjatŭ
L   desjate   desjatu   desjatĭxŭ
D   desjati   desjatĭma   desjatĭmŭ
I   desjatĭju   desjatĭma   desjatĭmi
V   desjatĭ   desjati   desjate
21.3. r-Stem Nouns

The final important class of consonant-stem nouns we will discuss is the r-stem declension. This type of noun shows remnants across a wide range of Indo-European languages, most often including core vocabulary relating to familial affiliations. Thus Latin pater and mater, Greek pate:r and me:te:r, and even their respective equivalents in English: father and mother. In Old Russian, only the feminine nouns mati 'mother' and dŭči 'daughter' remain as members of this class. The forms of mati are as follows.

    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   mati   materi   matere
A   materĭ   materi   materi
G   matere   materu   materŭ
L   matere   materu   materĭxŭ
D   materi   materĭma   materĭmŭ
I   materĭju   materĭma   materĭmi
V   mati   materi   materi

As may now be expected, this declension also shows interference from the i-stem nouns, so that we also find forms materi for the genitive and locative singular, as well as for the nominative plural. In addition we occasionally find materĭi in the genitive plural.

The numberal četyre 'four', which only has plural forms, is often listed as an additional member of this class. We list below the plural forms for masculine, neuter, and feminine genders.

    Masc.   Neut.   Fem.
N Pl.   četyre   četyri   četyri
A   četyri   četyri   četyri
G   četyrŭ   četyrŭ   četyrŭ
L   četyrĭxŭ   četyrĭxŭ   četyrĭxŭ
D   četyrĭmŭ   četyrĭmŭ   četyrĭmŭ
I   četyrĭmĭ   četyrĭmĭ   četyrĭmĭ

We occasionally find the form četyrĭma in place of the instrumental plural četyrĭmi.

22. Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

Comparison of adjectives refers to patterns whereby a language distinguishes between different degrees in which an adjective may characterize the noun it modifies. In English while a clean room lacks filth, a certain room may obtain this condition to an even greater degree and so be termed a cleaner room. Finally, a particular room may make claim to being the most lacking in filth, and hence the cleanest room. The three adjectival forms clean, cleaner, cleanest represent the different degrees of comparison of the adjective clean. The basic adjective itself, clean, is termed the positive degree. The form cleaner, signifying relatively more of the quality specified by the positive degree, is termed the comparative degree. And the form cleanest, denoting the obtaining of the quality to the maximum degree, is the superlative degree. In English some adjectives mark the comparative and superlative degrees with morphological suffixes, such as the -er and -est of cleaner and cleanest, respectively. Other words possess no such morphological marking for the various degrees, and so English employs the use of qualifying adverbs. For example, the positive degree robust forms the comparative degree via the phrase more robust and the superlative via most robust. Old Russian functions similarly.

The Old Russian comparative degree of adjectives has two forms: the short form and the long form. These should not be confused with the short and long form of (the positive degree of) adjectives, i.e. the simple and compound forms of adjectives. Rather the distinction between the short and long forms of the comparative degree of adjectives derives from the length of the suffix appended to the adjectival base before adding the case endings themselves. This suffix had two forms in Common Slavic: the short form *-jĭš- and the long form *-ějĭš-.

22.1. Short Form of the Comparative

The short form of the comparative adds the suffix *-jĭš- to the basic stem of the adjective. In the masculine nominative singular, the final sibilant is lost, yielding *-jĭ. This form as such does not occur, however: instead we find a compound form where the third person pronoun *i [*jĭ] is added. Thus the masculine nominative singular ending that we actually find in the Old Russian texts is *-jĭjĭ > -ĭi, or frequently -ii. The nominative singular of the neuter derives from *-je.

All other case forms append endings to the suffix *-jĭš-. Because the suffix begins with a palatal glide, we find the effects of palatalization in the final consonant of the adjectival base. Several adjectives with recognizable suffixes, in particular -ŭk- or -ok-, drop this suffix before appending the comparative suffix. For example, the adjective vysokŭ 'high' drops the suffix -ok-, leaving vys-. To this is added the comparative suffix, which yields a stem vyš-ĭš-, with palatalization of the original -s- of the stem. We use the forms of vyšĭš- 'higher' to illustrate the short form comparative paradigm.

