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Valery.A. choudinov

Russian Academy of Sciences, The World Culture Scientific Council, Old and Medieval Russian Culture Commission, Leninskiy prospekt 32 A, RU-119991 Moscow GSP-1, Russia



Introduced is the Slavic syllabic writing - runica. Examples of the use of runica, a short history of its decipherment, and the syllabary are given. On the basis of runica and Cyrillic script interaction, the period during which the change from syllabic to alphabetic writing resulted, is estimated. Also presented is the hypothesis about the quality of the process of transition for every change of runica with ethnic alphabet writing. The coexistence of runica with Glagolitic, Greek and Latin writing is shown on some examples. Runica-type signs can be traced also on several prehistoric objects.



The greatest difficulties during the deciphering of old texts appear because we don’t know exactly the meaning of their signs and the language of the inscriptions. If an epigraphist knows that in the background of the text under investigation lays a Slavic language, his work can be much more successful. In such cases as help for him could be the runica, a syllabic writing with which the ancestors of the Slavs have written from the Palaeolithic till the XVII century, when it finally goes out of use. It is a pity that runica is now not well known to most of the readers. Meanwhile, its use already speaks in favour of the Slavic origin of some texts and artefacts. Very often runica carries some additional and interesting information. Due to its broad compatibility with every Slavic alphabet, runica is sometimes included into mixed texts from which, knowing one of the alphabets (in our case knowing cyrillica), one can determine the meaning of the runica signs. And vice versa, knowing runica one can determine the meaning of the unknown Slavic alphabet character.

The aim of this paper is to demonstrate the examples of the runica use together with other kinds of writing, and its replacement by alphabet writing. Such demonstration will help us to understand the age of such alphabets as Etruscan, Raethic, Venetic and so on.


Examples of Runica

The possibility of the pre-cyrillic writing (runica) existence was shown in a lot of inscriptions. The first example, extracted from the works of the Arabic traveller of the X century Yakub El Nedim was published in 1836 by the academician of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences Ch. M. Fraehn.1 Later the attempts were made to read this text with the help of Germanic runes and of glagolica. In Fig. 1 one can see the original El Nedim inscription (1) and its reading by F. Magnusen2 (2), A. von Siögren3 (3), S. Gedeonov5 (4-5), G. S. Grinevich5 (6), M.L. Seryakov6 (7) and by me7 (8).


Figure 1. The reading of the El Nedim’s inscription by different epigraphists


During the process of publishing new inscriptions have appeared several deciphering directions. In the XIX century, runica was considered as a variant of the Germanic runes in their Slavic use, but this approach gave rise to unacceptable results. As leaders of this direction one can assume the Danes Finn Magnusen and Andreas Sjogren, and as followers one can name two Poles, Tadeusz Wolianski8 and Jan Leciejewski.9 But this direction was refused due to the general criticism of the Normanism (according to this position all the achievements of the Russian state were connected with Norman statesmen, and first of all with first Russian prince Rurik, who came into Russia somewhere from Scandinavia). Together with criticism of the Normanism from the patriotic point of view, the archaeologists have explained the failure of this reading approach with the assumption that they represent owner's marks, the contents of which was known only to the owner. A.A. Kotlyarevsky10 suggested such explanation in 1871. The archaeologists accepted this explanation with enthusiasm because it gave the possibility to avoid the necessity to read the unknown signs on archaeological artefacts.

The Russian archaeologist of the beginning of the XX century Karl Bolssunovski has made an attempt to read the Russian monograms on the coins and the building bricks (the so called “prince’s signs”) as Greek, but has failed.11 In May 1908, the famous Russian archaeologist A.A. Spitsin has made a report “About Russes Writing” (see ref.12) in which he tried to read the inscriptions of the Mayak medieval town. Later such kind of inscriptions was determined as Khasarian ones, and the type of writing as Turkish runic. Although A.A. Spitsin was the head of this direction, satisfactory results were not achieved. As an exotic example of reading, academician B.A. Rybakov13 has mentioned the direction of the Austrian enthusiast dr. Wankel who tried to read the inscription in runica found near Smolensk as Phoenician writing. So by the middle of the XX century it was clear that runica is not alphabet writing.

More promising was the syllabic understanding, first suggested in practice by philologist from Leningrad, N.A. Konstantinov.14 To the idea that some Russian inscriptions were the examples of an unknown pre-cyrillic writing and that this writing has the syllabic and not the alphabet nature, came in 1947 E.M. Epstein.15 N.A. Konstantinov, who tried to read seven Near Dnepr Inscriptions, but not satisfactorily, followed this direction. N.V. Engovatov16 and I.M. Figurovski17 have failed too.

