The Strength of the Case: Interpreting the Hapax Legomenon доужебоу in Novgorod Birchbark 855

2012. № 2 (24), 186-218


The author suggests that the Novgorod birchbark N855 is a field report by a judicial officer; the author gives a new interpretations of the final clause of the letter. He suggests that the verb испралоу means either ‘I will collect’ or ‘I will investigate/judge’, and in combination with these meanings of the verb, the hapax legomenon доужебоу can be understood as a term for either a financial penalty or a type of crime. Both meanings can be derived from the meaning ‘strength’, established for the root dug- by comparative reconstruction. It is shown that the concept of ‘strength’ was invoked in Rus’ian law in cases of battery, though the term used in other texts was вѣкъ. The fact that dug- andvěk- both denote ‘strength’ makes it plausible to interpret доужебоу as an alternative term for ‘strength-fine’, the payment imposed for damaging the victims’ ‘strength’.