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The Eulogy to Prince Boris of Tver by the monk Thomas


The mid-fifteenth-century specimen of Tver literature, The Eulogy to Prince Boris of Tver written by the monk Thomas, is a striking example of the expressive-emotional style. In its lofty rhetoric and certain literary devices it resembles The Eulogy of the Life of Grand Prince Dmitry. But Thomas departs even further than the author of the latter from , the hagiographical genre and greatly enhances the publicistic element in his work. It is a eulogy to the greatness and might of Prince Boris of Tver (1425-1461) and the principality of Tver. We know nothing of Thomas himself. He wrote the Eulogy circa 1453.36

The Eulogy consists of six parts (the sixth part breaks off after the first few lines).37 Thematically and compositionally each part is independent. They are joined by a single idea and a single style. The main idea of all the parts is that Prince Boris of Tver is an “autocrat” worthy of ruling the whole Russian land. He possesses all the virtues, cares for his subjects, and is a bold and skilled military commander. Like the author of The Eulogy of the Life of Grand Prince Dmitry, Thomas compares Boris of Tver with famous historical figures and Biblical characters, rating him above them.

In his work Thomas seeks to stress the complete agreement between Tver and Moscow, to persuade the reader that there was friendship between Prince Boris of Tver and Grand Prince Basil the Blind of Moscow. The Prince of Tver plays the dominant role in this alliance.

The Eulogy is written in a lofty rhetorical style. Yet behind the skilfully constructed rhetorical passages one senses real human feeling and drama. Take the episode when Basil, who has been blinded and driven out of the principality of Moscow, arrives in Tver from Vologda. The two princes weep on meeting. Basil is moved by Boris’ charity, and Boris grieved by the degradation of the Prince of Moscow: “Formerly he had beheld his brother, the Grand Prince Basil, handsome and comely, adorned with a sovereign’s dignity, but now he was humiliated and impoverished, profaned by his own brothers.” The wives of the princes also weep. Their lament continues even at table: “In the same way did the Grand Princess Anastasia with the Grand Princess Maria take each other by the hand and go to the same feast and sit down to eat. But when they should have been eating and drinking and making merry, they did shed tears instead of merry-making.”

The Eulogy shows that its author, the monk Thomas, was extremely well-read. He makes use of images and expressions from many works of different periods and styles, for example, The Tale of Bygone Years, Hilarion’s Sermon on Law and Grace, Cyril of Turov’s Sermons, The Life of Alexander Nevsky, the works of the Kulikovo cycle and other monuments.

Thomas the monk’s Eulogy reflects the idea of the creation of an autocratic Russian state, but the ideal autocrat here is the Prince of Tver, to whom the Grand Prince of Moscow is junior. This explains why the Tale was not included in official Moscow literature and has survived in one manuscript only thanks to sheer luck.