Reference Guide to Russian Literature

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T

The Tale of Boiaryna Morozova
Anonymous prose narrative, written in 1675

Editions

"Povest' o boiaryne Morozovoi", in Povest' o boiaryne

Morozovoi: podgotovka tekstov i issledovanie, by A.I.

Mazunin. Leningrad, 1979, 127-207.


Translation

"A Biography of Boyarina Morozova" (abridged), translated by Basil Dmytryshyn, in his Medieval Russia: A Source Book, 850-1700. 3rd edition, Fort Worth, Texas, Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1991, 489-97.


Critical Studies

"Povest' o boiaryne Morozovoi", by M. O. Skripil', in Istoriia russkoi literatury, vol. 2, Moscow, 1948, 329-32.

Povest' o boiaryne Morozovoi: podgotovka tekstov i issledovanie, by A. I. Mazunin, Leningrad, 1979.

"Narrative Patterning in the Seventeenth-Century Old Believer Lives of Bojarynja Morozova and Gregory Neronov", by J. Alissandratos , in Gattung und Narration in den alteren slavischen Literaturen, edited by K-D. Seeman, Munich, 1984, 29-46.

Violent religious schism in Russia during the second half of the I7th century was precipitated by opposition to Patriarch Nikon's attempts to reform the practices and rituals of the Orthodox Church. This produced countless martyrs and many literary records of their suffering. One of the leading figures in the Old Believer movement, comprising those who fought to preserve the ancient traditions of the Orthodox Church, was the Archpriest Avvakum Petrovich ( 1620-82), and his most active female disciple was the Boiaryna Feodosiia Prokopiovich Morozova. Povest' o boiaryne Morozovoi [ The Tale of Boiaryna Morozova] is a significant historical document pertaining to the time of the schism and the intolerance and brutal methods by which the dissenting Old Believers were suppressed by the authorities. It is also a powerfully emotive narrative and one of the earliest works in native Russian literature to portray a strong and intelligent female protagonist in highly realistic detail.

Feodosiia was born on 21 May 1632 into the noble Muscovite family of the Sokovnins. Married in 1649 to an influential aristocrat Gleb Ivanovich Morozov, to whom she bore a son Ivan, she was widowed in 1662. Feodosiia served as a royal courtier during the reign of Tsar Aleksei, and is depicted as a loyal, warm and highly intelligent woman whose powers of debate and conversation were widely admired. She was instructed in spiritual matters by Archpriest Avvakum and steadfastly refused to accept Nikon's reforms, despite much persuasion from her family, the tsar and Archimandrite Ioakim. This determined adherence to the Old Believers' faith was to bring sustained persecution from the authorities. The tale recounts how Feodosiia becomes the spiritual pupil of Mother Melaniia from the Zhuba Convent near Belov, under whose instruction Feodosiia takes her solemn vows. Although continuing to live in the secular world, she withdraws from all possible official court duties and devotes her life to ascetic practices such as fasting, praying and charity, as well as to the support and defence of fellow Old Believers. She is joined in faith by her sister Princess Evdokiia.Greatly increased official persecution, however, rapidly follows Feodosiia's refusal to attend the tsar's second marriage. Neither the boyars nor the highest Church authorities can find a way of persuading Feodosiia to change her convictions and finally she is removed from her home by force, and placed under arrest together with Evdokiia.The sisters are subjected to a long and harsh regime of imprisonment in various monasteries, where they stoically endure long hours of gruelling interrogation of their religious beliefs and often terrible torture. Finally Tsar Aleksei orders Feodosiia to be removed from - Moscow and taken to an underground dungeon in the fort of Borovsk, where she undergoes further torture and punishment, including starvation. She dies, still imprisoned, on II September 1672.

The tale is essentially anonymous, although the familiarity with Feodosiia's everyday routine and the very personal detail revealed in her characterization suggest that the author was very close to her and someone who even participated in some of the events. A strong candidate for authorship is one of Feodosiia's household butlers, Andrei, himself an Old Believer and known to have been literate. Her long struggle to uphold the ancient Russian Orthodox traditions rendered Feodosiia an ever-lasting

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