WEMSK34:Old Russian Literature
WEMSK34 -- Old Russian
As usual, there is a problem with terminology. What I am calling
Old Russian is frequently called Kievan, Kievan Rus', Old Ukrainian
and other things. Also, it is common to take Old Russian up to
1700, so that our textbooks will extend beyond the usual term of
1500. What follows, of course, leans heavily on Western sources; in
fact, where a Western language work was available, I used that,
kind of on the order of Paul L. Horecky, Russian and the Soviet
Union. A Bibliographical Guide to Western-Language Publications
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965).
a. Annemarie Hille, Bibliographische Einfuehrung in das Studium der
slavischen Philologie (Halle: Niemeyer, 1959). Good, though dated.
b. Murlin Croucher, Slavic Studies. A Guide to Bibliographies,
Encyclopedias, and Handbooks, 2 vols. (Wilmington, Delaware:
Scholarly Resources, 1993). The most compendious of the
bibliographical guides and the best. Strange organization. You
will find Russian and Ukrainian under Soviet Union. Instead of the
expected Ukraine - Literature, look under Ukrainian Literature. Not
much on Old Russian.
2. Periodical bibliographies:
a. American Bibliography of Slavic and East European Studies.
Compiled under the auspices of the American Association for the
Advancement of Slavic Studies. Also available online at:
b. European Bibliography of Soviet, East European and Slavonic
Studies. Birmingham, Eng., University of Birmingham. International
Committee for Soviet and East European Studies. Online:
c. An interesting recent work: Slavic and East European Information
Resources. Binghamton, NY: Haworth, 2000-. The first volume is
promising and contains a number of computer related articles, but
at present it is somewhat disappointing.
d. Assuming that you have a modicum of Russian, you can probably
keep up with work in Russia by looking at: Trudy Otdela
drevnerusskoi literatury (Moscow-Leningrad: Izdatel'stvo Akademii
Nauk SSSR, 1934-). Annual. Contains articles, studies, editions,
a. Reference Guide to Russian Literature, ed. Neil Cornwell et al.
(London: Fitzroy, 1998). A large book (ca. 980 pp.), but it does
not cover all of Old Russian. Good where it does cover. No cross-
referencing, so it can be hard to find an item, given the disparity
4. Corpus: Nikolai N. Durnovo, Vvedenie v istoriu russkogo iazyka.
Chast' I: Istochniki (sources). Spisy Filosoficke fakulty
Masarykovy university v Brne, 20 (Brno: Filosoficka/ fakulta,
5. General handbook: Handbook of Russian Literature, ed. Victor
Terras (New Haven: Yale UP, 1985). Signed articles; bibliography
(initials for first and second names). Good coverage. According
to where you are coming from, this may be your best first port of
6. One volume histories of literature:
a. Nikolai K. Gudzii, History of Early Russian Literature, transl.
from 2d Russian ed. by Susan Wilbur Jones (NY: Macmillan, 1949.
This is the one on which most American Slavists cut their teeth.
The German edition, Geschichte der russischen Literatur, 11. - 17.
Jahrhundert, transl. Fairy von Lilienfeld. Slawistische Bibliothek
10 (Halle: Niemeyer, 1959) is best to use, since it has better
bibliographies and they lean to the West.
b. Dmitrij Chizhevskij, History of
Russian Literature, from the Eleventh Century to the End of the
Baroque (The Hague: Mouton, 1962).
c. For my money the best history of Old Russian literature is
still: Dmitrii Chizhevskii (Tschizewskij), Geschichte der
altrussischen Literatur im 11., 12. und 13. Jahrhundert (Frankfurt:
Klostermann, 1948). Excellent coverage.
d. Sort of up to date: Dmitry Likhachev, A History of Russian
Literature, 11th-17th Centuries, transl. K. M. Cook-Horujy (Moscow:
Raduga Publishers, 1989). Signed articles with good bibliographies,
facsimiles. Bibliography of western language publications at the
end of the volume. Likhachev is an outstanding authority. See his:
Textologiia, na materiale russkoi literatury x-xvii, 2d ed
(Leningrad: "Nauka", 1983); for those who are Russian challenged:
Werner Alberts, "Bericht ueber das Buch Textologija von D. S.
Lichacev," Probleme altgermanistischer Editionen, ed. Hugo Kuhn et
al. Forschungsberichte 13 (Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1968), 169-180.
7. Compendious history:
a. The Russian Verfasserlexikon is: Dmitrii S. Likhachev, Slovar'
knizhnikov i knizhnosti drevnei Rusi (Leningrad: Izd-vo Nauka,
Leningradskoe otdelenie, 3 vols. in 4 (1987-1992). The last volume
is published, konechno, in St. Peterburg. Works both by known
authors and anonymous. A "knizhnik" is anyone who has to do with
the production of a book, author, editor, copyist, compiler,
scribe, binder, etc.; if we had a concept "bookist", this would be
it. Prepared by the staff of the Institut Russkoi Literatury of the
Academy of Sciences.
b. Good to look at for terms, etc.: Helmut W. Schaller et al.,
Real- und Sachwoerterbuch zum Altrussischen. Selecta slavica, 7
(Neuried: Hieronymus Verlag, 1985).
a. Khrestomatiia po drevnei russkoi literature xi-xvii vekov, ed.
