Russian Primary Chronicle

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The Primary Chronicle (Old Church Slavonic: Повѣсть времяньныхъ лѣтъ; Russian: Пóвесть временны́х лет, Povest' vremennykh let; Ukrainian: Пóвість врéм'яних літ, Povist' vremjanykh lit), also known as the Russian Primary Chronicle or by its opening words, Tale of Bygone Years is a compilation of writings that are the principal source of the history of the eastern Slavs up to the early twelfth century. The Chronicle was compiled in the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev. Traditionally, the monk Nestor has been attributed as the author of the Chronicles, written during the time of Vladimir II Monomakh.

The Chronicle describes events from the mid-eighth century, that is the time of the reign of the Eastern Roman Emperor Michael III, in the domains of the grand princes of Kiev and Novgorod and includes the introduction of Orthodox Christianity into Kievan Russia. The Chronicle is the oldest source of history concerning the conversion of the Rus under Prince Vladimir, and others involved in the Christianization of the eastern Slavs, including Princess Olga, and the Princes Boris and Gleb.

The original version of the chronicle has been attributed to the monk Nestor, although now it appears he may have acted as an editor of earlier works. The “Nestorian” version was followed by two later versions, first edited by Sylvester, hegumen of St. Michael’s Monastery in the village of Vydobichi near Kiev, and the second by an unknown person who may have been Greek, as he corrected and updated information about the Eastern Roman affairs. No copies of these original chronicles exist. The earliest known version, dating from 1377, is the Laurentian codex that was complied by the monk Laurentius for Prince Dmitiri Donskoy. Other versions exist with slight variations in the text.

Later in the Kievan period of Russia other sources were written, such as the Novgorod Chronicles, that enriched our knowledge this early history and either confirmed the Primary Chronicle or corrected its biases.


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