Some years ago I published an article about the instruction of the Western calendar in Russia by Peter I and the abolishment of the ancient Slavic calendar, counting over 7500 years of history.
While that article is true in all respects, as it is usual with our history, there are even more layers of alterations as one starts delving deeper into a topic. This is also so with the Russian calendar, and the tradition of New year celebration. For those who have not read it, I strongly advise you to read the previous article before continuing with the materials below. There I touch upon the linguistic aspects and two different words for “year” in Russian – “leto” (meaning both “year” and “summer”) and “god” (meaning “year”, with the overt reference to the Dutch word for “God”). In fact the first of the four articles below carries an explanation for why years were counted in summers…
The materials below are comprised of translations of four articles, originally published in “Argumenty i Fakty”, and uncover more details around Peter I reform, then going to the origins of the characters of “(Grand)father Frost” and the “Snow Maiden”. The articles can be read independently, but for a better understanding I would recommend reading them all in order.
- The Tzar and the Tree. Why Peter I moved New year to January the 1st
- Bonfires for the ancestors and the gifts to the terrifying Grandfather. How New Year was celebrated in Russia
- Snow-mai-den! The history of the Russian character, which has no analogues
- According to Old Style. Why did the New year made do without a Tree
The article you are about to read appears in Russian on The Svarog Day site (Update: the site went off-line in 2021, so the link is update to point to the WebArchive). Before embarking on it, a short contextual and linguistic introduction is needed.
I have been meaning to translate this article for some time, but as with a few other articles that will be coming out around this time, it did not feel like the time was ripe. It is Lada Ray’s forbidden history & forgotten origins webinar series that are now playing as a certain catalyst. Lada addresses this topic and the historical background behind this transition of the calendar in great detail in her webinar. She also addresses the aspects of a supposed impostor that replaced Peter I, which the article below alludes to. She presents arguments that there was no impostor, but that Peter was swayed in his views by his Western advisors during his travels to the West. Later I plan to do a translation of a film that dives into this topic, but for now, back to the topic of the Calendar.
Another note is the word “calendar”, which in old Russian was “kolo dar”, meaning “the gift of the sun-circle”. Lada Ray wrote an extensive article on this topic in 2015: Why Russians celebrate the New Year, and not Christmas, with New Year’s Tree? The Origin of ‘Calendar’ and Christmas/New Year’s Forbidden History. The article to some degree intersects with what I am about to translate, and it also greatly expands on the meaning of the word “calendar”.
The word “year” in modern Russian is written as “god” (год), and the reason for it will become apparent from the article. However, Russian originally used the word “leto” (лето) to denote “year”. In modern Russian the word “leto” means “summer”, but its original meaning is still preserved in different contexts and words, such as “letopis” (летопись, literally: “year writing”), meaning “chronicles”. “Leto” is also used to denote the age or timespan starting from 5 (it seems the reforms of which the article will talk, were only successfully enforced on short intervals), so you’d say “1 god” (1 year), but “5 let” (5 years).
In my translation I will use “year” for both, but will mark the word with either (god) or (leto) in parenthesis, where the context requires it.