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New Literary Areas (Siberia and the Don)


In the first half of the seventeenth century the “geography” of Russian literature expanded somewhat, as the remote borderlands of the state, Siberia and the Don, in particular, joined in the literary movement.

The beginning of Siberian literature is connected with the founding of the Tobolsk archbishopric in 1621. Before moving to Tobolsk the first Archbishop of Siberia, Cyprian Starorusenkov, was archimandrite of the Khutyn Monastery in Novgorod. In fact almost all Siberian archbishops in the seventeenth century came from Novgorod. At that time Siberia was being settled mainly by pioneers from the northern and White Sea provinces of European Russia. Consequently early Siberian literature drew primarily on Novgorodian and North Russian literary traditions.

Cyprian was well aware that the role of the clergy was more

important in Siberia than in the central regions. The nobility, which was represented only by military commanders and exiles, could not become the dominant or even a major force in the economy and culture of Siberia. In conflicts between the administration and the Church in Siberia the Church invariably came out on top. Sensing itself to be the all-powerful and uncontrolled master of this huge area far from Moscow, the Tobolsk archbishopric showed a clear tendency towards separat­ism, cultural separatism included. It was on this basis that Siberian literature developed.29

There is an account of the literary ventures of the first Archbishop of Tobolsk in The Esipov Chronicle which was compiled fifteen years after the founding of the archbishopric: “In his second year as archbishop he (Cyprian) remembered the ataman Ermak and his band and had them enquire of Ermak’s Cossacks how they came to Siberia, where they fought battles with the infidels, who was slain by the infidels in these skirmishes and where. The Cossacks brought him a manuscript… And he … ordered the names of those slain to be written in the Synodical of the Cathedral of St Sophia and to have prayers said in remembrance of them on Orthodox Sunday together with others who had died for Orthodoxy.”30 The Cossacks’ written account has not survived, but the Synodical compiled from it has been preserved in a number of chronicles, and the original has also come to light,31 i.e., the actual manuscript from which prayers were said in the Tobolsk Cathedral of St Sophia in memory of Ermak’s Cossacks in the first week of Lent (Orthodox Sunday).