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The Main Studies of Old Russian Literature


From the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries there are several extant inventories, tables of contents and library catalogues, which suggests that already in Old Russia there was a need for systematised information about books: the table of contents for the twelve-volume Menology of Metropolitan Macarius (sixteenth cen­tury) compiled by the redactor Euthymius, the inventory of books of the Volokolamsk Monastery of St Joseph, the inventory of books of Patriarch Philaret (the father of Tsar Michael) and many others.

Among these inventories and catalogues the most detailed and accurate is the description of the manuscripts of the White Lake Monastery of St Cyril compiled in the late fifteenth century by an unknown monk from the monastery. It gives details of the size, composition, contents, number of sheets and (wherever possible) the date of the book. The author of this description quotes the titles of individual items, reproduces the opening words of individual works, and indicates the number of sheets in each item and their order in the book. Since most of the manuscript books described have been preserved in the collection of the Leningrad State Public Library, we can verify the scrupulous accuracy of this description.

17th-century cursive—an inscription in a book donated to the Solovetsky Monastery. State Public Library, Leningrad

17th-century cursive—an inscription in a book donated to the Solovetsky Monastery. State Public Library, Leningrad

Another excellent work is A List of Contents of Books and Their Compilers drawn up in the seventeenth century. Here too printed and manuscript books are described in great detail, item by item, giving the titles of the individual items and the opening words of each, indicating the existence of forewords and afterwords and, where possible, giving information about the authors. It is interesting that the author of the List makes use of conventional abbreviations and signs, which enable him to present the information in highly systematic form.

Peter the Great was extremely interested in Old Russian literature. In 1722 he issued a decree on the collection from monasteries and eparchies of manuscripts “of bygone days” on parchment and paper, with special reference to chronicles, books of degrees and chronographs.

On Peter the Great’s personal orders a copy was made (very carefully for those days) of The Radziwill Chronicle and brought from Konigsberg to St Petersburg in 1716. Nor was The Radziwill Chronicle forgotten subsequently: in 1758 on the instructions of the president of the Academy of Sciences the chronicle itself was brought from Konigsberg to the library of the Academy of Sciences. The text of the chronicle was published in 1767.

The publication of The Radziwill Chronicle in 1767 was followed by that of The Russian Chronicle from the Nikon manuscript (which began to come out in 1767), The Tsar’s Book (1769), The Tsar’s Chronicle (1772), The Ancient Chronicle (1774- 1775), The Russian Chronicle from the Manuscript of St Sophia of Novgorod the Great (Part 1 —1795), The Book of Degrees of the Tsar’s Genealogy (1775), and many others.

One of Peter’s close associates, the famous Russian historian Vasily Tatishchev, was most active in collecting old manuscripts, particularly chronicles. In his extensive History of Russia Tatishchev attempts to give precise information on Russian chronicles and other Old Russian writings.

In the 1720s the Academy of Sciences was founded in St Petersburg3. Academicians Gerhardt Friedrich Miller and August Ludwig Schlozer did a great deal for the collection and study of old manuscripts on Russian history. Although Miller interpreted the early period of Russian history tendentiously from the viewpoint of Normanism, which argues that the Varangians (Normans) played a decisive role in the formation of the early Russian state, he performed the important service of collecting some very rare manuscript material and publishing many literary works, including The Book of Degrees (in two parts, Moscow, 1775). August Schlozer devoted forty years to the careful study of Russian chronicles and published an extensive work in German and Russian on The Nestor Chronicle (German edition in five volumes, 1802-1809, Russian edition in three volumes, 1809- 1819).