    Masculine   Neuter   Feminine
N Sg.   vyšĭi   vyše   vyšĭši
A   vyšĭšĭ   vyše   vyšĭšju
G   vyšĭšja   vyšĭšja   vyšĭšě
L   vyšĭši   vyšĭši   vyšĭši
D   vyšĭšju   vyšĭšju   vyšĭši
I   vyšĭšemĭ   vyšĭšemĭ   vyšĭšeju
V   vyšĭi   vyše   vyšĭši
             
N Du.   vyšĭšja   vyšĭši   vyšĭši
A   vyšĭšja   vyšĭši   vyšĭši
G   vyšĭšju   vyšĭšju   vyšĭšju
L   vyšĭšju   vyšĭšju   vyšĭšju
D   vyšĭšema   vyšĭšema   vyšĭšjama
I   vyšĭšema   vyšĭšema   vyšĭšjama
V   vyšĭšja   vyšĭši   vyšĭši
             
N Pl.   vyšĭše   vyšĭšja   vyšĭšě
A   vyšĭšě   vyšĭšja   vyšĭšě
G   vyšĭšĭ   vyšĭšĭ   vyšĭšĭ
L   vyšĭšixŭ   vyšĭšixŭ   vyšĭšjaxŭ
D   vyšĭšemŭ   vyšĭšemŭ   vyšĭšjamŭ
I   vyšĭši   vyšĭši   vyšĭšjami
V   vyšĭše   vyšĭšja   vyšĭšja

We frequently find the special masculine accusative singular form vyšĭšĭ replaced by either the nominative or genitive form. In addition, singular neuter forms occasionally lose the suffix -ĭš- in the dative: e.g. neuter dative singular vyšju. Moreover the suffix occasionally appears in the singular nominative and accusative: vyšĭše.

22.2. Long Form of the Comparative

The long form of the comparative adds the suffix *-ějĭš- to the basic stem of the adjective. In the masculine nominative singular, the final sibilant is lost, yielding *-ějĭ, and written in the Cyrillic script as -ěi. In the remaining forms the *-š- of the *-ějĭš- suffix persists. Moreover, the initial *-ě- of the suffix derives from an original PIE *-e:- (long-e), and so this caused any preceding velar to undergo the changes ascribed to first palatalization. When this situation obtained, the *-ě- subsequently shifted back to *-a-, leaving the suffix *-ajiš-. Consider for example the comparative of velikŭ 'great': *velik-ějĭš- becomes *velič-ějĭš- with palatalization, then *velič-ajĭš- with backing, leaving veličaiš- 'greater' as the comparative stem. (Cf. Section 6.2.1 of Lesson 2.)

The adjective starŭ 'old' forms the comparative with the long suffix: *star-ějĭš-, yielding the stem starěiš- 'older'. We use its forms to illustrate the long-form comparative paradigm.

    Masculine   Neuter   Feminine
N Sg.   starěi   starěje   starěiši
A   starěišĭ   starěje   starěišju
G   starěišja   starěišja   starěišě
L   starěiši   starěiši   starěiši
D   starěišju   starěišju   starěiši
I   starěišemĭ   starěišemĭ   starěišeju
V   starěi   starěje   starěiši
             
N Du.   starěišja   starěiši   starěiši
A   starěišja   starěiši   starěiši
G   starěišju   starěišju   starěišju
L   starěišju   starěišju   starěišju
D   starěišema   starěišema   starěišjama
I   starěišema   starěišema   starěišjama
V   starěišja   starěiši   starěiši
             
N Pl.   starěiše   starěišja   starěišě
A   starěišě   starěišja   starěišě
G   starěišĭ   starěišĭ   starěišĭ
L   starěišixŭ   starěišixŭ   starěišjaxŭ
D   starěišemŭ   starěišemŭ   starěišjamŭ
I   starěiši   starěiši   starěišjami
V   starěiše   starěišja   starěišě
22.3. Comparatives without Positive Bases

In English we frequently find that the comparative and superlative degrees of a certain adjective have phonetically little in common with the positive degree. For example the positive degree good differs markedly from the comparative better and superlative best. Such a collection is suppletive, that is, different lexical roots have come together to fill gaps in the complete paradigm of a given lexical root. Where good lacks a comparative *gooder built from the same base, it has adopted the comparative better properly belonging to a different base.

