The Book of Veles (also: Veles Book, Vles book, Vlesbook, Isenbeck's Planks, Велесова книга, Велесова књига, Велес книга, Книга Велеса, Дощечки Изенбека, Дощьки Изенбека) is a literary forgery claimed to be a text of ancient Slavic religion and history purportedly written on wooden planks.
It contains religious passages and accounts of history interspersed with religious morals. The earliest events in the book could be dated around 7th century BC and the latest happened in 9th century AD.
The book was allegedly discovered in 1919 and lost in 1941. It is widely held by scholars to be a forgery made in the 1940s–1950s or, which is less likely, in the early 19th century. The main decisive evidence is the language of the text which is a mixture of different modern Slavic languages with erroneous and invented forms and no regular grammar. Moreover, different modern editions of the book have different versions of its text. Regardless, some Slavic Neopagans use it as their sacred text.
Most of the scholars that specialize in the field of mythological studies and Slavic linguistics (such as Boris Rybakov, Andrey Zaliznyak, Leo Klein and all Russian academic historians and linguists) consider it a forgery. According to these scholars the thorough analysis of the book shows that it was written sometime in the 20th century. The history of the book can be reliably traced only as far as mid-1950s, when the transcribed book and the photograph of one of the planks first appeared in a San Francisco-based, Russian emigré newspaper. Several scholars believe that the entire book is a product of collaboration of the editors of this newspaper and Yuriy Mirolyubov, who later claimed to have found the book. Others believe that either the entire book or the only plank available, were forged in the early 19th century by the Russian collector and forger Alexander Sulakadzev.
The book is written in a language using for the most part Slavic roots and different affixes found also in old East Slavic language. Consequently, a large part of the book's text, once transcribed into a modern alphabet, is readable (albeit with some difficulty) by modern speakers of Slavic languages. However, professional linguists and historians, particularly the specialists in ancient Slavic, question many features of its language - vocabulary (modern or medieval Slavic words occasionally and unwittingly used in place of their ancient equivalents), spelling, phonetics (distinct reflections of the nasal vowels, both following Polish and Serbian patterns in different places, the haphazard handling of reduced vowels, etc., etc.), grammar (grammatical forms incompatible with early Slavic languages, combinations of affixes that contradict each other in meaning), etc. These features seem to indicate that the text was artificially "aged" by someone with superficial knowledge of ancient Slavic, and cannot be adequately translated because of lack of any consistent grammar system. In the words of the philologist O.V. Tvorogov:
The opponents of this position claim, however, that the problems with language could be attributed to local dialect variations (if the book was written or compiled from accounts of multiple people, as it is claimed by its supporters). The alphabet of the book is also a controversial issue, since the book was written using an alphabet similar to Cyrillic, and the letters are attached to a horizontal line like in Devanagari. The very existence of written language among Slavs prior to the introduction of Cyrillic during 10th century is still disputed.
In addition, the supposed deity Belobog (white god) is not attested in any reliable source, while Crnobog (black god) appears to be a Christian mis-interpretation - possibly deliberately inflated and confounded with the Devil; it is only attested by a single source discussing an account of West Slavic (not Russian Slavic) paganism, based on secondhand knowledge and dating to the Christianization of the Slavs. The existence of these supposed deities which are invoked by name in the inscription was uncritically believed in modern times, until the late 20th century. Nowadays however, at least Belobog is generally considered a modern hoax itself, while Crnobog - if not a byname of another deity - is rarely if ever accepted by scholars as anything than a local West Slavic deity, and the idea of light/dark dualism is usually regarded as a Christian concept unknown in pagan Slavic culture (see also Perun/Perkele and Dabog/Dažbog).
The planks were alleged to 38 cm wide, 22 cm tall and about 0.5 cm thick. The edges and surfaces of the planks are uneven and near the top there are two holes for joining the planks. The text is carved into the planks and later covered with some coloring. Text alignment lines (roughly straight and parallel) are drawn across the planks and the tops of letters are aligned with these lines. The text is written below the lines, rather than above. The size and shape of the letters are different, suggesting that more than one person wrote the text. Some planks were partially or mostly rotten.
History of the book's discovery according to Mirolyubov
In 1919, a Lieutenant of the White Russian Army, Fedor Arturovich Izenbek found a bunch of wooden planks written in strange script in a looted mansion of Kurakins near Kharkiv (Ukraine). After the defeat of the Army, Isenbeck emigrated to Belgrade where in 1923 he unsuccessfully tried to sell the planks to the Belgrade library and museum. In 1925 he settled in Brussels where he gave the planks to Yuriy P. Mirolyubov, who was the first to study them seriously. Izenbek treated the planks very carefully, did not allow them to be taken out of his house and refused a suggestion by a professor of University of Brussels to hand them over for studying. Later this refusal to permit others to study these texts would lead people to suspect them as forgeries.
