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Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 3.2 (2002) 337-340

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Das Speisungsbuch von Volokolamsk:
Eine Quelle zur Sozialgeschischte russischer Klöster im 16. Jahrhundert

Ludwig Steindorff, ed. and trans., Das Speisungsbuch von Volokolamsk: Eine Quelle zur Sozialgeschischte russischer Klöster im 16. Jahrhundert. Series Bausteine zur Slavischen Philologie und Kulturgeschichte, Reihe B, Editionen, Neue Folge Band 12. Cologne, Weimar, and Vienna: Böhlau Verlag, 1998. lx + 388 pp. ISBN 3-412-09597-4. 108 DM.

In these days of heightened economic pressures on academic presses, the appearance of a facsimile edition of a late medieval Slavic manuscript is rare indeed. To publish one so aesthetically pleasing and functional as this is a minor miracle. To be sure, there have been efforts in recent years to put out more and better editions of sources that are important for early Russian history. The selfless labors of the scholars at the "Archeographical Center" of the Russian State Archive of Ancient Acts (RGADA), or at the various historical societies popping up across Russia nowadays, or by the Moscow Historical-Genealogical Society, to name just a few, have resulted in published editions of texts that are as useful as they are long-awaited. 1 While the quality of the binding materials or paper may not always be the best, the scholarship behind these editions is now, as it has always been, quite exceptional. Still, the publishing industry in Russia faces severe pressures, and finding quality presses for old Muscovite texts is not always easy. In the West, the production of text editions, fundamental as they clearly are to scholarship, hardly promises much profit, and so they are rarely a focus of most academic presses. The advent of desk-top and on-line publishing has both relieved some of these pressures and held out a long-term prospect for a solution to this general crisis in academic publishing. New computer and internet technologies will surely be the best friends of Muscovite history in the future. [End Page 337]

But the text edition reviewed here, edited and translated by Ludwig Steindorff, does things in the old fashioned way, and does them quite well. The text in question is the Book of Feasts (Kormovaia kniga) of the Volokolamsk Monastery, founded in 1479 by the monk Iosif Volotskii. The Book of Feasts constitutes chapter 6 of the monastery's obikhod - the monastic rule for the monks regulating most aspects of their liturgical and prayer life, but also providing a blueprint for the practical administration of many of the monastery's economic and religious functions. Steindorff has shown in his other publications the central place this monastery played in the creation and dissemination of monastic record-keeping techniques. It was at this monastery - and in its obikhod - that many of these techniques were first developed and described, making possible not only the standardization of administrative practice at Volokolamsk but also the adoption of these practices by other monasteries in Muscovy, perhaps even by clerks in the grand-princely chancelleries in Moscow. 2 The Volokolamsk obikhod is thus a foundational text for Muscovite history. Its publication is important not only for the history of Russia's monasteries or Orthodoxy in general, but also as a source for the history of chancellery practice in early Russia.

The Book of Feasts records donations made to the monastery of no less than 100 rubles for commemorative meals to be served to monks on the day of a donor's death or on the feast day of his or her patron saint. The text is organized like a calendar starting with 1 September, the first day of the Church year, with a separate entry (and page) for each day. These books, which were compiled by many monasteries across Muscovy in this period, are rich sources for the history of monastic economy, religious life, and biographical information about donors who, because of the high cost of entry into the book, were nearly always members of Muscovy's elite, whether at court or in...


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