This process of suppletion in comparative paradigms is common throughout many languages, and Old Russian is no exception. The following table lists a few common adjectives whose comparative shows a different lexical base.

Positive   Meaning   Comparative Masculine   Meaning
velikŭ   big   bol'ii   bigger
mŭnogŭ   much, many   vęščii   more
malŭ   small   mĭn'ii   smaller
dobrŭ   good   lučii   better
        un'ii   better
22.4. The Superlative

Old Russian displays no special morphological marking of the superlative degree. Rather Old Russian generally forms the superlative by means of a comparative form of an adjective accompanied by a genitive denoting the point of reference: for example vĭsěxŭ bol'ii 'biggest of all'. In addition we find the adverb zělo 'very' used with the positive base of the adjective to denote the extremes of the attribute described by the adjective. For example, note the expression medy mŭnogy zělo (acc. pl.) 'very great (quantities of) honey' in the story of Olga's Revenge.

23. Relatives, Interrogatives & Indefinites
23.1. The Relative Pronoun

In the section on the third person pronoun we mentioned in passing that *i forms the basis for the relative pronoun. Relative pronouns are those pronouns which are used to refer back to a noun outside of their own clause. An example in English would be The woman whom you greeted yesterday arrived a few minutes ago. In this example, whom is a relative pronoun: though it functions as a normal pronoun within its own clause, its antecedent woman lies outside of the relative clause whom you greeted yesterday and in the main clause The woman... arrived a few minutes ago. Typically, as in this example, such clauses serve to specify or further define the noun to which the relative pronoun refers, and in some sense they can be thought of as clauses which function as adjectives. Moreover we see in the English example that the relative pronoun takes its case from its function in its own clause. Here whom is the object of greeted and so in the English oblique case, whereas the noun to which it refers, woman, is the subject of the verb arrived of the main clause.

Relative pronouns in Old Russian function analogously to their English cousins. They refer to nouns outside of their own clause and as such take their gender and number from the noun to which they refer. But they take their case from their function in their own clause. Consider the following example, taken from the story of Olga's Revenge: naši knęzi dobri sutĭ iže raspasli sutĭ derevĭsku zemlju "Our princes are good, those who cultivated the land of Dereva". Here iže is masculine plural to agree with knęzi, but nominative because it is the subject of raspasli sutĭ. Contrast this with the following example: kdě sutĭ družina naša, ixŭže poslaxomŭ po tę "Where is our retinue, which we sent for you?" Here ixŭže is genitive because it is the human direct object of the verb poslaxomŭ. Though it should actually be feminine singular to agree with its antecedent družina, we see an instance of a common shift in Old Russian: the relative pronoun agrees with the logical referent. In this situation, the antecedent družina actually refers to a group of people, and so logically represents a masculine plural entity. Hence ixŭže is masculine plural.

The following paradigm illustrates the declension of the relative pronoun.

    Masculine   Neuter   Feminine
N Sg.   iže   ježe   jaže
A   iže   ježe   juže
G   egože   egože   eěže, ejaže
L   emĭže   emĭže   eiže
D   emuže   emuže   eiže
I   imĭže   imĭže   ejuže
V            
             
N Du.   jaže   iže   iže
A   jaže   iže   iže
G   ejuže   ejuže   ejuže
L   ejuže   ejuže   ejuže
D   imaže   imaže   imaže
I   imaže   imaže   imaže
V            
             
N Pl.   iže   jaže   ěže, jaže
A   ěže, jaže   jaže   ěže, jaže
G   ixŭže   ixŭže   ixŭže
L   ixŭže   ixŭže   ixŭže
D   imŭže   imŭže   imŭže
I   imiže   imiže   imiže
V            

The enclitic suffix že remains constant throughout the paradigm. Moreover we see from the paradigm and the preceding examples that the nominative forms of the relative pronoun do in fact occur in the extant Old Russian texts. In addition, as with the third person pronouns, the relative pronouns take a prothetic n- when following a preposition: otŭ n'ixŭže 'those by whom'.

23.2. The Interrogative Pronoun & Adjective

The Old Russian interrogative pronoun occurs only with forms that are morphologically singular. In this respect it parallels the English interrogative pronouns who? and what? For example, we do not say *Whats are these?, but rather What are these?. The Old Russian interrogative also functions similarly to the English interrogative in another respect. While Old Russian distinguishes three grammatical genders, the interrogative pronoun distinguishes only two: masculine and feminine on the one hand, and neuter on the other. Just as in English, we would say What is this? when asking, say, about a book lying on a table; but we would say Who is this? when asking about a person, whether male or female. The forms of the interrogative pronoun are as follows.

