The inscription on „Alexiy’s cross” revisited: what is the meaning of obščee lěto?

2018. № 2 (36), 111-122

Marina A. Bobrik, Higher School of Economics, National Research University, Moscow, Russia


This paper examines the inscription on a white-stone cross, a superb example of carving technique and epigraphic calligraphy, placed on the western wall of the Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod under Archbishop Aleksiy (1359–1388). The attention of researchers has been drawn in particular to question of dating (the date in the inscription itself has not survived) and an enigmatic phrase, for which several interpretations have been proposed. This paper puts forward a new one, OBŠČAGO LĚTA, arguing that this expression is an equivalent of the Latin annus communis ‘common year’ as opposed both to the “bissextile year” (of the solar cycle) and “embolismatic year” (of the lunar cycle). The expression OBŠČEE LĚTO, unique in Old Russian written sources, is thereby an interesting fact — hitherto unregistered by lexicographers — of the history of Russian language; it also enlarges our knowledge of the chronological erudition of the fourteenthcentury Novgorodians.