(singular, gramola), business documents (primarily deeds) and letters of both official and private origin in Rus’ from the tenth century to the 17th. The Russian term gramota was borrowed from Byzantium, where γραμματα referred to messages, edicts, and written documents in general.

The Story of Bygone Years (Povest’ vremennykh let) mentions Vladimir Svatoslavovich’s gramola stipulating a tithe to the Bogoroditsa Church. Gramoty were written on wood panels, birch bark, parchment, and. beginning in the 14th century, on paper. The oldest remaining genuine gramota on parchment is a charter from Mstislav Vladimirovich giving land to the Iur’ev Monastery in Novgorod (12th century), and even earlier gramoty on birch bark have been preserved. As feudalism developed, the number of gramoty increased, the greater part of them deeds. A special group of gramoty were the so-called judicial charters, including the Novgorod judicial gramota and the Pskov judicial gramota, of the 14th and 15th centuries, which were the legal codes of the Novgorod and Pskov feudal republics. With the 18th century the term gramota ceased to be widely used because of the introduction of new, Western European nomenclature for documents by the government of Peter I. After the reforms of 1861, regulatory gramoty defining the relationship between pomeshchiki (landlords) and freed peasants had great importance. During the 19th century gramoty were widely used to confer titles, ranks, and honors.

Today the term gramota is reserved for several kinds of documents: diplomatic credentials, certificates of commendation, and honorary citations for accomplishments in production, social work, sports, and other fields.


Tikhomirov, M. N. Istochnikovedenie istorii SSSR, vol. 1. Moscow, 1962.
Cherepnin. L. V. Russkie feodal’nye arkhivy XIV-XV vv., parts 1–2. Moscow-Leningrad. 1948–51.
Artsikhovskii, A. V., and V. I. Borkovskii. Novgorodskie gramoty
na bereste, Moscow. 1958.


In Russian scholarly historical literature the term gramota is used for Western European documents of the feudal period, among them officially registered rights, privileges, or duties (in property, judicial, tax, and military-political matters) of individuals and institutions, as well as statements of judicial decisions and various transactions. (Documents of this type before the 13th and 14th centuries were generally in Latin but later were written in the vernacular and had their own nomenclature.) The oldest Western European charters still surviving date from the seventh century (charters of the Frankish kings registering land grants, immunity grants, and the like). The majority of early charters have been preserved as copies in cartularies. Western European charters of the 11th-15th centuries are especially numerous (charters on buying and selling land and transferring holdings, liberating individual peasants, stating the rights and liberties of townspeople, and so on). For each separate type of charter there existed a special model for its composition, the so-called formula.