First partly successful decipherments were made by G.S. Grinevitch,18 who could read 3 of 20 texts to determine their general sense, but nothing more. Being inspired by the first victory, G.S. Grinevitch paid no attention to the fact that together with Slavic inscriptions he tried to read also Germanic, Turkic, and Hungaro-Finn texts as the Slavic ones. Later he lost the feeling of measure and he decided that all the up to then undeciphered kinds of writing had to be the Slavic, as for example the Linear A and the writing of the Phaistos Disc, Etruscan writing, the writing of Harappa and Mohendjo Daro, and so on. I suppose that instead of conviction the epigraphists in the reliability of his chosen way, he has rather shaken the confidence to his deciphering of texts in the eyes of the true scholars.

M.L. Seryakov suggested the syllabic readings too, but this investigator has decided that in the ground of runica lays the writing which is very near to the Hindian brahmi. The failure here was inevitable as we can see in Fig. 2 (it is the Seryakov reading the inscription on the seal of the prince Svyatoslav).19


Figure 2. The reading of the inscription on the Svyatoslav seal by M.L. Seryakov19


Till the beginning of the XX century, there were known nearly 50 examples of the Slavic runica inscriptions. Meanwhile, the corpus of inscriptions published by the archaeologists consists of around 3 000 texts.

The analysis of my predecessors' errors has helped me to understand their weak points: they tried to read every text without knowing its origin, its grade of complexity, its real connection with the Slavic runica. The reading method was practically absent. For the reliable and provable reading it was necessary first of all to elaborate the provable method and to read already read inscriptions anew.


The syllabic writing deciphering method

The scepticism shown by many linguists was quite justified as the enthusiasts-amateurs proposed the most fantastic readings. The method progress was connected with the reading of the standard texts on the coins and on the birch bark record documents where the same words were repeated being written in cyrillic characters or in syllabic signs, for example ПУЛЪ ТЪВЕРЬСЬКОЙ, ПУЛЪ ПОЛЬСЬКИ, ГОСУДАРЬ ВЬСЕЯ РУСИ, СЕ — ЛУШЕВАН (the coin “pul” of Tver, the Polen pul, the sovereign of all the Russia, it is Lushevan, the name of a boy) and so on, that gave the possibility to expose the main part of the Slavic syllabarium.

In Fig. 3 there are presented two different coins of different shapes, averses, and reverses, in different scripts and number of words (3 and 4 words respectively), but with the same sentence of first three words written on XV century Moscow coins. The left one is written in cyrillic characters and the right one in runica20; we see an extra word written in runica, СЛАВЯНЪ (of the Slavs). These coins show us that it were the Slavs who used the runica and not Russian people who used the cyrillic characters. For the first time in my practice I could see the difference between the all-Slavic writing (runica) and the ethnic Slavic writing (cyrillic characters of the Russian folk). On the other hand, by comparison of these two inscriptions of the same content and the same sounds, the determination of the every runica sign became possible. In this case we can see the outlook of the signs GO, SU, DA, RЬ, VЪ, SE, YA, RU and SI. From other standard records we can know the sentence of the other syllabic signs.


Figure 3. My reading of the inscription on the Moscow XV century coins


Here we see only one example. In my monograph21 there were presented nearly 20 such examples from which one can determine the meaning of nearly 40 signs. Meanwhile, the meanings of the other signs were determined by reading known words where the new signs were guessed as missed syllabi.


The peculiarities of runica

The phonetic ground of runica is rather original. Reading the same signs on different inscriptions one can understand the earlier sign form and its variants. Thus the sign for the syllable GO (Russian ГО) could have the outlook in the main form as Г, although it could be also in the form of L. For the main part of the signs, the vowels A, O, U and Ъ within the first group of sounds and the vowels E, I, Y (Ы), YA, YU and Ь within the second group do not differ at all, so the sign Г one can read as GA, GO, GU or GЪ and the sign L allows reading as GE, GI, GY (GЫ), GIA, GIU and GЬ. Besides in this way, these signs can read as voiceless sounds too, so Г in several texts has the meaning of KЪ (meanwhile for KA was in use the sign N, for KO the sign ­, for QU the sign Ñ), and L has the meanings КЕ, КI, КЫ, КIA, КIU and КЪ. This peculiarity makes the reading quite difficult. Much more difficult are the consequences of another peculiarity, that is of the graphical designation of every vowel as I. The sign I can read as А, YA, О, YO, E, YE, Ы, И, U, YU, Ъ, Ь. That is why in several cases instead of the word OLEG we can see the word VOLEG, instead of the word KAYEMSIA we see the word KAVEMSIA. To differ Č and C (TCH and TS) which were written by the same sign we can see instead of C the combination ТЬSЬ as in the word KRIТЬSIA (КРИЦА). The sign I as ending with the reading Й was often absent. So even with the line disposition of the runica signs in a text one can read it with great difficulty. Up to the X century, the signs of runica were often joined together in the ligatures joining from 2 to 4 signs. The reading of these inscriptions is very like to unravel a puzzle.

