The effects of the conquest by the Tartars were even more far-reaching than the destruction was widespread. This period of submission to the Mongols, the so-called Tartar Yoke, lasted for another two centuries, with a gradual decline in power over that period. The Qipchaq Khanate originally established by Batu was eventually conquered by the Crimean Tatars in 1502 (Ostrowski, 2009).
The same period of westward expansion for the Tartar invaders also saw eastward expansion for another European power: Lithuania. As the southwestern provinces of Galicia and Volhynia lay at the extremity of the Qipchaq Khanate, they were difficult for the Tartars to control, and ultimately they fell into the orbit of Lithuania. These polities comprised communities which may in large part be considered the forerunners of Belorussia and Ukraine, so that here we see a fork between the historical paths of development of these two political entities on the one hand, and Great Russia on the other.
Tartar imperial rule exploited the devolution of administrative responsibility. In particular the Qipchaq Khanate allowed regional Russian princes to administer their own realms, and it declared a single Grand Prince to rule over the others. This Grand Prince was initially located in Vladimir. The administrators of the khanate kept sons of the grand princes of the Rus as hostages to ensure loyalty. At the same time these sons learned first-hand the practice of governing the khanate (Ostrowski, 2009). As part of their patronage of the Russian principalities, the khans were expected to supply troops to the grand princes when the need arose. In return the Rus were expected to supply troops to the khan when called for. Conscription seems to have been based on census data, with the khan recruiting one in every ten males. The khan determined who would be the grand prince of the Russian principalities and issued patents (decrees) declaring the authority of princes, which they had to retrieve in person from the capital at Saray (Hingley, 2003; Ostrowski, 2009).
During the 14th century, the Tartars converted to Islam. Rather than engender conflict between Christian and Muslim clergies, the Tartars seem to have held a noteworthy tolerance for the Russian church. This tolerance manifested itself economically with an exemption from taxes for the clergy and monasteries. This in turn provided a privileged position from which the Church could cultivate its role as a spiritual and political unifier in a period of trial and tribulation for the Russian populace.
This twofold manifestation of influence wove itself deeply into the emerging fabric of Russian cultural and political identity. The political influence wielded by the Church was anything but hidden: the metropolitan St. Alexis served as the practical head of state under two successive Grand Princes of Moscow (Hingley, 2003). This fostered a growing identification among the populace of the Church with Russia itself (Andreyev, 1962). This popular embrace of the Church was at one and the same time necessitated by the turmoil brought by the Tartar invasion and fostered by the emergence of native-born saints. Among those dating to this period is St. Sergius of Radonezh, a prime example of the intertwining of Church and State during this period: "He is at once a monk and nature lover, gentle with his spiritual children and a lover of toil; he is the teacher and the inspirations of a whole pleiad of Russian ecclesiastical figures of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; but he is also the servant of the rising realm of Muscovy and takes his stand above the pettiness of local interests. He is simple and wise, a man of action and a mystic." (Andreyev, 1962) Though entreated by St. Alexis to become his successor as metropolitan, St. Sergius nevertheless refused and remained dedicated to his duties as monk.
Most portentous for the future development of Eastern Europe and Central Asia is the slow and steady rise, amidst this tumult, of the polity of Moscow. The city began as a rather insignificant satellite of greater powers of the northeast reaches of the Rus, such as Vladimir and Suzdal. Indeed, during this same period Tver too was a rising power and looked to eclipse Moscow. But several facts seem to have shifted events in Moscow's favor.
To begin, Alexander Nevsky, the prince of Novgorod, had already garnered fame for breaking the tide of the Tartar advance before it engulfed Novgorod. This he achieved largely through diplomacy. But he also added to his military renown by fighting off encroaching Teutonic armies invading from the west. Later he relocated to Vladimir. His son Daniel took the throne in Moscow in 1276, solidifying Moscow as the seat of one of the most powerful families in the lands of the Rus at that time. Moreover, in 1326 the Metropolitanate of the Russian Church shifted its seat to Moscow, where it remained thereafter (Hingley, 2003). Thus the two axes of power in the Russian lands coalesced in Moscow.
