Interesting facts about birch bark letters

Birch bark or, as it is also called, birch bark, our ancestors used as a "notebook". On the inside of the bark, letters were written with an instrument made of metal or bone. This writing device was called that - wrote.

Archaeologists claim that birch bark as a material for recordings in Russia began to be used no later than the 11th century. In the 15th century, birch bark fell out of mass use, as a more convenient material appeared - paper.

However, Academician A. A. Zaliznyak disagrees with this statement. He claims that they wrote on birch bark even later. Simply, in the second half of the 18th century, Empress Catherine II ordered to drain the soil in Veliky Novgorod. And birch bark was stored much better in damp soil than in dry soil. Therefore, only the most ancient letters, lying at great depths, have survived.

An interesting fact: despite numerous mentions of birch bark letters in various ancient sources, the first of them was discovered not so long ago - in 1951. A resident of Novgorod, Nina Akulova, who worked on an expedition led by archaeologist Artemy Vladimirovich Artsikhovsky, discovered in the ground a small scroll made of birch bark with a printed text. A.V. Artsikhovsky immediately ordered to issue Akulova a prize - 100 rubles. Since that time, on July 26, Veliky Novgorod has celebrated the Day of the Birch Bark Letter. The 1951 season turned out to be successful for archaeologists, 9 more birch bark documents were discovered.

Gradually, letters began to be found in other cities. In addition to Veliky Novgorod, they were found in 11 cities of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. But Veliky Novgorod is the undisputed leader - more than 1100 finds were made here.

So far, only four letters have been found in Moscow. The first of them was in 1988 in Voskresensky passage. It was a scrap of a copy of a land title. Two more finds were in 2007 during excavations in the Kremlin. And the fourth time, luck smiled at archaeologists in 2015 at the site of the demolished Rossiya hotel.

And what did our distant ancestors write on birch bark? Basically it was private correspondence: instructions, receipts, promissory notes. Much less often - love messages, jokes, riddles and even children's drawings. For example, in 1956, 12 letters were discovered, written in the 13th century by a Novgorod boy named Onfim. Several drawings by Onfim were also found, but they are not numbered, since they have no text. But all certificates with records are assigned an individual number. So Onfim's epistles are numbered from 199 to 210.

The total vocabulary of all the letters discovered so far is more than 15, 000 words. This confirms the fact that in Veliky Novgorod, the literacy rate of the population was quite high. Moreover, not only among men, women and children were also the authors of many messages.

The sizes of the birch bark letters found differ significantly. The length is from 15 to 40 centimeters, and the width is from 2 to 8. At the same time, it should be borne in mind that not all letters have come down to us intact, most of them are just scraps.