Donation Books

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Donation books first appeared in Muscovite Russia in the middle of the sixteenth century. The "Hundred chapters church council" in 1551 in the presence of Tsar Ivan IV ("the Terrible") obliged monasteries to secure proper liturgical commemoration of donors. This instruction served as an impetus for the composition of numerous Donation books. As for donations from former times, the Donation books relied upon older documentation, particularly deeds and lists of donations in appendices to other books. In addition, many Donation books match names with lists for liturgical commemoration, and indicate the days on which a commemorative meal, a korm, was to be held. Since the Books frequently taxed the value of an object, they serve as sources about the development of prices. The order of entries differs: Usually the donations of the tsar are registered at the beginning of the book; other entries are arranged principally in chronological order. Some Donation books from the seventeenth century are strictly organized on the basis of donor families. Eventually monasteries kept different Donation books at the same time, depending on the value of the donations and the expected liturgical services in return. So far one donation book is known in which a clan registered its donations to churches and monasteries over some decades. Donation books from the seventeenth century indicate that donations for liturgical commemoration lost their importance for the elite, while the circle of donors from the lower strata was widening.

See also: feast books; sinodik; sorokoust


Steindorff, Ludwig. (1995). "Commemoration and Administrative Techniques in Muscovite Monasteries." Russian History 22:433454.

Steindorff, Ludwig. (1998). "Princess Mariya Golenina: Perpetuating Identity through Care for the Deceased." In Culture and Identity in Muscovy, 13591584, eds.A. M. Kleimola and G. D. Lenhoff. Moscow: ITZGarant.

Ludwig Steindorff