Valentin Lavrentievich Yanin
Doctor of historical sciences. Professor, academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Head of the Chair of Archaeology, the History Department of Moscow State University. Emeritus Professor of Moscow State University. Author of over 700 scientific and popular science books and articles, participated in many discoveries concerning history of Novgorod, Novgorod psalm book among them.
His popular science book titled “I’ve Sent a Birchbark to You” brought him a great number of awards, fr om the USSR State Prize up to the Triumph Prize in 2002, and has been translated into many languages including Japanese. In the year 2010 Valentin Yanin was awarded Alexander Solzhenitsyn Prize for his outstanding archaeological and historical discoveries which overturned our opinions of the early history of Russia and the Ancient Russ man.
He is an Honorary Citizen of Veliky Novgorod (Novgorod the Great) (since 1983) and Honorary Member of the Novgorod Society of Antiquity Lovers.
Valentin Lavrentievich Yanin was born on 7 February 1929 in Vyatka (now Kirov). His father was a sanitarian, his mother a teacher. In 1937 the family underwent repressions, for his mother’s ancestry was quite wealthy and distantly related to a well-known industrialist family of Morozov. In 1943 the Yanins moved to Moscow wh ere Valentin Lavrentievich continued his education at the eighth form of Moscow Exemplary School №7, graduating with honours in 1946, later he entered the History Department of Moscow State University. He graduated from the Chair of Archaeology in 1951, in 1954 defended his thesis “Monetary and Weight Systems of Russ before the Mongols”, and was awarded a scientific degree of Doctor of historical sciences for his book “Novgorod Posadniks” (Mayors) (Moscow, 1962).
Field of Research
Valentin Lavrentievich takes interest in medieval Novgorod history, archaeology, and source study, research of birchbark letters; He was the first in the country’s historiography to develop methods of complex source study on the basis of the analysis of various sources, such as written evidence, archaeological, numismatic, and sphragistic materials, art objects. On account of the analysis of these sources, Yanin reconstructed the history of monetary and weight systems of Russ, political institutions and state system of medieval Novgorod, votchina system of Novgorod land; he worked out the topography of medieval Novgorod. He was the first to employ medieval Novgorod as a historical source.
Academician Valentin Yanin, by studying Novgorod birchbark letters, put an end to a long-standing dispute of normanist theory adherents and their opponents about authenticity of chronicle records which tell of summoning the Varyags as first knyazes of Ancient Russ. The texts found by him give irrefutable evidence of the fact of summons. Besides, the scientist refuted a long-held assumption about the ethnical unity of ancient Slaves. As a matter of fact, inhabitants of North-western regions (Pskov, Novgorod) had originated from Poland and Northern Germany.
Yanin also doubted another conventional opinion of political regimes of Pskov and Novgorod. These so-called ‘veche democracies’ had been commonplace oligarchies which had long ago lost public support. It is this very reason that made it so easy for Ivan III to annex Novgorod to Moscow in 1478.