from appearance to content


View of the Ipatiev Monastery in Kostroma. Photo: A. Savin (Wikimedia Commons)

Learn My Son: Science Shrinks
We are experiencing a fast-flowing life –
Someday, and soon maybe
All the areas that you are now
I portrayed it so cleverly on paper
Everyone will get yours under the arm –
Learn, my son, and easier and clearer
You will comprehend the sovereign work.
A.S. Pushkin. Boris Godunov

You can become a communist only when you enrich your memory with the knowledge of all the riches that humanity has developed.
“The tasks of youth unions” (text of the speech of V. I. Lenin at the III Congress of the Komsomol on October 2, 1920)

Historical science versus pseudoscience. This is the third article dedicated to the ancient Russian chronicles. It will talk about how some of them look, since a huge number of people will never get into their storage places, as well as about the content. Indeed, some readers of “VO” believe that all this is so somewhere and lies, no one translates old texts into the new Russian language, does not study for authenticity, does not subject to linguistic types of analysis, and all discoveries in this area are only Professor Petukhov and does. Therefore, we will start, perhaps, with the Department of Manuscripts of the Russian National Library, where, along with other valuable manuscript works of our ancestors, the chronicle, called the Laurentian one, is also kept. And it is named so after the person who copied it in 1377, and at the end, on the very last page, left such an interesting autograph: “Az (I) is thin, unworthy and sinful servant of God Lavrenty mnih (monk)” …

Russian chronicles: from appearance to content
Page of the Laurentian Chronicle, turnover of 81 leaves. Contains part of the teachings of Vladimir Monomakh with a description of his military campaigns, 1377 Source: site of the Russian National Library

Let’s start with the fact that this manuscript is written on the “charter”, or, as this material was also called, “veal”, that is, parchment, or specially dressed calfskin. They read it a lot, as it is clear that its sheets are not only dilapidated, but numerous traces of drops of wax from candles are visible on the pages. That is, this book has seen a lot in its six-hundred-year-old century.

The Ipatiev Chronicle is kept in the Manuscript Department of the Library of the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. She came here in the 18th century from the Ipatiev Monastery, which is located near Kostroma. It belongs to the XIV century and looks very solid: the cover is wooden, covered with dark leather. It is believed that it was written in four (five!) Different handwritings, that is, it was written by several people. The text goes in two columns, written in black ink, but the capital letters are written in cinnabar. The second sheet of the manuscript is all written in cinnabar and therefore especially beautiful. On the other hand, the capital letters on it are made in black ink. Obviously, the scribes who worked on him were proud of their work. “We are repairing the Russian chronicler with God. Good Father, ”was written by one of the scribes before the text.

As for the most ancient list of the Russian chronicle, it was also made on parchment in the XIV century. This is the Synodal copy of the Novgorod First Chronicle, which is kept in the State Historical Museum, that is, the Historical Museum in Moscow. It’s just that earlier he was in the Moscow Synodal Library, and that’s why he was named after her.

A very interesting monument of the past is, of course, the famous illustrated Radziwill, or Konigsberg, chronicle, because there are so many color illustrations in it. It was named so because for some time it was in the possession of the Radziwills, and they call it Konigsberg because Peter the First found it in Konigsberg. It is located in the Library of the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. For some reason, it is she who arouses suspicion, so to speak, of her “inconsistency”, since, they say, the bad Radziwills just forged it. But it was written at the end of the 15th century, and not somewhere, but … in Smolensk. It is written in a semi-ustav, that is, in a somewhat faster and simpler handwriting than a much more solemn and solid charter, although this font is also very beautiful.

But the main thing is the miniatures of the Radziwill Chronicle, of which there are 617! Just think: 617 drawings made in color, and all the colors are bright, very cheerful and well illustrate what is written about in the text. and troops marching under fluttering banners, and pictures of battles, sieges – in a word, war in all its then forms. We see princes sitting on the “tables” that served them as a throne, and foreign ambassadors with letters in their hands. Bridges, fortress towers, and walls, “logs” – dungeons, “vezhi” – this is how nomads’ wagons were called in Russia. We can clearly imagine all this from the drawings of the Radziwill Chronicle. The same can be said about weapons and armor, there are not many of them here, but just a lot. And all the pictures are combined with the text. And the conclusion: such a number of drawings, coupled with the text, is physically impossible to forge. And most importantly, such a forgery would not make sense, since it would be easily established by cross-comparison with other texts, and errors in illustrations – by archeological data. Wherever you throw, everywhere a wedge! Either you fake one to one, they say, we found another list previously unknown and want to sell it for very big money (there is still at least some hope that they will not figure it out, although very weak), or we make changes there, and we are here is exposed by the first expert who comes across! That is, in any case, the money spent will not pay off. Only 617 miniatures … well … 500,000 rubles each. for each + text … expensive pleasure comes out, isn’t it? And most importantly, what for?


The Radziwill Chronicle. Miniature depicting the battle between the regiments of Mstislav Romanovich and Vasilko Volodarevich Minsky; captivity of Mstislav by Vasilko, 1197. Description of the event on the miniature in the text of the chronicle: “in the summer of 6705. … The same winter of Ambassador Davyd of Smolensk, his son Mstislav, the matchmaker of the Grand Duke Vsevolod, to help his son-in-law to Vitbesk, and I will defeat Vasilko from Chernigovtsi , and Mstislav, the prince’s matchmaker, took and led him to Chernigov “

These are the most ancient lists of Russian chronicles. Incidentally, they are called “lists” because they were “copied” from much more ancient manuscripts that have not come down to us.

