anonymous Russian manuscript anthologies containing articles of an educational, moral, and encyclopedic character.

The first list of explained words along the lines of azhukovniki was inserted in the Novgorod chronicle of 1282. During the 13th through 16th centuries azbukovniki were for the most part explanatory dictionaries of unclear words, which occurred primarily in books of the so-called Holy Writ. The words were listed in alphabetical order and their origin, translation, and meaning were given.

During the 17th and 18th centuries educational azbukovniki were widespread. They usually consisted of the alphabet (with a syllabary and samples of writing), concise information on Russian and sometimes Greek grammar (for example, On the Origin of Greek and Russian Reading and Writing), arithmetic, and religious and moral teachings. Several azbukovniki contain articles on general history (about Julius Caesar, Jan Hus, and others) and on Russian history, borrowed for the most part from the chronographs (about the princes Boris and Gleb, Andrei Bogoliubskii, Ivan the Terrible, and others). The azbukovniki also imparted information in an entertaining style about natural science—for example, on several exotic animals, precious stones, and plants, “About the Four Seasons of the Year,” and “About Thunder and Lightning.” In addition to fantastic information, the azbukovniki also contained real facts and observations on local nature and the life of that time.

Less widespread were moralistic azbukovniki containing rules for the behavior of children in school and at home. Individual azbukovniki which presented material for entertaining and instructive reading enjoyed great popularity in ancient Rus’. More than 200 lists of azbukovniki have been preserved.


Batalin, N. I. “Drevnerusskie azbukovniki,” Filologicheskie zapiski. Voronezh, 1873. Issues 3–4.
Mordovstsev, D. O russkikh shkol’nykh knigakh XVII veka. Moscow, 1862.
Prussak, A. V. Opisanie azbukovnikov, khraniashchikhsia v rukopisnom otdelenii imperatorskoi Publichnoi b-ki. St. Petersburg, 1915.
Bush, V. V. Pamiatniki starinnogo russkogo vospitaniia. St. Petersburg, 1918.
Orlov, A. S. “Kniga russkogo srednevekov’ia i ee entsi-klopedicheskie vidy.” Doklady AN SSSR. 1931, [Series] B, no. 3, pp. 37–51.