2023, Volume 20, Issue 3

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Anna F. Litvina
National Research University Higher School of Economics
Moscow, Russia

Fjodor B. Uspenskij
1 V. V. Vinogradov Russian Language Institute of the RAS
2 National Research University Higher School of Economics
Moscow, Russia

The Deposition of Czar Vasili Shuisky in the Light of New Data

Voprosy onomastiki, 2023, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp. 103–119 (in Russian)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2023.20.3.033

Received on 1 August 2023
Accepted on 1 September 2023

Abstract: The article demonstrates how onomastic studies can help with interpretation of the key events of Russian history. The central figure of the paper is Czar Vasili IV of Russia (Vasili Ivanovich Shuisky): the first part of the paper focuses on the attribution of a valuable altar cross from the early 17th c., which has to do with the Christian binominality of this monarch, while the second part deals with the semiotics of the Czar’s deposition from the anthroponymic perspective. The votive inscription on the eight-pointed reliquary cross made of gilded silver gilded and decorated with stamped and carved sacred images on its front side says that the cross was donated to the Suzdal Monastery of the Intercession of Our Lady in 1603/04, with the style of figurative images, foliage pattern and the high quality of work clearly indicate the Moscow origin of this liturgical object. Until now, the identity of the donator was believed to be unclear, although the inscription is readable and contains both the names and all information necessary for identification. Many people of Medieval Rus’ had two lay Christian names — today this idea comes as less of surprise to researchers as it used to a decade earlier, yet the tradition of lay Christian binominality is still to be described and analyzed. Studying specific cases sometimes requires almost detective investigation, and challenges faced by a researcher are not incidental: they are rooted in the very ways how this system of lay Christian binominality functioned in the pre-Petrine Rus’: the same person could appear under one name in one case and under the other name in another, and sometimes it is really challenging to find the crossover points allowing to identify, say, Cosmas, servant of God with Prince Dmitry Mikhailovich Pozharsky. The historical and onomastic analysis of the inscription on the cross not only allows to reliably identify the owner of this precious specimen of early 17th-century jewellery but also to make some guesses about the circumstances of donation and to clarify our evidence of naming practices characteristic of the 16th-century Russia.

Keywords: anthroponymy; name-giving in pre-Petrine Russia; monastic vows; dual naming of lay Christians; baptismal name; the Shuisky family; the deposition of Vasili Shuisky; reliquary cross of 1603/1604


The results of the project Lingvosemiotic Aspects of the Hstory of Russian Culture: Middle Ages and Early Modern Times, carried out within the framework of the Basic Research Program at the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE University) in 2023, are presented in this work.


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