Topics of seminars on source studies

The first dated written sources on the history of Ancient Russia date back to the 11th century. During this period, there was a special species structure of the entire complex of sources. The central place in it belonged to chronicles. Chronicle writing was carried out in Russia from the 11th to the 17th centuries. Like any source, a chronicle can be used by a historian for various research purposes: as evidence, on the basis of which it is possible to establish a specific fact or group of facts, and as a monument of culture and social thought of a certain era.

When preparing for the topic of the seminar, students should clearly understand what the specifics of the annalistic narration are; find out the meaning of the terms: chronicle, annalistic code, secondary chronicle, excerpt, list, protograph, gloss, interpolation. Particular attention should be paid to the compilation nature of the chronicles, their significant territorial and temporal coverage.

One of the most debatable questions that students should try to answer is what is the purpose of creating chronicles. Science has long been dominated by the view of the chronicler as a dispassionate and objective observer who slowly and accurately recorded events. Therefore, the historical function of chronicles was traditionally singled out. However, after the work of A. A. Shakhmatov, such a one-sided approach was overcome. In the author – the compilers of the chronicle, the researchers saw a writer reflecting the interests of this or that prince, an active defender of the views of this or that feudal group or person, his own political and historical concept. Princes and metropolitans actively intervened in the process of writing chronicles, and sometimes they were direct customers of chronicles.

I. N. Danilevsky proposed a hypothesis about the eschatological motives of the most ancient manuscripts, which determined the social function of the chronicles – to record the moral assessments of the historical figures of Russia, which should become the center of the salvation of mankind. This function, according to the scientist, determined the structure of the chronicle narrative.

The student must formulate the concept of authorship. This is one of the most difficult in chronicle studies, since all known chronicles are the result of the work of several generations of chroniclers. Each of them first rewrote one or more previous chronicles in accordance with their social standard.

It is also important to note that the main way of describing events is direct or indirect citation of authoritative texts. For the chronicler, the Bible was a timeless and real value. Therefore, he widely resorted to analogy with already known events (the researcher I. N. Danilevsky devoted an interesting article to this problem “The Bible and the Tale of Bygone Years”. On the problem of interpreting chronicle texts. See the list of references).

The foundations of modern chronicle studies were laid by A. A. Shakhmatov, who developed a method for studying chronicle lists and chronicle codes. This method involves a comprehensive, comparative-historical, textual study of the annals, in which discrepancies and common places inherent in the annals are revealed. The analysis carried out allows the researcher to single out editions and trace discrepancies. Using this method makes it possible to identify the protograph, the time and purpose of its occurrence.

A. A. Shakhmatov demonstrated his method most clearly and convincingly in the analysis of The Tale of Bygone Years, the central monument of ancient Russian chronicle writing. Comparing all the known lists, the scientist grouped them into three editions and tried to explain the reasons for their appearance. Students should have a clear understanding of the main editions of the PVL, the time and circumstances of their compilation. The scheme of A. A. Shakhmatov in our time is shared by most historians, although some (M. N. Tikhomirov, D. S. Likhachev, L. V. Cherepnin) expressed a number of clarifying and concretizing provisions. It is necessary to understand: what is the essence of the differences.

An important problem is the question of the sources of PVL. Among them we see foreign writings, works of a sacred nature, the most ancient chronicles. Students should be able to highlight the features of the internal structure of the PVL, the genre characteristics of individual parts of the annals, the main ideas of the chronicler, his political and historical predilections. It is necessary to emphasize the idea that so far many ideas and spiritual values contained in the PVL remain undisclosed and unthought.

Chronicle of the XII-XIII centuries. came to us in fragments. Among the main centers of chronicle writing of this time are Kyiv, the Galicia-Volyn land, the Vladimir-Suzdal principality, Novgorod. The main ideas of the chronicles was to prove the priority of this or that principality, land among other Russian lands. So, for example, the idea of the transfer of the center of the Russian land from Kyiv to Vladimir was put at the basis of the annals of northeastern Russia.

The chronicle of Novgorod was more focused on internal problems, on the economic and political life of the city.

Chronicle of the XV-XVI centuries. acquires new features. At that time in Russia there was already a single all-Russian chronicle tradition associated with the Grand Duke’s office. Some researchers, proving the existence of an independent metropolitan chronicle tradition (M. D. Priselkov), recognized the existence of a single center, chronicle writing that existed already in the 14th century. During this period, chronicles are kept with greater completeness, thoroughness, and obediently respond to changes in state policy. An analysis of the official chronicle should be made on the basis of the Nikon Chronicle (20s of the 16th century), the Resurrection Chronicle (the first half of the 16th century), the Degree Book of the Royal Genealogy, and the Personal Code of Ivan the Terrible. These monuments became the final stage in the unification of Russian chronicles under the auspices of Moscow, which was reflected in their content. Students should identify and analyze the main ideas of these chronicles, the history of their creation.

Unofficial chronicle writing was conducted by private individuals and sometimes opposed the grand ducal vaults. Among its features: an insignificant circle of sources, independence of assessments of the policy of the Grand Duke.

In the 17th century chronographs – works on world history – were widely used. They contained excerpts from Holy Scripture, Greek chronicles and Russian chronicles. It would be more expedient to prepare this question in the form of a report or message, since the literature is not distinguished by a large number of titles and diversity. The speaker must necessarily emphasize that the chronographs included information of a natural science nature, works of ancient literature, Christian apocrypha, and hagiographic materials.

The last question of the topic of the seminar – about miniatures – can also be prepared in the form of a report. The monograph by O. I. Podobedova will serve as the main source for this. The report should pay attention to the fact that almost all chronicles were richly decorated and contained a significant number of miniatures.

