Nikolai Nikolaevich Pokrovskii and Gail D. Lenhoff, eds., The Book of Degrees of the Tsars' Genealogy" according to the Oldest Manuscripts: Texts and Commentary/Stepennaia kniga tsarskogo rodosloviia po drevneishim spiskam: Teksty i kommentarii.
Aleksei Vladimirovich Sirenov, Stepennaia kniga: Istoriia teksta [The Book of Degrees: History of a Text]. 540 pp. Moscow: Iazyki slavianskikh kul'tur, 2007. ISBN 5955102124.
The Stepennaia kniga (hereafter SK) long has puzzled historians. Compared to chronicles from which they have constructed coherent narratives of Russian history, the SK had the character of a secondary source. It offered a historical scheme of Russian history from the Christianization of Rus' to the reign of Tsar Ivan IV, carefully constructed from passages from chronicles and the Russian chronograph. Its "story" was that of the continuous progress of the Orthodox faith and of a dynasty of rulers who were its guardians. Thanks to the books under review, we finally are able to appreciate the purposes of its creators and better assess its importance as a source. Aleksei Sirenov views the SK as the "first attempt to [create] a conceptualized account of Russian history" (3), a view to which the editors of the SKalso subscribe.
In 1979, Nikolai Pokrovskii announced to a session of the Archeographical Commission (Arkheograficheskaia komissiia) the discovery of a previously unknown manuscript of the SKwhich he had uncovered in the museum of local lore (kraevedcheskii muzei) in Tomsk. Twenty-two years later, in 2001, after Sirenov uncovered another early manuscript, Pokrovskii demonstrated that these finds were not only the earliest versions of the SKbut were the key to understanding its formulation and development. (1) Until this breakthrough, aside from Edward Keenan's acute evaluation of the SKin a 1974 article, the only serious studies of this important work since P. G. Vasenko wrote about and published a critical edition of the SK 100 years ago, have been V. V. Kuskov's candidate's thesis (1951) and this reviewer's monograph (1979). (2) Since 2001, there have been a plethora of studies, the crowning achievements of which are the books under review.
Pokrovskii and Ol'ga D. Zhuravel' did the "final editing of the text" (5) of volume 1 (with two yet to come) of the SK. It consists of the Life of Princess St. Ol'ga and the first 10 (of 17) steps of the SK, with 24 illustrations of significant folios of the earliest manuscripts. Pokrovskii, Zhuravel', and Sirenov contributed a prefatory description of the manuscripts used in the publication, Sirenov describes the 145 extant manuscripts of the SK,, Pokrovskii has a chapter on the work's historical thematics, and Gall Lenhoffcontributes a chapter about the SK's design, ideological themes, and intended audience. Sirenov's book is a tour de force. Chapter 1 is a historiographical essay. In subsequent chapters he describes the earliest manuscripts and how they relate to one another, the SK's purported archetype, and its evolution through the Petrine era. As a conclusion, Sirenov posits the significance of the SKand how it came into being. There are seven appendices, the last an invaluable reconstruction of the various editions with a stemma of the manuscripts for each, and indices of names and manuscripts.
