Rewriting History: the Nikon Chronicle on Rus' and the Horde

Ch. J. Halperin


The Nikon Chronicle was compiled during a period of transition in relations between Rus‘ and the Tatars. Therefore, how the Nikon Chronicle rewrote the history of Rus‘ relations with the Horde provides valuable evidence of the historical consciousness of the elite of the Russian Orthodox Church at the time, and the degree to which their ideology permitted them to take liberties with the past to create a new historical memory. The Nikon Chronicle avoided an overarching narrative story-line, presenting, as had earlier chronicles, a discrete series of events of Rus‘-Tatar relations within a monotonously consistent religious causal explanation: When God favored the Rus‘, they defeated the Tatars, when, because of Rus‘ sins, God was punishing the Rus‘, the Tatars won. The Nikon Chronicle made no attempt to broach any «liberation» of Russia from the «Tatar Yoke» in 1380 or 1480. The history of Rus‘ relations with the Horde in previous chronicles did not require major rewriting because of the considerable self-censorship with which those chronicles had been written in the first place, the Rus‘ variant of the «ideology of silence» by which medieval and early modern conquest societies dealt with unpleasant historical realities inimical to their values, self-images, and status.


Chronicle; Nikon chronicle; Tatars


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