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two books of the Bible, originally a single work in the Hebrew canon (the final book of that canon), called First and Second Chronicles in the Authorized Version, and called First and Second Paralipomenon in the SeptuagintSeptuagint
[Lat.,=70], oldest extant Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible made by Hellenistic Jews, possibly from Alexandria, c.250 B.C. Legend, according to the fictional letter of Aristeas, records that it was done in 72 days by 72 translators for Ptolemy Philadelphus, which
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 and in the VulgateVulgate
[Lat. Vulgata editio=common edition], most ancient extant version of the whole Christian Bible. Its name derives from a 13th-century reference to it as the "editio vulgata." The official Latin version of the Roman Catholic Church, it was prepared c.A.D.
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. Their author is referred to simply as the Chronicler. The books are a history of the Jewish kingdom under David and Solomon and, after the division of the kingdom, of the southern kingdom of Judah, including the Babylonian captivity. The work commences with a collection of genealogies from Adam until the time of Saul and ends with the decree (538 B.C.) of the Persian king Cyrus restoring the Jews. Thus the historical material parallels (and supplements) part of the narrative of First and Second Samuel and First and Second Kings, but from the point of view of one who adheres strictly to the house of David and to the worship in the Temple. Though David and his house failed to mediate the blessings of living under God's rule, the hope is that the restoration of the Jews after the exile and the rebuilding of the Temple will mean both the restoration of Davidic religion and the guarantee of divine blessing. Like Kings, these books quote their sources constantly. Originally Chronicles may have formed one book with Ezra and Nehemiah.


See H. G. M. Williamson, 1 and 2 Chronicles (1982); R. Braun, 1 Chronicles (1986); R. B. Dillard, 2 Chronicles (1987).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



in Russia, historical writings of the 11th through 17th centuries in which events were narrated year by year. An account of the events of each year usually began with the words v leto (in the year), from which the Russian word for chronicle, letopis’, is derived. The words letopis’ and letopisets both mean “chronicle,” although letopisets may also mean “chronicler.”

Chronicles are extremely valuable historical sources and are the most important documents of the social thought and culture of ancient Rus’. Most chronicles give an account of Russian history from its beginning; sometimes they begin with biblical events and continue through classical, Byzantine, and Russian history. Chronicles played an important role in ideologically justifying princely authority in ancient Rus’ and in propagating the idea of the unity of the Russian lands. They contain significant material on the origins of the East Slavs, on the emergence of their states, and on their political relations among themselves and with other peoples and countries.

A common characteristic of Russian chronicles is the chroniclers’ belief in divine intervention. New chronicles were usually compilations of earlier chronicles and such material as historical tales, hagiography, and epistles and concluded with contemporary events. Literary works were also used as source material. The chronicler wove into his narration oral traditions, byliny, treaties, legal acts, and documents from princely and church archives. While transcribing material into the chronicle, the writer strove to achieve a unified narrative in conformity with the view of history of the Monomach’s Testament, the Legend of the Rout of Mamai, and, or monastic chancellery, or a posadnich’ia izba (vicegerent’s office). In addition to official ideology, however, the chronicles reflect the compiler’s views, which were sometimes quite democratic and progressive. On the whole, the chronicles attest to the high patriotic consciousness of the Russian people in the 11th through 17th centuries. The compilation of chronicles was considered a matter of great importance, and they were consulted in political disputes and diplomatic negotations. The art of historical narration reached a high level in the chronicles.

At least 1,500 manuscript copies of chronicles have come down to us. Many works of Old Russian literature were preserved in the chronicles, including Vladimir Monomach’sTesta- ment, the Legend of the Rout of Mamai, and Afanasii Nikitin’s Voyage Beyond Three Seas.

The feudal fragmentation of the 12th through 14th centuries is also reflected in the chronicles, which express local political interests. In 12th-century Kiev chronicles were written in both the Crypt and Vydubich monasteries and at the princely court. The 13th-century Galician-Volynian chronicles were written primarily at the courts of the Galician-Volynian princes and bishops. South Russian chronicle writing has been preserved in the Hypatian Chronicle, consisting of the Primary Chronicle with additional entries (chiefly Kievan) to 1200 and of the Galician-Volynian Chronicle through 1289–92 (PSRL, vol. 2, Chronicle Based on the Hypatian Copy). In the Vladimir-Suzdal’ lands chronicles were compiled chiefly in Vladimir, Suzdal’, Rostov, and Pereiaslavl’. The most important of these chronicles are the Laurentian Chronicle, which begins with the Primary Chronicle and continues with Vladimir-Suzdal’ entries to 1305 (PSRL, vol. 1, Chronicle Based on the Laurentian Copy); the Chronicle of Pereiaslavl’-Suzdal’skii (published in 1851); and the Radziwill Chronicle, decorated with many miniatures. Chronicle writing also flourished in Novgorod, at the archbishop’s court and in monasteries and churches.

