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As I'm sure you all know, prior to its sale to the United States in 1867, Alaska was Russian territory. As such, it had a flag. Here is an image of that flag's design:

Russian America

It appears to read Россійской Америк. Кампа. From this I have three questions: Firstly, why is it Россійской and not Россійская (or even Россійско-)? Secondly, why was компанiя abbreviated as кампа instead of компа? And thirdly, is that a colon (:) after Америк? Was that the accepted way to truncate a word in an abbreviation at that time?

Information about Russian America here for those who need a refresher. (Wikipedia)

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Firstly, why is it Россійской and not Россійская (or even Россійско-)?

The word Флаг (banner, flag) is silently assumed, so it's in Genitive: [Флагъ] Россійской Американской Компанiи

Secondly, why was компанiя abbreviated as кампа instead of компа?

This is a script which you read wrong. It is written "Компа" here.

And thirdly, is that a colon (:) after Америк? Was that the accepted way to truncate a word in an abbreviation at that time?

Not sure about this. Pre-reform punctuation rules were quite different, but I didn't hear about common abbreviating words with a colon. Maybe it was done especially for inscriptions, as a single point is not the easiest thing to see.

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  • Thanks, that makes sense about the word флагъ being understood. As far as mistakenly reading it as кампа, I guess I can take solace in the fact that I wasn't the only one. You can see here at Wikipedia, the author of this graphic made the same error: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/… Jul 20 '16 at 6:20
  • @GinésdePasamonte In Russian script if "о" is too close to the next letter it could be quite hard to say whether it's really "о" or "а". So pupils in schools often argue with a teacher to get a better mark :-) Also both spellings are legal in Russian: "компания" means "company", and "кампания" means "campaign". Needless to say, many Russian people confuse these words.
    – Matt
    Jul 20 '16 at 6:33
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English translation of this answer:


A small addition. In Old Church Slavonic writing the colon (:) was equal to russian semicolon (;), but was however also used as ellipsis (...) and even as a dot in abbreviations. Colon as an abbreviation sign was very common in old european writing languages. It was so in Russian language until the mid-19th century.


Небольшое дополнение.

В церковнославянской письменности двоеточие эквивалентно русскому знаку «точка с запятой», но также используется и в функциях многоточия и даже точки на конце сокращений. Двоеточие как знак сокращения вообще было присуще старым европейским письменностям (в русском языке так было до середины XIX века).

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  • Edited your answer (added english translation above russian original). Waiting for it to be accepted. Jul 20 '16 at 7:37
  • I strongly doubt one can talk about any OCS punctuation. Each scribe wrote as he liked.
    – Yellow Sky
    Jul 20 '16 at 13:44
  • Megabook.ru.двоеточие
    – V.V.
    Jul 20 '16 at 15:30

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