Zadonshchina is a Russian literary monument of the late 14th century, which tells of the Battle of Kulikovo
Battle of Kulikovo
The Battle of Kulikovo was a battle between Tatar Mamai and Muscovy Dmitriy and portrayed by Russian historiography as a stand-off between Russians and the Golden Horde. However, the political situation at the time was much more complicated and concerned the politics of the Northeastern Rus'...

 in 1380.

Redactions and the Prototext

Zadonshina exists in 2 redaction
Redaction is a form of editing in which multiple source texts are combined and subjected to minor alteration to make them into a single work. Often this is a method of collecting a series of writings on a similar theme and creating a definitive and coherent work...

  • Short redaction in one extant copy from Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery
    Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery
    Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery , loosely translated in English as the St. Cyril-Belozersk Monastery, used to be the largest monastery of Northern Russia. The monastery was dedicated to the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, for which cause it was sometimes referred to as the Dormition Monastery...

     (KB) copied by the monk Efrosin (Russian: Ефросин). Possibly he himself abridged the tale; The second part of the battle is not described in this version. This is the oldest extant copy. It dates back to the end of the 15th century.

  • Expanded redaction in three major extant and two incomplete copies. The major copies are: the Synodal copy, Undolsky’s copy and the copy of the State History Museum (Museum). Undolsky’s copy and the Museum copy stem from the same prototext. Undolsky’s copy is the most complete, however this one as well as all others have many mistakes, pointing at the insufficient understanding of the text by the copiers.

It is not clear what the original text was. Some scholars assert that the extant copies do not all go back to the same prototext. Many publications of Zadonshchina were composed by adding up excerpts from different copies.

Date of creation

Some Russian historians, including M.N. Tihomirov, believe that Zadonshchina was written between 1383 and 1393. Some manuscripts mention that 160 years had passed since the Battle of the Kalka River
Battle of the Kalka River
The Battle of the Kalka River took place on May 31, 1223, between the Mongol Empire and Kiev, Galich, and several other Rus' principalities and the Cumans, under the command of Mstislav the Bold and Mstislav III of Kiev...

, which happened in 1223. At the same time, there is a mention of a Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

n city Tyrnov (contemporary Veliko Tarnovo
Veliko Tarnovo
Veliko Tarnovo is a city in north central Bulgaria and the administrative centre of Veliko Tarnovo Province. Often referred to as the "City of the Tsars", Veliko Tarnovo is located on the Yantra River and is famous as the historical capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, attracting many tourists...

), which in 1393 was taken by the Turks
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 and could not be mentioned as Orthodox
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 until the 19th century.


One of the hypotheses is that the author of Zadonshchina was a certain Sofonii (Russian: Софоний) from Ryazan
Ryazan is a city and the administrative center of Ryazan Oblast, Russia. It is located on the Oka River southeast of Moscow. Population: The strategic bomber base Dyagilevo is just west of the city, and the air base of Alexandrovo is to the southeast as is the Ryazan Turlatovo Airport...

’. His name as the author of the text is mentioned in the KB copy and in the Synodal copy. Sofonii was probably one of the courtsmen of Volodimir Ondreevich, a cousin of Dmitry Ivanovich, the protagonist of Zadonshchina.
Soviet/Russian textological research has shown that Sofonii is alluded to in all other copies of Zadonshchina as an author of a preceding work about the Battle of Kulikovo and hence is not the author of the text in question, but rather of a prototext on this subject, and that the actual author of Zadonshchina used that text in creating his work.


The text can poetically and thematically be divided into 3 parts:
  • introduction (references to the past, historical background)
  • “lament” (gathering of the hosts, 1st battle and the defeat, wives lamenting their fallen husbands)
  • “praise” (second battle and praise to the princes)

Contents and message

Zadonshchina presents a detailed description of the Battle of Kulikovo
Battle of Kulikovo
The Battle of Kulikovo was a battle between Tatar Mamai and Muscovy Dmitriy and portrayed by Russian historiography as a stand-off between Russians and the Golden Horde. However, the political situation at the time was much more complicated and concerned the politics of the Northeastern Rus'...

 against the Tatars
Tatars are a Turkic speaking ethnic group , numbering roughly 7 million.The majority of Tatars live in the Russian Federation, with a population of around 5.5 million, about 2 million of which in the republic of Tatarstan.Significant minority populations are found in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan,...

 led by Mamai
Mamai of Borjigin kin, was a powerful military commander of the Blue Horde in the 1370s which is now the Southern Ukrainian Steppes and the Crimean Peninsula....

