Literacy in Post-Kievan Rus’

The readings, focused on culture during the fourteenth and fifteenth century, shed light on literacy rates and leisure. Birchbark charters show evidence of literacy among children, while artifacts (instruments, masks and manuscript initials) are indicative of traveling minstrels. Despite the information provided, however, the author and compiler speaks of many things we don’t know or have evidence of (possibly due to the Mongol occupation). Art and architecture are almost absent, prior to what Sakharov notes as a ‘cultural renewal.’

The birchbarks were particularly interesting, providing some evidence to the notion that literacy was spreading. The picture, drawn by Onfim, displayed a drawing of a boy (or man) riding a horse and slaying some type of villain. While at first the age of the creator could be drawn into question (how can the age of Onfim be established?), there are several key aspects that point towards what the author suggested. While style can’t really be taken into account (the shaky lettering would suggest someone new at penmanship), the proportions of the drawing seem more child-like. As children grow and develop, their perception changes. The length of the arms and and legs in relation to the torso could support this theory.

While the birchbark charters do display evidence that literacy was increasing, how widespread was it? In previous readings in lectures, it’s been noted that Novgorod was particularly special, due to its relationship and interaction with other nations. What does the author define as ‘formal instruction’?