The syllabarium of runica I present in Table 1. From it we can see that some signs are similar to the characters of Latin, Greek, German runic and Cyrillic writing. I suppose that such similarity is not by chance, but relays on the influence of runica on the later ethnic character alphabets.


Table 1. The Slavic runica syllabarium

            Consonant                                           Runica

Cyrillica      Latinica             -а,   -о,   -у,   -ъ      -е (-я), -и (-ю), -ы, -ь

Б                     B                                                              

В/Ф                V/F                                 (,)                  ()

Г                     G                                    ( , )               

Д                    D                                                                (,)

Ж/З                Ž/Z                                  ()               (,,)

К/Х                K/H                                                  

Л                    L                           ()               ()

М                    M                                                       

H                    N                                                     ()

П                    P                                                                ()

Р                     R                                                            

С                    S                           ()                          

Т                    T                                                             (, , ,)

Ц                    C                                                               ()

Ч                    Č                                  (,)                        ()

Ш                   Š                                                                 ()


А                    A                                           (, )

О                    O                                           (, )

У                    U                                           (, )

Ъ                   — (h [ъ])                               (, )

Я                    YA                                        (, )

Ю                   YU                                        (, )

И                     I                                            (, )

Е                     E                                           (, )

Ы                   — (hI [ы])                             (, )

Ь                    — (J [ь])                                (, )

Sign - before a vowel indicates the consonant in question in that syllable.

In brackets are given the graphical variants of runica signs.

In the latinica column are given in brackets some transcription signs. To avoid confusion, in this paper only the cyrillica signs are used.


The runica and cyrillica interaction

The gradual improvement of the runica texts deciphering has given to the epigraphist (in this case to me) the possibility to read the lines of signs satisfactorily and the ligatures quite probably. It is clear that in the X century runica there was abandoned the ligature script (which remained only as tradition in the centres of the seals) and that the line writing was introduced, but it began to involve the cyrillic characters, too. Thus for the Russian inscriptions of the X century the mixed writing was typical. In other words, pure cyrillic inscriptions of the X century do not exist.

On this occasion I can give the example of an inscription, which now the Russian archaeologists assume as the oldest cyrillic, Fig. 4. It is the graffito on the amphora from Gniozdovo near Smolensk, where the epigraphists read traditionally only the central fragment.22 The attempts to read it as pure cyrillic one did not give satisfactory results.



Figure 4. The whole graffito on the amphora from Gniozdovo


By my opinion we have to read the whole massif of the graffitoes, even if most of them were made of runica and went out of the attention of previous epigraphists. To prove it let us look at the Fig. 4. Here I show the whole inscription on the Gniozdovo vessel of the Xth century AD, the most known and most ancient inscription in Russia; but really known of it is only the central part (the signs No 4-11 on the Fig. 5). The other signs were not examined before me as if they did not exist. This is the consequence of very strange attitude of archaeologists and epigraphists to the inscriptions: they use to mention and to read only the biggest and the most imposing parts of written texts. I, on the contrary, try to read all the text, including reading a particular part twice if it has another sense. So I did also in this case. The quality of handwriting of the signs in Fig. 4 is not very good, but in spite of this they are quite distinguishable.


Figure 5. My reading the graffitoes on the can from Gniozdovo


We see here 9 words and 24 signs. All the words except the second one (it is a group of two words) are placed apart, therefore there is no necessity to divide the whole inscription into words.

The first word is a part of the second composition, namely signs 8-9 rewritten as 1-2, and the sign 3 is left diagonal of the sign 8. Therefore, the first word consists of three signs; the third sign is a syllabogram indicating the runica script, but we have to prove the assumption. In spite of rather high crossing of the two diagonals, we can recognise in the sign No. 1 the sign X. It can be the cyrillic character X (H) or the syllabic sign ZA/ZHA. The second sign has a slot between two diagonals. It can be either cyrillic character L or syllabic sign LI. The third sign can be only a syllabic one with reading TI/Tь. Therefore we have here either a mixed cyrillic-runic or a pure runic inscription. But the words HLTь, HLITь, ZALTь read using cyrillica, have no sense in Russian. The only reasonable sense is in the word ZALITь (TO POUR into) obtained on reading it using runica. The second variant ZHALITь (TO STING) has in this case an abstract sense because we can ruin the vessel if we try to make a hole in it. Therefore, there remains only one possibility: to read the word as ZALITь (TO POUR into). It is my reading. I suppose that this word was the first on the vessel and was written as a ligature in this order:    = . And only then other words were added to it. This word is a key to understanding of the whole composition and without it we can guess whole eternity about the sense of other parts of the inscription. And this word in runica was written by the writer of the inscription not by chance but in Old Russian tradition.

