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The Range of Works to Be Examined


We shall discuss primarily those works that continue to interest us today, that have become part of the literary heritage, and that are the best known and most easily understood and accessible. Such a selection obviously results in a certain simplification of perspective, a simplification that is both permissible and inevitable.

The large compilations of Old Russian works have not yet been sufficiently studied: the different types of paleyas (“interpretive”, “historical”—special works expounding the Old Testament), The Great Menology (a compilation of the works read in Old Russia), the Prologues (short collections of vitae arranged according to months and days), miscellanies with a fixed content (such as, for example, the Chrysostom, The Emerald and others) have been so little studied that it is difficult to discuss them in a history of literature. Yet many of them were read more often and survived in a larger number of manuscripts than works which we know and without which no history of literature could be of general educative value for the modern reader. Thus, for example, the miscellany of homilies entitled The Emerald was undoubtedly read more often and was of greater importance in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries than the Household Management better known in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (a collection of rules concerning the running of the household and the family) which, incidentally, itself depended on The Emerald. Nevertheless we include the Household Management in a history of Russian literature and omit The Emerald. And we do so advisedly: for the Household Management is not only better known in the history of Russian culture than The Emerald, but is also more indicative of the historico-literary process. The Household Management bears the imprint of the sixteenth century. As for The Emerald (fourteenth century) the traces of its age (the Russian Pre-Renaissance) have yet to be revealed by research.

Although some highly distinguished scholars have studied Old Russian literature, it has for the most part been insufficiently researched.

Some manuscript collections of Old Russian works have not been studied at all or have been described with insufficient accuracy and detail.