Valentin Yanin

Valentin Yanin

Valentin Lavrentievich Yanin ( _ru. Валентин Лаврентьевич Янин, born 6 February, 1929 in Vyatka) is a leading Russian historian who has authored 700 books and articles. He has also edited a number of important journals and primary sources, including works on medieval Russian law, sphragistics and epigraphy, archaeology and history. His expertise is medieval Rus' especially Novgorod the Great, where he has headed archaeological digs beginning in 1962.

Early life

His maternal grandparents were arrested in 1937 and died in a prison camp in 1938. His father was apparently on a list to be shot but escaped this fate and moved with his family to Moscow. [] Yanin finished his secondary education in 1946, graduating with a Gold Medal; he matriculated at Moscow State University in 1951.


In 1954, he defended his Kandidat thesis on the monetary systems of pre-Mongol Rus. This was published as "The Monetary and Weight System of Medieval Russia" («Денежно-весовые системы русского средневековья) and has become a classic. His doctoral thesis on the posadniks of Novgorod followed in 1962 and significantly changed our understanding of the constitution of the Novgorod Republic. [V. L. Yanin, "Novgorodskie Posadniki" (Moscow: Moscow State University, 1962; reprinted Moscow: Iazyki slavianskoi kul'tury, 2003).] The book demonstrated that the office of posadnik, while subject to election every year, was often held by one man for several consecutive years, sometimes more than a decade, and then passed on to his sons or other members of his clan. It shattered the earlier image of Novgorod as a more democratic republic and showed it to be ruled by a boyar aristocracy (not unlike other medieval republics).

Yanin's monograph about the seals of Ancient Rus (2 volumes, 1970) summed up half a century of Soviet sphragistics research. After that, Yanin turned his attention to the birch bark documents of Novgorod, on which he is considered the greatest living authority (alongside Andrey Zaliznyak).

Honors and Positions

In 1964, Yanin became professor in the department of archaeology in the Faculty of History at Moscow State University. Since 1978. Yanin has held the chair in archaeology at the Moscow University.

He is a member of the President's Committee for the Defense of the Material Culture of the Russian Federation and a member of the Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation.

In 1962, he was elected a corresponding member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences; he became a full academician in 1990. In 1999, he became the first historian to be awarded the Lomonosov Gold Medal. His other awards include the Order of Lenin, the Order of the Red Banner of Labor, the USSR State Prize (1970), the Lenin Prize (1984), the Demidov Prize (1993), the State Prize of the Russian Federation (1996), and the Triumph Prize (2002). He is an honorary citizen of Novgorod the Great and an honorary member of the Novgorodian Society of Lovers of Antiquities. [See Yanin's biography at MGU:]


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