Valentin Yanin: "I've sent a birch bark letter to you"
"Historical discoveries which changed human perception of a man who lived in old Russia". The author of these discoveries is an outstanding Russian historian and archeologist Valentin Yanin, who has been awarded the 2010 Alexander Solzhenitsyn prize.
Valentin Yanin is known as a founder of the Russian archeological school. When a student of the History department, he joined an archeological expedition in the city of Veliky Novgorod (Great Novgorod) in north-western Russia. When he saw all those unique findings there, his major interest in life was no longer a mystery for him. Since 1962 he has been heading the Novgorod archeological expedition and controls annual summer archeological field works. Mr. Yanin himself is primarily known as a founder of famous birch bark letters which had been used by residents of the old Novgorod for communication. The beginning of the new millennium brought him great success when in 2000 he discovered a unique Novgorod Book of Psalms- three wooden boards containing King David`s Psalms:
"This book is one of the oldest in Slavic world, it dates back to late 10th-early 11th century. What is interesting about it is that for some reasons a copyist had changed the middle of the text of Psalm 75, but left the beginning and the ending unchanged", Valentin Yanin says.
As an archeologist, Mr. Yanin deals much with historical facts. In his opinion, one should not trust the chronicles which had been rewritten many times, while birth bark letters are documents the historians can rely on without a doubt. Examine these birch bark letters carefully-and you`ll learn the way of living in old Russia. There you can find a birch bark note about some fish sent to a relative, some calculations, appeals to tsars and love letters.
Yanin`s discoveries proved that almost the entire population of Novgorod was literate, and children started to learn at the age of 6-7. Birch barks also serve as a proof to a legend that in the 9th century Russia invited Prince Rurik from abroad to rule the country:
"The Slavic tribes which inhabited the north-western Russia came there from the Southern Baltic lands. And when they came into conflict, they invited Rurik from those places where they had used to live before", Mr. Yanun says.
However, Rurik was not a real but rather a hired sovereign in Novgorod. He did not collect taxes, did not own land and received a salary from the Novgorod Republic.
As of today, some 1000 birch bark letters have been found in the territory of Novgorod. And, Mr. Yanin thinks, at least 20,000-30,000 more are expecting archeologists. But those which Valentin Yanin already has is enough for him to publish a historical bestseller headlined "I`ve sent a birch bark letter to you", that would certainly be translated into many languages and receive international acclaim.