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Mykola Zharkikh (Kyiv)

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Chronical "Tale of the battle
of Vorskla river" (1399)

Nicholas Zharkikh

Campaign of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Vytautas at Vorskla in 1399 is lighten in the tale, which is read in many chronicles of the Great Russia and in the annals of the Great Duchy of Lithuania. The purpose of this article – to clarify the origin and development of these texts and determine their source value.


1. The tale of the battle of Vorskla river in all chronicles originate from one protograph, which can be regarded as a hypothetical Moscow chronicle of 1418. This protograph most fully reflected in the text of the Sofia 1st chronicle older recension (1418). This text (main version) requires only minor additions, preserved in the Novgorod Karamzin chronicle (1428).

2. The tale was written no later than 1411, that is, on the heels of events.

3. The sources value of tale is very high. Informant demonstrated a broad political outlook, initiated in Vytautas plans. Perhaps this informant was a prince, who himself participated in the campaign, and belonged to the entourage of Vytautas.

4. More recent editions, which were created during the 1440 – 1540s, do not introduce any new factual material, but only rearrange the material of main edition, cut it and add fantasies own production. These fantasies can serve as sources for the views and circumstances of the time of writing the relevant editions, but do not relate to events in 1399.

5. Special mention should warn researchers from the use of vivid details of the historical novel, which became the oldest story in the Nikon Chronicle (1520). This work, with considerable literary value, can be used for the history of literature in 16 cent., but not for the political events in the history of the late 14th.

6. There was no own written tradition of the battle of Vorskla river in the chronicles of the Great Duchy of Lithuania, all the stories come from the story of Sofia 1st chronicle older recension, which has experienced strong distortions.

Kiev, 12 – 19 February 2017.