Genetically Correlative Reflexes Of Proto-Slavic Combinations In Avvakum And Patriarch Nikon’s Petitions


The existence of genetically correlative proto-Slavic reflexes, among which diphthongal combinations with liquids and reflexes *dj, *tj are distinguished, allows to uncover specific characteristics of introducing foreign elements to the language, their status and their character of interacting with the original ones, and to define the mechanisms of comprising a heterogeneous or a homogeneous system of the literary language and to describe its genesis. Difficulties in retention and correlation of those diagnostic characteristics, their millenary solidary functioning, along with the variety of existing correlative phenomena on textual level of Russian, justify the necessity to study genetically correlative phenomena of different linguistic, territorial, temporal and genre nature. That way the studies of functioning of genetically correlative reflexes of proto-Slavic combinations in the period of Church reforms of XVII century are especially important. This stage is marked by corrections of liturgical literature, setting up a unified norm of the Church Slavonic language and increased usage of Russian in Church “infightings” and business and everyday writings. So, studying Patriarch Nikon and Protopope Avvakum’s petitions to Tsar Alexis becomes essential. Comparative investigation by textological methods shows similar realization of reflexes of combinations with liquids and *tj, which demonstrates genetic separation of a small group of morphonological variants and heterogeneity of *dj, causing the appearance of heterogeneous words, containing linguistic elements of different origin. The degree of genetic separation of the investigated reflexes defines genetic background of petitions, which in its turn is caused by individual reconsideration of reality and aims of petitioning to Tsar.

Keywords: History of the Russian languagemorphonological normreflexes of proto-Slavic combinationsprotopope Avvakumpatriarch Nikon


Establishment of East Slavic literary language under the influence of ancient literary-written language of the Slavs was the most clearly reflected in the proportion of genetically correlative proto-Slavic reflexes. Up to the present moment these reflexes are the most trustworthy diagnostic features of South Slavic and West Slavic origin.

The most ancient artifacts of both the Old Russian literary language and the Church Slavonic language have a different “set” of heterogeneous elements, which prove their introduction into a non-Slavic system and demonstrate various types of their interaction. In course of time the inventory of heterogeneous reflexes changed due to diverse linguistic and extra linguistic factors, and consecutively a special heterogeneous system of the Russian literary language was formed. Among the mentioned genetically correlative elements, the reflexes of diphthongal combinations are especially interesting, because they are important not only because of their quantitative representation in the lexical language system (e.g. full vocalism / lack of full vocalism), but also they are present on all the levels of language system (reflexes *dj, *tj). That is why such a group of correlative reflexes, introduced into heterogeneous relations on Russian grounds, present “classic motifs of Slavic philology” (Kolesov, 1999), and they give scholars an opportunity to study them in various aspects of interaction over a period of a thousand years.

Problem Statement

In this regard it is necessary to consider two interrelated aspects of the problem of studying genetically correlative reflexes of proto-Slavic combinations: their own history in the Russian and Church Slavonic languages and the trace that they have left in the systems of those languages, which ultimately defines their importance in establishment and evolution of the literary languages, because as a rule, this stratum developed under the condition of influence of other literary languages.

That way the fate of the Russian literary language is the most significant, and according to Trubetzkoy (2001) “it seems to truly stand out among other literary languages of the world in regard to its continuity of ancient literary linguistic tradition” (p. 28).

The importance of the problem of interrelations between original and Church-Slavonic powers, merged into one harmonious unity in the course of centuries-long interaction in the system of the Old Russian text defines the significance of investigating reliable diagnostic features, their proportion in establishing a unified system of literary languages (homogeneous for the Church Slavonic language or Russian recension and heterogeneous for the Russian literary language).

However, it must be noted that the primary task of solving more complex problems of functioning and systemic organization of literary languages in the process of their influence, interaction or rejection is to define the set of correlative reflexes, their status in the artifacts of various territorial, temporal and generic nature, main tendencies of their selection and distinguishing the mechanisms of organizing nonhomogeneous reflexes.