With the Mongol-Tatar invasion chronicle compilation temporarily declined, but in the 14th and 15th centuries it again revived. The new centers of chronicle writing were Novgorod, Pskov, Rostov, Tver’, and Moscow. The chronicle codices cover chiefly events of local importance, such as the birth and death of princes, the elections of posadniks (chief administrative officials) and tysiatskie (second-ranking officials) in Novgorod and Pskov, military campaigns and battles, various church-related events (the investiture and death of bishops and abbots and the building of churches), crop failure and famine, epidemics, and unusual natural phenomena. Little attention is given to events not of local interest.

Novgorod chronicle writing of the 12th through 15th centuries is best represented by the Novgorod Primary Chronicle in an Older and Younger Redaction. The older, or earlier, redaction is preserved in a single Synod parchment copy dating from the 13th or 14th century; the younger, or later, redaction has come down in 15th-century copies (PSRL, vol. 3, Novgorod Primary Chronicle in an Older and Younger Redaction). In Pskov chronicles were compiled in the offices of the posadniks and in the state chancellery at the Troitsa Cathedral (PSRL, vols. 4–5; Pskov Chronicles, issues 1–2, 1941–55). Tver’ chronicles, written at the courts of the Tver’ princes and bishops, include the Tver’ Codex (PSRL, vol. 15) and the Rogozhskii Chronicle (PSRL, vol. 15, fasc. 1). In Rostov chronicles were compiled at the bishop’s court. They were incorporated into a number of later codices, including the Ermolin Chronicle of the late 15th century (PSRL, vol. 23).

New features appeared in chronicle writing in the 15th century, when the Russian state was evolving with Moscow as its center. The policies of the grand dukes of Moscow were reflected in the all-Russian chronicle codices. The Troitsa Chronicle of the early 15th century (lost in the Moscow fire of 1812) and a 16th-century copy of the Simeon Chronicle (PSRL, vol. 18) give an idea of the first Muscovite all-Russian codex. The Troitsa Chronicle ends with the year 1409 (M. D. Priselkov, The Troitsa Chronicle: A Reconstruction of the Text, 1950). Various sources were used in its compilation, including the chronicles of Novgorod, Tver’, Pskov, and Smolensk. The origins and political orientation of the Troitsa Chronicle are emphasized by the predominance of information concerning Moscow and by the generally favorable attitude toward the Moscow princes and metropolitans. Other all-Russian chronicle codices of this period include the Chronicle of Avraamka, compiled in Smolensk in the late 15th century, and the Suzdal’ Chronicle of the late 15th century.

The Sofia Chronicle, a chronicle codex based on numerous Novgorod writings, was compiled in Novgorod. Another large chronicle codex appeared in Moscow between the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Especially famous is the Voskresensk Chronicle (PSRL, vols. 7–8), ending with the year 1541 (compiled mainly during 1534–37) and including many official records. Official documents were also incorporated into the voluminous L’vov Chronicle (PSRL, vol. 20), which includes the Chronicle of the Beginning of the Reign of the Tsar and Great Prince Ivan Vasil’evich and covers events to 1560.

The Illustrated Chronicle Codex, decorated with pictures relating to the text, was compiled at the court of Ivan the Terrible. The first three volumes of the illustrated codex are devoted to world history (based on chronographies and other works), and the next seven volumes cover Russian history from 1114 through 1567. The last volume, dealing with the reign of Ivan the Terrible, came to be known as The Tsar’s Book. The text of this illustrated codex is based on the earlier Nikon Chronicle (PSRL, vols. 9–13), an enormous compilation of material from various chronicles, tales, hagiography, and other sources.

In the 16th century chronicle writing continued to flourish not only in Moscow but in other cities as well, as for example, the Vologda-Permian Chronicle (PSRL, vol. 26). Chronicles were also compiled in Novgorod and Pskov and in the Crypt Monastery near Pskov. New types of historical narratives, departing from the chronicle form, also appeared in the 16th century, notably The Book of Degrees of the Imperial Genealogy (PSRL, vol. 21) and The History of the Kazan’ Kingdom (PSRL, vol. 19).

