Andrei Kurbskii

Kurbskii, Andrei Mikhailovich

 

Born 1528; died 1583. Russian political and military figure; writer and publicist. One of a line of Yaroslavl princes.

Kurbskii received a good education (he studied grammar, rhetoric, astronomy, and philosophy); Maksim the Greek exerted a great influence on the formation of his world view. In the 1540’s and 1550’s he was one of the individuals closest to Ivan IV Vasilievich. He occupied the highest administrative and military offices, was a member of the Selected Council, and participated in the Kazan campaigns of 1545–52. In connection with military failures in Livonia, the tsar in 1561 placed Kurbskii in charge of the Russian troops in the Baltic area; Kurbskii soon scored a number of victories over the Teutonic Knights and the Poles, after which he became voevoda (military commander) in Iur’ev (Dorpat).

Kurbskii, fearing disgrace after the fall of the government of A. F. Adashev, with whom he was close, fled from Iur’ev to Lithuania on Apr. 30, 1564; the Polish king granted him several estates in Lithuania (including the city of Kovel’) and in Volyn’, and he was accepted as a member of the royal council. In 1564 he headed one of the Polish armies in a war against Russia. Between 1564 and 1579 he sent Ivan IV three letters (initiating the famous correspondence between himself and the tsar), in which he accused him of cruelty and unjustified executions. In 1573 he wrote the History of the Grand Prince of Moscow, a political pamphlet that reflected the ideology of the big aristocracy, which opposed the strengthening of autocratic authority. This work represents at the same time the testimony of a contemporary regarding the 1547 uprising in Moscow, the taking of Kazan, the work of A. F. Adashev’s government (which Kurbskii called the Selected Council), the Livonian War, and other events. His writings are a valuable historical source and are outstanding for their high literary merit.

WORKS

Soch, vol. 1: Sochineniia original’nye. St. Petersburg, 1914.

REFERENCES

Iasinskii, A. N. Soch. Kniazia Kurbskogo kak istoricheskii material. [Kiev] 1889.
Zimin, A. A. “Kogda Kurbskii napisal ‘Istoriiu o velikom kniaze Moskovskom’?” Tr. Otdela drevnerusskoi literatury, vol. 18. Moscow-Leningrad, 1962.
Skrynnikov, R. G. “Kurbskii i ego pis’ma v Pskovo-Pecherskii monastyr’.” Ibid.

V. I. KORETSKII

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16) Decades earlier, the prominent Russian historian Sigurd Shmidt interpreted the same scene, evidently through the lens of the First Letter from Tsar Ivan to Prince Andrei Kurbskii, as a visual reminder that the young Ivan was witness to the enmity of the boyars.
The authors deserve recognition for their courage in breaking the long silence in Ivan the Terrible studies that followed Edward Keenan's 1971 assertion that the richest set of sources about Ivan, a series of letters exchanged between Ivan and Prince Andrei Kurbskii, was a forgery.
12) Poland is Russia's primary enemy, and the palace provides the location for Andrei Kurbskii, Ivan's closest friend before becoming Muscovy's most notorious traitor, to go over to the enemy.
18 (2004): 28-50; Keenan, "Was Andrei Kurbskii a Renaissance Intellectual?
To state my own conclusion plainly, Erusalimskii has not proven that Prince Andrei Kurbskii put together a miscellany of his own works some time before his death in 1583 in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
If Erusalimskii is correct about the Kurbskii corpus, we can take solace in the notion that since the 19th century our field has made some modest, incremental advances in understanding the mind of a remarkable individual: Andrei Kurbskii.
Kalugin, Andrei Kurbskii i Ivan Graznyi (Teoretieheskie vzgliady i literaturnaia tekhnika drevnerusskogo pisatelia) (Moscow: Iazyki russkoi kultury, 1998), 17-23.
1) For more than 200 years, the work of the fugitive prince Andrei Kurbskii and his polemical exchange with Ivan the Terrible have been a major source for the history of Russia's first tsar.
Had Keenan concentrated on critiquing the Correspondence as a historical source and proved the mythical nature of many of its constructions, founded solely on the "testimony" of Ivan the Terrible or Andrei Kurbskii, it would have been much more difficult to criticize his work.
It was at about the same time that Keenan, in preparing a graduate seminar at Harvard, developed strong doubts about the authenticity of the famous correspondence attributed to Prince Andrei Kurbskii and Ivan IV.
Kritika: Based on a close reading of the sources, you have stirred tremendous controversy by challenging the authenticity of major sources of pre-Petrine history--the correspondence between Ivan IV and Prince Andrei Kurbskii, and the Igor' Tale.
Keenan, of course, has made something of a career out of challenging key pre-Petrine Russian sources with his own books on the Slovo and on the correspondence between Ivan the Terrible and Prince Andrei Kurbskii.