Andrei Rublev (?). An illuminated letter from the Khitrovo Gospel. Late 14th - early 15th century. State Lenin Library, Moscow

Andrei Rublev (?). An illuminated letter from the Khitrovo Gospel. Late 14th – early 15th century. State Lenin Library, Moscow

A great deal was done for the study of Old Russian literature by the famous eighteenth-century educator Nikolai Novikov. In 1772 he published his Historical Dictionary of Russian Writers, which contains information on more than 300 writers from the early period of Russian literature up to and including the eighteenth century. In 1773-1774 he published the Old Russian Library. The first edition consisted of ten volumes. In 1788-1791 it was enlarged with new material and came out in thirty volumes, containing many Old Russian literary works.

The collection and publication of manuscripts gained even more momentum in the early nineteenth century. The publication in 1800 of The Lay of Igor’s Host produced a new upsurge of interest in Old Russian literary works. This interest became even more widespread after the War of 1812 against Napoleon which played an important part in the development of national consciousness and interest in Russian history.

The activity of the collector Count Nikolai Rumyantsev (1754-1826) was of particular importance. He collected old manuscripts and financed expeditions to old monasteries. In 1861 the Rumyantsev collection was moved from St Petersburg to Moscow and formed the nucleus of the book collection of the RumyantsevMuseum, now the Lenin State Library of the USSR.

The eminent Russian philologist Alexander Vostokov (1781- 1864) produced a detailed scientific description of Count Rumyantsev’s manuscripts. His Description of Russian and Slavonic Manuscripts of the Rumyantsev Museum, which contains a description of each item based on laborious research, came out in 1842. This description retains its scholarly importance to this day and can in many respects be called exemplary.

Of Nikolai Rumyantsev’s other colleagues mention must be made of Metropolitan Evgeny Bolkhovitinov (1767-1837), who collected and studied manuscripts in all the old Russian towns where he was sent. He is the author of two bibliographical works:

A Historical Dictionary of Writers in Holy Orders in Russia (two editions in two volumes, 1818 and 1827) and the posthumously published Dictionary of Russian Secular Writers, Native and Foreign, Writing in Russia (Volume 1, 1838, and both volumes together in 1845).

Another colleague of Rumyantsev’s was Konstantin Kalaidovich (1792-1832) who died at an early age. He published many Old Russian works for the first time in his Monuments of Russian Literature of the Twelfth Century (1821) and a study of the tenth-century Bulgarian writer popular in Old Russia, John, the Bulgarian Exarch (1824).

Finally, Rumyantsev’s colleagues included Pavel Stroyev (1796- 1876). From 1829 to 1834 Stroyev made a systematic study (as head of an archaeographic expedition organised by him) of the manuscript collections of all the old monasteries and assembled a vast number of extremely rare items. In order to categorise these manuscripts the Archaeographical Commission was set up in 1834. The Commission worked independently at first and later, from 1921, as part of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR until the 1930s when together with its archives it was put under the Leningrad Department of the Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. After categorising the manuscripts collected by the archaeographic expedition, the Commission soon turned to the independent study of Old Russian manuscripts. It published a large number of works. Of particular importance was the publication, beginning in 1841, of the Complete Collection of Russian Chronicles which is still in process (Volume 37 was the last to come out).

As we can see, in the eighteenth and the early nineteenth century, Old Russian literary and historical works were collected, and studied mainly from the bibliographical and bibliological point of view.

The very concept of “literature” in the modern sense of fiction hardly appeared in Russia until Karamzin4 at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Up till then Old Russian writings, both literary and historical, were collected, studied and published by the same scholars and the aims of their studies hardly varied. The first attempts to produce a history of literature were not made until relatively late.

Various brief surveys of the history of Old Russian literature began to appear in the 1820s. The most interesting is A History of Old Russian Literature by the Kievan scholar Mikhail Maximovich (republished in Volume III of his collected works, Kiev, 1880). Maximovich (1804-1873) was extremely interested in The Lay of Igor’s Host and was the first to make a detailed comparison of the literary features of the Lay with folk poetry. His History also shows a preoccupation with the artistic aspect of Old Russian literary works to some extent. At the beginning of his book he was the first to divide Old Russian literature into periods, linking it with the general course of Russian history, but he made a concrete study of works up to the thirteenth century only.