Research Questions

This approach demands investigation into the representation of reflexes of proto-Slavic diphthongal combinations, which are the most significant for the genesis of the Church-Slavonic and the Russian literary languages, clearly interpreted from the genetic point of view and widely presented in the word forms: 1) pleophonic and non-pleophonic combinations (from reflexes *ol, *el, *or, *er); 2) reflexes /shch/, /ch/ (from *tj); reflexes /zhd/, /zh/ (from *dj). The aim of this article is to study the functioning of the mentioned reflexes in the texts by the most significant personas of the Church reformation period of the XVIII century: Patriarch Nikon and protopope Avvakum (Petrov), the ideologist of the Old Believers. The petitions to Tsar Alexis were selected from their literary legacy and it allows to describe the features of selecting heterogeneous reflexes from the point of view of influential churchmen, dealing with correction of liturgical literature on the one hand, and on the other hand, under the conditions of limited genre peculiarities of business written texts. Unity of authorship, presented by the powerful bishops, and the genre of petitions makes it possible to define actual interaction of genetically correlative reflexes of proto-Slavic combinations and their status in the period of codification of liturgical texts and the initial stage of establishing the norms of national Russian language.

Purpose of the Study

It must be especially noted that this period is not elaborated enough in terms of uncovering the patterns of realization of genetically nonhomogeneous reflexes on the background of the general interest to such heterogeneous phenomena. The thousand year old history of correlations between the most trustworthy diagnostic features of South Slavic and East Slavic origin has attracted attention since the first recognition of the differences between Slavic and Russian forms in Berynda’s (1627) “Slavic Russian lexicon and the interpretation of names”. Almost all the researchers of the history of the Russian language saw their duty in touching upon the issues of the abovementioned reflexes of proto-Slavic combinations to some degree, which made it possible to uncover the main groups of heterogeneous reflexes and relations within them, some principles of selecting and fixating one correlative element out of many in some particular artifacts of Old Russian writings, in the Russian literary language and in Russian dialects (Bekasova, 2016).

However, the long history of studying genetically correlative reflexes of proto-Slavic combinations to some extent contributed to acceptance and canonical affirmation of their diagnostic features along one-line definition of South Slavic and East Slavic origin of artifacts of Old Russian writing. Moreover, the distinguished patterns of quantitative and qualitative correlation of reflexes of East Slavic and South Slavic origin in history and in modern state of the Russian language often acquire a polar opposite interpretation when the issues of establishing and developing of the literary language are considered.

All this with the fact that the difficulty in interrelations of heterogeneous reflexes is to a greater or lesser degree connected with the mechanisms of establishing and developing of the linguistic system of a literary language and the questions of its genesis, cause the existence of a whole range of debatable and unclear details, which demand first and foremost to consider the processes of functioning and evolution of the reflexes of South Slavic and East Slavic origin in the artifacts of the East Slavic, Old Russian and Church Slavonic languages. Thorough investigation of the interaction of heterogeneous elements in the text, which in national period is reflected in the establishing and development of the norm on the language system level, makes studying the XVII century especially interesting.

It must be also emphasized that the question of final fixation and adoption of the word containing /zhd/ < *dj in the Russian language has not been answered yet. A common opinion about the significance of the second South Slavic influence in this regard (A.I. Sobolevsky, N.N. Durnovo, L.P. Yakubinsky et al.) is not proven by relevant linguistic researches (L.P. Zhukovskaya, A.M. Moldovan, O.G. Porohova et al.), and therefore it draws more attention to the fate of the heterogeneous reflexes *dj from the period of Church reforms. This condition strengthens the interest to the artifacts from the period of Church affairs, which followed the path of enforcing the reflex *dj, South Slavic by origin, the more so obvious heterogeneity of the reflexes *dj with lack of full vocalism and the reflex /scsh/ can be found in liturgical texts since XI century. Along this the reflex /zh/ was so common that a number of scholars consider it to be a norm of the Church Slavonic language of Russian recension. Judging by our data, the correcting of liturgical texts went in the direction of retracing the initial genetic background (Bekasova, 2010). This is firmly proven by the editions, where the occurrence of the reflex *dj, South Slavic by origin, constantly increases, e.g. in the Book of Psalms (1649 – 70, 24%, 1658 - 95,2%) (Psaltyr' s vossledovaniem [The Psalterion], 1649, 1658). and the Book of Apostles (1564 – 45,23%; 1638 – 37,93%; 1655 г – 71, 3%) (Аpostol [Apostle], 1564, 1638, 1655).

