Old Russian Online

Selected Annotated Bibliography

Todd B. Krause


The works below provide sources in which the reader may find additional Old Russian texts in the original language. For the most part these works have little or no commentary in English.

  • Medieval Slavic Texts. Volume 1: Old and Middle Russian Texts, Charles E. Gribble; Slavica: Cambridge, MA, 1973. A wide-ranging collection of texts that are difficult to access otherwise. Aside from some brief comments at the beginning, the text consists of photocopied reproductions of selections from other publications, almost exclusively in modern Russian.
  • Chronica Nestoris: Textum Russico-Slovenicum, Franz von Miklosich; Vienna, 1860. A nice edition of the Primary Chronicle with useful appendices. The spelling is normalized using a system that more closely resembles Old Church Slavonic orthography than the modern Russian orthography typically encountered. Commentary in Latin.
  • A Reader in Old Church Slavonic and Old Russian, N. P. Vakar; Massachusetts. A short selection of texts. Useful for illustrating the similarities of OCS and Old Russian, as well as giving a few nice examples of handwriting. A very brief glossary at the end provides the Greek and modern Russian equivalents.


The following works provide useful references, and in some instances useful introductions, to the grammar of the Old Russian language. Unfortunately only one such source exists in English.

  • Altslawische Grammatik, Hans Holm Bielfeldt; Veb Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1961. Strictly speaking a grammar of Old Church Slavonic. But throughout the author mentions how Old Russian and modern Russian distinguish themselves from Old Church Slavonic, and this allows it to serve as a guide to Old Russian in a vein similar to that of Schmalstieg. In German.
  • Grammaire du Vieux-Russe, Jean-Yves le Guillou; Editions Klincksieck, Paris, 1972. Essentially a sketch of the grammar of Old Russian. Very concise, but useful. In French.
  • An Introduction to Old Russian, William R. Schmalstieg; Journal of Indo-European Studies Monograph Series, 1995. An introductory grammar with some short reading selections and a glossary. Perhaps the only truly introductory text focused specifically on Old Russian. Aimed at those with an interest in historical linguistics, with more emphasis on phonological evolution than on, say, matters of literary style or the broader historical context of the texts.


The search for a dictionary of Old Russian proves to be an ongoing struggle. The assumption underlying most, if not all, dictionaries is that one would only study Old Russian if one had first learned modern Russian. Where this assumption does not hold, one is assumed to be familiar with Latin and Greek. A viable dictionary of Old Russian with meanings in English is still wanting.

  • Concise Dictionary of Old Russian: 11th-17th Centuries, Horace G. Lunt; Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1970. An exceedingly brief dictionary, or gloss, of Old Russian. Glosses are from Old Russian into modern Russian, no definitions in English.
  • Lexicon Palaeoslovenico-Graeco-Latinum, Franz von Miklosich; Vienna 1865. The term "Old Slavonic" in the title is taken in the widest sense, and the entries include vocabulary from Old Church Slavonic and Old Russian among others. As the title suggests, the glosses of Slavic headwords are given in Greek and Latin, so of admittedly limited use to the scholar without a knowledge of one of those languages. But the only dictionary of its sort to cover such a range of vocabulary, and for this reason alone it is useful, even if one needs a dictionary of Greek or Latin at hand. Commentary in Latin.
  • Materialy dlja Slovarja Drevne-Russkago Jazyka, I. I. Sreznevskij (3 Volumes); St. Petersburg, 1893-1912. Until rather recently, one of the gold standards of dictionaries on Old Russian; replete with useful citations. The orthography of the headwords will appear somewhat antiquated to the reader accustomed to editions of texts produced more recently (for example, ê typically appears where more recent texts write ja). All definitions and commentary in modern Russian.

Linguistic History

The following texts are not grammars of Old Russian proper. Rather they provide overviews, some more and some less technical, of the development of the Russian language throughout history, or of the Slavic language family as a whole. Inasmuch as they treat of the earliest stages of the Russian language, or Common Slavic as a whole, they still prove useful in trying to understand Old Russian on its own terms.