In its day Stepan Shevyryov’s History of Russian Literature, Predominantly Old Russian, first published in 1846 and republished in 1887, was well known. It was written from the romantic standpoint and idealised Old Russian spiritual and ecclesiastical life. It linked and to some extent subordinated the history of literature to that of the church.

The second half of the nineteenth century produced four of the most eminent historians of Russian literature: Fyodor Buslayev (1818-1897), Alexander Pypin (1833-1904), Nikolai Tikhonravov (1832-1893) and Alexander Veselovsky (1838-1906).

At the beginning of his activity Fyodor Buslayev belonged to the MythologicalSchool created primarily by the German scholar Jakob Grimm. The mythologists believed that literary subjects and folkloric motifs and themes originated in the dim and distant past, the time when the Indo-European peoples lived in their hypotheti­cal common homeland. Works deriving from this distant past were thought to reflect the mythological views of the remote ancestors of these peoples.

The views of the MythologicalSchool influenced Fyodor Buslayev primarily in his studies on Russian language. However in his case the extremes and fantasies of the MythologicalSchool were mitigated to a large extent by the historico-comparative approach. Alexander Afanasyev, Orest Miller and many other students of Russian mythology and folklore did not avoid these extremes, as we know.

The many lines of interest and research that Fyodor Buslayev pursued were very fertile for the study of Old Russian literature: his interest in apocryphal literature, oral religious verse (dukhovniye stikhi) with their unorthodox, purely popular views, and Old Russian art vis-a-vis works of literature.

The last of Fyodor Buslayev’s major works, The Russian Illustrated Apocalypse (St Petersburg, 1884), was an outstanding study for its day and emphasised the importance of popular views.

For all his great love of Old Russian literature and art Buslayev was not a narrow-minded nationalist. The importance of his MythologicalSchool for the study of Old Russian literature lay in the fact that this school compared Old Russian literary works with works of other lands and with the development of folklore in general. It was a forceful and effective rejection of the view that

Old Russian literature was imitative, weak, and divorced from the development of world literature as a whole.

The MythologicalSchool was superseded (even in some of Buslayev’s works) by the theory of literary borrowing, first expounded by the German scholar Theodor Benfey. This was a return to the historical method and to the concrete study of different subjects and motifs. The historical role of the theory of borrowing was that it made scholars concentrate not so much on prehistoric phenomena as the concrete period of the Middle Ages, and stressed even more strongly than the Mythological School the importance of international contacts, in particular, contacts with Byzantium and the Orient, the relationship of folklore and literature, and the importance of subjects and motifs being handed down through merchants and Crusaders, pilgrims and artisans.

Following Fyodor Buslayev the theory of borrowing was upheld by Academician Vatroslav Jagic, a Croatian by birth, and also Academician Alexander Veselovsky, Academician Ivan Zhdanov, and others.

The supporters of the theory of borrowing studied primarily the influence of Oriental poetic culture on the West. They attributed a special role in this influence to the Arabs and Buddhism, but above all to Byzantium, as the country of Oriental subjects and motifs. This enhanced the importance not only of Byzantine but also of Old Russian literature in world literary exchange. The traditionally disparaging attitude to Byzantium gradually disappeared, and with it disparagement of Old Russian literature, at least among philologists. The importance of Byzan­tium as a repository of the antique classical literary heritage was also enhanced.

Unlike Fyodor Buslayev and Alexander Veselovsky, Nikolai Tikhonravov was the first historian of Russian literature to set the discipline new tasks. He maintained that a history of literature should not be “a collection of aesthetic analyses” of selected writers and should not serve “empty marvelling” at “literary geniuses”. A history of literature should explain the “historical course of literature” in relation to the intellectual and moral state of the society to which the literature belongs.