The works under review are in substantial agreement regarding the SK's conception, initial form, and development to about 1600. The original SK, labeled the Short Edition, is in three manuscripts: the Volkovskii, which is a draft copy of its first sections, and the Tomskii and Chudovskii, which contain the full text. This SKconsisted of an introductory Life of Princess St. Ol'ga and 17 steps, one for each prince in a father-to-son genealogy from St. Vladimir to Ivan IV. All were written simultaneously between 1560 and 1563 in the Kremlin Chudovskii Monastery, where the metropolitans had their residence. The Volkovskii manuscript influenced the Tomskii and Chudovskii manuscripts, and the latter two influenced one another and betray parallel editorial changes. The Chudovskii manuscript was the most complete, but not by much. Archimandrite Iona Dumin of the Rozhdestvenskii Monastery in Vladimir (and future archbishop of Vologda) prepared the next edition of the SKin 1589, probably in conjunction with the elevation of Russia to a patriarchate. About 1600, another edition appeared, which Sirenov and Pokrovskii call the Extended Edition. Its protograph was the Piskarevskii manuscript, which Vasenko thought primary and made the base text for his printed edition. Sirenov shows that Archpriest Andrei of the Kremlin Blagoveshchenskii Church (the court church of Moscow's rulers), subsequently Metropolitan Afanasii (1564-66), brought the Tomskii manuscript and his scribes to Aleksandrovskaia Sloboda, where in the tsar's scriptorium it was used in the production of the Illuminated Chronicle (Litsevoi svad) between 1568 and 1576. (3) Dumin's and the Extended Edition differed little from the original. Dumin, who presided over the house where Aleksandr Nevskii was buried, contributed a new life of the saint (Sirenov, 285-93; SK, Step 8, 316-35). Aside from editorial changes, including some deriving from the draft Volkovskii manuscript, the Extended Edition added two introductory articles taken from the Nikon Chronicle, a section in the table of contents entitled "New Miracle Workers," indicating in which step and chapter they were to be found, and, following the Life of Metropolitan St. Aleksei in Step 11, chapter 7, an account of his miracles (Sirenov, 261-62). The Chudovskii manuscript is the base text of the new edition of the SK, with alternative readings from the Tomskii and Volkovskii manuscripts, Dumin's edition and a variant of it, and from the Extended Edition.
The structure of the SK is that of a genealogy of "Russian" princes, preceded by the recently written Life of Princess St. Ol'ga. It and the Life of St. Vladimir, which occupies the first 72 chapters of Step 1, cast them in the roles of Byzantine Emperor Constantine I and his mother Helen as Christianizers of their people. Sirenov (110, 374, 389-90) cites Sil'vestr, a priest of the Kremlin's Blagoveshchenskii Church, as author of the Life of Ol'ga. (4) It in turn was a source of the Life of St. Vladimir in Step 1. In its structure, Pokrovskii notes (SK, 93), the SKresembled Greek chronographs that reckoned time by the reigns of rulers rather than chronicles, which reckoned time by year. It was the names of Russia's metropolitans (excepting Isidor), however, who were in the title of each step; the princes with whom they were associated were announced and praised only in the first chapter of each step. Lenhoff (SK, 133-37) posits that the theological concept of a ladder to perfection (or heaven), common to Byzantine tradition, was the model for the SK's historiosophic structure and cites passages in the preface to make her case. Echoing the first psalm, one said Russia's princes were "like the groves of paradise, planted by the water springs, were from God and by Orthodoxy given drink and made to grow in wisdom and grace." The seventh-century Ladder of John Climacus of Sinai and the passage about Jacob's ladder in Genesis 28:12 inspired other passages that likened the dynasty to a ladder to paradise. Sirenov recognizes the parallels but deems them superficial (371-402). Instead, he proposes that the Serbian genealogy of rulers, Zhivoti kraleva i arkhiepiskopa srpskikh, was available in mid-16th-century Moscow and, with Muscovite genealogical books (in the Voskresenskaia Chronicle and other manuscripts) was a more likely model for the SK.
The Nikon Chronicle, itself heavily biased in its pro-Moscow narrative, was the favorite source of SK. Yet even it recorded embarrassing examples of princely conflict or defeat at the hands of non-Christians. The compiler of the SK airbrushed these passages to soften them or twisted their message to his use. If this was impossible, he replaced them with tales, documents, and, above all, saints' lives to tell a different story. Pokrovskii and Lenhoff describe these examples of editorial sleight of hand very well. The influence of the Tale of the Princes of Vladimir, for example, is ubiquitous: it was the source in Step 1 for the claim that the dynasty was related through Vladimir's pagan ancestor Riurik to Caesar Augustus (SK, 221-22), and in Step 4 for news that Vladimir Monomakh received an imperial crown from the Greek emperor with the Church's blessing (SK, 408-9). In Step 16, it reappeared in Grand Prince Vasilii III of Moscow's blessing to his son Ivan IV accompanied with regalia said to have come to his ancestor Vladimir Monomakh. The accompanying eulogy to Vasilii contained selected passages written by Deacon Agapetus in sixth-century Constantinople, explaining that in his office the emperor is "like unto God." (5) The compiler reported, but did not elaborate on, the significance of Ivan IV's coronation as tsar in 1547. But why should he have done so, when from St. Vladimir on, members of the dynasty anachronistically were called tsars and autocrats?