    Masc./Fem.   Neuter
N   kŭto   čĭto
A   kŭto   čĭto
G   kogo   čego
L   komĭ   čemĭ
D   komu   čemu
I   kěmĭ   čimĭ
V        

As is typical, the genitive form kogo generally assumes the role of the accusative for animate referents. Several variant forms appear in the literature, including the proper Old Church Slavonic form cěmĭ for the instrumental masculine and feminine, showing the effects of the second palatalization. We also find neuter genitive forms čĭso and česo, as well as extended forms čĭsogo and česogo. The same formation extends to the dative, čĭsomu and česomu, as well as to the locative, česomĭ. In addition we find the variants čto and even što for the nominative neuter.

Old Russian possesses an interrogative adjective kŭi 'which? what sort of?'. The following table illustrates the paradigm.

    Masculine   Neuter   Feminine
N Sg.   kŭ, kŭi   koe   koja
A   kŭ, kŭi   koe   koju
G   koego   koego   koeě, koeja
L   koemĭ   koemĭ   koei
D   koemu   koemu   koei
I   koimĭ   koimĭ   koeju
V            
             
N Du.   kaja   cěi   cěi
A   kaja   cěi   cěi
G   koeju   koeju   koeju
L   koeju   koeju   koeju
D   kyima   kyima   kyima
I   kyima   kyima   kyima
V            
             
N Pl.   koi, cii   kaja   kyě
A   koě   kaja   kyě
G   koixŭ   koixŭ   koixŭ
L   koixŭ   koixŭ   koixŭ
D   koimŭ   koimŭ   koimŭ
I   koimi   koimi   koimi
V            

The nominative masculine singular shows a variant form kyi due to the tense position of the back jer. The masculine and neuter instrumental singular also show the variant kyimĭ, while the dative and instrumental dual show a contracted form kyma. In the plural we find the variant kyě of the masculine accusative, as well as cěmi for the instrumental, and kyixŭ for the genitive and locative.

23.3. Indefinite Pronouns & Adjectives

The pronouns kŭto 'who?' and čĭto 'what?' function not only as interrogatives, but also as indefinites: kŭto 'someone, anyone'; čĭto 'something, anything'. They share this feature with many of their Indo-European relatives, such as the interrogatives like Latin quis and Sanskrit kas.

In addition Old Russian may add the prefix ně- to the interrogative to form an indefinite pronoun: někŭto 'someone, anyone'. The same prefix may be applied to the interrogative adjective to form an indefinite adjective: někŭi 'some, a certain'. By contrast the prefix ni-, when attached to an interrogative, results in the corresponding negative. Thus from kŭto we derive be means of this prefix the negative pronoun: nikŭto 'no one'. And similarly we derive the negative adjective from the interrogative adjective: nikŭi 'no, not a'.

24. Compound Tense Formation

Old Russian forms certain tenses predominantly, or in certain instances exclusively, by means of periphrastic, or compound, structures. Typically these involve a finite form of the verb byti 'to be', accompanied by an l-participle modifying the subject. Other formations employ infinitives as complements to conjugated auxiliary verbs.

24.1. The Perfect

Old Russian inherits the Proto-Indo-European perfect formation in a single form: vědě 'I know', archaically 'I have seen'. This derives from PIE *uoida > *uoida+i > CS *vědě > vědě in both Old Russian and Old Church Slavonic. Compare Greek (w)oida and Sanskrit veda, both 'I know', and which provide perfect morpheme-for-morpheme counterpoints. In all other instances, however, Old Russian forms what may formally be called the perfect tense by means of a periphrastic construction involving the appropriate nominative form of the resultative participle and the present tense of the verb byti 'to be'. The verb nesti 'to carry' provides an example of the perfect paradigm.

