Birch bark letter no. 292

Birch bark letter no. 292

The Birch bark letter given the document number 292 is the oldest known document in any Finnic language. The document is dated to the beginning of the 13th century. It was found in 1957 by a Soviet expedition, led by Artemiy Artsikhovskiy in the Nerev excavation on the left coast side of Novgorod. [А.В. Арциховский, В.И. Борковский. Новгородские грамоты на бересте (из раскопок 1956 - 1957 гг.). М.: Из-во Акад. Наук СССР, 1963.]

The language used in the document is thought to be an archaic form of the language spoken in Olonets Karelia, a dialect of the Karelian language. [ [http://victorian.fortunecity.com/christy/32/tuohi.html Itämerensuomalaista kirjoitusta 1200-luvulta] fi icon]

Transcription

The text is written in Cyrillic alphabet in the Karelian dialect of the archaic Finnish or Finnic language. A transcription of the Cyrillic text is as follows:

юмолануолиїнимижиноулисѣханолиомобоуюмоласоудьнииохови

Interpretation

by Yuri Yeliseyev

The text, as transliterated to the Latin alphabet by Yuri Yeliseyev in 1959 [Елисеев Ю. С. Древнейший письменный памятник одного из прибалтийско-финских языков.— Изв. АН СССР. Отд-ние лит. и языка, 1959, т. 18, Вып. 1, с. 65—72. ] and interpreted in modern Finnish:

jumolanuoli ï nimizinouli se han oli omo boujumola soud'ni iohovi
Jumalannuoli, kymmenen [on] nimesiTämä nuoli on Jumalan omaTuomion-Jumala johtaa.

In English, this means roughly the following:

God's arrow, ten [is] your nameThis arrow is God's ownThe Doom-God leads.

Yeliseyev believes, that this is an invocation against lightning, as evidenced by "ten your names" construction. According to superstitious notions, knowledge of the name gives a human the magic power over an object or phenomenon. [http://www.kirjazh.spb.ru/biblio/pizv_bg/pizv_g0.htm Written information on Karelians] by S. I. Kochkurkina, A. M. Spiridonov, T. N. Jackson, 1996]

by Martti Haavio

As the orthography used does not utilize spaces between words, the source text can be rendered into words in different ways. Martti Haavio gives a different interpretation of the text in his 1964 article, suggesting, that this is a sort of an oath:

jumolan nuoli inimizinouli sekä n [u] oli omo boujumola soud'nii okovy
Jumalan nuoli, ihmisennuoli sekä nuoli oma. [Tuomion jumalan kahlittavaksi.]

In English, this means roughly the following:

God's arrow, man'sarrow, and (his) own arrow. [To be chained by the Doom-God.]

by Yevgeny Khelimsky

Professor Yevgeny Khelimsky in his 1986 work [Хелимский Е. А. О прибалтийско-финском языковом материале в новгородских берестяных грамотах. In the book Янин В. Л., Зализняк А. А. Новгородские грамоты на бересте (из раскопок 1977—1983 гг.): Комментарии и словоуказатель к берестяным грамотам (из раскопок 1951—1983 гг.) / АН СССР. Отд-ние истории. — М.: Наука, 1986. — С. 254—255.)] criticizes Haavio's interpretation and gives the third known scientific interpretation, believing the letter to be an invocation, like Yeliseyev:

Jumalan nuoli 10 nimeziNuoli säihä nuoli ambuJumala suduni ohjavi (johavi?)

A translation into Finnish of this interpretation would look something like this:

Jumalan nuoli 10 nimesiNuoli säihkyvä nuoli ampuuSuuto-Jumala (Syyttö-Jumala)† ohjaa (johtaa?)

In English, it means roughly the following:

God's arrow, ten your name(s)Arrow sparkling, arrow shootsThe Doom-God guides/directs (leads/rules?).

†"Syyttö-Jumala" could also mean "Blaming God" or "God that blames"; modern Finnish "syyttää" = to blame.

References

General references

* Jelisejev, J. S. "Vanhin itämerensuomalainen kielenmuistomerkki", Virittäjä-lehti 1961: 134
* Jelisejev, J. S. "Itämerensuomalaisia kielenmuistomerkkejä" (Zusammenfassung: "Ostseefinnische Sprachdenkmäler"), Virittäjä-lehti 1966: 296 [http://www.kotikielenseura.fi/virittaja/hakemistot/aakkostetut/virsis_j.html]
* Martti Haavio "The Letter on Birch-Bark No. 292", Journal of the Folklore Institute, 1964
* Haavio, Martti, "Tuohikirje n:o 292. Vanha suomalaisen muinaisuskonnon lähde", Virittäjä-lehti 1964: 1 [http://haku.tsv.fi/proeta/FMPro?-db=proetaa.fp5&-format=%2fproeta%2fartikkeli.htm&-lay=veppi&-sortfield=kirjoittajat&-sortfield=vuosi&-sortfield=sivu&-op=cn&kirjoittajat=martti%20haavio&-max=30&-recid=33393&-find=]

External links

* [http://gramoty.ru/index.php?no=292&act=full&key=bb Birch bark letter no. 292 (includes a photo and references)] - at the website on Russian birch bark letters
* [http://users.utu.fi/touissa/jumo.html Tuohikirje 292]
* [http://www.kotikielenseura.fi/virittaja/hakemistot/jutut/vir99laakso.pdf Vielä kerran itämerensuomen vanhimmista muistomerkeistä] - with en icon resume


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