Other two words have by my opinion mixed runic-cyrillic writing. Mixed writing was the reason for the failure of some investigators. The signs 4-7 are rather simple for reading as cyrillic characters and have very similar readings made by different investigators: GOROUHSHSHьA23,24, GOROUSHNA25, GOROUH (name) YL26 (PSAL; Greek Y is a very popular abbreviation among Russian calligraphers for the letters PSA in the word PSAL, but only in this word. Really it is the Russian word PISAL (wrote) where Greek Y is written only to stress the high level of education of the calligrapher. Because of its artificial origin (i.e., Y is in a special use among Russian calligraphers) we have no right to consider this sign as a foreign one). Other readings of these characters were GOROUNSHE27, GOROUNSHJA28, gorunsta29 and GORUN30. I read them GORO as well. But the big diagonal line in the form of У, I accept as the left part of the 8-th sign Л of runica with the reading LO. Therefore, instead of the word ГОРЪЛО (the throat) it was scrabbled the word ГОРОЛО (for runica RO=RЪ). The signs No 9-11 I read KA (the runica sign) and the cyrillic characters I read NA. Therefore, the second word is KANA, genitive of the word KAN31 (CAN, the vessel). The sign 9 is the same as cyrillic character N, but if we begin to read only cyrillic characters, the word would be NNA, i.e. without sense. The same would be if we accept the sign 10 to be the runica sign KA, the word NKAA has no sense. Therefore, the three words read in this inscription compose the sentence ZALITJ GOROLO KANA (to pour into higher than the throat of the can) that means that this vessel could accept some liquid yet till the throat and somewhat higher.

In the fourth word we see only one runica sign No 12 N (KA), but we can easily guess that the full word is KANъ (CAN). The fifth word (signs 13-14) is the same, KANъ (CAN). And so is the seventh word (signs 18-19) with the signs KH — KANъ (CAN). All the words are nouns in Nominative Singular. The cyrillic reading of these words gives no sense. This is the reason why the previous investigators paid no attention to these signs.

The sixth word consists of three signs 15-17, which are the runica signs MO, LO and KO. The word MOLOKO means milk and is in Nominative, but the similar eighth word composed of the signs No 20-22 we can read MOLOKA that means milk in Genitive. The last, ninth word consists of two signs No 23-24 where the first is YUS SMALL YOTED and the second is syllabic Tъ or cyrillic T (it is in this case no matter which one we choose). The word is JAT (or JATъ) that I understand as KANъ MOLOKA JAT (can of milk is taken, empty).

Here we can read the expression: To pour into (ЗАЛИТЬ) the throat (ГОРOЛО) of the can (КАNЪ). The can. The milk (МОЛОКО). The can of milk is taken (КАNЪ МОЛОКA ЯТЪ). These words show us the status of the vessel: it was first empty (to pour over to the throat), then full (can and milk), then again empty (can of milk is taken). Thus we see some word-indicators of the can status. Therefore, the sense has not only every word but the whole expression as well.

The mixed inscriptions are usual for some periods of the interaction between the syllabic and the character writing. In Russia we can see the gradually driving out the runica by cyrillica. These periods for Kiev were as follows: up to the middle of the X century there was pure runica, to the end of the X century there was mixed writing, i.e. cyrillica characters and runica signs in the same text, beginning of the XI century was characterized by rewriting of the runica signs in old texts with cyrillic characters, whereas at the end of the XI century we see pure cyrillic inscriptions with very rare rests of runica signs as errors. As the first blow from cyrillica we can consider disappearing of runica ligatures and transition to the writing with the separated and perfectly shaped signs, sometimes with enlarged intervals between them, i.e. we see the stylisation of runica under the influence of cyrillica.