Tikhonravov made an important contribution in two spheres. He based the study of literature on a study of history. For all its shortcomings the culturo-historical school led by him sought to interpret literary works on the basis of historical data. Moreover in his views on Russian history Tikhonravov diverged from official viewpoints and took a special interest in works proscribed by the church. His second important contribution was that he published a large number of works very accurately and efficiently for his day. The level of the publication of Old Russian texts, which was high by the latter half of the nineteenth century, also helped Tikhonravov to publish texts by modern Russian writers, such as Nikolai Gogol, the correspondence of Nikolai Novikov, and folklore.

The writings on Old Russian literature of Academician Alexander Pypin are also of interest. In his youth Pypin was strongly influenced by his cousin, Nikolai Chernyshevsky, but later he joined the West European historico-cultural school which was close to the bourgeois democratic enlightenment. He was in­terested mainly in the socio-ideological aspect of literature and stressed the connection of literature with popular life. Consequent­ly he studied ethnography and folklore, concentrating mainly on genres which expressed popular views (apocryphas, folk tales, polemics), but were of little interest to “aesthetic” criticism. He wrote more than 1,200 scholarly works. One of his first major works, A Literary History of Old Russian Tales and Stories (St Petersburg, 1857), is still of importance to scholars today.

The research of the fourth giant of the history of Russian literature, Alexander Veselovsky, was influenced by many features characteristic of the scientific premises of his great predecessors: Fyodor Buslayev and Nikolai Tikhonravov.

Alexander Veselovsky contributed an extraordinary breadth of knowledge to the study of Old Russian literature. He brought the Russian, Byzantine and West European Middle Ages closer together by establishing common features not only in individual subjects and motifs, but also in aesthetic principles and laws of development, which was most important. In this respect Veselovs­ky was far more realistic than the founder of the comparative historical method, Theodor Benfey. He looked not only for common features between literatures, but also for a concrete historical explanation of these features. Moreover, and this is particularly important, Veselovsky was interested in the literatures not only of advanced peoples, but also of peoples at a relatively low level of cultural development. For him all peoples were equal m literary interchange. For him there was no literary elite: he was interested in the interchange of all literatures, strong and weak, in the works of “mediocre” writers, in mass phenomena. And he did not regard this interchange as the sole source of literary subjects and motifs.

Like Nikolai Tikhonravov, Alexander Veselovsky took a special interest in works of Old Russian literature with an unorthodox, popular view of the world: religious verse, apocryphas, legends and vitae (of all the genres of religious literature the Lives of the saints contain the strongest deviations from official, canonical views).

The high level of Russian philological studies was maintained by the excellent organisation of academic publishing.

In the 1850s two outstanding philological journals began publication under the editorship of Izmail Sreznevsky: The Proceedings of the Department of Russian Language and Literature of the Academy of Sciences (1852-1863) and The Transactions of the Second Department of the Academy of Sciences (1854-1863), subse­quently continued as the Collections of the Department of Russian Language and Literature (about ninety volumes have come out since 1867). Resumed in 1896 on the initiative of Academician Alexei Shakhmatov, The Proceedings of the Department of Russian Language and Literature of the Academy of Sciences became one of the leading philological journals in the world. It printed many studies of Old Russian literature that bear witness to the high level of Russian research in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Proceedings are still of value today.

In the late nineteenth and the first quarter of the present century the scientific principles of Russian classical textology were based on the vast experience gained in publishing Old Russian works and a critical review of the principles of West European formalistic textology.

By the end of the nineteenth century the Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg had become the centre of textological research well ahead of West European centres in its methods.

Independently of each other Alexei Shakhmatov (1864-1920) in St Petersburg and Vladimir Peretts (1870-1935) in Kiev (the latter was elected to the Academy of Sciences in 1914 and moved to Petrograd) created their own, but in some respects similar, schools of textological study of Old Russian (the latter also of Old Ukrainian) literature. Unlike the textological school that prevailed in the West, whose supporters attached prime importance in the study of texts to a formal classification of variant readings without analysis of their causes, Shakhmatov and Peretts sought to present the “literary history” of the work in all its redactions, types and recensions. For both scholars the most important element in this history was the person who had created the text, the author, and after him the unknown editors and copyists who had been guided in their work by certain ideas and aims, sometimes also literary tastes.