Research Methods

Aims and goals of the research decide the main method of investigation to be linguogenetic, which allows to define the genesis of linguistic phenomena and to scientifically differentiate linguistic phenomena in the system of a particular language (Vendina, 2018). We must emphasize the elaborateness and credibility of the abovementioned method, which dates back to F. Bopp, R. Rask, A. H. Vostokov, J. Grimm, A. Schleicher and others. Taking into account the fact that genetically correlative elements, having collided on the East Slavic grounds, belong to related languages, the comparative research method was also used in the investigation, which allowed not only to compare the systems of the Russian and Church Slavonic languages, but also to specify the morphonological systems of each language (Tolstaya, 1998).

The analysis of petitions, represented by both holographs and manuscript copies, explains the use of “instructional techniques of textological research” (Likhachev, 2001; Živov, 2014).


The choice of the genre of petitions for linguistic analysis is caused, first of all, by the fact that to mid-XVII century petitions became a special official document with a fairly clear formal carcass, especially in case of addressing to persons of rank or Tsar himself. So, following the established clichés of an inferior addressing to a superior with a complaint, appeal, claim or an accusation, modeled as a humble petition in its main part could go together with a free explanation of a personal view on the issue according to the author’s will (Alekseyev, 2013). That is why petitions were a very special synthetic product of formal clichés and various, quite often very personal, content, which if mixed with selected authors (powerful bishops of Russian Church in our case) allows to describe the interaction between strata and languages in real communication.

In this regard, the analysis of petitions of Avvakum and Nikon is especially interesting. They were natives of Nizhny Novgorod, and at some point of their lifetimes they were close to Tsar for “correcting” lithurgic texts, but ultimately they became irreconcilable rivals and were banished by Tsar Alexis.

It is known that up for today there are 5 petitions from protopope Avvakum to Tsar Alexis, written from late 1663 to 1669, where the First and the Fifth petitions are preserved in holographs, and the rest are manuscript copies of XVII century, made up among the Old Believers, including Avvakum’s (1934) associates (Demkova, 1993). Petitions of Patriarch Nikon to Tsar Alexis belong to the period of his banishment, where holographs remain from the period of Resurrection (Voskresenskiy period, 1658-1666), and during the Therapon period (1667-1675) Nikon, as a rule, dictates his texts and often edits them (Sevastyanova, 2007). The aforementioned peculiarities define the appropriateness of the petitions for the established aims and goals of this article.

In the petitions by the two authors both full vocalism and lack of full vocalism are quite widely presented: “vremja, vozglasisha, oglashajut, veleglasno, sladko, privleche, oblekshi, prevratjat', mladency, potrebitsja, blagodat', blagoslovlju, blagovolenie, blagochestie, blagodarju, blagaja, blagochestivyj, blago, hranitel', oblaka, smrad – nemolotyj, golovnoe, norovja (adverbial participle), poroh, drogoj, izvolochitsja, volocheny oberechisja, bezgolovoe, pelenok, korova, volosy, boroda, soloma, oboron', polonjanochnyh, beregu” and so on. It must be noted that just a part of the roots in the given forms on the Russian ground could initially define their genetic attribution (as in -vrem-, -blag-, korov-, etc.), while the rest were of a lexicalized nature (hranit' – horonit', sladkij – solodkij, poroh – prah, etc.). There is almost no divergence in Avvakum and Nikon’s use of the mentioned forms, which proves the established norm of usage, including the cases of specific terminologization, for example in Avvakum’s texts (hereinafter – A): “egda vozglasisha: «Dveri, dveri mudrostiju vonmem», togda u svjashhennika so glavy vzjasja vozdúh i poverglo na zemlju”; in Nikon’s works (hereinafter – N): A znatno to, shto oni tebja, velikogo gosudarja, chelobit'em" svoim oglashajut i razoritelem nazyvajut; i sta bliz menja po pravu ruku angel moj hranitel' (A); takozh i vo vtornik, i v sredu ne jadoh (A) – Letom, gosudar', byvaet v nevodu ih" rabotnikov cheloveka po chetyre i po shti, a zimoju byvaet s oseni po osmi, a s seredozim'ja i po shestnatcati chelovek; A stol'niku i strel'cam govoril: «Moja, de, v tom golova». A evo golova pered tvoeju gorazd ne doroga; I ja govoril, kak vor-izmennik, govoril, chto evo delo veliko, a ot chovo gosudareva golova ginit, to delo malo! – napisav ikonu Krestitelja Gospodnja Ioanna otsechennaja glava (N) and likewise. It’s interesting to look at both Church Slavonic and common constancy of the certainty of genetic shape of the word, which caused semantic differentiation as well, for example: zane vlast' Ego [God’s] velija – na to sudno shti cheloveke rabotnikov da kormshhika dvorcovyh volostej boru Ivanova i Nikol'skie krest'jan (N); I o sih vseh, gosudar'-svet, blagodarim boga, jako pervye my v teh stranah s zhenoju moeju i det'mi uchinilis' ot patriarha; I v Daurskoj strane u menja dva syna ot nuzhd umerli. Car'-gosudar', smilujsja (A) – A pro ih mnogoe neistovstvo i obidu i razorenie so storon mnogo nam slyshitca; A menja, bogomol'ca tvoego, oni, kirilovskie, zloslovjat, i po storonam javljajut, i oglashajut, budto ja, kelej dostraivat' im" ne dal i pechej klast' (N) and so on.