The texts of any chronicle were written according to the weather, so the entries in them usually begin like this: “In summer such and such (that is, in a year) it was such and such … or nothing happened, or nothing happened,” and then there is a description of what happened. Chronicle writing was conducted “from the creation of the world”, that is, to translate that date into the modern chronology, you need to subtract from the chronicle date either the number 5508 or 5507. Some messages were very short: “In the summer of 6741 (1230), the church was signed (that is, painted) Holy Mother of God in Suzdal and paved with different marble “,” In the summer of 6398 (1390) there was a plague in Pskov, as (as) there was no such; where one dug more, one and five and ten put “,” In the summer of 6726 (1218) silence was. ” When there were many events, the chronicler used the following expression: “the same summer” or “the same summer.”

A text that was related to one year is called an article. Articles in the text are in a row, they are highlighted only by a red line. The titles were given only to especially significant texts dedicated, for example, to Alexander Nevsky, the Pskov prince Dovmont, the Kulikovo battle and a number of other important events.

But it is wrong to think that the chronicles were kept in this way, that is, records were made in a row year after year. In fact, the chronicles are the most complex literary works dedicated to Russian history. The fact is that their chroniclers were both monks, that is, they served the Lord, and publicists and historians. Yes, they kept weather records about what they witnessed, inserted edifying additions into the records of their predecessors, which they learned from the same Bible, the lives of the saints and other sources. This is how they got their “code”: a complex “mixed” of biblical motives, edifications, direct instructions of the bishop or prince standing over the chronicler, and his personal attitude. Only highly erudite specialists can disassemble the chronicles, otherwise you can easily go after that to look for the grave of Svyatopolk the Damned on the Polish-Czech border.


The Radziwill Chronicle. The withdrawal of a part of the Russian population by the Polovtsy into captivity, 1093. Description of the event in miniature in the text of the chronicle: “… and people stripped and vedosha in vezha to their compassion and kinsman. There are many kinds of Christianska … “

As an example, consider the message of the Ipatiev Chronicle about how Prince Izyaslav Mstislavich fought with Yuri Dolgoruky for reigning in Kiev in 1151. It features three princes: Izyaslav, Yuri and Andrei Bogolyubsky. And each had his own chronicler, and the chronicler Izyaslav Mstislavich openly admires the mind and his military cunning; the chronicler of Yuri described in detail how Yuri sent his boats around the Dolobskoye Lake; Well, the chronicler Andrei Bogolyubsky praises the valor of his prince.

And then, after 1151, they all died and the chronicles dedicated to them fell into the hands of the chronicler of the next Kiev prince, for whom they were no longer of personal interest, because they became a distant past. And he combined all three of these stories in his collection. And the message came out complete and vivid. And cross-referencing it is easy to check where what was taken from.

How do researchers manage to isolate older texts from later chronicles? The fact is that the attitude towards literacy at that time was very respectful. The written text had a certain sacred meaning; it was not for nothing that there was a saying: written with a pen – you cannot cut it out with an ax. That is, the scribes of ancient books treated the works of their predecessors with great respect, since for them it was a “document”, the truth before the Lord God. Therefore, they did not alter the texts they received for rewriting the chronicles, but only selected the events of interest to them. That is why the news of the XI-XIV centuries remained practically unchanged in later copies. That allows them to be compared and distinguished.

In addition, the chroniclers indicated the sources of information: “When I came to Ladoga, the Ladoga residents told me …”, “Behold, I heard from the samovid”. Such postscripts are found constantly in the texts. It was also customary to indicate: “And behold from another chronicler” or “And behold from another, old one.” For example, in the Pskov chronicle, which tells about the campaign of the Slavs against the Greeks, the chronicler wrote in the margins: “This is written in the miracles of Stephen of Surozh.” Some chroniclers took part in the prince’s councils, visited the veche, and even fought with the enemies “near the stirrup” of their prince, that is, they went campaigns with him, were both eyewitnesses and direct participants in the sieges of cities, and most often, even after leaving the world, occupied a high position in society. Moreover, the princes themselves, their princesses, princely warriors, boyars, bishops, abbots took part in the chronicle. Although there were among them both simple monks and humble priests of the most ordinary parish churches.


The Radziwill Chronicle. The construction of the city of Belgorod by order of Vladimir Svyatoslavich, 990. Description of the event in miniature in the text of the chronicle: “In the summer of 6498. Lay Belgorod and cut it out from other cities, and many people introduced the stench. Be bo loving this city “

And one should not think that the chronicles were written “objectively”. On the contrary, whoever “saw”, wrote so, remembering, however, that God for a lie, especially a written one, “a document, by the way,” will punish twice. Conflict of interest in the annals is, again, very clear. The chronicles also told about the merits of the same princes, but they also accused them of violating rights and laws. That is, not everything even then (as now!) Was bought for money and by force of compulsion!

PS Recommended article for additional reading: Shchukina T.V., Mikhailova A.N., Sevostyanova L.A. Russian chronicles: features and problems of study // Young scientist. 2016. No. 2. S. 940-943.

To be continued…

Recommended For You

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *