Book of Degrees, the

Book of Degrees, the


(Stepennaia kniga), a work of Russian historical literature written between 1560 and 1563 on the initiative of Metropolitan Makarii. The author was Andrei, confessor to Ivan IV the Terrible and later the metropolitan Afanasii.

The Book of Degrees attempted to provide a systematic account of Russian history. It was divided into 17 generations, or degrees, and encompassed the period from the reign of Vladimir Sviatoslavich (St. Vladimir) through that of Ivan IV. The work glorified the Muscovite monarchy and affirmed the idea of autocratic rule by divine right. It traced the lineage of the ruling family to the Roman emperor Augustus, whose descendants were stated to be the Kievan princes and later the princes of Vladimir and Muscovy.

The other concept set forth in The Book of Degrees was that of the union of secular and ecclesiastical power. The descriptions of the Russian princes and rulers were hagiographic in tone, glorifying the rulers’ “saintly deeds” and “true piety.” Each degree also contained a biography of the “saintliest” of Russian metropolitans.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, The Book of Degrees was one of the most popular Russian historical works. Its content strongly influenced the grandiose frescoes of the 16th and 17th centuries, for example, the fresco executed in 1564 and 1565 in the Arkhan-gel’skii Cathedral in Moscow.


Polnoe sobrante russkikh letopisei, vol. 21, parts 1–2. Saint Petersburg, 1908–13.