  • Russian and the Slavonic Languages, W. J. Entwistle and W. A. Morison; Faber and Faber. The initial chapters provide a detailed and readable account of the early distribution of the Slavs. Particularly useful for numerous references to early historical works in Greek and Latin, with which the authors show greater familiarity. The work met with scholarly criticism for certain inconsistencies of presentation and lack of familiarity with the less central members of the Slavic language family, this perhaps due in some measure to the hastened wartime preparation of the original edition.
  • Russische Historische Grammatik, Valentin Kiparsky; Vols. 1-3; Carl Winter, 1967. Taken as the standard reference on the evolution of Russian phonology, morphology, and lexicon from the earliest period. In German.
  • Russian Historical Grammar, W. K. Matthews; Athlone Press, 1960. Perhaps the most readable of the historical grammars of Russian, this has an easy-going style and short sections on a wide range of topics. Includes a selection of short texts from different historical periods at the end. The author passed away suddenly during the editing process, and the book was published posthumously by his students.
  • The Dawn of Slavic, Alexander M. Schenker; Yale University Press, 1995. One of the more recent works providing an overview of Slavic historical linguistics. Authoritative, up-to-date, wide-ranging, and easy to read. This has provided a new standard for overviews of the development of the Slavic language family. The linguistic development is situated within the historical context, and several textual samples are provided along with photographic images. Highly recommended.
  • A Prehistory of Slavic, George Y. Shevelov; Carl Winter, 1964. Comprehensive account of the historical phonology of the Slavic languages. Concise statements of historical development together with numerous examples and a select bibliography dedicated to each specific phonetic change under discussion.
  • A History of the Russian Language, A. A. Sokolsky; Imp. Taravilla. Suc. de G. Saez, Madrid, 1966. A straightforward account of the history of the Russian language. Brief and easy to follow, with a lively writing style. Includes a nice selection of short texts rendered in the original, in modern Russian, and in English.
  • The Russian Language: A Brief History, G. O. Vinokur (trans. M. A. Forsyth); Cambridge University Press, 1971. A short but useful description of the evolution of the Russian language.
  • A Linguistic History of Russia to the End of the Eighteenth Century, A.P. Vlasto; Oxford, 1986. A useful treatment of the history of the Russian language (not of Russian itself). Tersely written, in the style of classroom notes. It must be used with caution. Frequently arguments regarding grammatical features proper to one particular historical period are supported with examples from later periods. And there is a general lack of clarity as to the source from which numerous examples are drawn.

History and Culture

The texts listed below treat not the language, but rather the broader historical context surrounding the development of the East Slavic tribes, as well as the cultures with which they interacted.

  • An Atlas of Russian and East European History, Arthur E. Adams, Ian M. Matley, and William O. McCagg; Praeger, 1966. An extremely useful work for the visually oriented. Brief descriptions of historical trends, changes, and movements are astutely illustrated by well-drawn maps. Highly recommended.
  • The Viking, Bertil Almgren et al.; Crescent, 1975. A wide-ranging survey of numerous aspects of Viking culture. Large-format and well illustrated. Useful in the present context for an extended discussion of Viking trade in the regions inhabited by the Rus.
  • The Slavs, Marija Gimbutas; Thames & Hudson, 1971. Long an essential reference for students of the prehistory of Slavs. In addition to a detailed overview of the archaeological evidence up to the time of publication, it also provides a useful summary of some of the earliest documentary evidence from outside sources.
  • A Companion to Russian History, ed. Abbott Gleason; Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. A useful collection of insightful essays on a wide array of topics throughout Russian history.
  • Russia: A Concise History, Ronald Hingley; Thames & Hudson, 2003. A well written, engaging history of Russia.
  • Reinterpreting Russian History, Daniel H. Kaiser and Gary Marker; Oxford, 1994.
  • Russian Myths, Elizabeth Warner; British Museum Press & University of Texas Press, Austin, 2002. A brief overview of central issues in the study of Russian myths. Well written, intended for the non-specialist.

Historical Sources

The texts below contain primary sources pertinent to the understanding of the history and culture of the early East Slavs. Much of it comes in the form of personal travel accounts.

