- Historical Narratives and Christian Identity on a European Periphery: Early History Writing in Northern, East-Central, and Eastern Europe (c. 1070–1200) by Ildar H. Garipzanov, ed.
Ildar Garipzanov’s fascinating volume represents a bold attempt to bridge what he refers to as the ‘historiographic split’ between Scandinavian and Slavic studies and to offer a more comprehensive overview of historical narratives from across the north-European periphery than hitherto has been attempted. The chapters originated as papers presented at a joint workshop, funded by the Norwegian Research Council, which was held in Kiev in 2008. They deal with the earliest layer of historical accounts of Christianity in Northern, East-Central, and Eastern Europe covering the period c. 1070–1200. Noteworthy [End Page 305] is the inclusion of works in Old Church Slavonic from Kievan Rus¢: two studies of the Primary Chronicle and a third on early history writing in Novgorod, the urban centre connecting Kievan Rus¢ with Scandinavia.
The methodology employed focuses primarily on the literary means by which classical and biblical models, historical narratives, and hagiographic works shaped the sense of Christian identity in various milieux. Contributions take the form of case studies of histories, chronicles, and annals, their common ground being that they all treat Christian literature from their region during the initial period after official conversion. As Garipzanov remarks, irrespective of the languages used (Latin, Old Norse, Old Church Slavonic) ‘clerical authors were writing local pasts into the established Christian master-narrative and presenting their regions, “nations”, and ruling dynasties as immanent elements of the City of God’ (p. 2).
Noting that most of the historical accounts were penned at least a century after the events recounted (more than two centuries later, in the case of Cosmas of Prague’s) Garipzanov posits two stages in the development of historical narratives. The first is a dynamic process in which reconfiguration of the past – the preceding ‘pagan’ period – is either ignored or relegated to insignificance. In contrast, the second stage (post-1170) adopts a more conciliatory, accommodating approach to the pre-Christian past. While the majority of the papers fall into the first stage, a number of them – the Hungarian Anonymous Notary, for example – reveal evidence of the beginnings of this literary shift into stage two.
In a volume of very variegated historical material a thorough index is essential if one is to explore Garipzanov’s contention that at a conceptual level there exist many areas of commonality in these early narratives. Brepols have provided just such an index. It incorporates personalia, places, and texts, and provides detailed references to such important abstractions and concepts as ‘identity/ies’, ‘Christian’, ‘past’, and ‘power’.
The University of Sydney