“German Pamphlets, Russian Chronicles, and Ivan the Terrible”

2nd Contribution to the Forum: Ivan the Terrible and the Campaign against Novgorod in 1570

In: Russian History
Charles J. Halperin Independent Scholar Bloomington, IN USA

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Many historians have questioned the accuracy of the “Tale of Ivan IV’s Campaign against Novgorod in 1570.” Cornelia Soldat now expands that critical approach to the “Tale” by arguing that it derives from German pamphlets published a century earlier. She relies upon the congruence of macro- and micro-structures to demonstrate textual influence without textual borrowing. Given the absence of Muscovite manuscripts of the “Tale” between 1570 and the second half of the seventeenth century, the composers of the “Tale” “must have” relied upon foreign sources about the raid, because no domestic sources existed. Her analysis is certainly possible, but it elides a number of issues about the transmission and translation into Russian of the German pamphlets. Reliable contemporary Muscovite sources tells us more about the “real” raid than Soldat allows. It is equally possible that the “Tale” derives from circulating native oral legends. However, the methodological and evidentiary issues Soldat raises are serious and deserve further discussion.

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