  • Beazley, C. R. (1903). The Texts and Versions of John de Plano Carpini and William de Rubruquis, (1st ed., pp. 1-373). London: Hakluyt Society. Retrieved from http://archive.org/details/textsversionsofj00hakluoft
  • St. Bertin, ed. G. Waitz. (1883). Annales Bertiniani, Hannover. (http://books.google.com/books?id=RCsKAAAAIAAJ&source=gbs_similarbooks)
  • Liutprand of Cremona. De Constantinopoleos nominibus, Cap. III. Published in Reuber (1584).
  • Reuber, Julius. (1584). Veterum scriptorum, qui caesarum et imperatorum germanicorum res per aliquot secula gestas, literis mandarunt, Frankfurt. (http://books.google.com/books?id=VCk-AAAAcAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s)

Indo-European Context

The following lists some sources useful for understanding the larger Indo-European framework in which the Slavic language family forms but one particular subgroup.

  • The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World, J. P. Mallory and Douglas Q. Adams; Oxford, 2006. An excellent introduction to the entirety of Indo-European studies. Discussions range from the reconstruction of morphological forms, to the Indo-European lexicon, to matters of interpretation of Indo-European myth and culture. The discussion of the lexicon forms a brief recapitulation and modernization of Buck's Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages, dividing the lexicon into semantic categories and discussing the etymologies of words focused on related themes. Highly recommended.


The following list provides references to some of the secondary literature consulted in the preparation of these lessons.

  • Andreyev, Nikolay (1962). "Pagan and Christian Elements in Old Russia." Slavic Review, 21(1), 16-23.
  • Bermel, N. (1995). "Aspect and the Shape of Action in Old Russian." Russian Linguistics, 19(3), 333-348.
  • Dewey, H. W., & Kleimola, A. M. (1984). "Russian Collective Consciousness." The Slavonic and East European Review, 62(2), 180-191. doi:10.2307/4208850
  • Coupland, Simon (2003). "The Vikings on the Continent in Myth and History." History, 88(290), 186-203.
  • Cross, Samuel Hazzard (1946). "The Scandinavian Infiltration into Early Russia." Speculum, 21(4), 505-514.
  • Forsyth, James (1972). "The Nature and Development of the Aspectual Opposition in the Russian Verb." The Slavonic and East European Review, 50(121), 493-506.
  • Gribble, C. E. (1989). "Omissions of the Jer Vowels in Early East Slavic Manuscripts." Russian Linguistics, 13(1), 1-14.
  • Labunka, Miroslav (1988). "Religious Centers and Their Missions to Kievan Rus': From Ol'ga to Volodimer." Harvard Ukrainian Studies, 12/13, 159-193.
  • Lunt, Horace G. (1987). "On the Relationship of Old Church Slavonic to the Written Language of Early Rus'." Russian Linguistics, 11(2/3), 133-162.
  • Lunt, Horace G. (1980). "Notes on the Imperfect in Early East Slavic." The Slavic and East European Journal, 24(1), 91-97.
  • Lunt, Horace G. (1951). "Russian and the Slavonic Languages by W. J. Entwhistle; W. A. Morrison." Language, 27(1), 82-94.
  • Majeska, George (2009). "Rus' and the Byzantine Empire." In Gleason, A Companion to Russian History, 51-65.
  • Matthews, W. K. (1957). "The Phonetic Basis of Pleophony in East Slavonic." The Slavonic and East European Review, 36(86), 94-99.
  • Matthews, W. K. (1953). "The Russian Language before 1700." The Slavonic and East European Review, 31(77), 364-387.
  • Matthews, W. K. (1951). "The Pronunciation of Mediaeval Russian." The Slavonic and East European Review, 30(74), 87-111.
  • Montgomery, James E. (2000). "Ibn Fadlan and the Rusiyyah." Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies, 3(1), 1-25.
  • Ostrowski, Donald (2009). "The Mongols and Rus': Eight Paradigms." In Gleason, A Companion to Russian History, 66-86.
  • Riasanovsky, N. (1947). "The Norman Theory of the Origin of the Russian State." Russian Review, 7(1), 96-110.
  • Senn, Alfred (1949). "Verbal Aspects in Germanic, Slavic, and Baltic." Language, 25(4), 402-409.
  • Tolochko, Petro (1987). "Religious Sites in Kiev During the Reign of Volodimer Sviatoslavich." Harvard Ukrainian Studies, 11(3/4), 317-322.
  • Zguta, Russell (1972). "Kievan 'Byliny': Their Enigmatic Disappearance from the Kievan Territory." Journal of the Folklore Institute, 9(2/3), 185-193.

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