    Masculine   Neuter   Feminine   Meaning
1 Sg.   neslŭ esmĭ   neslo esmĭ   nesla esmĭ   I (have) carried
2   neslŭ esi   neslo esi   nesla esi   you (have) carried
3   neslŭ estĭ   neslo estĭ   nesla estĭ   he/she/it (has) carried
                 
1 Du.   nesla esvě   neslě esvě   neslě esvě   we two (have) carried
2   nesla esta   neslě esta   neslě esta   you two (have) carried
3   nesla esta   neslě esta   neslě esta   they two (have) carried
                 
1 Pl.   nesli esmŭ   nesla esmŭ   nesly esmŭ   we (have) carried
2   nesli este   nesla este   nesly este   you (have) carried
3   nesli sutĭ   nesla sutĭ   nesly sutĭ   they (have) carried

The morphology of the Old Russian perfect presents few challenges. Far more difficult, however, is understanding precisely its function as distinct from other past tenses. Typically the perfect tense (really a verbal aspect, rather than a tense, and not to be confused with the perfective aspect, which we will discuss later in this series) denotes what is commonly described as a 'past action with present relevance'. A slightly more precise phrasing, yet one that remains unfortunately vague nonetheless, is that the perfect tense denotes a past action resulting in a state that persists up through the moment of utterance. Consider the following example from English: the simple past I ate versus the perfect tense I have eaten. Both refer to a past action, but the latter implies a state of being which persists until the moment of utterance: loosely speaking, I have eaten suggests that the speaker is in a state of satiety, or of not having an empty stomach, at the moment of utterance.

The question for Old Russian, then, is: which type does the Old Russian perfect belong to? Is it equivalent to English I ate or to English I have eaten? The simple answer is that the situation remains unclear. In part, this is because it is difficult to tease out of the extant texts the author's intention in many circumstances. However the modern use of the l-participle in the formation of a simple past tense suggests that Old Russian too could view the perfect as a simple past. Thus we may rephrase the question: did the perfect formation ever have an interpretation as a true perfect in Old Russian? A good check would be parallelism: we must verify whether Old Russian perfects are coordinated with present tenses, suggesting that the perfects denote a state felt to have present force. Even with this concrete method of characterization, the data is mixed. We do in fact find coordination with present forms, but the context occasionally leads to difficulty in precise interpretation:

  • izoděli sę sutĭ ōružĭemŭ i porty a my nazi: From the Story of Olga's Revenge, line 3. Literally (They) have dressed themselves with weapons and garments, but we (are) naked. The present tense form esmŭ must be supplied in the last phrase, but the parallelism with the present tense suggests a true perfect tense rendering for izoděli sę sutĭ.
  • počto ideši ōpętĭ? poimalŭ esi vsju danĭ: Also from the Story of Olga's Revenge, line 18. Literally Why do you come back? You have taken all the tribute. But also permissible in this context would be an English rendering of you took all the tribute.

It seems that the Old Russian perfect early rendered a true perfect tense. As the language developed, the perfect took on the sense of a simple past, and at the same time there was a tendency to drop the accompanying forms of the copula, leaving only the participle.

24.2. The Pluperfect

The pluperfect essentially represents a perfect shifted back in time. That is, the pluperfect represents an action completed before (and creating a state enduring up to) another past time or action. In English, the pluperfect of eat is had eaten, for example. The Old Russian formation of the pluperfect parallels that of the perfect, replacing the present tense forms of byti 'to be' with forms from the imperfect běaxŭ, etc., or from the aorist byxŭ, etc., or běxŭ, etc. The verb nesti 'to carry' illustrates the paradigm.

    Masc./Neut./Fem.   Imperfect       Aorist
1 Sg.   neslŭ, -lo, -la   běaxŭ   /   byxŭ
2   neslŭ, -lo, -la   běaše   /   by
3   neslŭ, -lo, -la   běaše   /   by
                 
1 Du.   nesla, -lě, -lě   běaxově   /   byxově
2   nesla, -lě, -lě   běašeta   /   bysta
3   nesla, -lě, -lě   běašeta   /   bysta
                 
1 Pl.   nesli, -la, -ly   běaxomŭ   /   byxomŭ
2   nesli, -la, -ly   běašete   /   byste
3   nesli, -la, -ly   běaxu   /   byša
24.3. The Future

Old Russian displays no morphological forms which serve uniquely to express the future. Instead Old Russian generally employs present tense forms where context dictates a future meaning. This parallels English usage of present progressive forms, as in I am going to the store in five minutes. Generally speaking such uses of the present forms to denote future action display verbal prefixes as befits the nascent system of marking of Slavic perfective aspect. But this tendency does not seem to have hardened into a set rule in the earliest Old Russian texts. Some verbs, such as dati 'to give', frequently omit the prefix in contexts where the present tense forms must be interpreted with future meaning.

