The Beginnings of Russian History: An Enquiry into Sources

The Beginnings of Russian History: An Enquiry into Sources

The Beginnings of Russian History: An Enquiry into Sources

The Beginnings of Russian History: An Enquiry into Sources

Excerpt

This little book is an attempt to present a clearer picture of Russia in the earliest period for which we have records. The country is especially rich in historical traditions relating to the earliest period of her history. She is also fortunate in the possession of a chronicle composed early in the twelfth century, and carrying back the records of events in the valley of the Dnêpr to the Viking Age, and even earlier. It has long been recognised that much of the material incorporated in the earliest annals of the earliest Russian chronicle is derived from oral tradition; but whether from poetry or saga, whether from Russian or Scandinavian sources, has never been determined. My first task has been to seek to ascertain with more precision the nature and extent of some of the oral elements, both Scandinavian and Russian, which have been utilised by the compiler.

During the last twenty years much new material bearing on early Russian history has come to light from the written records of the countries on the periphery of Russia. This has been found chiefly in Greek and Arabic writings; but something can be gleaned also from references in Persian and Armenian and other Oriental records. The important bearing of Scandinavian historical tradition is coming to be more fully recognised. My second task has been to make a beginning in the interpretation of early Russian historical records in the light of such external evidence from peripheral countries.

Finally, I have attempted to bring the entries in the Russian chronicle into relationship with one another, with a view to determining the relevance of widely separated events and campaigns for the development and fluctuations of policy, and the growth of the state. Perhaps the most important element in this task has been to determine the personal sympathies and preoccupations of the compiler, and the bias necessarily reflected in such records. These considerations naturally lead to suggestions . . .

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