Shakhmatov, and Peretts after him, based their textological studies on the historical method, the principle of studying a text through its history and changes.

In assessing today the new textological ideas contributed by these two academicians, we can also discern considerable differ­ences between them. Shakhmatov developed his textological practice on more complex material, the chronicles, where it is hard to establish not only different redactions, but even the works themselves, and where textological connections can be found between all works of the chronicle genre. Consequently his textology developed more subtle devices of textual interpretation.

Vladimir Peretts was primarily an historian of literature and he was most successful at the literary-historical interpretation of changes in a text and its different redactions. Of major importance also were his observations on concrete folklore-literary connections, on the shifting of individual works from one literature to another, from one environment to another, from literature to folklore and vice versa.

The historical principle in the study of texts was no accident: the development not only of textology, but of the study of Old Russian monuments as a whole in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was based increasingly firmly on the historical method. The gradual mastering of the historical approach is characteristic of all the most eminent scholars who studied Old Russian literature.

The Soviet study of literature inherited the fine achievements of the preceding period and grew up on a broad base of research literature and systematic archaeographic (collection, description and publication) activity. The Soviet study of Old Russian literature has developed the finest traditions of pre-revolutionary scholarship, gradually discarding its limitations and general methodological shortcomings.

Archaeographic expeditions ceased for a while in the 1920s in connection with the general difficulties of the period. The work of producing a systematic description of manuscripts continued, however, largely because manuscript collections became concen­trated in a few major central book repositories at that time.

Mention must be made of the activity in the 1920s and 1930s of the Commission on the Publication of Works of Old Russian Literature, the work of a team of qualified specialists to produce something that had become essential for all students of Old Russian literature, namely the card index of Academician Nikolai Nikolsky (1863-1936) which combined information on the various manuscripts of individual works in different institutions, making it possible to locate quickly the necessary manuscript material for a given work. This card index is kept in the Manuscript Department of the Library of the USSR Academy of Sciences in Leningrad.

Of similar importance was the card index produced in the 1930s by the Sector of Old Russian Literature of the Institute of

Russian Literature of the USSR Academy of Sciences in Lenin­grad, which gave information about manuscripts, publications and studies of individual works. The work on this card index stopped in the late 1930s however.

In spite of their incompleteness, the card indexes of Nikolsky and the Sector of Old Russian Literature are still indispensable for all students of Old Russian literature.

In the middle of the 1930s, on the initiative of Vladimir Malyshev (1910-1976) the archaeographic expeditions were re­sumed. This work saved a large number of manuscripts which for a variety of reasons had ceased to be valued by their owners. At the present time the search for manuscrips is being carried on by the Institute of Russian Literature (the Pushkin House) of the USSR Academy of Sciences, the manuscript departments of the Lenin State Library, the State Public Library in Leningrad, the libraries of the USSR Academy of Sciences in Leningrad, Moscow and Leningrad universities, the Siberian Section of the USSR Academy of Sciences, and others.

As a result of the concentration after the October 1917 Revolution of most manuscript collections in a few central repositories and the formation of card indexes on manuscripts the study of Old Russian manuscripts became more scientific. Already in pre-revolutionary research Academician Alexei Shakhmatov and Academician Vladimir Peretts had stressed the need to study the literary history of works with reference to all the extant manuscripts, all the surviving copies. This requirements could now be fulfilled if the publication of monuments continued. But it was not only the concentration of manuscripts that helped to turn principles long advocated by scholars into practice. This was promoted also by concentrating the researchers themselves in a few centres for the study of Old Russian literature, of which the two main ones were the Sector of Old Russian Literature of the Institute of Russian Literature of the USSR Academy of Sciences, organised in 1934, and the Group for the Study of Old Russian Literature that functioned intermittently at the Institute of World Literature of the USSR Academy of Sciences. These centres set up in the 1930s began collective research, putting out serial publica­tions and generalising works. Collective efforts also became possible in organising archaeographic expeditions, and compiling bibliographies and descriptions. New works and whole sections of literature were discovered and systematically studied.