References throughout the SKto the Vladimir icon of the Mother of God--its translation from Byzantium to Vyshgorod, the princely suburb of Kiev, then to Vladimir in the 12th century, and finally to Moscow to save its Christian people from the pagan Temir Aksak in 1395--illustrated the Virgin's intercessory gift and God's benevolence that caused the migration of imperial power to Moscow (SK,, 416-17, 461-66; Polnoe sobranie russkikh letopisei 21, pt. 2: 408-9, 417,424-40; Lenhoff in SK,, 142-43). But it was the prominence of the genre of hagiography that most distinguished the SKfrom other historical writing. Where existing texts did not suffice, the compiler altered them or commissioned new versions. Pokrovskii discusses this with great sensitivity (SK,, 105-8). The first chapter of each step glorified princes of the ruling dynasty, including those who had not been canonized, in hagiographical language. Thus, in Step 9, the first chapter describes miracles emanating from the relics of Daniil Aleksandrovich of Moscow. The miracle tales obviously were designed to glorify the monastery Daniil had founded, which bore his name and where his relics were interred; in the SK they served to gloss over the fact that, being the youngest of his father's male children, he had the least claim to succession. Where chronicles were laconic and artless in describing the Mongol conquest and rule, the compiler introduced lives of princely saints: Saints Mikhail of Chernigov and his boyar Fedor (Step 7), Aleksandr Nevskii (Step 8), Roman Ol'govich of Riazan" and Rostislav of Smolensk and Iaroslavl' and his sons David and Konstantin (Step 9), and Mikhail Iaroslavich of Tver" (Step 10) were lauded as martyrs at the Horde who died to save their people. Only Nevskii was in the genealogy of rulers. In other instances, the compiler described how each martyred prince was related to the ruling dynasty so that it would bathe in their glory. These texts left the impression that the princes stood as one against the Mongols and glossed over ugly facts of princely skullduggery, such as the machinations of Iurii Daniilovich of Moscow at the Horde which brought about Mikhail's assassination and martyrdom. The compiler also intended the SIC to serve admonitory purposes, one being to summon contemporaries to obedience to the Russian tsar. To that end, he turned to a passage written by his contemporary Lev Filolog as part of a eulogy to Mikhail of Chernigov. In it, Lev explained that the Mongol conquest was a consequence of God's wrath visited on the faithful owing to the selfish and divisive behavior of their princes (SK,, 492-93). Vasenko and later historians viewed the SIC as an imperfect blend of hagiography and chronicle entries, edited or rewritten to provide Tsar Ivan IV and his realm with an ancient pedigree, comparable to that of Byzantine emperors and sustained by Orthodoxy. Thanks to the works under review, we can appreciate how well the SK fulfilled this objective.
Sirenov and Pokrovskii confirm Vasenko's conclusion that Andrei/Afanasii oversaw the creation of the SK and from beginning to end had a hand in its writing) But Pokrovskii also emphasizes that Metropolitan Makarii (1542-31 December 1563), Ivan IV's great "master of ceremonies," conceived the project as a whole and made certain that it was carried out. He also raises doubts about Sirenov's identification of the handwriting of editorial emendations in the Tomskii and Chudovskii manuscripts as that of Andrei/Afanasii (SK,, 94-97; cf. Sirenov, 160-64). Lenhoff writes of "both authors" (SK,, 125, also 120-21, 140). Sirenov, in contrast, minimizes Makarii's role in the genesis of the SK. His judgment rests on several arguments. One is that the prefatory statement to the Life of Vladimir (SK, 219), that Makarii commissioned the work, related only to the Life and not to the SK as a whole. Sirenov would also grant that Makarii possibly thought to add the Life of Ol'ga to it as a companion piece. Second, Sirenov points out that the draft Volkovskii manuscript of the SK is without divisions into steps and chapters, and that it was Andrei/Afanasii who reworked and developed the narrative in the form of a ladder, the rungs of which were princes (Sirenov, 371-402). Sirenov's arguments are convincing to a point. Yet it should be remembered that the SK was written during the last four years of Makarii's life and within the metropolitans residence. Makarii's impact on Russian culture was enormous. He commissioned the encyclopedia of Russian Orthodox culture known as the Velikie mind chetii; he presided over the recognition of more Russian saints than had graced the calendar since Vladimir's baptism of Rus'; he choreographed the ceremonies by which Ivan was crowned Orthodox tsar and celebrated as protector of the faithful after his conquest of the khanate of Kazan; he personally participated in the painting of icons and presided over the construction of the Church of the Intercession, works that glorified Moscow as the "New Jerusalem"; and he fiercely defended this edifice against what he took to be heretical doubters. Should then the SK not be considered the capstone of the career of this remarkable prelate?