In a number of cases both authors have some examples of heterogeneous diversification, as such: Dusha zh moja vozradovalasja o gospode i o zdravii tvoem zelo ne iscelih tja vsego zdrava do konca – i byst' brjuho tvoe celo i zdorovo (A); Gospoda Boga molja o vashem, gosudareve, dushevnom spasenii i o telesnom zdravii – ta loshad' ozdoroveet (N);

In this case it is especially curious to analyze semantically equal rootmorphs, which are more prone to morphonological dimorphism, and which were initially characterized with a high degree of variability in Old Russian artifacts and could preserve it in the modern Russian language on an axis of high / neutral (low). As a rule, such forms in the Old Russian language and folklore are limited by rootmorphs gorod / grad, golod / glad, moroz / mraz, zoloto / zlato, etc. It should be noted that the stylistic component of such torot and trat- lexemes in Avvakum’s and Nikon’s petitions is not always clear, so they can be considered to be morphonological doublets, cf.: iz Car'grada v Astrahan', da s nim, de, est' Carigrackij patriarh; «Kak, de, on poehal v bogovruchennyj tebe grad Vologdu, a grad tebe ne vruchil» – pokupat' v ukrainnye gorody; K Arhangel'skomu gorodu (N); I na starost' ne veli gladnoju smertiju umorit'; Pomiraju gladnoju smertiju – pomiraju golodnoju smertiju; morit toe vremja golodnoju smert'ju; i on by i po se chislo, bednoj, so vsjakie nuzhdy golodnoju smertiju umer (N) ; Ne sladko i nam, egda rebra nasha lomajut i, razvjazav, nas knut'em muchat i tomjat na moroze gladom <…>egda ot nas kto nachnet s golodu umirati, togda prisylali nuzhnuju pishhu (A).

The reflexes *tj are presented similarly, where we can also observe a fairly firm heterogeneity of forms, except of the group of “various words” and active present participle, which represent heterogeneity in the petitions by Avvakum and Nikon. In particular, with the South Slavic formation of participles ( mogushhih, tvorjashhe, obratajushhim, l'tjashhie i laskajushhie, kljanushhih, lezhashhu, predydushhie, hodjashhe and so on) there are some examples of participles of East Slavic origin, e.g.: A chto govoril on, Stepan, na menja javljajuchi; i to strel'cy slushali, iduchi is kel'i v cerkov' k obedne (N) ; A vremja emu i postrishhis', da zhe vpred ne gubit, na voevodstvah zhivuchi, hristijanstva; Izvol', samoderzhavie, s Moskvy otpustit' dvuh synov moih k materi ih na Mezen', da, tut zhivuchi vmeste, za vashe spasenie boga moljat; Ja chajal, zhivuchi na Vostoke v smertjah mnogih, tishinu zdes' v Moskve byti (cf.: i prave ispraviti mogushhe blagochestie radi Duha Presvjatago blagodati, zhivushhija v nih) (A). The limited circle of such forms, their use as a participial forms and their obvious belonging to real speech somehow oppose to somewhat firmly established Old Slavonic bookish forms, including declinable archaic short forms, such as imushhe, vzirajushhu, glagoljushhi, and it proves the real status of the mentioned forms in the described period.

