История Беларуси IX-XVIII веков. Первоисточники.

Нарративные источники, эпиграфика
Документальные, эпистолярные, законодательные источники
Памятники культуры, словесности, философской мысли
Музыка, театр, фольклор || Визуальные материалы
Полезные исторические веб-ресурсы
Каталог электронных книг, библиография
Метрика ВКЛ (Литовская Метрика)

Lithuanian Metrika

History of Lithuanian Metrica

So called Lithuanian Metrica is a fundamental and unique collection of archival sources for the study of the society, economy and history of the Lithuanian, Latvian, Byelorussian, Russian, Polish, Moldovian and Ukranian lands from the fifteenth through the end of the eighteenth century. It includes over 600 books /original volumes and copies/ of the documents issued by the state office of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania: diplomatic correspondence, privileges for nobility, cities and churches, verdicts, wills, customs receipts and other documents of state importance. Usage of the term "metrica" in Poland and Lithuania in reference to a record book (or register) in which were inscribed official copies of documents issued by chancery, dates from the late fifteenth century. The term became current in a broader archival sense with reference to the complex of earlier Crown chancery record books by the 1620s (7:Abstract of introduction). The documents preserved in the record for the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries are mostly in the Old Byelorussian. Some authors call it "west Russian dialect sometimes referred to as "Middle Belorussian" or the "Lithuanian chancery language". There is also term "Old Ruthenian". Polish documents became the norm in the late seventeenth century (4).

Three major stages should be identified in history of LM. The first in Wilno from the early sixteenth century to the 1740s; the second in Warsaw from the 1740s to 1795, and the third in St. Petersburg from 1796 until 1887 (3:11).

Until the early sixteenth century, completed Lithuanian chancery books, registers and related documents were retired for safekeeping from the capital in Wilno to a special storage vault in the castle at Trakai (1:556). By 1511 the LM record books were usually kept in the treasury of the castle in Wilno. In 1594 chancellor Lew Sapieha ordered the early volumes to be recopied, and the process continued until 1607. Only a few of the original volumes or contemporary copies survive from before that period. The LM continued to be kept in Wilno during most of the seventeenth century (3:11).

Some LM books were reportedly taken away from the Wilno castle during the Moscovitan seige of Wilno in 1655. Apparently these were never recovered. Except for those books the LM remained in Wilno until the 1740s (3:12-13).

In the mid-1740s the entire complex of extant volumes that had hitherto been kept together in Wilno was transferred to Warsaw, where a commission was established "for the revision and reordering of the Metrica archive". Along with the previously bound volumes brought to Warsaw, some loose documents, judicial protocols and fragmentary fascicules were brought together and bound into volumes without adequate sorting or arrangement (3:14, 133-134, 139). All of the volumes were then completely reorganized and numbered with strict divisions between the books of the main chancery (Metrica maior) and the minor chancery (Metrica minor). A new inventory was prepared in 1747, although the only known text was destroyed in Warsaw in 1944. Also a new numeration of the books appeared that was apparently solidified during the years 1784 through 1787, when almost all of the volumes of the LM were rebound under the direction of the polish court historian Adam Naruszewicz (1733-1796) and another polish inventory was preparated in Warsaw (3:17).

Following the final partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795 most of its highest-level archives were transported to St. Petersburg. Some volumes of the Warsaw Lithuanian Metrica complex were separated out and turned over to the Collegium (after 1802, Ministry) of foreign affairs in 1798 and then in 1828 transferred to the Moscow Main archive of the Ministry of foreign affairs. The rest of the Warsaw Lithuanian Metrica complex, together with the Crown Metrica, came under the jurisdiction of the Governing Senate. It was thereafter referred to officially as the "Metrica of the Annexed Provinces" (3:18).

The radical new organization of the LM in St. Petersburg was reflected in an inventory prepared in 1798 by Igor Kirshbaum. This inventory distinguished between the LM (section A), the Crown Metrica (section B) and other records of Warsaw origin (section C). For the Lithuanian Metrica complex itself the 1798 inventory represents the basic rearrangement of the extant volumes into five distinct series, mirroring the pattern in which the Polish Crown chancery books had tradittionally been organized - Books of Inscriptions, Judicial Affairs, Books of Royal Sealings (Sigillata), Books of Revisions or Land Survey Books, and Books of Public Affairs. Within each series extant volumes were organized in basic chronological order (3:18-19).

The 1887 inventory preparated by the official metricant in the late nineteenth century Stanislaw Ptaszycki was based on the initial 1798 archival arrangement, estableshed in St. Petersburg, which had been refined, with some of the later sections reorganized, by the 1835 commission. The materials of LM were in 1887 held in St. Petersburg under the jurisdiction of the Governing Senate, but later in the same year they were moved to Moscow and deposited in the Moscow Archive of the Ministry of Justice (3:22).

