A Promissory Note on a Wooden Tablet from Mangazeya
The reason that prompted the authors to write this article was an archaeological artifact (found in 2009 during excavations of the Mangazeya settlement) in the form of a pine tablet with Cyrillic letters carved on it. The analysis of the inscription demonstrates that it was neither an educational text nor a meaningless set of letters. This was a completely coherent document, called “a debt bondage” (Rus. кабала) in the seventeenth century and earlier and “a promissory note” later. The document refers to private legal acts, but due to the absence of surnames and the names of witnesses confirming its contents, it is difficult to consider this promissory note a completed legal act. The appearance and content of the tablet refer to similar private legal acts from the northwest of Russia (Veliky Novgorod and Pskov) and demonstrate certain archaic features. This proves the survivability of northern Russian culture in colonised northern Siberia (where for obvious reasons there was a deficit of paper, an already common material in the seventeenth century). The promissory note from Mangazeya is a sample of everyday writing, a rather archaic form of private legal act that existed in the Novgorodian north long before the start of the Russian colonisation of Siberia.
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