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Transliterated into the Latin alphabet:
OU’T PERVO BESHE RETCHTA, I RETCHETA BESHE SOS BOGA, I BOG BESHE RETCHTA. VOA BESHE OT PERVO SOS BOGA. SITE RABOTI ZARDI NIZ LAKARDIATA SE TCHINIA, I BEZ NEGO NESATCHINE NIKOE OT KOLKU SE TCHINIA. OUT NEGO BESHE ZHIVOT – I ZHIVO
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Transliterated into the Latin alphabet:
KE VIDOA GOSPODA.
I JESUS PAK MU KAZHA – MIR NA VAS – KE ME POSHTI TATKO, I JAZE POSHTAM NA VAS
I KE RETCHE VOA, DOINA NA NIH, I RETCHE ZEMAITE DUH SFETIJ
I NA KOGOTO GREHOVETAI PROSTITE, SE PROSTENI, I NA KOGO ZAPRITE SE ZAPRENI
I THOMA SE VELISHE BLIZNAK, EDNO OT DVANAISTE, NE BESHE SOS NIH, KOGA DOIDE JESUS. MU VELEA (……..) DRUZITE UTCHENITSOI – VIDOHME GOSPODA
I ON MU RETCHE – AKO NE VIDAM NA RATSETEMU NISIANITAIOT KARFIITE, I AKO NE KLADAM PRASTOTMI NA NISIANITE OT KARFIITE, I AKO NE KLADAM RAKATAMI NA REBROTOMU, NEKE VERUVAM
BOGA NIKOI NEKOI PAT NEGO VIDE – EDINORODNIOT SIN, SHTO EI OT PA ZVATA NA TATKOTO, ON GO RAZRETCHE – I VEA EI MARTURIATA NA JOANNA – KOGA POSHTIA
The Konikovo Gospel (Bibl.Patr.Alex. 268 )
A bilingual vernacular Gospel manuscript from Macedonia
(first half of the 19th century)
In the winter of 2003/04, researchers from the University of Helsinki found an interesting bilingual manuscript, written in what is now Greek Macedonia during the first half of the 19th century. It contains a Greek evangeliarium (Gospel lectionary for Sunday services) and its Slavic translation, both written in Greek letters. What makes the manuscript unique is its bilinguality, and the fact that both the Greek and the Slavic text represent the vernacular, not church language. The Slavic part is the oldest known text of greater scope that directly reflects the living dialects of Southern Macedonia. It is also the oldest known Gospel translation in Modern Macedonian.
The beginning of the Slavic text, with corrections by Pavel Božigropski, was printed in Thessaloniki in 1852–1853, and it has been known in Slavic studies as the “Konikovo Gospel” after Pavel’s home village (nowadays known as Dytikó). The newly found manuscript shows, however, that the translation came into being earlier and in a fashion other than has been assumed. The manuscript also reflects the sound structure of the local dialect better than the printed text did. Moreover, after the Second World War the short printed portion of the Konikovo Gospel has not been at the disposal of the scholarly community – it seems that not a single copy has survived, and no scholarly edition was ever prepared.
The manuscript must originally have contained about 124 pages, 74 of which have been preserved. The Slavic part is a valuable source for research into the dialects and more recent history of Macedonian. The Macedonian language is the closest relative of Bulgarian. It did not acquire a definitive standard language until after World War II.
The Greek text in the manuscript represents a vernacular Gospel tradition that originated in the 17th century. During the 19th century, these vernacular Gospels gradually fell out of use in the church.
The first to take notice of the manuscript in the library of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa was Mika Hakkarainen, who is carrying out research in the library on the basis of an agreement between the Partriarchate and the Academy of Finland’s Centre of Excellence “Ancient and Mediaeval Greek Documents, Archives, and Libraries”, led by Jaakko Frösén. In Helsinki, the manuscript is now being studied by a group that includes, besides Hakkarainen, the scholars Nina Graves, Jouko Lindstedt (research group leader), Juhani Nuorluoto and Max Wahlström (all four from the Department of Slavonic and Baltic Languages and Literatures, University of Helsinki), as well as Maria Basdekis and Martti Leiwo (both from the Department of Classical Philology, University of Helsinki).