All of this took place, however, under the auspices of Tartar administration. This shift of power, therefore, would not have taken place had it not been, at some level, sanctioned by the khanate administration. And we in fact see that the khanate did slowly shift the balance of power in Moscow's favor. Though the reason for this inclination is not entirely clear, a likely explanation stems from the idea that the Mongol administration preferred to see a balance of power among the principalities so as to prevent any direct challenge to Tartar authority (Hingley, 2003). Historians suspect that at this time Tver was actually the polity gaining regional dominance. The Tartars therefore likely sponsored the rise of Moscow as a counterbalance to Tver. We see this play out in the granting of patents: during the 14th century the khan thrice crowned the grand prince of Tver as administrator of the Russian principalities, once the grand prince of Suzdal. On the remaining occasions the title went to the grand prince of Moscow. The last such appointment went to Vasilii II in 1431. By 1449, Vasilii II declared himself the regional authority and issued patents to the remaining Russian princes (Ostrowski, 2009). Moreover as the Tartar grip over Russian lands slipped near the end of the 15th century, Moscow also found favor as a source of resistance against the encroaching Lithuanians (Hingley, 2003).
From this we see the important shifts that take place under the Tartar Yoke. The profound nature of the lasting effects cannot be exaggerated. The economy of greater Rus was left in disarray through the burning and looting of the cities, and the selling of survivors into slavery. This was further compounded by the tendency of the Tartars to identify the skilled craftsmen and send them to Tartar economic centers.
Moreover we find in the Tartar Yoke the first intimations of what would later become the Iron Curtain: Russia was relegated to a province of the Mongol Empire. This left its focus centered on the East, and effectively cut it off from the rest of Europe. This must provide an important factor in how the European Renaissance failed to have a profound impact within Russian society (Andreyev, 1962; Hingley, 2003).
Finally Andreyev (1962) puts it best when he says, "But Moscow had been learning 'imperialism' from the Mongols...". Tartar rule accentuated the political rivalries among the Russian principalities, while at the same time providing a model of authoritarian rule. The model involved a rigid and remorseless style of government that pitted subgroups against one another to subvert direct challenge to the central authority. In this we find the seed of the later unfolding of Russian history.
The following passage continues the story of Boris and Gleb. We learn of Gleb's reaction to the news that his father is ill and his attempt to return to his father's side as he lies on his deathbed.
21 - I ne do sego ostavi ubiistva okani'nyi Svjatopu'lku', nu' i na boli'shaja, neistovjasja, natchatu' prostiratisja...
22 - I si na umje' si polozhivu', zu'lyi su'vje'ti'niku' dijavoli', posla po blazhenaago Glje'ba, reku', "Pridi vu' bu'rzje', oteci' zoveti' tja, i ne su'draviti' ti veli'mi."
23 - Onu' zhe vu' bu'rzje', vu' malje' druzhinje', vu'sje'du' na koni', poide.
24 - I prishedu' na Vu'lgu.
25 - Na polje' potu'tchesja podu' nimi' koni' vu' rovje' i nalomi nogu malo.
26 - I jako pride Smolini'sku i poide otu' Smolini'ska, jako zi'rje'imo edino, sta na Smjadinje' vu' korablici.
27 - I vu' se vremja prishi'la bjaashe vje'sti' otu' Peredu'slavy ku' Jaroslavu o oti'ni su'mi'rti.
28 - I prisla Jaroslavu' ku' Glje'bu, reka, "Ne xodi, brate, oteci' ti umi'rlu', a bratu' ti ubienu' otu' Svjatopu'lka."
29 - I si uslyshavu', blazhenyi vu'spi platchi'mi' gori'kyimi' i petchaliju si'rdi'tchi'noju i sice glagolaashe, "O uvy mnje', gospodine moi!
