(from Old Slavonic kr“m’chii, “helmsman”), collections of ecclesiastical and secular law providing direction for the administration of the church and of ecclesiastical courts in various Slavic countries.
The Kormchie knigi were derived from the Byzantine Nomocanon, compiled in the sixth century by the patriarch of Constantinople, John Scholasticus. In the second half of the ninth century the Nomocanon was translated for the use of the Bulgarian church and was later transmitted to Rus’. From the end of the 13th century such translations into Russian came to be known as Kormchie knigi. In Rus’ they were supplemented with articles of secular law. In 1274, at an ecclesiastical synod in Vladimir, Metropolitan Kirill proposed the adoption for church administration of the Kormchaia kniga translated about 1225 in Serbia from Greek into Church Slavonic. In the 13th century yet another variation appeared, combining elements of the Bulgarian and Serbian versions. This was the Sofia or Synodal version (so named because it was discovered in the Cathedral of St. Sofia in Novgorod and was later kept in the Synod Library in Moscow), which was supplemented with Russian statutes, including the Russkaia Pravda, the statutes of princes Vladimir and laroslav, and the decrees of the Synod of 1274. This Synodal edition was widely used and has come down to us in a large number of manuscripts.
In the late 15th and early 16th centuries, because of the large number of variant versions, the Kormchie knigi were revised. In 1650 the Josephite version and in 1653 the Nikon version (named for patriarchs Joseph and Nikon) were published, and in 1787 what was called the Catherine version appeared. The last edition of the Kormchie knigi was published in 1816.
V. N. BALIAZIN