Going from the capital city Kiev where all the processes went on quickly, we see the pattern of the change from one type of the writing into another on the territory of all the Russia as follows: in the X century runica was used preferably, although already cyrillic characters have appeared (mainly in the names), for the XI century the mixed writing was typical, and the so called consonant style (cyrillic characters in the form, but syllabic in the content). In the XII century cyrillica came to the most remote corners of Russia, and although the consonant style was changed on the writing with the vowel, the latter appeared in the texts not in accordance with the pronunciation, but in accordance with the runica orthography (oscillation in writing О/Ъ, Е/Ь, LE/LI). At the end of the XII century, cyrillica has reached Novgorod, but to the difference from Kiev here the people yet remembered runica and the social top used it as the cryptography, meanwhile the social bottom wrote it as traditional graphics. In this time we see the phenomenon of the syllabic reading of some characters coincident in its graphics with the runica signs С‑СЕ, Л-ЛЬ or ЛИ, М-МА, Ь-РЬ and so on, which continued in Novgorod till the XV century. From XIII century on, the character reading began. Thus, only towards the end of the fourth century of its existing in Russia, the character writing was considered by the inhabitants of Russia as the main writing, and runica as the old, traditional and partly anachronistic one. But still in the XVII century, i.e. three centuries later, on the most remote periphery of Russia, on the pole island Faddey we can meet a syllabic inscription (with the name AVERYAN K.). All the transition period took 7 centuries: from the X till XII century there was an offensive of cyrillica, the XII century was the period of consciousness that it was cyrillica the main Slavic writing in Russia, and the period from the XIV till the XVII century was the time of disappearing and forgetting the runica. In other words, this process, which the investigators understood as very short, in the reality lasted as a many centuries long writing transition. I suppose, this is a very important result of my investigations of the runica writing.


The hypothesis about the transition process

I suggest that analogous processes of transition from runica to the alphabet writing went on in Central and Western Europe among those Slavic or neighbouring folks which introduced their own alphabet writing in the first centuries BC, i.e. among Venets, Etruscans, Raetians and so on. But to prove this suggestion it has to be shown:

1. That runica can be combined not only with cyrillica, but with other alphabets too, for example with glagolica, Latin and Greek characters and so on, and

2. That the above-mentioned ethnics had used runica before the alphabet writing.


Runica and glagolica.

An inscription from the temple Sophia in Novgorod32 of the second half XI - beginning XII century AD was read by the epigraphist A.A. Medyntseva from the Institute of Archaeology of Russian Academy of Sciences as VOYATA in the upper line and SAICH (?)33 in the bottom one. But by my opinion in this two-lines inscription there are the signs of runica and characters of glagolica. On the top left hand we see the glagolica character A, and a little to the right the cyrillic character C. All the disposition of the characters and signs is shown on Fig. 6. At the first sight, there are two ornamental compositions between two examples of liner cross on the top and a word similar to the inscription BABY on the bottom. But it is not an ornament, every little fragment of it is a sign, and I try to separate this ornamentation into separate signs.


Figure 6. The graffito from Sophia of Novgorod and my reading the inscription


In total we see 22 characters or signs of glagolica, runica, and may be of cyrillica. Now we have first to read the signs, and then to divide the lane into the words. The characters of glagolica are No. 1, 4, 9, 16, 17, 19, 21, and 22. The characters of cyrillica are No. 2, 18, and 20. All remaining signs are from runica, e.g. No. 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, and 15. There are four big ligatures here. The first collection of signs is around the “mushroom” of glagolic S (No. 4) on the left (No. 2 and No. 3) and on the right (No. 5, 6 and 7 symmetrically), the second is the construction from the signs No. 8 (on the top), No. 11 (on the bottom) and No.12 (on the top right). The third one consists of the signs No. 9 and 10. The fourth is the cross, which consists of the signs No. 15, 16, 17, and 18 (the latter is turned). All the composition was made very inventive and consists of all the types of Slavic writing that gives us hint to think that the author of it was a calligrapher. Then he could place the signs not in proper, but in invented order. The sign No 11 is the Greek character Y, but as explained above, it means the abbreviation PSA (not PSI!) and it was used for this purpose by Russian calligraphers.

Now we can read these signs. The characters of cyrillica are quite clear. They are C (No. 2), З (No. 18) and A (No. 20). The glagolica characters are less clear, but we can identify them. They are: A (No. 1), S (No. 4), YATь (No. 9) which was used here instead of YA, T (No. 16), A (No. 17), S (No. 19), I (No. 21), CH (No. 22). The Greek abbreviation Y means PSA (No. 11). The runica signs are I (No. 3), A (No. 5), VI (No. 6), CHь (No. 7), VO (No. 8), Kъ (No. 10), Lъ (No. 12), TU (No. 13), Tь (No. 14), and VO (No. 15). In the line we obtain the inscription: ASISAVICHьVOYAKъPSALъTUTь above and VOTъAZSAICHь at the bottom.

