Novgorod Counter Histories around 1700. The Story about Ivan the Terrible’s Raid of Novgorod Reconsidered

1st Contribution to the Forum: Ivan the Terrible and the Campaign against Novgorod in 1570

In: Russian History
Cornelia Soldat Slavisches Institut, University of Cologne Cologne Germany

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Muscovite chronicle material is very disparate about Ivan the Terrible’s Raid of Novgorod in 1570. Novgorod and Pskov Chronicles show Ivan’s brutal behavior in detail. In this article I argue that in the second half of the 17th century many chronicles were reworked in order to support an open discussion about dissatisfaction with the tsarist government in Novgorod and Pskov. Chronicle writing was used to disseminate the image of the terrible tsar Ivan. This image functioned as an allegory for the tsars of the end of the 17th century who were under pressure from a wider public that criticized autocracy. In this way, I am writing a nonlinear history of late Muscovy in which a historical figure like Ivan figured as a distorted allegorical image of a tyrannical tsar destroying the ancient régime. This history is non-linear in the sense that it puts some of the sources claiming to be from the reign of Ivan the Terrible (1530–1584) into the context in which they were used in later times. The history is linear in the sense that it begins with the oldest and ends with the youngest sources. In this way the story of history writing can be grasped in a historical-linear way, repeating a story and subtly modifying it according to the demands of the day of the writing of the later sources and so on.

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