30 - Otu' dvoju platchju platchjusja i stenju; du'vu'ju sje'tovaniju sje'tuju i tuzhju.
31 - Uvy mnje'!
32 - uvy mnje'!
33 - Platchjusja po otci; platchju patche, zje'lo ottchajaxu'sja, po tebje', brate i gospodine Borise.
34 - Kako probodenu' esi, kako bez milosti protchee su'mri'ti predasja!
35 - Kako ne otu' vraga, nu' otu' svoego brata pagubu vu'sprijalu' esi.
36 - Uvy mnje'!
37 - Une by mi su' toboju umreti, nezhe uedinenu i usirenu otu' tebe vu' semi' zhitii pozhiti.
38 - Azu' mnje'xu' uzi'rje'ti lice tvoe angli'skoe.
39 - Ti se selika tuga su'stizhe mja, i unylu' byxu' su' toboju umreti, gospodine moi.
40 - Nynje' zhe tchto su'tvorju azu', umilenyi, otchjuzhenyi otu' tvoeja dobroty i otu' otca moego mu'nogaago razuma?
41 - O milyi moi brate i gospodine!
42 - Ashche esi upolutchilu' dri'znovenie u gospoda, moli o moemi' unynii, da byxu' azu' su'podoblenu' bylu' tu zhe strasti' vu'sprijati i su' toboju zhiti, nezhe vu' svje'tje' semi' preli'sti'nje'mi'."
21 I ne do sego ostavi ubiistva okani'nyi Svjatopu'lku', nu' i na boli'shaja, neistovjasja, natchatu' prostiratisja...
22 I si na umje' si polozhivu', zu'lyi su'vje'ti'niku' dijavoli', posla po blazhenaago Glje'ba, reku', "Pridi vu' bu'rzje', oteci' zoveti' tja, i ne su'draviti' ti veli'mi."
23 Onu' zhe vu' bu'rzje', vu' malje' druzhinje', vu'sje'du' na koni', poide. 24 I prishedu' na Vu'lgu. 25 Na polje' potu'tchesja podu' nimi' koni' vu' rovje' i nalomi nogu malo. 26 I jako pride Smolini'sku i poide otu' Smolini'ska, jako zi'rje'imo edino, sta na Smjadinje' vu' korablici. 27 I vu' se vremja prishi'la bjaashe vje'sti' otu' Peredu'slavy ku' Jaroslavu o oti'ni su'mi'rti. 28 I prisla Jaroslavu' ku' Glje'bu, reka, "Ne xodi, brate, oteci' ti umi'rlu', a bratu' ti ubienu' otu' Svjatopu'lka."
29 I si uslyshavu', blazhenyi vu'spi platchi'mi' gori'kyimi' i petchaliju si'rdi'tchi'noju i sice glagolaashe, "O uvy mnje', gospodine moi! 30 Otu' dvoju platchju platchjusja i stenju; du'vu'ju sje'tovaniju sje'tuju i tuzhju. 31 Uvy mnje'! 32 uvy mnje'! 33 Platchjusja po otci; platchju patche, zje'lo ottchajaxu'sja, po tebje', brate i gospodine Borise. 34 Kako probodenu' esi, kako bez milosti protchee su'mri'ti predasja! 35 Kako ne otu' vraga, nu' otu' svoego brata pagubu vu'sprijalu' esi. 36 Uvy mnje'! 37 Une by mi su' toboju umreti, nezhe uedinenu i usirenu otu' tebe vu' semi' zhitii pozhiti. 38 Azu' mnje'xu' uzi'rje'ti lice tvoe angli'skoe. 39 Ti se selika tuga su'stizhe mja, i unylu' byxu' su' toboju umreti, gospodine moi. 40 Nynje' zhe tchto su'tvorju azu', umilenyi, otchjuzhenyi otu' tvoeja dobroty i otu' otca moego mu'nogaago razuma? 41 O milyi moi brate i gospodine! 42 Ashche esi upolutchilu' dri'znovenie u gospoda, moli o moemi' unynii, da byxu' azu' su'podoblenu' bylu' tu zhe strasti' vu'sprijati i su' toboju zhiti, nezhe vu' svje'tje' semi' preli'sti'nje'mi'."