The reorganization process which ultimately resulted in the division of the materials listed by Ptaszycki between archives in Moscow and Warsaw took place in several steps. The year after Ptaszycki's inventory appeared, 351 of the 389 original documents from the Cracow Crown Archive in the tenth section of the inventory were transferred to the Moscow Main Archive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Subsequently, in 1923, all of the 389 original documents were returned to Poland on the basis of their origin in the Cracow Crown Archive.

In the years 1895-1898, 44 volumes from the Ptaszycki's inventory that had there been identified as part of the Crown Metrica were transferred to Warsaw and deposited in the Warsaw Main Archive. After the emergence of the independent Polish Republic following the First World War, the treaty of Riga (1921) provided for the revindication of many more of the Polish archival and library materials that had been taken to Russia after the partitions of Rzecz Pospolita. Most of the extant record books from the Ptaszycki's inventory that could be identified as technically part of the Crown Metrica were returned to Warsaw.

The rest of the collection that remained in Moscow continued to be stored in the same building that had housed the prerevolutionary Moscow Archive of the Ministry of Justice. In the 1920s it became part of the division for prenineteenth-century records, the so called Древлехранилище (Depository of Antiquities), of the Moscow Central Historical Archive. In the 1931 the name was changed to the State Archive of the Feudal-Serfdom Epoch, and in 1941 it was reorganized under its present name of the Central (later Russian) State Archive of Early Acts (ЦГАДА; or later РГАДА) (3:23-24).

So, there were several printed inventories of LM that are still in use:

  1. Ptaszycki S. Opisanie knig i aktov Litovskoi metriki. St. Petersburg, 1887.

  2. Kniga posol'skaia Metriki Velikogo Kniazhestva Litovskogo, soderzhashchaia v sebe diplomaticheskie snosheniia Litvy v gosudarstvovanie korolia Sigizmunda–Avgusta (s 1545 po 1572 god). / Edited by I. Danilowicz (I. Danilovich) and M. A. Obolenskii. 2 vols. Moscow, 1843. - A publication of diplomatic register books from the Lithuanian Metrica. An appendix to the first volume prints a 1798 inventory of the register books of both the Lithuanian and Crown Metrica prepared before they were removed to Russia. Most of those from the Lithuanian Metrica remain in RGADA, as do those from the Crown Metrica relating to Ukraine for the period 1569–1673.

  3. Berezhkov N.G. Litovskaia metrika kak istoricheskii istochnik. Part 1: O pervonachal'nom sostave knig Litovskoi metriki po 1522 god. Moscow, 1946. - A detailed critical analysis of the early volumes of the Lithuanian Metrica (to 1522), containing significant data about the history of the collection and about those parts remaining in RGADA. Charts at the end provide the table of contents and details about the organizational structure of pre-1522 volumes. (5)

  4. In the 1984 noted american researcher Patricia Kennedy Grimsted with the collaboration of polish scientist Irena Sulkowska-Kurasiowa issued a reedition of Ptaszycki's 1887 inventory in which the modern sygnatures of LM books and other materials in archives of Moscow and Warsaw were indicated (3).

  5. The Ruthenian (Volhynian) Metrica: Registers of Polish Crown chancery documents addressed to Ukrainian lands (Palatinates of Volhynia, Kyiv, Bratslav, and Chernihiv) 1569-1673. / Compil.: H.Boriak, L.Demchenko, N.Jakovenko, P.K.Grimsted, V.Kravchenko, V.Strashko, K.Vyslobokov, H.Wajs. Kyiv, 2002. (7)

Only part of the documents was reprinted in 18-20 centuries beginning from the editions of famous historian Maciej Dogiel. The acts of Lithuanian Metrica were reprinted in following publications: "Akty, otnosyashchiesya k istorii Zapadnoj Rusi", "Akty, otnosyashchiesya k istorii Yuzhnoj i Zapadnoj Rusi", "Akty Litovskoi Metriki", "Akty Litovsko-Russkogo Gosudarstva", "Russkaya istoricheskaya biblioteka". "Letopis' rabot Archeograficheskoj Komissii" has also published many documents of the LM. A group of documents was published by M. Obolenskij in "Rossijski Istoricheskij Sbornik" 1838, vol. 1 and others. In 1883 in St. Petersburg the book 1 of LM was printed by Zelverovich. Some scattered documents were printed in publications of Dzialynski, Danilowicz, Dovnar-Zapolski, Maksimejko, Lubavski, Kalachov and other historians. In 1920s the thorough, scholarly edition of books of the LM was reestablished in Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic in the serie "Bielaruski archiu" (3 vol.).