Undoubtedly one of the most important spheres of Russian literature of the seventeenth century is that of democratic satire. A few works of democratic satire were known in the nineteenth century, but they were usually ranked with the lowest type of literature and no special significance was attached to them. Consequently these works were not studied and were rarely published. The credit for establishing the historico-literary impor­tance of seventeenth-century democratic satire and for publishing a complete collection of these works must go to Varvara Adrianova-Peretts.5 She demonstrated that satirical literature was of great importance as the expression of the ideas of the exploited strata of the people. In seventeenth-century satirical literature we find a whole layer of urban literature, the literature of the artisans, small tradesmen, peasants and lower ranks of the oppositionally-minded clergy that had links with the people.

In the sphere of chronicle study Soviet researchers continued the work of Alexei Shakhmatov and produced a general history of Russian chronicle-writing. It was presented to us for the first time in the works of Mikhail Priselkov (1881-1941) and Arseny Nasonov (1898-1965) in its complex development from the eleventh to the sixteenth century as a history closely connected with the political thought of Old Russia. The clear chronological landmarks in Russian chronicle-writing made it possible to date other works of Old Russian literature in relation to them. Thus, for example, the dating of individual chronicle compilations enabled scholars to date many works connected with them, such as historical tales, Lives of the saints, accounts of pilgrimages and epistles. Chronicle-writing provided the framework that made it possible to put works of Old Russian literature, most of them being anonymous and therefore difficult to place chronologically, into historical perspective. The history of chronicle-writing pro­vided a basis for the history of literature. In this connection chronicle-writing itself began to be studied from the historico- literary point of view: its history, as the history of a literary genre, the fictional and artistic elements of chronicle-writing and its link with folklore. A literary interpretation of the history of Russian chronicle-writing is given in Dmitry Likhachev’s book Russian Chronicles (Moscow and Leningrad, 1947). Whereas earlier stu­dents of folklore had searched in the chronicles for traces of the historical events on which the subjects of the heroic poems (bylinas) were based, after the October Revolution researchers began to look for the reverse as well: the reflection of folkloric subjects in the chronicle.6 The works of Boris Rybakov are of great importance for determining the relationship between the bylinas and the chronicles.7

Thus the study of the history of Russian literature began to include whole categories of works whose aesthetic value had previously been ignored. Historians of literature included in their subject chronicles, chronographs, some so-called counterfeit documents, and so on. The writings of Joseph of Volokolamsk, first evaluated by Igor Eremin,8 began to be studied from the historico-literary viewpoint. A whole volume of Newly-Found and Unpublished Works of Old Russian Literature was published.9

Among the newly-found works we would mention The Tale of Sukhan discovered, studied and published by Vladimir Malyshev, the writings of Ermolai-Erasmus discovered and studied by Vyacheslav Rzhiga, the works of Andrei Belobotsky, discovered and studied by Alexander Gorfunkel, individual written songs found and published by Alexander Pozdneyev, the works of the redactor Savvaty, studied by Leonid Sheptayev, and so on. Of special importance is Oleg Tvorogov’s book The Old Russian Chronographs (Leningrad, 1975), which examines a great deal of chronicle material in manuscripts.

Due to the vast increase in the copies of individual works published and studied, new redactions and new types came to light. Newly discovered redactions made it possible to gain a fuller idea of the literary history of individual works and, consequently, to have a more complete picture of the historico-literary process.