21 Not even at this point did the wretched Svjatopolk stop with the killing, but, going mad, he began to expand into more...
22 And having set these things in his mind, the evil Svjatopolk, possessed by the devil, sent for the blessed Gleb, having said, "Come quickly, father calls for you, and he is not very well for you."
23 And that one, with a small retinue, having mounted a horse, set out quickly. 24 And he arrived at the Volga. 25 And on the bank the horse beneath him stumbled in a rut and broke its leg a bit. 26 And as (soon as) he arrived in Smolensk, he again set out from Smolensk, and as (it was) only a short distance, he boarded a caravel at (the river) Smjadina. 27 At this time news arrived to Jaroslav from Predslava concerning his father's death. 28 And Jaroslav sent to Gleb, saying, "Do not go, brother, your father has died, and your brother has been killed by Svjatopolk."
29 Having heard these things, the blessed one cried out with mournful tears and sadness in his heart and said the following: "Woe is to me, my lord! 30 For two sorrows I weep and moan; by two afflictions I am struck and pained. 31 Woe is to me! 32 Woe is to me! 33 I weep for my father; and I weep more, (and) am exceedingly distraught, for you, Boris, brother and lord. 34 How you were run through, how without mercy you finally gave yourself to death! 35 How not from an enemy, but from your own brother you encountered ruin! 36 Woe is to me! 37 It would have been preferable for me to die with you, and not to live out this life bereft of you and orphaned. 38 I hoped to see your angelic face. 39 Indeed, such misery has befallen me, and I would have wished to die with you, my lord. 40 But now what shall I do, dejected, bereft of your virtue and of my father of great counsel? 41 O my poor brother and lord! 42 If you have attained trust at the side of the Lord, beseech on behalf of my sorrow, that I be deemed worthy to receive martyrdom and live there with you, and not in this illusory light."
The fourth conjugation comprises the so-called semi-thematic verbs. These verbs are characterized by the suffix -i- applied to the verbal root and preceding the endings. This suffix originally derives from PIE *-ej- > CS *-i:-. Class IV verbs fall into two subcategories based on the formation of the infinitive stem.
In contrast to the preceding classes, verbs of Class IV do not insert the thematic vowel *-e/o- before the present tense endings. Rather they append the endings directly to the -i- suffix characterizing the conjugation. In the first person singular, the ending itself contains a vowel, and in prevocalic position the suffix -i- becomes the palatal glide -j-: *-i-om > *-jom > *-jo^ > Old Russian -ju, OCS -jo^. This palatal glide in turn triggers j-palatalization in the preceding consonant. Class IV verbs therefore regularly display the effects of j-palatalization in the first person singular.
Another characteristic feature of the fourth conjugation concerns the third person plural. Since the fourth conjugation foregoes the thematic vowel, the ending *-nti is affixed directly to the characteristic -i-. In Common Slavic, rather than producing the back nasalized vowel -o^- characteristic of the third person plural in other conjugations, we find instead the front nasalized vowel: *-i-nti > *-inti' > *-e^ti' > Old Russian -jati', OCS -e^tu'. Thus the ending -jati' characterizes the third person plural of Class IV verbs in Old Russian. A corollary of this fact is that the present participle displays a stem in -jatch- or -jashch- throughout the paradigm, rather than the stem in -utch- or -ushch- characteristic of other conjugations.