Another task is the problem of dividing the lines into words. I solve it in this way: AS, ISA(V)ICHь-VOYAKъ, PSALъ TUTь. VOTъ AZ, SAICHь. The word AS or AZ is personal pronominal in Nominative, ISA(V)ICHь or SAICH is the name of the graffito author in Nominative, the word VOYAKъ or VOYAKA (warrior) is a noun with a small hue of contempt in stylistics, PSALъ is a verb in Perfect (I have written), TUTь or TUTъ is a pronominal of place (here), VOTъ is an indicative pronominal (here!). The whole sentence has the sense: It is me, Isayich-warrior. Here am I, Saich! As I understand the situation, such an inscription is a joke on ISAYICH (a father’s name) and does not belong to him, but to somebody from his friends or co-workers. The use of Slavic signs and the Greek Y was made consciously to stress the comic effect, and to the same purpose was used instead of the neutral word VOIN the word VOYAKA. It seems to me that this ISAYICHь was a braggart and the joke reflects this feature of his character. He is not a warrior at all; on the contrary, he may be a coward, and it was a good reason to smile upon him. The appellative ISAYICHь and the particular SAYICHь indicates the big age of this person (in Russian, appeal only with father’s name without first name to an old man is rather familiar); to this we can add the drawing of a big mushroom as glagolic S (it means an old mushroom) and a drawing of a beautiful cross in the second line; it shows us that probably ISAYICHь was a priest. Therefore someone of the calligraphers has drawn a joke upon an old priest with full father's name ISAYEVICHь.

The whole text is as follows: АС, ИСАВИЧ-ВОЯКЪ ПСАЛЪ ТУТЬ. ВОТЪ АЗ, САИЧ, i.e. Я, ИСАИЧ-ВОЯКА ПИСАЛ ТУТ. ВОТ Я, САИЧ. It means: ME, Issaich-wArriOr wrote here. Here am I, ISSAICH. It is an inscription-puzzle from nothing to do in the church building during a service; probably from the stranger name, Issaich, it was written by someone, perhaps a scribe. This inscription was made by three scripts: runica, glagolica and cyrillica.



Figure 7. The graffito from the St. George monastery of Novgorod34 and my reading the inscription


In the St. George cathedral of the St. George monastery of Novgorod, see Fig. 7, was found a graffito of the XII century34, which was read as А СЕ СОЗОНЕ YЛ(Ъ), А СЕ ... ИСЛО [ibid.]. It was the reading of Russian epigrafist of the Institute of Archaeology of RAN (Russian Academy of Science) A.A. Medynceva. Here we see the sign No 18, which this investigator could not read because it was the runica sign. Therefore the common sense of the second word in second line was undetermined by her.

I see here 22 signs where the signs 1-10, 12-17 and 19 are the cyrillica characters, the signs 20-22 are glagolica ones, the sign No 11 (Y) is a Greek character as abbreviation for the three Russian letters PSA, and the sign No 18 is runica syllabogram DI. The full text is ASESOZONTEPSALASESъDIISLO.

I divide the text into the words: ASE, SOZONTE, PSAL. ASE SъDII SLO. Compared to the Medynceva34 reading, I read the person name SOZONTE and not SOZONE, and twice ASE=AZ, but not A SE ... (and this...). The letter “I” before the last word does not exist independently; it is a part of the word SъDII. The last word remained unfinished by the author of inscription (SLO instead of SLOVO).

I read as АСЕ, СОЗОНТЕ, ПСЛ, АСЕ СЪДИИ СЛО(ВО), i.e. Я, СОЗОНТЬ, ПИСАЛ, Я СОДЕЯЛ СЛОВО. It means: ME, SOZONT, WROTE, I HAVE MADE A WORD. Sozont is perhaps a calligrapher too. It is very interesting that the form ASE instead of ASЪ, and SOZONTE instead of SOZONTЪ are the remains of syllabic orthography. Probably, on the ending of these forms was ТЬ instead of ТЪ. And in runica ТЬ=TE, therefore one could change one ending for another one.

In the word SъDII (made) the syllable DI was written in runica, and the word СЛО(ВО) (word) was written in glagolica. The text was made in three types of writing consciously as if SOZONT the first on the Earth HAS MADE A WORD like the Lord. Thus I suppose that the inscription was a joke on SOZONT who probably was a very eloquent and proud person as if he was the Lord himself. As in the previous example, we see here not only a joke of the Russian monastery calligraphers but also the demonstration of their skill and professional experience: they were able to write what they liked: cyrillica, glagolica, runica and Greek characters. They believed that nobody except them could read these inscriptions. That is the reason of their jokes: they were accessible only for a very narrow circle of persons.

Not many inscriptions of this type were found and their authors were the scribes, i.e. the professionals, who had to rewrite the texts from glagolica into cyrillica. But in general, the Glagolic writing on the territory of Russia did not exist.