A miniature is a picture in the annals, made in paints and by hand. The general evolution of ancient Russian miniatures consisted in the loss of various features of Byzantine art and the partial acquisition of features of Western art. The miniature was an illustration of the content of the chronicle, a schematic drawing that can be “read” only with information about the main symbols and compositional features. There were special techniques for conveying information about the age, social class, heroes of miniatures. Thus, the analysis of the content of miniatures will contribute to a more systematic and in-depth study of chronicle sources.

At the end of the lesson, students should identify the reasons why chronicle is losing priority and is being replaced by new forms of historical narrative.


1. Chronicles as a historical source. Social, political, historical functions of chronicles.

2. Methods for studying the chronicles of A. A. Shakhmatova.

3. “The Tale of Bygone Years”:

a) problems of origin, authorship and political orientation of various editions of the PVL;

b) internal structure of PVL;

4. Chronicle of the XII-XV centuries:

a) local chronicles of the 12th–13th centuries: main centers, features;

b) annals of the XIV-XV centuries: monuments, centers, contents.

5. All-Russian chronicle codes of the late XV-XVI centuries, official and unofficial annals.

6. Chronographs.


1. The Tale of Bygone Years: In 2 hours – M.-L., 1950. – 556 p.

2. Complete collection of Russian chronicles. – L., 1989.

3. Reader on ancient Russian literature / Comp. N. K. Gudziy. – M., 1973. – 347 p.


1. Buganov V. I. Domestic historiography of Russian chronicles: A review of Soviet literature. – M., 1975. – 344 p.

2. Vovina V. G. New chronicler and controversial issues in the study of late Russian chronicle // Domestic History. – 1992. – No. 5. – P. 117-130.

3. Gudziy N. K. History of ancient Russian literature. – M., 1966. – 319 p.

4. Danilevsky I. N. The Bible and the Tale of Bygone Years (on the problem of interpreting chronicle texts) // Domestic History. – 1993. – No. 1. – P. 78–93.

5. Danilevsky I. N. The idea and title of the Tale of Bygone Years // Domestic History. – 1995. – No. 5. – P. 101-109.

6. Eremin I. P. Lectures and articles on the history of ancient Russian literature. – L., 1987. – 327 p.

7. Ipatov A. N. Orthodoxy and Russian culture – M., 1985.

8. Kloss B. N. Nikon’s collection and Russian chronicles of the 16th–17th centuries.– M., 1980.– 312 p.

9. Klyuchevsky V. O. A course of lectures on source studies // Works: In 9 volumes – M., 1989. – T. 7. – P. 5–83.

10. Klyuchevsky V. O. The course of Russian history. – T I. – Ch. I. – M., 1987.

11. Koretsky V.I. The history of Russian chronicle writing in the second half of the 16th – early 17th centuries. / Rev. Ed. V. I. Buganov. – M., 1986. – 271 p.

12. Kuzmin A. G. The initial stages of the ancient Russian chronicle. – M., 1977. – 406 p.

13. Kuskov V. V. History of ancient Russian literature. – M., 1977. – 375 p.

14. Chronicles and chronicles: Collection of articles. – M., 1984.

15. Likhachev D.S. History of Russian literature of the X-XII centuries – M., 1980. – 205 p.

16. Likhachev D.S. Russian chronicles and their cultural and historical significance. – M.–L., 1947.– 499 p.

17. Lurie Ya. S. Two stories of Russia in the XV century. – St. Petersburg, 1994. – 240 p.

18. Lurie Ya. S. Mikhail Dmitrievich Priselkov and questions of the study of Russian annals // Patriotic history. – 1995. – No. 1. – P. 146-160.

19. Lurie Ya. S. About the chess method of researching chronicles // Source study of national history. 1975. – M., 1976.

20. Lurie Ya.S. Russia of the 15th century: reflection in early and independent chronicle // Questions of History.– 1993.– No. 11–12.– P. 3–17.

21. Lvov A. S. Lexis “The Tale of Bygone Years”. – M., 1975.

22. Mirzoev VG Epics and chronicles – monuments of Russian historical thought. – M., 1978. – 273 p.

23. Muravyova L. L. Trinity Chronicle in the scientific circulation of the 18th – early 19th centuries. // Source study of national history. 1989.– M., 1989.

24. Nasonov A. N. The history of Russian chronicle writing in the 11th – early 18th centuries: Essays and research. – M., 1969. – 555 p.

25. Podobedova O. I. Miniatures of Russian historical chronicles and the history of Russian chronicle writing. – M., 1965. – 334 p.

26. Pronstein A. P. Source studies in Russia. The era of feudalism. – Rostov on / D. 1989. – 419 p.

27. Rybakov B. A. From the history of culture of Ancient Russia. – M., 1984. – 219 p.

28. Sapunov B. V. Book in Russia in the XI-XIII centuries. – L., 1978.

29. Special courses / Ed. V.L. Yanina. – M., 1989.

30. O. V. Curds. Chronographs of Ancient Russia // Questions of History. – 1990. – No. 1. – P. 57-72.

31. Tikhomirov M. N. Russian chronicle. – M., 1979.

32. Froyanov I. Ya. Historical realities in the annalistic legend about the calling of the Varangians // Questions of history. – 1991. – No. 6

33. Schmidt S. O. The Russian state in the middle of the 16th century: the Tsar’s archive and the chronicles of the time of Ivan the Terrible / Ed. ed. D. S. Likhachev. – M., 1984. – 277 p.


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