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(1) "Otchet o doldade N. N. Pokrovskogo," Arkheograficheskii ezhegodnik za 1979 (Moscow: Izdatel'stvo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1981), 388-89; A. V. Sirenov, "O Volkovskorn spiske Stepennoi knigi," Opyty po istochnikovedeniiu: Drevnerusskaia knizhnost' 4 (St. Petersburg: D. Bulanin, 2001), 246-303; N. N. Pokrovskii, "Tomskii spisok Stepennoi knigi tsarskogo rodosloviia i nekotorye problemy rannei istorii pamiatnika," in Obshchestvennoe soznanie i literatura XVI-XX vv.: Sbornik nauchnykh trudov (Novosibirsk: Izdatel'stvo Sibirskogo otdeleniia Rossiiskoi akademii nauk, 2001), 3-43.
(2) Vasenko's edition in Polnoe sobranie russkikh letopisei (hereafter PSRL) 21, pts. 1-2 (St. Petersburg: Arkheograficheskaia komissiia, 1908-13); P. G. Vasenko, "Kniga Stepennaia tsarskogo rodosloviia" i ee znachenie v drevnerusskoi istoricheskoi pis "mennosti (St. Petersburg: I. N. Skorokhodov, 1904); Edward L. Keenan, "The Trouble with Muscovy: Some Observations upon Problems of the Comparative Study of Form and Genre in Historical Writing," Medievalia et Humanistica, n. s., no. 5 (1974): 103-26; V. V. Kuskov, "Stepennaia kniga kak literaturnyi pamiamik XVI veka" (Candidate's dissertation, Dept. of Philology, Moscow State University, 1951); David B. Miller, "The Velikie minei chetii and the Stepennaia kniga of Metropolitan Makarii and the Origins of Russian National Consciousness," Forschungen zur osteuropdischen Geschichte 26 (1979): 263-382.
(3) Boris Kloss, Nikonovskii svod i russkie letopisiXVI-XVII vekov (Moscow: Nauka, 1980), 206-65, esp. 263, suggests that Afanasii oversaw the writing of the Illuminated Chronicle until his death in 1575. For an alternative dating of the Illuminated Chronicle, see A. A. Amosov, Litsevoi letopisnyi svod Ivana Groznogo: Kompleksnoe kodikologicheskoe issledovanie (Moscow: Editorial URSS, 1998); V. V. Morozov, Litsevoi svod v kontekste otechestvennogo letopisaniia XVI veka (Moscow: Indrik, 2005). On Amosov's and Morozov's works, see Carolyn Pouncy, "Missed Opportunities and the Search for Ivan the Terrible," Kritika 7, 2 (2006): 309-28.
(4) For other views of Sil'vestr, see Carolyn Johnston Pouncy, "'The Blessed Sil'vestr' and the Politics of Invention in Muscovy, 1545-1700," Harvard Ukrainian Studies 19, nos. 1-4 (1995): 548-72; and A. I. Filiushkin, Istoriia odnoi mistifikatsii: Ivan Groznyi i "Izbrannaia Rada" (Voronezh: Voronezhskii gosudarstvennyi universitet, 1998).
(5) PSRL 21, pt. 2: 605-15.
(6) Vasenko, Kniga stepennaia; Vasenko, Kto byl avtorom "Knigi stepennoi tsarskogo rodosloviia"? (St. Petersburg: Senatskaia tipografiia, 1902).
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|Title Annotation:||The Book of Degrees: History of a Text|
|Author:||Miller, David B.|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2009|
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