In the remaining forms of the present tense, the characteristic suffix lies in pre-consonantal position and so retains its vocalic character. The remaining forms therefore do not display any effects of j-palatalization, though original root-final velars show the usual palatalization before front vowels. The following table provides examples of some verbs belonging to Class IV.
|Class||Infinitive||Meaning||1st Sg.||2nd Sg.||Pres. Stem||Suffixed Stem|
The j-palatalization of the root-final consonant encountered in the first person singular present indicative active of Class IV verbs also reappears with some frequency in other forms. In particular we find softening of the root-final consonant in the past passive participle, in some imperfect forms, and in the verbal noun, among other forms. Consider the following forms.
|Infinitive||Meaning||Pres. 1 Sg.||Pres. 2 Sg.||Impf. 1 Sg.||Past Pass. Part.|
The verbs xoditi 'to go' and prositi 'to ask' serve to illustrate the forms of Class IVA verbs. The verbs vidje'ti 'to see' and stojati 'to stand' serve to illustrate the forms of verbs belonging to Class IVB. The paradigms are listed in the table below. Note in particular the j-palatalization in the singular imperative forms of vidje'ti 'to see': second and third person singular imperative vizhi.
|Pres. Act. Part.|
|Pres. Pass. Part.|
|Past Act. Part.|
|Masc./Neut. N||xodivu', xozhi'||prosivu', proshi'||vidje'vu'||stojavu'|
|Past Pass. Part.|
The verb xotje'ti 'to want, wish' shows an inflection derived from a mixture of conjugation classes. The present tense in particular shows interesting variation. The verb shows forms that display the palatalization pattern and thematic vowel alternation proper to the Class III verbs. Such forms appear throughout the present tense, except in the third person plural. At the same time xotje'ti shows present tense forms proper to Class IV verbs. These forms appear for all but the singular number. In particular, this implies that the singular forms always belong to Class III, while the third person plural always belongs to Class IV. The remaining present tense forms alternate between Classes III and IV. In addition the present active participle belongs to Class IV.
In other parts of the paradigm, some forms are sparsely attested. The following chart lists those forms with the greatest attestation, or which can be reconstructed with the most certainty based on extant forms.
|Pres. Act. Part.|
|Pres. Pass. Part.|
|Past Act. Part.|
|Past Pass. Part.|
The Old Russian instrumental case, as its name suggests, marks the instrument, or means by which, an event takes place. This parallels English use of the preposition with in statements such as He hit me with his shoe. The instrumental also enjoys a sociative connotation, i.e. a notion of accompaniment. This also parallels English use of with in expressions such as I went to the beach with my family. Such sociative uses of the instrumental, however, generally employ the preposition su' 'with' in Old Russian. The following examples show the instrumental of means.
Old Russian also occasionally employs the instrumental to mark the cause or reason for an event or action. Consider the following example of the causal instrumental: tje'mi' glagolaxu na perevozu' na Kyevu' 'for this (reason) they would say, "to Kii's ferry"' (Primary Chronicle).
As we have seen with numerous other cases, some verbs employ the instrumental case to mark the complement where we might otherwise expect a direct object in the accusative. The following provide examples of the use of the instrumental with certain verbs.
Modern Russian often employs the instrumental case to mark a noun or adjective predicated to the subject. This usage is a later development within the history of Russian, emerging roughly around the 15th century. Consider the following late example of the predicative instrumental: bje' bo u Jaropolka zhena Grikinje', bjashe byla prezhe tcherniceju 'for Jaropolk had a Greek wife who was formerly a nun' (Novgorod Chronicle [Novgorodskaja Letopisi'], from the 15th century, cf. Matthews, 1960, p.226).
Within Old Russian, such predication generally employs the nominative case (cf. Section 25).
The cardinal numbers allow us to count things: 1 book, 2 books, 3 books, etc. Old Russian shows two basic formations when expressing cardinal numbers: some cardinals function as adjectives modifying the things they are counting, others function as nouns in their own right. When the numerals function as adjectives, a phrase such as two books functions in the same way as a phrase like blue books: the numeral functions as an adjective agreeing with the word it modifies in gender, case, and number (singular, dual, or plural). By contrast, when the numerals themselves function as nouns, the thing which they are counting is represented as a dependent genitive. For example, rather than saying five books with five functioning as an adjective, Old Russian says something akin to a five of books. That is, the numeral represents a group, and the genitive plural specifies what the group consists of: a five-group of books.
