Life as a genre of ancient Russian literature

In the 11th-beginning of the 12th century, the first lives of Boris and Gleb’s life, the Life of Theodosius of Pechersky, and Antonius of Pechersky (to the present time is not preserved) are being created.

Their writing was an important step in the ideological policy of the Russian state.

At the time when these lives were created, the Russian princes persistently demanded from the Patriarch of Constantinople the right to canonize their own Russian saints, since this would increase the authority of the Russian church.

The first and important condition for the canonization of the saint was the creation of the life of this saint.

Here we give an example of the life of Boris and Gleb, Theodosius of the Caves.

Both lives were written by Nestor.

These lifestyles are related to two hagiographic types – the life-martyria (the story of the martyr’s death of a saint) and the monastic life, in which the whole life path of the righteous

man, his piety, asceticism, miracles performed by him, etc., is narrated.

When writing the life, Nestor took into account all the requirements that are imposed on the hagiographic canon. Of course, he was familiar with the translational Byzantine lives, but showed such artistic independence that he became one of the outstanding ancient Russian writers.

Features of the genre of life of the first Russian saints

“Reading about Boris and Gleb” begins with the introduction into history of the entire human race: the creation of Adam and Eve, their fall, the denunciation of the “idolatry” of people, the recollection of the teaching and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, who came to save the whole human race, as began to preach the new teaching of the apostles and how the new faith triumphed.

Nestor told about the details of the baptism of Rus by Prince Vladimir. And he described this act as the most joyful and solemn: all Russian people hasten to accept Christianity, and none of them resists and does not even speak against the will of the prince himself, and Vladimir rejoices because

he sees the “new faith” of newly converted Christians. So, here’s how the events that occurred before the villainous murder of Boris and Gleb Svyatopolk are described. Nestor showed that Svyatopolk acts on the wiles of the devil.

The historical introduction to the life is necessary to show the unity of the world historical process: the events that took place in Russia are only a particular case of the struggle between God and the devil, and any action about which Nestor tells, he looks for an analogy, a prototype in past history.

Boris Nestor compares with the biblical Yosiof, who also suffered because of the brothers’ envy.

If you compare life with the annals, you can see that the chronicle does not say anything about the childhood and youth of Boris and Gleb.

In his life, according to the rule of the hagiographic genre, Nestor tells how the boy constantly read the lives and torments of the saints by the boy “and dreamed of the same martyr’s death.” In the annals there is no mention of the marriage of Boris, and in his life Boris seeks to avoid marriage, but marries only at the insistence of his father. The chronicles show live human relations: Svyatopolk attracts the people of Kiev to their side by giving them gifts (“estate”), they are reluctant to take them, because in Boris’s army there are the same Kievites, and they are afraid of fratricides Svyatopolk can raise Kiev against their relatives who went on a campaign with Boris All these episodes in the annals look vivid, vital, and in “Reading” they are completely absent.

In the life it is shown that Gleb does not understand what he must die for. The defenseless youth of Gleb is very elegant and touching. Even when the murderer “took holy Gleb for an honest chapter,” he “silently, aky ahnya nezlobivo, all the mind is called to God and looked up to heaven praying.”

Here is another feature of the hagiographic genre: abstraction, avoidance of concreteness, lively dialogue, names, even living intonations in dialogues and monologues.

In the description of the murder of Boris and Gleb, too, there are no bright colors, only prayer is shown, and ritual is shown, they hurry the murderers to “finish their work.”

So, let’s sum up: The hagiographic genre is characterized by cold rationality, conscious detachment from concrete facts, names, realities, theatricality and artificial pathetic of dramatic episodes. The presence of such elements of the description of the life of the saint as his childhood, youth, piety, the severity in which he held himself, asceticism, fasting, constant reading of the psalms, prayers to the Almighty.

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Life as a genre of ancient Russian literature