This question is not about grammar or syntax, but about historical toponymy.

In 1815 an employee of the Russian-American Company was taken prisoner in Spanish California. An interpreter from a passing ship, who I believe spoke English, obtained this detail:

His name is Boris Tarasof [Tarasov], sailor, Russian from Nofgorec [Novgorod].

(The translation and interpretations are due to Michael Mathes, compiler of the book "The Russian-Mexican Frontier").

There are two big Novgorods: Veliky Novgorod and Nizhny Novgorod. Both were centuries old when Tarasov was born. Is there any reason to conclude that he meant one or the other when he gave this name?

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    Well, it's hard to provide any specific references but I'm almost sure that by XIX century they used the same naming as we use today. The first one is just Novgorod (it was its actual name since the beginning and until 1999) and the second one is Nizhny Novgorod (obviously Nizhny was used to distinguish it from the old one). Velikiy was (and still is, despite the "nobody-cares" official name) used only for extra clarification if there's some weird ambiguity/uncertainty. In other words: by default Novgorod refers to the Velikiy N.(though of course you never can be sure what Boris had in mind) Commented Sep 18, 2019 at 6:27
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    Btw. as (indirect) reference: for example A. S. Pushkin in his letters almost always uses just Novgorod (though I did find one instance of "великий Новгород" (note the lowercase в) as well) and Nizhny (Novgorod) to refer to them. Commented Sep 18, 2019 at 6:52

1 Answer 1


"Novgorod by default" is Veliky Novgorod. It's an original "Novgorod".

But what exactly translator ment hard to figure out. There is village of Новогородец, for example.

  • 2
    there's a non-zero probability that it's a mistranslated "новгородец" (someone from Novgorod) actually.
    – shabunc
    Commented Sep 18, 2019 at 9:28

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