The Institute of Russian Literature of the USSR Academy of Sciences is publishing a series of monographs on works of Old Russian literature. Bearing in mind that many Old Russian works had not been published at all, that some had been published without account being taken of all the extant manuscripts and that others had been published a long time ago and in an unsatisfac­tory form, the editors of this series set themselves the task of making a thorough examination of all surviving manuscripts of important works and publishing them afresh.

The following publications in this series deserve special mention: The Tale of the Princes of Vladimir,10 The “Tale” of Abraham Palitsyn11 The Tale of Sukhan,12 The Comedy of Artaxerxes,13 Tales of the Life of Michael of Klopsk,14 the works of Vassian Patrikeyev,15 The Deeds of Digenes,16 The New Tale of the Most Glorious Russian Tsardom, The Tale of Dracula,18 The Tale of the Founding of Moscow,19 Tales of the Dispute of Life and Death,20 The Lay of the Ruin of the Russian Land2 and The Tale of Peter and Febronia22 Thirty volumes in this series have been published to date.

A number of Old Russian works have been published in the Literary Monuments series. This series aims at publishing works of different ages and peoples, and it has brought out a considerable number of Old Russian works, namely: The Tale of Bygone Years,23 The Lay of Igor’s Host24 The Military Tales of Old Russia25 Afanasy Nikitin’s Voyage Beyond Three Seas,26 The Epistles of Ivan the Terrible27 the official reports of Russian ambassadors from abroad,28 the works of Simeon of Polotsk,29 The “Annals” of Ivan Timofeyev,30 Russian Democratic Satire of the Seventeenth Century,51 Tales of the Battle of Kulikovo,32 and the Alexandreid55. Finally, some works were also published independently of any series, such as The Tale of the Campaign of Stephen Bathory Against Pskov,34 The Lives of Avvakum and Epiphanius, 5 and Russian Syllabic Poetry of the l7th-18th Centuries36 Each of these editions contained all the extant versions of the work in order to show how it had moved and changed in different social environments at different times. They were extremely important for studying the history of literature because they made it possible to trace changes of ideas, literary styles and demands made on the work by readers and copyists. These publications were historico-literary ones in the true sense of the word, and have contributed greatly to the task of constructing a history of Old Russian literature.

From 1932 onwards the most important studies of Old Russian literature have been published in the almost annual Transactions of the Department of Old Russian Literature (TODRL) of the Institute of Russian Literature of the USSR Academy of Sciences. The most recent (fortieth) volume came out in 1985. InMoscow the Group for the Study of Old Russian Literature attached to the Gorky Institute of World Literature of the USSR Academy of Sciences issues Studies and Materials on Old Russian Literature of which four volumes have appeared (1961, 1967, 1971 and 1976).

Let us now turn to general courses and textbooks on the history of Old Russian literature that retain their importance today.

In the latter half of the nineteenth century and early twentieth many important works were published on The Lay of Igor’s Host by Elpidifor Barsov,37 Nikolai Tikhonravov,38 Alexander Potebnya,39 Vladimir Peretts40 and many others.

In 1938 Nikolai Gudzii’s textbook entitled Old Russian Litera­ture was published. It was the first textbook on the subject that was free of vulgar sociologism. This textbook has been republished many times. It gives a clear idea of the works, expounds the material well and to some extent narrates the contents of works.

A little earlier a course of lectures was published by Academician Alexander Orlov entitled Old Russian Literature of the Eleventh to Sixteenth Centuries (Moscow and Leningrad, 1937). This course is noteworthy because it attempts to analyse primarily the literary aspect of individual works. The account of sixteenth-century literature is of indisputable value. In 1939 the course was republished under the title A Course of Lectures on the History of Old Russian Literature, and in 1946 it came out again with the addition °f a short account of seventeenth-century literary works.

