Primary Chronicle

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The Primary Chronicle (Old Church Slavonic: Повѣсть времяньныхъ лѣтъ; Russian: По́весть временны́х лет, Povest' vremennykh let; Ukrainian: По́вість вре́м'яних літ, Povist' vrem'anykh lit; Belarusian: Апо́весць міну́лых часо́ў, Apoviesć minułych časoŭ, often translated into English as Tale of Bygone Years), or Russian Primary Chronicle,[1] is a history of Kievan Rus' from about 850 to 1110, originally compiled in Kiev about 1113.

Contents

Three editions

The original compilation was long considered to be the work of a monk named Nestor and hence was formerly referred to as Nestor's Chronicle or Nestor's manuscript. His many sources included earlier (now-lost) Slavonic chronicles, the Byzantine annals of John Malalas and George Hamartolus, native legends and Norse sagas, several Greek religious texts, Rus'-Byzantine treaties, and oral accounts of Yan Vyshatich and other military leaders. Nestor worked at the court of Sviatopolk II of Kiev and probably shared his pro-Scandinavian policies.

The early part is rich in anecdotal stories, among which are the arrival of the three Varangian brothers, the founding of Kiev, the murder of Askold and Dir, the death of Oleg, who was killed by a serpent concealed in the skeleton of his horse, and the vengeance taken by Olga, the wife of Igor, on the Drevlians, who had murdered her husband. The account of the labors of Saints Cyril and Methodius among the Slavic peoples is also very interesting, and to Nestor we owe the tale of the summary way in which Vladimir the Great suppressed the worship of Perun and other traditional gods at Kiev.

In the year 1116, Nestor's text was extensively edited by hegumen Sylvester who appended his name at the end of the chronicle. As Vladimir Monomakh was the patron of the village of Vydubychi where his monastery is situated, the new edition glorified that prince and made him the central figure of later narrative. This second version of Nestor's work is preserved in the Laurentian codex (see below).

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