Previous: Russian Culture in the 12th – 13th Centuries, Part 3
A broad spectrum of ideas can be found in the outstanding monument of early noblemen’s journalism, which has remained in two editions of the 12th -13th centuries: The Word (aka the Prayer) of Daniil Zatochnik. Brilliantrly educated Daniil Zatochnik parlayed folklore treasures for praising the strong princely power and denouncing the autocracy of secular and church nobility.
The chronicles preserve stories about princes (such as Andrey Bogolyubsky, Izyaslav Mstislavich Volynsky, and others), important historical events, the capture of Constantinople by crusaders, etc. These stories have lots of details testifying to the growing interest in human personality, as well as actions and feelings of individials.
The greatest monument of the 12th century Russian culture is the Tale of Igor's Campaign telling about the failed campaign of the Novgorod Prince Igor Svyatoslavich to conquer the Cumans (aka the Polovtsy) in 1185. The author was an avid supporter of the country’s unity, the unity of its strongest princes and its people. The Russian land meant for him entire Russia, from Taman Peninsula to the Baltic, from Danube to Suzdal. When Russia was suffering from feudal wars and Cumans’ attacks, the author eulogized peaceful work. Describing one of the most bloody interstine fights and opposing peace to war, he used the image of working plowman: “Black soil under horse hoofs was seeded with bones and watered with blood, so they sprouted as grief all around Russia”.
The Tale of Igor’s Campaign is imbued with profound patriotism. The image of the Russian land is central in this work. The author urges princes to stand up in defense of their homeland and condemns those of them engaged in petty conflicts. The author creates impressive characters of mighty princes (Vsevolod the Big Nest, Yaroslav Osmomysl, etc.) who extended their power to large area and gained fame in neighboring countries.
Images of Russian folk poetry are widely used in the Tale of Igor’s Campaign. It is felt in description of the nature, as well as in mournful words about the sorrows of war and fights. Lyrical characters of women (the wife of Prince Igor and others) are outstandingly vivid. The Tale was the voice of Russian people calling to unite for the sake of work and peace, for defending the motherland.
Development of the Russian culture in the 12th – 13th centuries was closely related to further development of the Russian nationality. Even in the period of feudal dissociation the Russian land preserved common language (though in the presence of various dialects) and overall civil and church laws. The Russia people were alien to feudal conflicts and kept the memory of former unity of Russia. It was conveyed first of all in bylinas (Russian epics).
The Russian culture played a great role in life of the neighboring lands as well. The Russian chronicles were a part of the largest Polish chronicles, whereas the annals of Lithuania were based on the Russian chronicles. Texts of the Russian chronicles got even into England, where they were reflected in Matvei Parizhsky's chronicle. Monuments of the Russian craft have been preserved in the Czech Republic. The influence of the Russian frescos was noticeable in the Czech Republic and thet had an impact on church murals of Poland and Gotland. Russian bone carvers were justly famous in the Byzantine Empire and other countries.
The distinguished Byzantine Ioann Ttsettses was so fascinated with the Russian bone carving that he glorified a carved box sent to him with verses, which compared the Russian master to the legendary Dedal.
Author: Vera Ivanova