Berezikov N.A.  

Reading and writing in the Siberian Cossack culture in the XVII century

Nikiolay Berezikov
Institute of archeology and ethnography of SB RAS, Novosibirsk
Reading and writing in the Siberian Cossack culture in the XVII century
The subject of reading and writing in the community of the Siberian Cossacks in XVII century is underinvestigated in Siberian studies. The reason lies in specifics of sources and in specifics of research programs that used to ignore such topics. Adressing to this research topic allows to see some new aspects of the genesis of modern Siberian society and to contribute to the research of the problem of ethno social aspects of Siberian book culture at its aetting stage.
Literates used to be among noblemen since Ermak’s expedition. Government supported those who could read and write because elementary literacy was in demand for the execution of the various Cossack services. The Cossacks used to make daily notes during campaign, kept tabs on tribute, made notes on aborigen’s petitions, fixed taxable activity of the colonists during the expedition and winterings, fixed other kind of data related to the state interest (construction and maintenance of ostrogs and ships; escort of state treasury etc.). Besides of that the Cossacks widely use their skill of literacy to the benefit of themselves (housekeeping, trade, borrowings, schemes for a post, falsification of documents). There is no exact information about the percentage of the literate within the the Cossack communities. However some of the large scale sources (various cenuses, etc.) demonstrate the proportion and the spread of literacy at the specific garrison or region in the specific region.
There is few information about the reading lists of Cossacks. They read, except the official printed literature (worship and educational books), the wide range of the manuscripts. Based upon administrative and court orders such manuscripts included various volumes with exorcisms, popular worships, herbals, probable apocryphal and heresy books.
Written word had huge place in social culture of the Siberian Cossacks in the XVII century. As dominated group they participated in the formation of the office writing corps and language. They not only used Russian writing tradition but also reproduced and developed it, consolidated Russian writing on the new territories.

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