BASHNIN N.V. The Formation of the Culture of Clerical Work in Russia of the 14th – Beginning of the 16th Century


Nikita V. Bashnin

Candidate of Sciences (History), Senior Researcher,

Saint Petersburg Institute of History of the Russian Academy of Science,

Petrozavodakaya St, 7, 197110 Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation

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Abstract. Introduction. Writing, as a special sign system, provides a link between the past and the present is one of the main ways of transmitting cultural tradition. This article deals with a special form of clerical work in Medieval Russia – scrolls and columns.

Materials. A column with a border is a narrow strip of paper, about 16– 17 cm wide and up to 45 cm long, or 14–15 cm wide and up to 35 cm long. They were glued together along a narrow edge with each other, resulting in documents up to several tens of meters long – columns. Such documents were kept twisted, in scrolls.

Analysis. In the second half of the 15th century, the Grand ducal chancery became the center of administrative power. There were a transformation and development of clerical work in it. The conducted research suggests that the appearance of the column form of clerical work was due to political, socio-economic and cultural reasons. The appearance of the columns dates back to the second half of the 15th century. The disappearance of the column form of clerical work occurred in 1700–1702. Peter I initiated a revolution in clerical work by ordering to switch to conducting business in a notebook form. The innovation did not spread immediately; the old traditions of document processing were preserved in the monasteries for several years.

Results. The appearance of the columnar form of clerical work coincided with the emergence of a single centralized state under Ivan III, the increasing importance of the clerical apparatus. The disappearance was due to the reforms of Peter I, the formation of the Russian Empire and the replacement of orders by colleges. It is obvious that the emergence and disappearance of such a specific form of office work are associated with large-scale national changes.

Key words: Medieval Russia, Ivan III, columns, clerks, history of writing, clerical work, source studies.

Citation. Bashnin N.V. The Formation of the Culture of Clerical Work in Russia of the 14th – Beginning of the 16th Century. Vestnik Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Seriya 4. Istoriya. Regionovedenie. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya [Science Journal of Volgograd State University. History. Area Studies. International Relations], 2022, vol. 27, no. 5, pp. 52-67. (in Russian). DOI:

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