. The leader of the Muscovy hosts was prince Dmitry Ivanovich (entered in history as Dmitry Donskoy, Дмитрий Донской). The story propagates the importance of the unification of Russian principalities in order to defeat the common enemy - the Golden Horde
Golden Horde
The Golden Horde was a Mongol and later Turkicized khanate that formed the north-western sector of the Mongol Empire...

. This epic
Epic poetry
An epic is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation. Oral poetry may qualify as an epic, and Albert Lord and Milman Parry have argued that classical epics were fundamentally an oral poetic form...

 also reflects the rise of the Moscow principality and stresses that the Muscovy princes were successors to the Kievan princes
Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus was a medieval polity in Eastern Europe, from the late 9th to the mid 13th century, when it disintegrated under the pressure of the Mongol invasion of 1237–1240....


Zadonshchina and The Tale of Igor's Campaign

Some scholars believe that the author of Zadonshchina borrowed a lot of poetic material from The Tale of Igor's Campaign
The Tale of Igor's Campaign
The Tale of Igor's Campaign is an anonymous epic poem written in the Old East Slavic language.The title is occasionally translated as The Song of Igor's Campaign, The Lay of Igor's Campaign, and The Lay of...

, which can be explained by the similar ideological orientation of both works. The author tried to depict the endless struggle for the unification of the Russian principalities in the face of an external enemy. Russian literary historians also believe that the author not merely imitated, but attempted to pick out and creatively re-interpret the events and poetic images in The Tale of Igor's Campaign. The major proponents of this idea are Dmitry Likhachev
Dmitry Likhachev
Dmitry Sergeyevich Likhachov was an outstanding Soviet Russian scholar who was considered the world's foremost expert in Old Russian language and literature. He has been revered as "the last of old St Petersburgers", "a guardian of national culture", and "Russia's conscience".-Biography:Likhachov...

 and his followers.

A French Slavist André Mazon and later a Soviet/Russian historian A.A. Zimin (А.А. Зимин) proposed that, on the contrary, The Tale of Igor's Campaign was written based on poetic images and ideas from Zadonshchina. They proposed that The Tale of Igor's Campaign was not an Old Russian text, but a 18th century forgery
Forgery is the process of making, adapting, or imitating objects, statistics, or documents with the intent to deceive. Copies, studio replicas, and reproductions are not considered forgeries, though they may later become forgeries through knowing and willful misrepresentations. Forging money or...

. Indeed, the view of the Igor' Tale as a late forgery certainly implies that it is imitation of Zadonshchina, as the two texts are undoubtedly related. This approach is criticized by linguists, notably Roman Jakobson
Roman Jakobson
Roman Osipovich Jakobson was a Russian linguist and literary theorist.As a pioneer of the structural analysis of language, which became the dominant trend of twentieth-century linguistics, Jakobson was among the most influential linguists of the century...

 and Andrey Zaliznyak
Andrey Zaliznyak
Andrey Anatolyevich Zaliznyak, is a Russian linguist who specializes in the research of linguistic monuments of Old Novgorod....

 who show that the language of the Igor's Tale is far more archaic, and that the passages in Zadonshchina allegedly borrowed from the Tale differ from the rest of the work by linguistic criteria (whereas in the Tale no such distinction can be drawn).


The English translation can be found in Medieval Russia's Epics, Chronicles and Tales by S. Zenskovsky (New York: Meridian, 1974).

Other sources on the Battle of Kulikovo

1. Chronicles
Chronicles may refer to:* Books of Chronicles, in the Bible* Chronicle: Medieval historical histories, like those in :Category:Chronicles* Holinshed's Chronicles, the collected works of Raphael Holinshed...

(Simeonovskaya, Novgorodskaya, Sofiyskaya)

2. The Word of Mamay's Defeat (Russian: Сказание о Мамаевом побоище, Skazaniie o Mamaevom poboishche)

3. The Word on the Life and Death of Dmitry Ivanovich (Слово о житии и преставлении Дмитрия Ивановича, Slovo o zhitii i o prestavlenii Dmitriia Ivanovicha)

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.