We find a second future formation in Old Russian which parallels English constructions with an auxiliary and complement, as in I will jog or I shall jog. In Old Russian, several verbs form a periphrastic future by employing the infinitive in conjunction with a conjugated form of an auxiliary verb. The following verbs typically function as auxiliaries in periphrastic future formations: načati, počati, učati, all 'to begin'; xotěti 'to want, will'; iměti 'to have'; jati 'to take'. For example, from the Primary Chronicle we have eliže kamenĭ načĭnetĭ plavati "... even if a stone will float". In such constructions it seems that the auxiliary may at times retain some of its own basic meaning. Again the Primary Chronicle provides an example: rodilŭsja estĭ dětiščĭ vŭ Židŭxŭ, iže xoščetĭ pogubiti Egupĭtŭ "A child has been born among the Jews who will (wants to) destroy Egypt." The context does not make clear whether xotěti 'to want' retains its original meaning or serves simply to mark the future.

24.4. The Future Perfect

Old Russian forms a periphrastic future perfect in a manner analogous to that of the perfect and pluperfect. This employs an l-participle in conjunction with the "future" forms of byti 'to be': budu, budeši, budetĭ, etc., forms which are formally present tense but which carry a future sense "will be". The future perfect, as its name suggests, amounts to a perfect sense shifted forward in time. That is, a future perfect form stipulates that, as of a certain future point in time or future action, the action denoted by the verb form will already have been completed, and the ensuing state will continue up to that other future point in time. For comparison, the future perfect of English I eat is I will have eaten: as of some point in the future, my act of eating will be over, and the resulting lack of hunger will endure up to that future point in time. The verb nesti 'to carry' once again serves to illustrate the paradigm.

    Masc./Neut./Fem.   Future
1 Sg.   neslŭ, -lo, -la   budu
2   neslŭ, -lo, -la   budeši
3   neslŭ, -lo, -la   budetĭ
         
1 Du.   nesla, -lě, -lě   budevě
2   nesla, -lě, -lě   budeta
3   nesla, -lě, -lě   budeta
         
1 Pl.   nesli, -la, -ly   budemŭ
2   nesli, -la, -ly   budete
3   nesli, -la, -ly   budutĭ
25. The Nominative & Vocative Cases
25.1. The Nominative Case

In Old Russian the nominative case serves to mark the subject of a finite (conjugated) verb. The verb may be explicitly stated or merely implied by context.

25.1.1 Subject & Predicate

Still in Old Russian the nominative case serves not only to mark the subject of a finite verb, but also to mark any substantive or adjective predicated to the subject. This provides a marked distinction between Old Russian and modern Russian: in the latter some or all of the predicate is frequently placed in the instrumental. This is a later innovation within Russian. The earlier state of affairs, with both subject and predicate in the nominative, displays the linguistic state inherited from Common Slavic and recapitulates the norm not only among close relatives like Old Church Slavonic, but also among more distant relatives like Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit. The following excerpts provide examples in which the element predicated to the subject is a noun:

  • naricaxu sę polęne 'they were called Polianians' (Primary Chronicle). Compare modern Russian oni nazyvalisĭ poljanami.
  • ašče bo by kyi perevozĭnikŭ bylŭ, to ne by xodilŭ cěsarjugradu 'For if Kyi had been a ferryman, he would not have gone to Byzantium' (Primary Chronicle).

By contrast the following examples contain an adjective as the predicate nominative:

  • otroci Svěnĭlži izodělisja sutĭ... a my nazi 'Sveinald's retainers are clothed... but we (are) naked' (Olga's Revenge).
  • ty kŭnjazĭ esi mudrŭ i sŭmyslĭnŭ 'You are a wise and prudent prince' (Olga's Revenge).
  • ljuba mi estĭ rěčĭ vaša 'Your proposal is pleasing to me' (Olga's Revenge).

Old Russian also employs the nominative case when quoting names or giving titles. The following provide examples of the nominative used for naming:

  • Lětopisĭcĭ vŭ kratŭcě otŭ Avŭgusta daže i do Kōnstantina i Zōja cesarĭ grĭčĭskyixŭ 'The chronicle in short, from Augustus up to Constantine and Zoe, Greek emperors' (Collection of Prince Svjatoslav).
  • bě bo imę emu malŭ 'For his name was Mal' (Olga's Revenge).