For fifteen years Mirolyubov restored, photographed, transcribed (as photographs proved to be unreadable) and finally translated the text. He managed to transcribe most of the planks.
In August 1941 Germans occupied Brussels, Izenbek died and the planks were lost. Some think that the Germans took the planks to their (Ahnenerbe) archive, and then were moved to England at the end of World War II to be stored near Aldershot or Crookham to this day. Much of the Ahnenerbe archive seems to have been captured by Soviet forces, in which case the planks would likely have ended up in secret KGB archives instead. Others believe that the planks were burned in a fire.
Mirolyubov emigrated to the United States and passed the materials in 1953 to professor A. A. Kurenkov (Kur) who then published them in the magazine Zhar-Ptica from March 1957 until May 1959. Later the text was studied by S. Paramonov (Lesnoi).
According to Book of Veles, in 10th century BC ("thirteen hundred years before Ermanaric"), pra-Slavic tribes lived in the "land of seven rivers beyond the sea" (possibly corresponding to Semirechye, southeastern Kazakhstan). The book describes migration of Slavs through Syria and eventually into Carpathian mountains, during the course of which they were briefly enslaved by the king "Nabsur" (Nabonassar?). They settle in Carpathian Mountains in 5th century BC ("fifteen hundred years before Dir"). Several centuries appear to pass without much commotion. 4th century is described in some detail: during this time, Slavs fought a number of wars with Goths, Huns, Greeks, and Romans. Many references to Ermanaric and his relatives are present (placing this section of Book of Veles in the same historical context as the story of Jonakr's sons, referenced in numerous European legends and sagas). Slavs eventually emerged victorious. The period of 5th to 9th centuries is described briefly; Khazars and Bulgars are mentioned.
The book ends with Slavic lands descending into disarray and falling under Norman rule.
We were forced to retreat to woods and live as hunters and fishermen. So we could
get away from danger. We survived one darkness and started to build cities
and houses everywhere. After the second darkness there was great frost and we moved
to south for many places there were grassy ... and then Romei were taking our cattle
at a good price and were true to their word. We went
to southern ... green grassland and had a lot of cattle...
From Plank 7/A
Enemies are not as numerous as we are, for we are Rus' and they are not.
We pray and bow to the first Triglav and to him we sing a great glory.
We praise Svarog, grandfather of gods who is to whole gods' kin forefather
and creator of everything living, eternal spring that flows in the summer
and everywhere and in winter and never it freezes. And with that living water he nourishes
and life gives to us until we reach the blessed fields of paradise. And to god Perun, the thunderer, god of battle and fight we say:
"You hold us in life by neverending turning of the circle and lead to path
of Prav through battles to Great Trizna". And all who got killed in the battle -
may they live forever in the Perun's regiment. To god Svetovid glory we
are exalting for he is the god of Prav and Jav and to him we sing the song for he is the light
with which we see the world. We are looking and in Jav we are, and he from Nav
guards us and therefore praise we sing him. We sing and dance to him and call
god of ours to Earth, Sun and stars constantly in light keeps.
And glory all to Svetovid, god of ours that
hearts ours opens for us to admit bad deeds ours
and to good we turn. May he hug us like children for this has been said:
what is created with half of the mind could not be seen,
for it is a great secret how can Svarog be at the same time both Perun and Svetovid.
Two beings in skies Belobog and Crnobog are
And both of them Svarog holds and commands them.
After them come Hors, Veles and Stribog and then Visenj, Lelj and Letic.
From Plank 26/B
...As time passes, we come to the blue river as time ours
is not endless. There we meet
forefathers our and mothers that in Svarga herds are grazing and trusses
fastening. Their life is just as ours, only there are no Huns nor
From Plank 16 (sample text)
First two lines, literal text:
Probable spacing (Mirolyubov):
влескнигу сіу птщемо кіу ншемо у кіе ко есте прібезища сіла. во ноі врмѣноі бя менж якоі бя блга дблѣ іже рщен бящ отц врсі. [vlesknigu etu ptshchemo kiu nshemo u kie ko este pribezishcha sila. vo noi vrmenei bya menzh yakoi bya blga dble izhe rshchen byashch otc vrsi.]
Modern Russian interpretation:
Велесову книгу эту посвящаем богу нашему, который есть наше прибежище и сила (lit. в боге котором есть прибежище и сила). В оные времена был муж, который был благ и доблестен, и назван [он] был отцом тиверцев. [Velesovu knigu etu posvyashchaem bogu nashemu, v boge kotorom est' pribezhishche i sila. V onye vremena byl muzh, kotoryj byl blag i doblesten, i nazvan byl otcom tivercev.]
Translation into English:
This book of Veles we dedicate to our god, in whom is [our] refuge and [our] strength. In those years, there was a man, who was good and valiant, and [he] was called the father of Tiverians.