Anthology of Old Russian Literature

By Adolf Stender-Petersen | Go to book overview

HISTORIOGRAPHY
Whereas Old Muscovite historiographical literature consisted of the glorification of the tsardom of Russia and the majesty of its rulers, New Muscovite historiography was a literature of lamentation and dolorous contemplation of tragic events. It was almost entirely dedicated to the consideration and characterization of the great national disaster, the Smuta (Period of Disorder)—the short but dismal interregnum lasting from the extinction of the old dynasty, with the death of tsars Ivan the Terrible ( 1584), F'odor ( 1598), and Boris Godunov ( 1605), to the election of the first tsar of the Romanov dynasty, Mixail, in 1613. Numerous ecclesiastic, semi-ecclesiastic, and secular writers attempted to portray this period of insecurity and chaos during which both native and foreign pretenders to the throne, Poles and Swedes, invaded Muscovia and shook the structure of the proud empire. Few historiographers of the time succeeded in giving a true picture of the actual state of affairs. The literary style of this New Muscovite historiography was mainly a faithful continuation of the florid style created in the period of Makarij's activity. At the same time, new tendencies crept in to give narrative prose a character heretofore unseen: (1) a trend toward spontaneous, sporadic, and primitive versification; and (2) epic tendencies reminiscent partly of Russian folk songs, partly of epic methods in the tradition of the famous Igor Tale and its epigonal imitation, The Don Tale. Particularly illustrative of this development are:
The anonymous Lament on the Occupation and Ultimate Devastation of the Muscovite Empire
Prince Katyr'ov-Rostovskij's Story of Former Years
The anonymous Tale of the Death of Prince Skopin-Šujskij
F'ódor Poróšin's Tale of the Siege of Azov.

LAMENT ON THE OCCUPATION
AND ULTIMATE DEVASTATION OF THE
MUSCOVITE EMPIRE

This short narrative about the pretender Dimitrij, written presumably in 1612, was conceived by an unknown ecclesiatic personage as a homiletic sermon addressed to a congregation. It reflects the sentiments of ecclesiastical circles

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