Nikolai K. Gudzii (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe Uchebno-Pedagogicheskoe
Izdatel'stvo, 1962). The German translation of his Istoriia comes
with a chrestomathy.
b. The one most used in American schools: Adolf Stender-Petersen,
Anthology of Old Russian Literature. Columbia Slavic Studies (NY:
Columbia UP, 1954). Good introduction. Introduction, with
bibliography, to each entry, also.
c. The most compendious of the chrestomathies: Biblioteka
literatury drevnei Rusi, ed. D. S. Likhachev. Rossiiskaia Akademiia
Nauk. Institut Russkoi Literatury (Pushkinskii Dom) (St.
Petersburg: Nauka, 1997-). 18 vols. to 1700.
d. A good guide for learning to read the original scripts: A Reader
in the History of the Eastern Slavic Languages, ed. George Y.
Shevelov and Fred Holling (NY: Columbia UP, 1958).
e. Another good guide for the same purpose: Readings in the History
of the Russian Language, 11th to 15th Centuries, ed. Charles E.
Gribble (Cambridge, MA: Schoenhof's, 1964).
a. David Djaparidze, Mediaeval Slavic Manuscripts. A Bibliography
of Printed Catalogues (Cambridge, MA: The Mediaeval Academy, 1957).
b. The Academy of Science puts out a number of facsimiles; on my
lap I have: Merilo pravednoe po rukopisi xiv veka, ed. M. I.
Tikhomirov (Moscow: izd-vo Akademii Nauk SSSR, 1961). A good
reproduction of a 698 pp. manuscript.
c. The best guide to Slavic paleography: E. F. Karskii,
Slavianskaia kirillovskaia paleografiia (Leningrad: Akademiia Nauk,
1928. Ca. 500 pp. The appendices give samples and discussion of
a. An excellent chrestomathy, good for forming an idea of Old
Russian literature: Medieval Russia's Epics, Chronicles, and Tales,
ed. Serge A. Zenkovsky, rev. ed.. Dutton Paperback Original D363
(NY: Dutton, 1974).
b. An excellent series of translations, with introduction and
comment: Harvard Library of Early Ukrainian Literature. Harvard
Ukrainian Research Institute, 1989-. [The Library also publishes a
Texts series, sometimes with facsimiles]. Here you will find
translations of the Paterik (vol. 1), Saints' Lives (vol. 2),
Sermons & Rhetoric (vol. 5),
c. Richard C. Lewanski, The Slavic Literatures. Literatures of the
World in English Translation 2 (NY: Ungar, 1967). Compiled by the
staff at the NY Public.
a. M. G. Bulakhov, "Slovo o polku Igoreve" v literature, iskusstve,
nauke: Kratki entsiklopedicheskii slovar' (Minsk: Universitetskoe,
1989). Includes biographies of about 500 people who wrote on or
dealt with Igor.
b. La geste du Prince Igor', Epopee russe du douzieme siecle, ed.
Henri Gregoire, Roman Jakobson and Marc Szeftel. Ecole libre des
hautes etudes a New York. Annuaire de l'Institut de philologie et
d'histoire orientales et slaves, 8 (NY, 1948). This may be
difficult to find; it is a volume of the Annuaire, usually
published in Brussels, but this one was set during wartime.
Especially Jakobson's refutation of Mazon's declaration that the
Tale of Igor's Campaign is a forgery (pp. 235-360), somewhat
overstated. His reconstruction is also kind of wild. Has S. H.
Cross's translation of the tale into English.
c. The best known of the English translations is that by Vladimir
Nabokov, The Song of Igor's Campaign. McGraw-Hill Paperbacks (NY:
McGraw-Hill, 1975; repr. of a 1960 book [Vintage Books]). With a
commentary. There is also Rilke's German translation: Das Igor-
Lied, eine Heldendichtung (Leipzig: Insel, 1960). Old Russian with
Rilke's translation and Likhachev's Modern Russian prose rendition.
d. You might compare this with Zenkovsky's translation in Medieval
Russia's Epics, Chronicles, and Tales, which is based on Jakobson's
reconstruction and suggestions.
2. Primary Chronicle. The early history of Rus' is handed down
the Povest Vremmenych Let `Tale of Bygone Years', also known as The
Russian Primary Chronicle and the Chronicle of Nestor. There is a
splendid translation and commentary by Samuel Hazzard Cross and
Olgerd P. Sherbowitz-Wetzor, The Russian Primary Chronicle.
Medieval Academy of America Publication No. 60 (Cambridge:
Mediaeval Academy, 1953).
3. Heroic poetry. Russia's heroic poetry is for the most part
transmitted to us by byliny (sg. bylina), which, kind of like the
Danish ballads, are much later reflections of the early period,
plus, of course, the Zadonschina:
a. N[ora] Kershaw Chadwick, Russian Heroic Poetry (NY: Russell &
Russell, 1964; repr. of Cambridge UP, 1932). Discusssion,
translations ordered in cycles.
b. Reinhold Trautmann, Die Volksdichtung der Grossrussen I. Das
Heldenlied (Die Byline) (Heidelberg: Winter, 1935).
4. Ernst Benz et al., Russische Heiligenlegenden (Zurich: Die
Waage, 1953). Also available condensed in paperback (Freiburg:
5. Old and out-of-date, but still good for orientation: Alexander
Mongait, Archaeology in the U.S.S.R., transl. David Skvirsky
(Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1959). Also available
in paperback. Good illustrations, maps, bibliography.
6. I have eschewed as usual electronic resources, but let me point
a. REESweb at the University
of Pittsburgh seems to be the largest site.
See Mark Weixel, "Restringing the Threads of REESweb," Slavic and
East European Information Resources 1.1 (2000), 105-108, on their reorganization.
b. The University of Illinois
Slavic Library maintains an excellent
Website which will take you wherever you want to go.
c. Russian and East European
Internet Language and Literature