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Literature and Folklore of the 17th Century
July 28, 2014 20:41

Literature of the first half of the 17th century focused on the events of the Time of Troubles. Those were mostly publicistic works. Thus, The New Story about Glorious Russian Kingdom and the Great Moscow State was distributed in 1610 - 1611 in Moscow. It was imbued with passionate patriotic appeal to fight against foreign invaders and condemned helpers of interventionists. Its anonymous author called “people of all ranks” for making head against the enemy. The author of another work under the title Cry for Capture and Ruin of the Glorious Moscow State (1612) grieved over the fate that befell the Fatherland. 

Unknown writers of that time also resorted to showing the heroes of the Time of Trouble, both positive and negative. Among such writings there was the story of Prince Mikhail Skopin-Shuisky, one of the leaders of resistance forces, and the legend of adventures of False Dmitry I.
 
The first attempts to explain the reasons and events of the Time of Troubles were made in The Annals by clerk Ivan Timofeyev and The Legend by cellarer Abramius Palitsyn and the so-called Different Legend and books by Prince I.A. Khvorostinin and Prince P.M. Katyrev-Rostovsky. The New Chronicler of 1630 described the events from the death of Ivan the Terrible to the return of Patriarch Philaret.
 
The New Chronicler was one of the last Russian chronicles, which connected various plots with the time grid. The so-called Siberian chronicles were already literary and narrative works.
Social and political life of Russia was also reflected in works written in the second half of the 17th century. Yury Krizhanich’ treatise The Politician and writings by Simeon Polotsky expressed support of autocracy. Archpriest Avvakum, the Life Written by Himself became an outstanding monument of Russian literature. It is an action-packed book, in which the author narrates about his own life replete with sufferings and dramatic collisions and shows devotion to ideals of ancient Russian life and reprobation of “Latin” novelty. His story is written in simple language, with dynamic and emotional narration. 
A peculiar literary monument is the book by the Ambassadorial clerk Grigory Kotoshikhin who fled to Sweden in 1664; it is a detailed though not quite objective description of the Russian political machinery.
A new literary genre was the realistic story of manner. The stories marked withdrawal from the medieval ideas of the predestined human life and pointed out that a character’s life depended in many respects on his or her personal qualities, such us, for example, dexterity and efficiency. So it was a turn to throwing light on persons’ private life and an increased interest in the inward man. At the same time, the focus was not on historical but fictional characters, and hence was the creation of purely literary character studies.
 


 

The story of manner of the 17th century narrated lives of people from a broad spectrum of society, first of all merchants and the nobility. The most considerable works are The Story about Frol Skobeyev, The Story about Savva Grudtsyn, The Story about Grief and Distress, and The Story about Uliania Osoryina.
 
Satirical stories became another new genre of literature of the 17th century. Most of them were pointing at life and customs of churchmen. Hypocrisy and acquisitiveness of the clergy, alcoholism and libertinism of monks were caustically derided. The court with its corruptible judges and unscrupulous decisions became an object of satire too. 
 
The Belarusian educator Simeon (Samuil) Polotsky invited to Moscow for teaching imperial children in 1661 created syllabic versification. Two collections of his poems Multi-colored Vertograd and Rifmologion were published in 1678-1679. His poems in the so-called Baroque style were grandiose and elegant, with panegyric intonations idealizing the autocratic rule. Sylvester Medvedev and Karion Istomin continued this poetic trend in the late 17th century.
 
Among popular translated stories one should mention The Story about Bowe the King's Son and The Story about Eruslan Lazarevich. Under the influence of Russian folklore they acquired fairytale character.
 
Oral folk arts were still very popular among grassroots. One of the most favorite characters was Stephan Razin, with legends and songs created about him. It is interesting to note that in renewed ancient epics (bylinas) the popular leader found himself among the epic heroes, such as Ilya Muromets, who was even a Cossack captain at Razin's ship in some versions of stories.
 

Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Russian Culture Russian History Russian Literature   

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