The Helsinki research group is preparing a scholarly edition of the Konikovo Gospel in a close collaboration with a Macedonian research group, led by Prof. Ljudmil Spasov from the University of Skopje.
In 2004, Victor Friedman, Professor of Slavic and Balkan Linguistics at the University of Chicago, wrote about the manuscript as follows:
The significance of the Konikovo Gospel for the study of Macedonian cannot be overestimated. At the same time, this Gospel will also contribute to the study of colloquial Modern Greek. In the case of Macedonian, the southern dialect of the Lower Vardar (or Voden-Kukuš) type represented in the manuscript is one that is in most urgent need of documentation and study. Owing to the domination of the Church Slavonic tradition on the territory where Macedonian was spoken from the Middle Ages until the nineteenth century, we have very little manuscript evidence documenting the changes that took place in the spoken language during that crucial period. Moreover, such documentation as we do have comes mostly from manuscript traditions produced in Macedonia’s southwestern periphery (Ohrid) and the northeastern region (Kratovo). The southeastern dialects of the type represented by the Konikovo Gospel are thus very important in helping us complete our picture of the development of Macedonian. At the same time, because the Lower Vardar dialects were almost all spoken in a region which was assigned to Greece at the end of the Balkan Wars in 1913, one in which hundreds of thousands of Greek- and Turkish-speaking refugees were settled as a result of the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey 1922-23, one which was the focus of Greek attempts to create a homogenous nation-state by stamping out minority languages during the inter-war period, and one which saw the most serious fighting during the Greek Civil War and from which thousands of Macedonian-speakers fled after 1948, our data on these dialects is extremely limited. There are very few speakers of the dialect left in the region. In addition to the vicissitudes of war and persecution which reduced such data concerning these dialects as has come down to us, there is the additional complication that activists from this region who sought to promote a Macedonian ethnic and national consciousness wrote in a different dialect — the West Central (Veles-Prilep-Bitola-Brod) one — as this was, by general consensus, even at the beginning of the twentieth century, the most distinctive and at the same time most readily comprehensible to the largest number of people. The Konikovo Gospel is thus an extremely rare and precious testimony both to Macedonian literary activity and at the same time a valuable resource for an inadequately attested but linguistically important Macedonian dialect.
Publications by the Helsinki group
- [Lindstedt] Lindstet, Jouko. 2006. Za istorijata na Konikovskoto evangelie. Pp. 237–245 in Predavanja na XXXVIII meg’unaroden seminar za makedonski jazik, literatura i kultura (Ohrid, 3.VIII–21.VIII 2005 g.). Skopje: Univerzitet “Sv. Kiril i Metodij”, Meg’unaroden seminar za makedonski jazik, literatura i kultura.
- Nuorluoto, Juhani. 2003. Rakopisot na Konikovskoto evangelie kako izvor za fonološki opis na egejskite makedonski govori. Makedonska akademija na naukite i umetnostite, Oddelenie za lingvistika i literaturna nauka 28:2, pp. 69–79.
- Nuorluoto, Juhani. 2005a. Die Konikovo-Evangeliumshandschrift: Ein neuer Fund. Pp. 327–340 in Stjepan Damjanović (ed.), Drugi Hercigonjin zbornik. Zagreb: Hrvatska sveučilišna naklada.
- Nuorluoto, Juhani. 2005b. Nov naod: Rakopisot na Konikovskoto evangelie. Pp. 233–237 in XXXI naučna konferencija na XXXVII Meg’unaroden [seminar] za makedonski jazik, literatura i kultura (Ohrid, 16–17 avgust 2004 g.). Skopje: Univerzitet “Sv. Kiril i Metodij”, Meg’unaroden seminar za makedonski jazik, literatura i kultura.
- Nuorluoto, Juhani. 2006. Grafemskite odliki vo rakopisot na Konikovskoto evangelie. Makedonski jazik 56 (2005), pp. 49–53.