Orlov’s course was followed by three collective academic histories of Old Russian literature. Shortly before the Great Patriotic War (1941 1945) the Institute of Russian Literature of the USSR Academy of Sciences published the first volume, dealing with the early period, of a three-volume History of Russian Literature,41 which was unfortunately not completed. Immediately before and during the war two volumes (the second in two parts) of a ten-volume History of Russian Literature42 of the Institute of Russian Literature were published. This is the largest history of Old Russian literature ever published. It is not only the most voluminous, but also the most complete in terms of the number of works examined. It analyses many works previously not included in the history of literature. Only literary works were selected, but the criterion for including works in this category was very broad. The authors sought to extend the secular sections of literature, including chronicles, chronographs, numerous historical tales, seventeenth-century satirical works, folklore recordings, etc. His­torico-literary phenomena were viewed against a broad historical background together with general cultural changes and the history of Russian art. This history of Old Russian literature was written not only by all the eminent literary specialists of the day, but also with the help of the distinguished art historians Dmitry Ainalov and Nikolai Voionin and the historian Mikhail Priselkov. A major shortcoming of this work, however, is the almost total absence of a bibliography and name indices (of authors and works) and the inadequate headings.

Among the academic histories of Old Russian literature mention must be made of volume one of A History of Russian Literature43 in three volumes published jointly by two academic institutions: the Institute of Russian Literature (Pushkin House) of the USSR Academy of Sciences and the Institute of World Literature of the USSR Academy of Sciences. The first volume contains a concise account of the development of Old Russian literature with a revised division into periods and attempts to describe works in the light of new research on them since the publication of the first two volumes of the ten-volume History of Russian Literature.

A History of Old Russian Literature by Professor Vladimir Kuskov of MoscowUniversity (fourth edition, revised and enlarged, Moscow, 1972) is a good concise textbook.44

The study of Old Russian literature outside Russia by foreign specialists has been almost contemporaneous with its study at home. The first works to attract the attention of foreign scholars were the chronicles and The Lay of Igor’s Host. The Russian Primary Chronicle was studied by August Schlozer, who published his huge five-volume study Nestor in 1802-1809 which appeared shortly afterwards in Nikolai Yazykov’s translation in three volumes45.

The Lay of Igors Host46 attracted the attention of Czech scholars but more than a century passed before translations and studies of the Lay in foreign languages became widespread.

From the second quarter of the twentieth century one finds a heightened interest abroad in Russian literature, and in Russian culture in general. This interest has led to the publication of a large number of separate studies and monographs, and also of general courses of Old Russian literature.

These studies and courses cannot be examined as we have examined Russian ones, for they are related to the specific features of the country in question and, the development of its research. We shall therefore only list the most comprehensive surveys of Old Russian literature and periodicals. Individual studies and monographs published abroad will be mentioned in the appropriate places as will those in Russian.

The course of Old Russian literature by Riccardo Picchio, published in Italian, English and Spanish, conforms most closely to modern requirements47. This course takes into account all the basic works of literature and expresses the most well-founded points of view. A shorter course of Old Russian literature and Russian literature of the eighteenth century is that by the Oxford specialists John Fennell and Antony Stokes.48

The course of Old Russian literature by Dmitry Tschizewskij,49 which enjoys great authority abroad, contains many arbitrary assessments of works and their researchers and has some lacunae in its historiographical outlines and information. Adolf Stender- Petersen’s50 and Wilhelm Lettenbauer’s51 courses of Old Russian literature are out-of-date from the bibliographical point of view. A course of Old Russian literature published recently in Bulgaria has the original aim of showing the relationship between Russian and Bulgarian literature.52

Special studies and publications of Old Russian texts have been appearing for many decades now in the excellent Czechoslovak Slavistics journal Slavia which first came out in 1922. The Revue des Etudes Slaves published in Paris is of special interest because of its full bibliographical data. The collections entitled Russia Mediaevalis and edited by Rudolph Muller, Andrzej Poppe and John Fennell are published in the FederalGermanRepublic. They contain both profound studies and full bibliographical data. Four have come out to date, all comparatively recently.