It is much more difficult with the personal forms of the verb hoteti – to want – distinctly presented by all the possible morphonological range: from Old Slavonic ( Za ljubov' tebe gospodnju, Mihajlovich, skazano sie, ponezhe hoshhu umeret'; I sibirskija bedy hoshhu vospomjanuti; i tam o tebe hoshhu pripasti ko vseh vladyce (A)) and East Slavic ( hochesh', de, gosudar', menja zaslat', gde ja i sluhom ne slyhal; Da liho, de, zaprosy veliki, hochet, de, tovo, chtob ja nyne i zhenilsja (N)) to a dialectic form hotju, discovered in the patriarch Nikon’s petition: uskori, Gospoda radi, kovo prislat' blizhnjago i vernago svoego cheloveka, i ne odnovo hotju, da i iz duhovnago chinu dobryh ljudej, chtoby to tvoe, velika gosudarja, delo bezvestno ne pogiblo. This form without alternation, quite common in Russian dialects, according to our data, almost did not come into the artifacts of Russian writing, including business writings, and that’s why it has a scientific interest, because it proves that in the petition to Tsar the main person of Russian Orthodox Church documented the peculiarities of his real speech with his own hand.

Unlike the words with full vocalism / lack of full vocalism and *tj, which demonstrate quite firm systems with a distinct differentiation of reflexes, South Slavic and East Slavic by origin with little variability, reflexes *dj are characterized with a high level of heterogeneity, cf.: odva so vsjakija nuzh ne umer' – I so vsjakija nuzhdy kelejnyja i nedostatkov ocynzhel; I ja v teh kel'ishkah s ugaru i so vsjakija nuzhdy edva smertiju ne skonchalsja; Chto chjudno pljasavica v rozhestvo Irodovo prosi; i rozhestva svoego i chad svoih – za neskol'ko dnej do Rozhdestva, kreshhenija — voda, simvol rozhdestva — ogon'; Sam" Hristos svidetel'stvuja: «Kto bolij Ioanna v rozhennyh zhenami? Nikto zhe est'» – I rozhdenoe Otrocha i Bog'; i truzhalsja z brat'eju – i skitaemsja, i truzhdaemsja (N) and so on. Such morphonological heterogeneity is discovered within limits of a closely-connected context, where an interweaving of heterogeneous elements of other groups can be found as well: S velikoju nuzhdeju dovoloksja do Kolmogor; a v Pustozerskoj ostrog do Hristova Rozhdestva ne vozmozhno stalo ehat', potomu chto put' nuzhnoj, na oleneh ezdjat. I smushhajusja, greshnik, chtob robjatishka na puti ne primerli s nuzhi.

Such genetic nonhomogeneity caused the appearance of heterogeneous words – the words that include genetically correlative reflexes of diphthongal combinations, where their structure is determined enough – the alternant *dj, East Slavic by origin, is realized on the background of full vocalism in the root or /scsh/ < *tj in the suffix, for example: A inii tvoi, gosudarevy-svetovy, kazaki, truzhajushhiisja v vodah, v to vremja mnogie pomirali ot toja voevodskija nalogi i muki (A); Uvidjal cerkov' pache i prezhnjago smushhennu (Cf. : jako i prezhde Nikonova patriarshestva bylo) (A) ; I prezhe sevo velel emu i ne takie velikie dela pisat', i on tebe, velikomu gosudarju, ne pisyval (Cf.: A prezhde togo, ne opisavsja, ne vazhivali) (N).