25.1.2 The Nominative with Infinitive

Old Russian also shows instances of a peculiar construction involving the nominative with the infinitive. The peculiarity of the construction lies in the fact that the nominative which accompanies the infinitive generally must be construed as the object of the action signified by the infinitive. Thus one would either expect the noun to be in the accusative case or expect the infinitive to be passive (or reflexive, i.e. accompanied by sja). Neither of these tends to obtain. Consider the following examples of the nominative accompanied by the infinitive:

  • Aže buděte xolŭpŭ ubitŭ .a. grivna serĭbra zaplatiti 'If a slave will be killed, 1 grivna of silver (is) to be paid' (Smolensk Treaty). A grivna is a unit of money. As the translation stands, the nominative grivna would suit a passive infinitive, but the statement lacks the reflexive particle sja to make such an interpretation explicit. By contrast we might force a translation with an active infinitive in English: 'If a slave will be killed, (it is) to pay 1 grivna'. In such a construction, however, we would expect the accusative grivnu.
  • kak muka sejati 'How to sift flour' (House Orderer [Domostroj]). Again, muka 'flour' by sense acts as the direct object of the infinitive, yet we find the nominative instead.
  • dai Bogŭ ispraviti pravda novgorodskaja 'May God permit (us) to establish the law of Novgorod' (Russian Truth [Russkaja Pravda]). Here we see that the nominative form pravda nogorodskaja can unambiguously be excluded from consideration as a functional (as opposed to morphological) nominative, since Bogŭ 'God' already provides a nominative subject for the only conjugated verb, dai, in the clause.

We also find the infinitive as the complement to an adjective in the nominative. Consider the following example of a nominative adjective with infinitive: voda že mutna velmi i sladka piti 'The water is very turbid and sweet to drink' (Abbot Daniel). Here we see, in fact, that English permits the same construction. Allow momentarily the use of the case structure originally inherited by English: Old English showed nominative, genitive, dative, and accusative cases, and occasionally an instrumental. Viewed from this perspective, turbid and sweet must be nominative as predicates to water, but they also seem to represent the object of the action represented by the infinitive to drink and for this reason should be accusative.

25.2. The Vocative Case

The Old Russian vocative provides the case of direct address, the case marking the person or thing whom the speaker is addressing. This case only distinguishes itself from the nominative in the singular of masculine and feminine nouns. Consider the following example of the vocative of nouns: o bojane, solobiju starago vremeni 'O Bojan, nightingale of old time(s)' (Igor Tale).

The vocative form for adjectives typically agrees with the nominative in all numbers when the adjective is not being used as a substantive. The following examples show nouns in the vocative modified by accompanying adjectives:

  • bratjie, pristupivŭše, skonĭčaite služĭbu bašju 'Brothers, having stepped forward, complete your mission' (Boris & Gleb). Here bratjie is the vocative of the noun bratĭja 'brothers', a noun collective in sense but singular in form.
  • uvy mně, kŭnaže našĭ milyi i dragyi i blaženyi, voditelju slěpyimŭ, odeže nagymŭ, starosti žĭzle, kazatelju ne nakazymŭ 'Woe (is) to me, o wretched, dear, blessed prince of ours, o leader to the blind, o vestment to the naked, o walking staff for old age, o instructor to the uninstructed' (Boris & Gleb).

In the dual and plural of all nouns, the vocative and nominative forms are identical. Moreover, we frequently find the nominative used in place of the vocative even when a distinct vocative form is available. Consider the following example of the nominative used in place of the vocative: Marθa 'Martha!' (Ostromir Gospel, Luke 10.41). Here the expected a-stem vocative would be *Marθo.

Rarely, we find instances where the vocative appears in situations where we would expect the nominative. The following example shows the vocative used in place of nominative: se vŭdale varlame svjatomu sŭpasu zemlju i ogorodŭ... 'Indeed Varlaam gave to the Holy Savior (monastery) land and a garden...' (Gribble, 1973, p. 122). The context suggests that the vocative forms vŭdale varlame function as the subject of the statement, and so we would expect the nominative *vŭdalŭ varlamŭ.