In broad outline, the numbers 1 through 4 function as adjectives, while 5 though 10 function as nouns with dependent genitives. The teens roughly repeat the same structure, with 11 through 14 as adjectives, 15 through 19 as nouns.
44.1.1 The Numeral 1
Old Russian represents the number 1 with an adjective showing a pronominal declension: odinu' 'one'. The declension is as follows.
The stem odi'n- may alternate with the stem odin- in any of the forms of the above paradigm. At times one encounters the Old Church Slavic stem edin-.
44.1.2 The Numeral 2
Old Russian represents the number 2 by the adjective du'va 'two'. This adjective quite naturally occurs solely in the dual number, agreeing with the word it modifies in gender, case, and number. The following table lists the forms.
The word oba 'both' follows the same declension. Some texts also show variant forms such as the genitive dual obje'ju.
44.1.3 The Numeral 3
The adjective tri'je 'three' represents the number 3. This adjective occurs only in the plural. The table below lists the forms.
The front jer in the masculine nominative plural may yield trije as a result of standing in tense position. The genitive plural tri'i is phonetically [tri'ji'] and so may appear as trii owing to the tense position of the first jer, or as trei as a result of the first jer falling in strong position. Due to the influence of pronominal declensions in which genitive and locative plural forms coincide, we also find occasionally the locative form tri'xu' used in place of the genitive. In addition we at times find the form trema for the instrumental plural.
As an example from the Ostromir Gospel, take tri mje'se^ce^ 'three months', where both words are masculine accusative plural.
44.1.4 The Numeral 4
Old Russian represents the number 4 with the adjective tchetyre 'four', agreeing with the noun it modifies in gender, case, and the plural number. The following table lists the forms.
The genitive form tchetyru' is occasionally replaced by tchetyri'i, or with fully vocalized strong jer, tchetyrei. In addition we occasionally find tchetyri'ma for the instrumental.
As an example again from the Ostromir Gospel, take tchetyre mje'se^ci 'four months', where both words are masculine nominative plural.
44.1.5 The Numerals 5, ..., 10
The numerals 5 through 9 all occur as feminine i-stem nouns which govern a genitive plural of the thing counted. The numbers are as follows:
These nouns follow the declension of the feminine i-stem noun kosti' 'bone' (cf. Section 11.1). For example, pjati' 'five' shows pjati in the genitive, locative, and dative singular, and pjati'ju in the instrumental singular.
The word desjati' 'ten' represents the numeral 10. This largely shows the forms proper to the declension of consonant stems (cf. Section 16).
Again the Ostromir Gospel provides an example: podobi'no... dese^ti dje'vu' 'similar... to ten virgins', or more literally 'similar... to ten of virgins'. Here dese^ti is the dative singular, while dje'vu' 'of virgins' is the genitive plural.
44.1.6 The Teens
The formation of the teens 11, ..., 19 follows almost exactly the constructions of the numerals 1 through 10. Viewed from the perspective of English, the teens read one on ten (eleven), two on ten (twelve), three on ten (thirteen), etc. Thus the grammatical construction in Old Russian is exactly the grammatical construction encountered with the individual numerals 1, 2, 3, etc., the only difference being the addition of the phrase on ten. Specifically, the numerals are as follows.
The Ostromir Gospel again provides an example: jako du'vojo^ na dese^te lje'tu 'about twelve years old'. Literally this reads 'roughly of two years on ten', where the dual adjective du'vojo^, in the genitive, agrees with the dual genitive lje'tu.
44.1.7 The Decades
Old Russian constructs the decades 20, 30, ..., 90 as groups of tens. Thus the numeral 20 is rendered by two tens, 30 by three tens, 40 by four tens, 50 by five (of) tens, etc. Thus we return to the problem of counting with the numerals 1, 2, 3, ..., 9, but now the thing counted is a group of ten: desjati'. Hence the decades also break down into two groups: those where desjati' is modified by an adjective, and those where desjati' is in the genitive plural, depending on the numeral. The specific forms are as follows.
