The Russian Primary Chronicle
(Russian title Повесть временных лет
, Povest' vremennykh let
, which in English is Tale of Bygone Years
) is a history of the early Russian state
, Kievan Rus'
from around 850
, and is assumed to have been published in 1116
. The chronicle is a very important source of information on the history of the period and is of prime importance to the early history of Russia
The chronicle is attributed to a monk named Syl'vestr, who was the hegumen (superior) of St. Michael's Monastery in the village of Vydubychi near Kiev. Some later sources mention a monk named Nestor, and the chronicle may well have been a compilation of chronicles recorded by Nestor and others. The original of the chronicle was lost, and the earliest known copy dates from 260 years after 1110, so it is difficult to establish the exact content of the chronicle, how it was written and who wrote it. Because of the uncertainty, it is easiest to attribute it to Syl'vestr and leave it at that.
Many studies and published versions of the chronicle have been made, the earliest known being in 1767. These versions attempted to reconstruct the chronicle based on copies of the original and quotations of the chronicle in other, later, chronicles. For more detail on this, see the references below.
Many such chronicles were written by monks, and they provide an important source of historical information. The importance of the Primary Chronicle comes from:
- it was the first of these chronicles known to have been written in Russia.
- it covered the period of the birth and dominance of the early Russian state Kievan Rus'. This period was known as The Golden Age of Kiev.
- a collation of the chronicle by Donald Ostrowski in (what I believe is) Cyrillic is available at http://hudce7.harvard.edu/~ostrowski/pvl/ together with an erudite and lengthy introduction in English. This is an interlinear collation including the five main manuscript witnesses.
- extracts from the chronicle translated into English are available at http://www.dur.ac.uk/~dml0www/kimohist.html. Note that this page also contains documents not from the chronicle. Chronicle extracts have the source noted at the end of the extract page.
- there is an English translation and commentary by Samuel Hazzard Cross and Olgerd P. Sherbowitz-Wetzor, The Russian Primary Chronicle. Medieval Academy of America Publication No. 60 (Cambridge: Mediaeval Academy, 1953).