Runica in prehistoric inscriptions

Besides in mediaeval Russian inscriptions,21 the runica type signs can be traced in several prehistoric objects. Examples of this type have been presented elsewhere.35,36 Collection and deciphering of inscriptions of this type is a challenge for the future.



Based on the material taken into consideration we can suggest that the most ancient all-Slavic writing was runica. The transition from the syllabic all-Slavic writing runica to the European alphabets (not only to the Slavic ones) went step by step with the necessity of new ethnics to create their own alphabet writing.  



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2.      [Magnusen F.]. Runamo og Runerne. En Commiteeberetning til det Kongelige Danske Videnskabers Selskab Samt Trende Afhandlinger angaaende Rune Literaturen, Runamo og forskjelligesaeregne (tildeels, nylig opdagelde). Kjöbenhavn, 1841, S. 260

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12.  Константинов Н.А. Черноморские загадочные знаки и глаголица. Ученые записки Ленинградского государственного университета, № 197, серия филологических наук, вып. 23, Л., 1957, c. 111.      (Konstantinov N.A. The mysterious Black See signes and Glagolica. Scientific notes of the Leningrad State University, N 197, serial of Philological Sciences, issue 23, Leningrad, 1957,  p. 111)

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14.  Константинов Н.А. Начало расшифровки загадочных знаков Приднепровья. Вестник ЛГУ, серия истории, языка и литературы (№ 14), вып.3. Л., 1963       (Konstantinov N.A. Start of deciffering of mysterious signs of Podneprovye. Herald of Leningrad State University, Series of history, language and literature (No 14), issue 3. Leningrad, 1963, in Russian)

15.  Эпштейн Е.М. К вопросу о времени происхождения русской письменности. Ученые записки ЛГУ, серия историческая, Л., 1947, вып. 15          (Epstein E.M. To the question about the time of the origin of Russian writing. Scientific notes of Leningrad State University, Series of history. Leningrad, 1947, in Russian)

16.  Энговатов Н.В. Древнейшая русская азбука. Знание – сила, 1960, № 11    (Engovatov N.V. The most ancient Russian alphabet. Knowledge is force, 1960, No 11, in Russian)

17.  Фигуровский И.А. Расшифровка нескольких древнерусских надписей, сделанных «загадочными знаками». Ученые записки Елецкого педагогического института, вып. 2. Липецк, 1957    (Figurovski I.A. The deciffering of some Old Russian inscriptions made by the “mysterious signs”. Scientific notes of the Elets Pedagogical Institute, issue 2. Lipetsk, 1957, in Russian)

18.  Гриневич Г.С. Сколько тысячелетий славянской письменности (о результатах дешифровки праславянских рун). Русская мысль, Реутов, 1991       (Greenevich G.S. How many millennia has the Slavic writing (about the deciffering of the pre-Slavic Runes). Russian thought, town Reutov, 1991, in Russian)

19.  Серяков М.Л. Русская дохристианская письменность. СПб, 1997, с. 63  (Seryakov M.L. Russian pre-Christian Writing. Sankt-Petersbourg, 1997, p. 63, in Russian)

20.  Чудинов В.А. Надписи на польских и русских изделиях. Экономика. Политика. Культура. Сборник научных работ Государственного университата управления. Вып. 4. М., 1999, с. 218, рис. 15      (Choudinov V.A. Inscriptions on the Polish and Russian artefacts. Economics. Politics. Culture. Proceeding of the scientific works of the State University of Management. Issue 4. Moscow, 1999, p. 218, Fig. 15, in Russian)

21.  Чудинов В.А. Проблема дешифровки. Создание силлабария. Чтение смешанных надписей. Серия: “Славяне, письмо и имя” Москва., 2000, 96 с. (Choudinov V.A. Problem of deciphering. Making of syllabarium. Reading of mixed inscriptions. Monography. Series: “Slavs, writing and Name”. Moscow, Center of Ancient Writing and Culture, 2000, 96 pp.б, in Russian)

22.  Медынцева А.А. Грамотность в Древней Руси. По памятникам эпиграфики Х-первой половины XIII века. М., 2000, с. 22     (Medynceva A.A. The literacy in Old Rus. On the epigraphical monuments of X - first half of XIII century. Moscow, 2000, p. 22, in Russian)

23.  Авдусин Д.А., Тихомиров М.Н. Древнейшая русская надпись. Вестник АН СССР, 1950, № 4, с. 71-79.      (Avdusin D.A., Tihomirov M.N. The most ancient Russian inscription. Herald of Academy of Sciences USSR, 1950, No 4, p. 71-79.)