44.1.8 The Hundreds
The Old Russian system for the hundreds parallels that for the decades. Here the o-stem neuter noun su'to 'hundred' takes over the role that desjati' 'ten' plays in the decades. The numerals are as follows.
44.1.9 The Thousands
The Old Russian word for thousand is tysjatcha. This follows the declension of the ja-stem feminine nouns. The noun takes its case from the construction in which it finds itself, and the thing counted is placed in the genitive plural.
Old Russian employs the word ti'ma in both the numeric sense ten thousand and the general sense of an extremely large quantity. This too takes its case from its grammatical role in its clause, and the thing enumerated is placed in the genitive plural.
The ordinal numbers, as their name suggests, are used to place things in order. That is, they serve to specify what element is first, which is second, third, and so on. With the exception of treti'i 'third', the ordinals for 1 through 10 are hard twofold definite adjectives:
In Old Russian we must take care to distinguish between tenses as represented by morphology and tenses as represented by meaning or sense. In Old Russian the term present tense first and foremost denotes a set of morphological endings: -u, -eshi, -eti', etc. As it turns out, for the most part when a verb employs these endings, the resulting sense is one of present time, of talking about the here-and-now. In such instances form and meaning converge. But Old Russian has no future tense with distinct endings or a special verbal suffix, for instance. Instead, it employs the same endings, and even the same stem, which pertain to the morphological present tense. Thus we find "present tense" forms where the actual meaning is in fact future. And in this we find that the term present tense, when applied to the endings -u, -eshi, -eti', etc., is something of a misnomer. Really they are present-future endings. Or more typical terminology is to call this set of endings non-past.
Part of the distinction in sense between present and future comes from the particular interaction between the representation of an action by means of a verbal root and the use of the present tense morphology. This matter of the "representation of an action" frequently goes by the name verbal aspect. We will touch briefly on this topic below and in Section 50.
More than anything the Old Russian present tense is a morphological category. Verbs conjugated in the present tense may take on a range of senses. Primarily, as luck would have it, the dominant sense is to signify actions or states occurring contemporaneously with the utterance: that is, a true present tense, saying that the action is happening now.
As a point of comparison, note that the English present tense generally does not have such an interpretation (except with a restricted class of verbs, such as to be and others). If one says in English I walk, this need not refer to now, as the sentence is uttered; rather it typically refers to a habitual action, such as I walk to the bus stop on Tuesday mornings. In order to elicit the sense of a true present, that is of an action ongoing at the time of utterance, English must generally employ the continuous present: I am walking (right now).
The Old Russian morphological present, in contrast to English, can indeed function as a true present. It may be translated either by the English simple present or continuous present as context suggests. Consider the following examples of the Old Russian true present.
Parallel to the English present, the Old Russian present tense may take on a gnomic connotation, representing an action as always obtaining. Take for example the present tense in the English saying Haste makes waste. The present tense verb makes does not mark the event as happening now, or even as being habitual. Rather it marks a general truth, supposed to be valid at all times. Consider the following uses of the Old Russian present as a gnomic present: i su'dumavu'she dreveljane su' ku'njazi'mi' svoimi' Malu'mi', ashche sja vu'vaditi' vu'lku' vu' ovi'cje', to vynositi' vi'se stado, ashche ne ubijuti' ego "and the Derevlians sought counsel with their prince Mal: 'If a wolf introduces itself among the sheep, then it will carry off the entire flock, if they do not kill it'" (Death of Igor).
