Between Kiev and Moscow
In the 17th century. Russia, as a result of the contacts established through wars, trade and diplomacy, emerges from isolation by also opening literature to European influences through translations, remakes and the assimilation of themes and expressive means typical of fictional literature. The literature of the first thirty years of the century has as its central theme the events of the age of troubles. The Chronograf («Chronograph», 1617) constitutes an important step on the path of the secularization of Russian historiography; the rigid division of the characters into good and bad is softened, complex and contradictory characters like that of Boris Godunov begin to be described. In 1631 the Mughal College was transformed into an Academy (from the name of the Moldovan Metropolitan P. Movilă, in Russian Mogila) of Kiev, where theology, philosophy, but also rhetoric are taught; the Academy promotes the spread of Ukrainian baroque metric poetry and introduces a new literary genre to Moscow, the school drama. The Russian Baroque differs in some essential features from that of the countries that experienced the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation: in Eastern Europe of Byzantine-Slavic civilization, which did not have a Renaissance experience, the Baroque also partially bears cultural values of Humanism and the Renaissance. ● The Belarusian S. Polockij he can be considered the first poet of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, since he modernly conceives poetry as an autonomous form of expression and introduces syllabic poetry of Polish origin to the Moscow state. Until the 17th century, written literature was expressed in prose, while popular poetry, which had known metric forms for some time, was only oral. Polockij also brings to Moscow (where the Slavic-Greek-Latin Academy was born, following the Kievan model) the tradition of the Jesuit school theater, writing plays in verse with biblical themes. The first drama is instead the Artakserksevo dejstvo («Action of Artaxerxes»), presented at the Russian court theater in 1672 by the German Lutheran pastor JG Gregori. ● During the seventeenth century, modern prose genres were formed; the element of narratio becomes visible in works of different genre and style, such as Savva Grudcyn’s povest ´, rich in popular elements, which introduces the Faustian theme of the pact with the devil, or that of Karp Sutulov, of anticlerical tone, where the tricks are told conceived by the wise wife of a merchant to defend her virtue, or even thesatirical povest ´ by Erš Eršovič, which has fish as protagonists, witnessing the inclusion of animal events in written literature. With the story of Frol Skobeev, picaresque elements and the term povest appear in the narrative´ begins to take on a meaning not far from the modern one (“novella”, “tale”), while the Povest ´ or Gore-Zločastii (“Story of Pain-Malasorte”) uses the principles of the epic verse of the byliny (➔ bylina) and those of the duchovnyj stich (“spiritual verse”) to narrate the misadventures of a young man struck by bad luck after having violated the moral precepts transmitted by his parents. Great luck has Skazanie pro Bovu Koroleviča (“History of Bova prince”). ● Towards the middle of the 17th century. Patriarch Nikon introduces a series of liturgical reforms into the Russian Church, approved by the Council of 1656, but violently rejected by some of the clergy and faithful, which take the name of ‘old believers’ and give rise to a schism. A pugnacious representative of the old believers, the archpriest Avvakum, fiercely persecuted and then burned at the stake (1682), leaves the most important and innovative literary works of the century; his autobiography, exceptional for its expressive power and originality of language, makes use of popular linguistic forms and concludes the Moscow period of Russian literature, marking the beginning of a new literary season. The concept of individual style,
The folkloric tradition
The first transcriptions of folkloric material also date back to the seventeenth century. The very rich folkloric tradition of ancient Rus´ was transmitted by the skomorochi, wandering actors and minstrels, active since the 11th century, reborn in the 16th century after the end of the Tatar domination, frowned upon by the Church and outlawed by Tsar Alexis at mid 17th century. In 1619-20 six Russian historical songs are transcribed for Russia James, one of the English ambassadors sent by James I to Tsar Michael III. Epic Russian songs are usually divided into two categories: byliny, in which the mythical and legendary element prevails, and historical songs, which refer to real events and characters. In the bylinywe can distinguish the cycle of Kiev, which revolves around Prince Vladimir and his Bogatyri (Il´ja Muromec, Dobrynja Nikitič and Alëša Popovič), and the cycle of the merchant city of Novgorod, which counts Sadko and Vasilij Buslaev among its heroes. Historical songs exalt the exploits of contemporary characters: Ivan the Terrible, Ermak, Sten´ka Razin. Other forms of folklore of ancient Rus´ are ritual-type songs to propitiate rain or the fertility of the earth and profane songs, such as those of carnival or brigands; Popular lyric and religious poetry by the duchovnye stichi is also widespread. One of the first collections of byliny is that of K. Danilov, published at the very beginning of that 19th century. which will see a lively interest in folklore arise and collections and studies multiply.