Academic journal article Kritika

Gail Lenhoff and Ann Kleimola, Eds., the Book of Royal Degrees and the Genesis of Russian Historical Consciousness

Academic journal article Kritika

Gail Lenhoff and Ann Kleimola, Eds., the Book of Royal Degrees and the Genesis of Russian Historical Consciousness

Article excerpt

Gail Lenhoff and Ann Kleimola, eds., The Book of Royal Degrees and the Genesis of Russian Historical Consciousness. 348 pp. Bloomington, IN: Slavica Publishers, 2011. ISBN-13 978-0893573775. $39.95.

Aleksei Vladimirovich Sirenov, Stepennaia kniga i russkaia istoricheskaia mysl' XVI-XVIII vv. (The Book of Royal Degrees and Russian Historical Thought in the 16th-18th Centuries). 547 pp. Moscow: Al'ians-Arkheo, 2010. ISBN-13 978-5988740513.

Andrei Sergeevich Usachev, Stepennaia kniga i drevnerusskaia knizhnost' vremeni mitropolita Makariia (The Book of Royal Degrees and Old Russian Book Culture in the Time of Metropolitan Makarii), ed. A. A. Gorskii. 760 pp., ill. Moscow: Al'ians-Arkheo, 2009. ISBN-13 978-5988740391.

Scholars have long since realized the uniqueness of Stepennaia kniga tsarskogo rodosloviia (The Book of Royal Degrees, hereafter SK) in the history of medieval book, church, and political culture. SK was created by experienced scribes guided by a single design; uncovering this design reveals the attitudes held by the leading ideologues of the Russian tsardom toward supreme spiritual and secular power.

This literary text also has a unique history. No fewer than 145 copies are known today. The earliest of these were made soon after the text's creation, while the latest belong to the recent past and are linked to official interpretations of the concept of power. These interpretations, incorporating received views of a tsardom preserved by God and imperial universalism in the Russian Empire, were quite foreign to the ideas of SK.

The edition of SK prepared by Nikolai Pokrovskii, Gall Lenhoff, Aleksei Sirenov, and Ol'ga Zhuravel' has already received high marks from their colleagues. (1) The works discussed in this review comprise the most recent achievements in this field: A. S. Usachev (Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow) and A. V. Sirenov (St. Petersburg State University) continue to develop their extensive and fruitful research into the history of Russian book culture. The editors-in-chief of the proceedings of the 2009 Stepennaia kniga conference in Los Angeles, Gail Lenhoff (University of California, Los Angeles) and Ann Kleimola (University of Nebraska, Lincoln), are prominent U.S. Slavists with long experience in studying various aspects of the ideology and politics of the Russian tsardom.

The principal question--and stumbling block--in discussions about SK has always been the time and place of its creation and initial existence, as well as early traces of its reception. Today an enormous volume of sources is enlisted in support of various arguments to answer this question, a tendency especially encouraged by the "codicological turn" in manuscript studies. Significant progress has been made in the codicological study of SK, which makes possible a full-scale inquiry into the history of its cultural appropriation. This history is the focus of my review.

First, let me note that the efforts of Pokrovkii, Sirenov, Lenhoff, Usachev, and Zhuravel' have revealed which manuscripts stand closest to the protograph in the manuscript tradition of SK. These manuscripts are the Volkov (V), Tomsk (T), and Chudov (Ch) copies. Second, in an act of solidarity remarkable in the academic world, all these scholars--of different generations and working on dissimilar problems using different methods--reach the same conclusion regarding the controversial question of the place and date of origin of the earliest copies of SK They agree that its oldest redaction can be traced to the Chudov Monastery in the Moscow Kremlin; that Metropolitan Makarii played a part in the project, as did his successor, Metropolitan Afanasii (Andrei before his appointment as metropolitan); and that it dates to sometime between the mid-1550s and 1563.

This conclusion about the date of SK's origin, however, is a hypothesis; not every contributor to the conference volume agrees with it. …

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