Scandinavian names from the Birch Bark Letters of Novgorod the Great, and Staraja Russa.

by Rebecca Lucas (ffride wlffsdotter)

© 2014; all rights reserved
last updated 22nd July 2014


The birch bark letters provide us with a glimpse of communications of the Novgorodian Lands, in particular the cities of Novgorod the Great, and Staraja Russa. They recorded business transactions, debts, and personal correspondence between individuals, including dealings with Scandinavians (or, at least people with names of Scandinavian origins). These names, and their interpretations presented below, all come from the article:

Alexander Sitzmann. 2007. "Die skandinavischen Personennamen in den Birkenrindeninschriften" [The Scandinavian Personal Names in the Birchbark inscriptions] Scando-Slavica 53; 25-31

Sitzmann transliterated the names from Cyrillic into Roman script, using the Scholarly system (also known as the 'Scientific' system). The original Old Slavic, and modernised transcriptions can be seen at the Medieval Russian Documents on Birchbark site. Each entry below includes a link to its online record, including approximate dates. Where the name was reconstructed into the nominative singular case, this has been indicated by an asterisk (*), and the original form is listed in the notes.

If you want to combine name elements with another source, using a different transliteration system, see the University of Arizona Library's Slavic Information Literacy website, or Podolak (2013) for information about the various transliteration and transcription systems in common use.


Sitzmann provided Scandinavian forms of names from numerous sources. For the sake of simplicity, I have used the normalised Old Norse forms in Peterson (2002).

Name Norse Form Letter number Date band Notes
*Azgutъ Ásgautr Novgorod no. 526 1050-1075 In locative singular case azъgutě.
Glěbъ x2 Guðlafr, Guðlæifr Novgorod nos. 906 and 303 1075-1100 and 1420-1430 Letter 906 has genitive singular case glěba.
*Glěbecь   Novgorod no. 919 1240-1260 In genitive singular case glěbьcę, this is Glěbъ with the diminutive suffix -ьcь
*Glěbko   Novgorod no. 739 1120-1140 In genitive singular case glebka, this is Glěbъ with the diminutive suffix -ko. Similar to Old Norse Guðki.
*Gugmorъ Guðmarr Novgorod no. 2 1360-1380 In locative singular case gugmoro. Sitzmann says the interpretation of this name as Scandinavian is unlikely.
*Jakunъ Hákon Novgorod nos. 676 and 257 1160-1180 and 1380-1400 In both cases, found in the dative singular case ękunu.
It also appears in the feminine byname *Jakunovaja (genitive singular ękunovy in letter 263.
*Jakša x2   Novgorod nos. 812, 821, 870, 885, and Staraja Russa no. 36 1120-1180 and 1140-1160 The Novgorod records all refer to a single individual, Jakunъ Miroslavičь. His name appears in the dative singular as ękъšě or ękъši, and in the dative plural as ękoše.
Jakša from Staraja Russa was recorded in the genitive singular as ękšě.
Diminutive of Jakunъ.
*Ljutъ Liútr Novgorod no. 234 1140-1160 In the genitive singular case ljuta.
*Rjurę HrøríkR Novgorod no. 804 1180-1200 As dative singular rjurę.
Stenь Stæinn Novgorod no. 249 1380-1400  
*Svěnь Svæinn Novgorod no. 912 1050-1075 As genitive singular svěnę.
*Vělьjutъ Víliútr? Novgorod no. 2 1360-1380 In genitive singular case vělьjuta. Sitzmann says the interpretation of this name as Scandinavian is unlikely.
Also appears as a masculine patronymic Vělьjutovъ in the same letter (genitive plural vělьjutovycho).
*Vigarь Vígæirr Novgorod no. 130 1360-1380 In genitive singular case vigarę. Alternatively, is Karelian, from Finnic *viha, "anger; hatred" (Saarikivi, 2007).
*Vozemutъ Guðmundr Novgorod no. 2 1360-1380 In genitive singular case vozemuta.