24.  Ильин В.В. Слова, пришедшие из глубины веков. Гнёздово: история и современность. Материалы межвузовской научно-практической конференции. Смоленск, 1998, с. 62           (Ilyin V.V. The words come from the centuries depth. Gniozdovo. Material of the Interuniversities scientific-practical Conference. Smolensk, 1998, p. 62)

25.  Черных П.Я. Происхождение русского литературного языка. Москва, 1950, с. 398-401          (Chernyh P.Ya. The origin of the Russian literary language. Moscow, 1950, p. 398-401)

26.  Mareš F.V. Dva objevy starych slavanských narrisu (v SSSR a v Rumunsku). Slavia, Roe. XX. Praha, 1951, с. 507

27.  Корзухина Г.Ф. О Гнездовской амфоре и ее надписи. Исследования по археологии СССР. Сборник статей в честь проф. М.И. Артамонова. Наука Ленинград 1961, с.228-229           (Korzuhina G.F. About Gniozdovo amphora and its inscription. Investigations on archaeology of USSR. Collection of articles in honor of prof. M.I. Artamonov. Leningrad, 1961, p. 228-229)

28.   Мошин В. Наjстарата кирилска епиграфика: Словенска писменост. 1050-годишнина на Климент Охридски. Охрид, 1966, с. 40    (Moshin V. The oldest kyrillic epigraphy: Slavic literacy. 1050 anniversary of Kliment Ohridski, Ohrid 1966, p. 40, in Macedonian)

29.  Nedeljković O. Poluglasovi ú staroslovenskim epigrafskim spomenicima. Slovo, Zagreb, 1967, Br. 17, с. 6-7

30.  Медынцева А.А. Надписи на амфорной керамике Х-начала XI вв. и проблема происхождения древнерусской письменности. Культура славян и Русь. Наука, Москва, 1998, с. 189      (Medynceva A.A. Inscriptons on the amphora ceramics X-beginning XI centuries and the problem of the origin of Old Russian writing. Culture of Slavs and Russia. Nauka, Moscow, 1998, p. 189, in Russian)

31.  Чудинов В.А. О Русском названии греческих амфор. Третьи культурологические чтения. Сборник кафедры культурологии ИППК МГУ серии «Науки о культуре и человеке». М., 1998, с. 124, рис. 1      (Choudinov V.A. About Russian name of the Greek amphors. Third culturological readings. Proceedings of the chair of culturology of Qualification Elevation Institute of the Moscow State University. Series “Sciences about culture and humans”. Moscow, 1998, p. 124, Fig. 1, in Russian)

32.  Медынцева А.А. Глаголические надписи из Софии Новгородской. СА, 1969, № 1, с. 209, рис. 8      (Medynceva A.A. Glagolica inscriptions from the Sophia of Novgorod. Soviet archaeology, 1969, No 1, p. 209, Fig. 8, in Russian)

33.   Ibidem, p. 208

34.  Рождественская Т.В. Древнерусские надписи на стенах храмов: новые источники XI-XV вв. СПб, 1992, с. 52, надпись 3      (Rozhdestvenskaya T.V. Old Russian inscriptions on the temples walls: new sources of XI-XV centuries. Sankt-Petersbourg, 1992, inscription 3, in Russian)

35.  Чудинов В.А. Славянская докирилловская письменность. История дешифровки. Части 1 и 2. Серия: “Славяне, письмо и имя”. Москва., 2000, 168 с.        (Choudinov V.A. Slavic pre-Cyrillic writing. The history of deciphering. Monography. Part 1 and 2. Series: “Slavs, writing and Name”. Moscow, Centre of Ancient Writing and Culture, 2000, 168 pp,. in Russian)

36.  Чудинов В.А. Славянская мифология и очень древние надписи. Издательский центр научных и учебных программ, Москва 1998.            (Choudinov V.A. Slavic mythology and very ancient inscriptions. The Publishing Center of Scientific and Learning Programmes, Moscow 1998, 28 pp, in Russian)


Additional reading:

Чудинов В.А. Руница и тайны археологии Руси, Вече, Москва 2003.  (Choudinov V.A. Runica and the secrets of the archaeology of Rus, Veche, Moscow 2003, in Russian)




Runica in črkovne pisave

Predstavljena je slovanska zlogovna pisava runica, primeri njene rabe, kratka zgodovina razvozlavanja in zlogovnik. Na podlagi soobstoja runice in cirilice je ocenjeno obdobje, v katerem je prišlo do prehoda z zlogovne pisave na črkovno. V nekaterih primerih je vidno tudi soobstajanje runice z glagolico, latinico in grško pisavo. Runici podobne znake zasledimo tudi na nekaterih predmetih iz prazgodovine.