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The Russian Chronograph


Interest in world history, evident in Russia from the eleventh century when the Russian scribes first acquired translations of the Byzantine chronicles of Georgios Hamartolos and John Malalas, was particularly strong in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. It was during this period that the lengthy Russian Chronograph was compiled, which continued to be copied in its various redactions right up to the middle of the eighteenth century. The first redaction of The Russian Chronograph contains an outline of world history from the Creation to 1453, the year when Constantinople fell to the Turks, marking the end of the Byzantine Empire.

About half of the Chronograph text is taken up with a brief exposition of the Bible (mainly stories and information about the history of the kingdom of Judaea). This is followed by the history of the Orient, the history of Rome and a detailed history of Byzantium. The final section of the Chronograph contains information on the history of Russia from early times to the mid-fifteenth century, and also accounts of the history of Bulgaria and Serbia. The Chronograph also includes a somewhat condensed version of The Chronographical Alexandreid (supplemented from The Serbian Alexandreid) and The Tale of the Trojan War.

The Chronograph was of great interest not only as an historiographical, but also as a literary work. Russian scribes were particularly impressed by the stories about Byzantine emperors which the compiler of The Russian Chronograph had taken from a translation of the Byzantine Chronicle of Constantine Manasses. The emotional style, the vivid descriptions of historical personages, and the many strifing scenes, all these features were later to have a great influence on the style and manner of the Russian historical narrative, for example, The History of Kazan or the tales about the Time of Troubles, the events at the beginning of the seventeenth century14.