We also find in Old Russian some instances of what might be termed a historical present. In English this term denotes the stereotyped use of the present found in jokes and stories surrounding the pub: I was sitting having a drink last night and this guy walks into the bar wearing a pink fedora.... Here context makes it clear that, even though walks is an instance of the present tense, the action which it depicts occurs in past time. Old Russian too employs this type of historical present, as the following example suggests: slyshavu'she drevljane jako opjati' ideti' 'The Derevlians heard that he is coming back' (Death of Igor). This may be a historical present, employing the present where we might otherwise expect a past tense, since the past participle slyshavu'she makes clear that the hearing of the report had already occurred. However we may also suppose the use of the present derives from a tendency toward direct quotation: "The Derevlians heard, 'he is coming back!'". In Old Russian jako 'that' may introduce direct as well as indirect quotation, whereas the parallel English word that only introduces indirect quotation.
In addition we occasionally find in Old Russian forms belonging to the present tense where context would lead one to expect an imperative form. Consider the following example of the present in place of the imperative: poimemu' zhenu ego voli'gu za kne^zi' svoi malu' 'Let us take his wife Olga for our prince Mal', i.e. '... to marry our prince Mal' (Olga's Revenge). The form poimemu', from the verb po-jati 'to take', is strictly speaking the first person plural present indicative active. However, this could simply be scribal variation representing the normalized form poimje'mu' of the imperative.
Finally the present forms may frequently be used with future significance. This often results from the interaction between verbal aspect and the tense system. The following example shows a prefixed perfective verb used as future: idje'te su' daniju domovi, a azu' vu'zbrashchjusja i poxozhju eshche 'Go home with the tribute; but I will turn back and will walk back yet again' (Death of Igor).
The next section will discuss further details surrounding the representation of events in future time in Old Russian.
As a strict morphological paradigm, Old Russian exhibits no specific future tense. Rather the present tense forms frequently serve to denote future events, parallel to English usage of present continuous forms as in I am going to the airport tomorrow, or parallel to the German present tense as in Wir rufen Sie dann an 'We'll call you up then'. Many noteworthy scholars have proposed that Old Russian exhibits a system of verbal aspect in which perfective verbs conjugated in the (morphological) present tense have future meaning. But even the most cogent of these arguments encounter difficulties with certain apparent exceptions. Consider the following example.
|Chapter||Ostromir Gospel||Greek Text||English Translation|
|John 3.12a||ashche zemi'na rje'xu' vamu' i ne vje'rujete||ei ta epigeia eipon humi:n kai ou pisteuete||If I told you earthly things and you do not believe|
|John 3.12b||kako ashche reko^ vamu' nebesi'naja vje'rujete||po:s ean eipo: humi:n ta epourania pisteusete||then how, if I tell you the heavenly things, will you believe?|
In the above we find one and the same present tense form, vje'rujete, translating both a Greek present tense form, pisteuete 'you believe', and a future tense form, pisteusete 'you will believe'. Various possible resolutions present themselves:
Each of the above interpretations will have its adherents. It therefore seems advisable at the outset to admit for any Old Russian verb the possibility that the present tense forms may have future meaning, either simply because the morphology allowed this in a manner akin to English or German, or because of the perfectivity of the underlying verb. On a case-by-case basis the reader may then decide what factor or factors most contribute to the futurity of the form.
Luckily Old Russian also employs some periphrastic constructions to express the future in a manner less controversial than the above. In particular the verbs natchjati, potchjati, utchjati, each 'to begin'; stati 'to stand', also 'to become'; xotje'ti 'to wish'; imje'ti, imati 'to have' may each take an infinitive complement to form a periphrastic future tense. Constructions involving imje'ti or imati can have not only the sense of a simple future, but also the sense of obligation inherent in the parallel English construction to have to (do something). Similarly constructions with xotje'ti could denote a desire, as in to want to (do something), or a simple future, as in will (do something). Consider the following examples.
The verbal forms budu, budeshi, etc., usually assigned to the verb byti 'to be', are the only verb forms in Old Russian with explicitly future meaning. Consider the following example.
Nevertheless the forms morphologically belong to the present tense. Moreover, unlike modern Russian, Old Russian typically does not employ budu 'I shall be' to form a periphrastic future tense with the infinitive. This is a later development.