The existence of established genetic discrepancies in the realization of reflexes of diphthongal combinations with liquid sounds and *tj is contrastive to the high degree of heterogeneity of *dj and on the whole it contributes to the heterogeneity on the textual level, including, as it was mentioned, closely-connected contexts as well, for example: Ne sladko i nam, egda rebra nasha lomajut i, razvjazav, nas knut'em muchat i tomjat na moroze gladom A vse cerkvi radi bozhija strazhem; I ne to, gosudar'-svet, nadezhda nasha, edino; no v deset' let mnogo tovo bylo: bedy v rekah i v mori, i potoplenie mi mnogoe bylo. Pervoe s chelediju svoeju gladen, potom bez obuvi i bez odezhi, jako vo inoe vremja berestami vmesto odejanija odevalsja i po goram velikim kamennym bos hodjashhe, nuzhnuju pishhu sobirahu <…>; inogda mladency moi o ostroe kamenie nogi svoi do krovi rozbivahu, rydajushhe gor'kimi slezami; a vo inoe vremja sam i podruzhie moe shest' nedel' shli po golomu l'du, ubivajushhesja o led, volokli na volochenykah malyh detej svoih, merzli vse na moroze (A) ; I rozhenoe Otrocha i Bog, krepkij Vlastelin mira i Otec budushhago veka, privedet na tja mir i zdravie, i na vsja sushhaja tvoja, i izhe vo vlasti sushhih; a v koi vremjana peremety mechjut" — veli, gosudar', peremetami merezhnymi i udnymi lovit', chtob mne, bogomol'cu tvoemu, z brat'eju golodnoju smertiju ne pomeret'; zhalovannoj utverzhenoj gramoty ne smushhaet (N) and so on.


The conducted analysis of authentic diagnostic features of South Slavic and East Slavic origin of powerful and in many ways symbolic persons of Russian Orthodox Church in the petitions to Tsar Alexis has discovered distinct differences in the realization of reflexes of diphthongal combinations. On the one hand, it is possible to find clear differentiation of full vocalism / lack of full vocalism and heterogeneous reflexes *tj, followed by an insignificant number of variable forms, and on the other there is a high degree of heterogeneity of reflexes *dj, which undergo their homogenization in the lithurgical texts of Nikon’s print.

With the coincidence in the main directions of realization of the reflexes of proto-Slavic combinations in the petitions of banished patriarch Nikon and disfavored Avvakum, it is possible to uncover individual peculiarities in representation of linguistic phenomena of South Slavic and East Slavic origin in connection with the fact that the content of a petition allowed to elicit almost all spheres of life in their own personal interpretation. In particular, the texts of hierarchs contain a different set of word-forms and are somehow different in genetic background. Nikon’s petitions manifest the hardships of his banishment and contain a range of complaints, which quite often flow from one text to another: the complaints for oppressions and specific catalog of grain, feeding and all other sorts of stocks, which required the lexis that would reflect earthly necessities of the patriarch, who lost almost unlimited power. In this regard, the petition to Tsar of 1674 is especially meaningful, because it had Nikon’s meticulous recitation of the sizes of all the sturgeon sent to him as a proof that the voivode lies to him and Tsar must save his pilgrim from “ the need to starve to death ”, (« nuzhdy gladnoj smert'ju umeret' »).

For Avvakum his personal complaints are just an illustration for the main theme – the position of the Church in the sovereign state that the Tsars were building up; they were no petitions, but sermons of a Church’s father, who had a right to direct an immature soul of an owner of Russian grounds and “ to bless with the last blessings”, as “ Thou art bathed in the same holy font, the same Church’s holy nipple and her impure milk thou art, and with us a wise dogmata”, («vo edinoj svjatoj kupeli ty osvjashhen esi, edinyja cerkvi svjatyh sosec eja nelestnym mlekom esi s nami i zdravym dogmatom»). From there stems the social and religious pathos, strengthened by quotations from the Holy Scripture, wide and various use of nonpleophonic lexis, all entwined into symbiotic blend of heterogeneity.

Hovewer, the petitions of significant and symbolic persons of Russian history show that in the XVII century there was no linguistic duality. Certainly, the language of Church was included to the such a degree, that it ran through the life of an Old Russian, who “thought in the limits of religious consciousness and “fed on faith as on daily bread” (Panchenko, 2000, p. 381). But the Church leaders wrote about the real life – spiritual or earthly – in “the natural Russian language”, which embodied heterogeneity as a result of “the development not of the language itself in its material form, but of the thought, expressed in the language” (Sreznevsky, 2007, p. 99), which defined the connection of genetically correlative reflexes of Proto-Slavic combinations in a unity of the morphological system of the Russian language on the levels of the word, text and the literary language.


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Discourse analysis, translation, linguistics, interpretation, cognition, cognitive psychology

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Bekasova, E. N. (2020). Genetically Correlative Reflexes Of Proto-Slavic Combinations In Avvakum And Patriarch Nikon’s Petitions. In A. Pavlova (Ed.), Philological Readings, vol 83. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 294-302). European Publisher.