In the early 1980s scholars from the Soviet Union (the Byelorussian, Lithuanian, Russian and Ukrainian Republics) and Poland agreed a joint publication project which has resulted thus far in several Polish and Lithuanian volumes. The volumes that have been edited by special research groups at the Lithuanian Institute of History and Vilnius University are published in a uniform format with clear print on good quality paper. Each is provided, as English Historical Review writes, with an introduction in Lithuanian, Russian and English, annotations, glossary, indexes of names, toponyms and subjects/words (4).

The Book of Inscriptions 8 (The Lithuanian Metrica. Book 8. Book of Inscriptions 8 (1499–1514). Prepared by A. Baliulis, R. Firkovicius, D. Antanavicius. Vilnius. Science and Encyclopaedia Publishing House, 1995. P. 710.), for example, contains mostly the documents from the beginning of reign of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Sigismund I (Old) – 1506–1514, and only 5 documents from the reign of Alexander. These documents are represented by diplomatic correspondence between Lithuania and Crimean khanate, sovereigns of Livonia, Moscow and Polish nobility, instructions to envoys, privileges for nobility and town-dwellers, grant acts on land and peasants, customs receipts, payments, taxes for military purposes, etc. Some documents are written in Latin. The Book of Inscriptions 10 (The Lithuanian Metrica. Book 10. Book of Inscriptions 10 (1440–1523). Prepared by E. Banionis and A. Baliulis. Vilnius. Science and Encyclopaedia Publishing House, 1997. P. 179) contains the documents issued by the grand dukes of Lithuania Sigismund I (in 1514–1523) and Casimir (in 1440–1466). These are the acts on sovereign’s manors, appointments, increase of church, receipts, documents indicating the time and place of army assemblage, court verdicts, customs accounts, instructions and warrants for envoy to Moscow to conclude a peace treaty.

In the 2000 Byelorussian publishing house "Athenaeum" had published Book of Inscriptions 28 of the LM. This book was the first Byelorussian publication within the framework of the international program for the study and publication of the LM. The work was prepared at the Institute of History of the National Academy of Sciences by the historian Valery Mianzhynski and philologist Uladzimir Sviazhynski. Book 28 contains materials concerning the history of Vilnius, Minsk, Polotsk, Kiev and other areas of Belarus and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from 1522 to 1552.

Now the publication of books of the LM is continuing in Byelarus, Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland. In Russia /RGADA/ the following books of the Lithuanian Metrica are under preparation: 1 (15th–16th c.c.), 12 (1522–1529), 15 (1528–1534), 25 (15th–16th c.c.), 51 (1566–1574), 530 (1566–1572) (5).

The printed materials of the Lithuanian Metrica automatically become the priceless sources for the historians and philologists of the whole Central- and East-European region (see, for example, 6).


  1. Grimsted P.K. The archival legacy of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania: The fate of historical archives in Vilnius. // Slavonic and East European Review. 1979, №57, october. P.552-571.

  2. Grimsted P.K. What is and what was the Lithuanian Metrica? The contents, history and organization of the chancery archives of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. // Harvard Ukrainian Studies. Vol.6, №3, September 1982. P.269-338.

  3. The “Lithuanian Metrica” in Moscow and Warsaw: Reconstructing the Archives of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Including an annotated Edition of the 1887 Inventory Compiled by Stanislaw Ptaszycki. – Patricia Kennedy Grimsted /Harvard University/ with the collaboration of Irena Sulkowska-Kurasiowa /Polish Academy of Sciences/. Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1984.

  4. Rowell S.C. Lietuvos Metrika, 1499-1514. Nr. 8. Uzrasymu knyga 8. - book reviews. // English Historical Review. 1998, №2.

  5. Russian State Archive of Early Acts. Specialized finding aids. // http://www.idc.nl/catalog/faid/497/B2findingaids.html

  6. Shabuldo F. The Crimean Khans' Yarlyks on the Ukrainian lands (from the late 15th to the mid-16th centuries) [Kyiv, 2003]. // ACLS Humanities Program in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. Project reports: Ukraine. http://www.acls.org/hum-reports/uk02Shabuldo.htm

  7. The Ruthenian (Volhynian) Metrica: Registers of Polish Crown chancery documents addressed to Ukrainian lands (Palatinates of Volhynia, Kyiv, Bratslav, and Chernihiv) 1569-1673. / Compil.: H.Boriak, L.Demchenko, N.Jakovenko, P.K.Grimsted, V.Kravchenko, V.Strashko, K.Vyslobokov, H.Wajs. Kyiv, 2002.

Hosted by uCoz