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Mykola Zharkikh (Kyiv)

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Literary analysis
of long Prologue text

Nicholas Zharkikh

The idea of the work can be considered a desire to bring the story of Michael to the archetypal for Christians description of suffering – to the passions of Jesus Christ. In the role of Christ here is Prince Michael, in the role of Pilate – Batu, in the role of the Apostle Peter – Prince Boris.

Michael and Fedor in the long Prologue text naturally perish, because they are on the verge of a clash of two irreconcilably hostile worlds – the victorious Tatar and defeated Christian (Rus’). Neither literary Tatars can yield to principles and tolerate Christians, nor ideal literary Christians can deviate from their faith. The situation as it is depicted in the long Prologue text does not know halftones and leaves no room for maneuver, for compromise. As a result, each side achieved what it wanted: Batu destroyed the rebellious prince, and Michael and Fedor secured a good place in the "world of eternity" among the saints.

What is the significance of long Prologue text?

The answer depends on the reader’s point of view.

In terms of historian and source researcher, who is looking for sources to cover the events of the mid-13th century – long Prologue text is not of interest due to its remoteness from the time of the event (60 – 80 years) and overloaded with samples borrowed from the literature. Long Prologue text is a conveniently composed hagiographic (by no means historical!) Work, written with talent, but not a historical source. Those historians who use it to reconstruct specific events fall into a methodological error – using the text without first finding out its source value.

We enjoy reading "War and Peace", but we look at it as a literary work and do not use it as a source for the history of the Napoleonic Wars. I do not quite understand why long Prologue text is not treated in the same way.

For historiography and history of public opinion long Prologue text is of full interest. From it we learn how was imagined the tragedy of Michael in northeastern Russia in the 14th century. But here, too, the view of the RPT / SMF as a work that called for resistance, for the struggle against the Tatars suffers from an anachronistic transfer of ideas of historians of the 19th – 21st centuries in ancient times. According to the witty observations of Vladimir Rudakov, the Tatars were perceived by Russian scribes of the 13th century as God’s punishment for sins, which immediately excludes the possibility of resistance [Rudakov V. N. through the eyes of ancient Russian scribes of the mid 13 – 15 centuries. – M.: Quadriga, 2009]. Resisting God’s will is not only insignificant and not only hopeless, but also sinful. In the long Prologue text this sinfulness is mentioned very briefly and powerfully developed only in Leo the Philologist in the 16th century. But traces of the ideas noted by Rudakov can be seen in the long Prologue text.

Shortened text of the section. Full text in ukrainian version.