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Mykola Zharkikh (Kyiv)

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Tale of Vytautas

Nicholas Zharkikh

Group "Vytautas" chronicles has an expressive thing in common – they contain at the beginning of quite an extensive "Tale of Vytautas" (TOV). It begins with the words "The Duke Gediminas had 7 sons," and ends with the words, "And the whole Lithuanian and Russian land rejoice."

In total, we have 13 its copies (Vit1L – Vit7L, Lit1L – Lit2L, Lit4L – Lit7L). The total comparative table will look too bulky, so we first compare the copies of "Vytautas" chronicles, and then the copies of loan "Lithuania" chronicles.

In this and the following sections will be many comparative tables, boring and difficult to view. Therefore, you can first review the findings and then go to the extent of interest in the analysis, which leads from the source text to these conclusions.


1. The oldest and best text "The Tale of Vytautas" (TOV-1) is contained in Vit1L. It requires only small additions to the damaged areas of the later copies and should be the main text TOV for use in historical research.

2. The original text TOV had been written in the Vilna shortly after Vytautas' rise to power in 1392, possibly at the end of 1392 – in 1393. "Memorial of Vytautas" that was written sometime earlier (late 1389), was used as source for TOV. Both works were written by one author.

3. The place of writing TOV-1 can quite confidently be considered Vilna.

4. The ideological orientation of a work – to pove dynastic rights of Vytautas to power in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. His rise to power is seen as achieving a certain ideal state of the Duchy.

5. The sources the value of the original text is quite high.

6. The characteristic stylistic features of the original text is a sequential narration of the events, the complete absence of absolute dates, lack of biblical quotations and references to God and religion at all.

7. Later, on the basis of TOV-1 was created a TOV-2, which was the basis of the remaining copies, in particular Vit3L. There are no traces of conscious text editing in TOV-2.

8. On the basis of Vit6L was created protograph TOV-3, which was written at the same time with the story "Fabulous emergence of Lithuania" (FEL) and by the same author. Changes in the text of the TOV-3 are made to align with the text FEL, so the time of writing this edition coincides with the time of writing FEL – 1 half 16 c., perhaps from 1519 to 1539.

9. Copy of TOV in Lit5L includes borrowing from some late (4 qtr. 15 c. or 1 half 16 c.) Moscow Chronicle. Derived from it Lit6L contains a story about the campaign of Algirdas against Moscow – with high literary value, but historically unreliable.

10. All later additions to the text of TOV-1 should be considered as corruption of the original text; these copies use should not be used in historical research.

11. The general direction of the evolution TOV in the late 14th – 16th c. – A gradual transition from the chronicle genre (with respect to the collection of accurate references to past events) to the historical genre (fun, exciting narrative of past events, regardless of the accuracy). The stages of this development can be represented as follows: VitL → early "Lithuanian" chronicles → Lit6L → Lit1L → Stryjkowski → Lit8L, Gustynsky chronicle.

12. "Tale of Vytautas" as a separate product highlighted in this paper for the first time. Previous researchers mistakenly isolated as separate works beginning TOV (up to Vytautas escape, episodes 1 – 55) and the end of TOV + AV. Therefore, they could not convincingly explain or purpose of writing these works, nor the time of their occurrence.

13. A further argument in favor of the TOV as a separate product is its copy in the Novgorod Chronicle Dubrovsky – published back in 1907, but it is not properly valued.