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Novgorod and the “Novgorodian Land”

Charles J. Halperin
p. 345-364


Although scholars continue to study the medieval city-state of Novgorod, little attention has been devoted to Novgorod’s ideology. Despite its appearance in book and article titles and scholarly prose, the phrase “the Novgorodian Land” (Novgorodskaia zemlia) has not been adequately studied. Historians assign it a geographic meaning ranging from Novgorod city to the entire Novgorodian Empire ; it can also refer to a group of people, usually military. The vagueness of the term masks the fact that it was not used ideologically : Novgorodians did not fight for, or make treaties in the name of, the Novgorodian Land. Other terms, “the Novgorodian region” (oblast’) and “the Novgorod district/districts” (volost’/volosti), also occur with the same range of usage as the “Novgorodian Land.” Novgorodskaia zemlia only occurs rarely in Novgorodian chronicles, and erratically, in nonideological contexts, in Novgorod’s treaties. Therefore, the “Novgorodian Land” was a phrase, not a concept, parallel to the russkaia zemlia and other “land” terminology. Those concepts were always connected to dynastic lines ; perhaps Novgorod did not develop an ideology of the “Novgorodian Land” because of the unique attribute of its political structure, the absence of a dynastic line.

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Electronic reference

Charles J. Halperin, « Novgorod and the “Novgorodian Land” », Cahiers du monde russe [Online], 40/3 | 1999, Online since 15 January 2007, Connection on 17 January 2018. URL :

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Charles J. Halperin

Russian and East European Institute, Indiana University, Bloomington.

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