Seminar in Ukrainian Studies
What Did the Chronicles Really Mean? What Did They Really Want To Say? Revisiting the Laurentian and Hypatian Chronicle Accounts About the Raid of Prince Ihor Svatoslavič in 1185?
Harvey Goldblatt, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures and Master of Pierson College, Yale University
The purpose of this study is to offer a fresh perspective on the two stories oflhor Svjatoslavyc's defeat at the hands of the Polovcian forces, which are contained in the Laurentian Chronicle (s. v. 1186) and Hypatian Chronicle (s. v. 1185), respectively. After briefly discussing the very different operations of examining the historical function of the story (i.e., «what really happened») and investigating its literary and spiritual properties as well as specific mode of presentation (i.e., «how is the narrative conveyed»), the study stresses the need to expose to view the distinctive features of Old Rus' chronicles «compilations» (svody) in general and the precise chronicle contexts required for a critical inquiry into the two tales on the raid carried out by Ihor Svjatoslavyc, Prince ofNovhorod-Siverskyi. In this study, special attention is focused on the following motifs:
(1) The special role played by scriptural allusions and Heilsgeschichte, not only in the two chronicle accounts but also in the Ihor Tale.
(2) The presence of a common ecclesiastical vision and multiple «levels of meaning» (sensus litteralis vs. sensus spiritualis) to highlight the «full» and «true» significance in all three textual units.
(3) A common ecclesiastical vision that is realized, however, in diverse sets of motifs and the use of different literary devices in the two chronicle accounts and the Ihor Tale.
( 4) A close comparative analysis of the accounts found in the Laurentian Chronicle and Hypatian Chronicle and their quite different contexts reveals significant differences between the two chronicle textual units.
(5) Whereas the focus in the Hypatian Chronicle rests on the themes of OJ'hovyci harmony and OJ'hovyciMonomasyci reconciliation within a vision that continues to place Kyiv and «Grand Prince» Svjatoslav Vsevolodovic at the center of Old Rus' history and politics, the relevant Laurentian Chronicle textual units, deeply embedded as they are in the worst excesses of frateral strife (usobica) and discord (kramola) highlighted in earlier narratives of the Primary Chronicle, underscore not only the opposition between Ol'hovyci and Monomasyci, as well as the need for overcoming the sins of the «disobedient» and «rebellious» Rus' princes, but also the emergence of«Grand Prince» Vsevolod Jur'evic (the «Big Nest») of Vladimir as the «new» and ambitious sovereign capable of restoring fraternal harmony and firmly set on establishing both secular and ecclesiastic supremacy over the lands of Rus'.
(6) Finally, at the spiritual level of meaning, the study also observes important differences between the textual units found in the Laurentian Chronicle and Hypatian Chronicle. The latter entities reveal the wicked actions oflhor Svjatoslavyc, which are placed against the backdrop of a providential history that is marked by God's faithfulness and mercy, together with man's redemption and salvation, despite man's sinful disobedience and resulting divine wrath. Prince Ihor's bowing before the icon of God and venerable cross, his liberation, and his return first to Novhorod Siverskyj, then to Cernihiv, and ultimately to Kyiv-all these motifs illuminate a spiritual world of goodness and harmony. The Laurentian textual unit, on the other hand, exposes to view not only a much more negative evaluation of Prince Ihor's pride and rebellion but also a much darker vision of sin as well as divine anger and judgment, notwithstanding God's desire never to abandon the righteous man, provided that he fears God and prays to him for redemption.
Harvey Goldblatt is Professor of Medieval Slavic Literature in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Yale University. He is the author of numerous publications on general problems of language debates in the Slavic world as well as on specific works that deal with language speculation in and the literary patrimony of Slavia orthodoxa. His research interests extend from medieval Bulgarian and Serbian literature to the medieval and premodern East-Slavic heritage. Current projects include a major study on the Igor Tale as well as various aspects of the Cyrillo-Methodian literary tradition.
A two-volume collection of his studies will be published in Poland in early 2018, under the title Studies on the Medieval and Premodern Literary Civilization of Russia and Ukraine. A volume of his articles on the writings and thought of Ivan Vyšens´kyj soon will be published in Ukrainian by the Kyivan publishing house Krytyka. Finally, another multi-volume collection that contains sixty of Riccardo Picchio´s studies, annotated and all in English, will appear in late 2018.
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