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HSE Researcher Investigates Unique List Naming Killers of a 12-century Russian Prince

During restoration work to the Spaso Preobrazhensky Cathedral in Pereslavl-Zalessky, an ancient Russian city 130km from Moscow, researchers found several ancient graffiti markings on the walls. They included some writing from the C12th about the murder of Prince Andrey Bogolyubsky, and a list of his killers. The Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Archaeology has said that this is the earliest written record in North-East Rus. Moscow specialists, HSE Professor Alexey Gippius and Savva Mikheev from the Institute of Slavic Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences made the find and are currently examining it.

Прорись правого столбца надписи об убийстве Андрея Боголюбского. Источник: Институт археологии РАН
Note on the right column about the murder of Andrey Bogolyubsky, source Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Archaeology

'In terms of value, the writing is among the top 10 most important ancient Russian samples of writing,' Alexey Gippius said, adding that it was almost destroyed during restoration work.

Restoration work is underway on the walls of the cathedral, which was built in 1157, since summer 2015. That is when the first samples of writing were found, including an 800-year-old text on the murder of Prince Andrey Bogolyubsky.

Prince Andrey, grandson of Vladimir Monomakh and son of Yury Dolgoruky, after his father's death in 1157, became Grand Prince of Vladimir. Under him, the government of Vladimir – Suzdal srengthened, and he also brought the holy Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God from Kiev to Vladimir. He was killed by conspirators in his entourage. The note about his murder was found in the middle of the southern apse of the cathedral. On the left column you can see the full list naming his killers, cursing them, and some other words, and on the right – a short description of the murder. Alexey Gippius said that the inscriptions were made after the conspirators were tried. About 20 people are named as the killers.

Alexey Gippius also notes that unlike contemporary graffiti, ancient-Russian writing on cathedral walls could have been official. 'That was how official regulations, including on Prince Vsevolod's widow's purchase of Boyan's land, on the walls of the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev. But the Pereslavl text is unique in its composition – comprising both the news of the murder, and a list of the killers, and a curse. Importantly, it was done in the immediate aftermath of the events, and represents a relatively clearly dated example of written culture in North-East Rus, such as the Life of St. Nifont, written in Rostov in 1219.'


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