In the 17th century the chronicle form of narration gradually died out. Several local chronicles appeared in the first half of the 17th century, however, of which the most interesting are the Siberian Chronicles, particularly the Stroganov and Esipov chronicles. In the late 17th century S. U. Remezov, boyarskii syn (nobleman of the second rank) of Tobol’sk, compiled a History of Siberia (Siberian Chronicles, 1907). In the 17th century chronicle information was included in the books of degrees and in chronographies. The word “chronicle” continued to be used, however, even for works that bore little resemblance to the chronicles of former times, for example, the New Chronicle (PSRL, vol. 14) describing events of the late 16th and early 17th centuries (the Polish-Swedish invasion and the Peasant War) and the Chronicle of Many Disturbances.

Chronicle writing, which had flourished in Russia, was less developed in Byelorussia (the Byelorussian-Lithuanian Chronicles) and the Ukraine, which had been part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Of these annals the most interesting 16th-century chronicle is the Short Kiev Chronicle (Suprasliensis Manuscript), containing the Novgorod Chronicle and the Kiev Abbreviated Chronicle (1836). In the Short Kiev Chronicle the ancient history of Rus’ is based on earlier chronicle codices, and the events of the late 15th and early 16th centuries are described by a contemporary.

Chronicle writing was also well developed in Smolensk and Polotsk in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Byelorussian and Smolensk chronicles became the basis for several chronicles dealing with the history of Lithuania (PSRL, vol. 17). Several 17th-century Ukrainian historical works are called chronicles, notably the Samovidets (eyewitness) Chronicle. Chronicles were also written in Moldavia, Siberia (Buriat and Siberian chronicles), and Bashkiria.

Chronicles are a basic source for studying Kievan Rus’ and the history of Russia, the Ukraine, and Byelorussia from the 13th through 17th centuries, even though they reflect the interests of the feudal ruling classes. Only the chronicles have preserved such documents as the tenth-century treaties between Rus’ and the Greeks and the short redaction of the Russkaia Pravda (law code). They are of great importance in studying the Russian language and literature. They also contain valuable material on the history of other peoples of the USSR.

Chronicles have been studied and published in Russia and the USSR for over 200 years. A manuscript text was published in 1767 in the Historical Russian Library Containing Ancient Chronicles and Various Writings. The Polnoe sobranie russkikh letopisei (Complete Collection of Russian Chronicles [PSRL], vols. 1–31) has been published since 1841.

V. N. Tatishchev and M. M. Shcherbatov laid the foundations for the study of chronicles. A. L. Schletzer devoted 40 years to the study of the Primary Chronicle, excising errors and slips of the pen and explaining unclear passages. P. M. Stroev regarded the chronicles as collections or codices of earlier material. Using the methods of Schletzer and Stroev, M. P. Pogodin and I. I. Sreznevskii enriched scholarship with data that facilitated the study of the history of the Russian chronicles.

I. D. Beliaev classified chronicles into state, family, and monastic codices and showed that the chronicler’s viewpoint was determined by the region in which he lived and the social class to which he belonged. M. I. Sukhomlinov in his book The Ancient Russian Chronicle as a Literary Monument (1856) attempted to establish the literary sources of early Russian chronicles. K. N. Bestuzhev-Riumin, in his Compilation of Russian Chronicles in the Late XIV Century (1868), was the first to separate the chronicle text into yearly entries and legends. Academician A. A. Shakhmatov revolutionized the study of chronicle texts. He collated different manuscript copies, thoroughly analyzing the material, and used this method as the basis for his study of the chronicles. Shakhmatov ascribed great importance to elucidating all the circumstances of a chronicle’s origin and every copy and compilation. He studied the chronological evidence found in chronicles, establishing more precisely the time of compilation and correcting factual errors. Shakhmatov obtained much information from analyzing slips of the pen, linguistic errors, and dialect words. He was the first to give a coherent picture of Russian chronicle writing, presenting it both as a genealogy of almost all the manuscript copies and as a history of Russian social consciousness (A. A. Shakhmatov, All-Russian Chronicle Compilations of the 14th and 15th Centuries, 1901; Survey of Russian Chronicle Compilations of the 14th Through 16th Centuries, 1938).

Shakhmatov’s methods were further developed in the works of M. D. Priselkov, who reinforced their historical aspect (M. D. Priselkov, History of Russian Chronicle Compilation of the 11th Through 15th Centuries, 1940). A major contribution to the study of the Russian chronicles has been made by the followers of Shakhmatov, including N. F. Lavrov, A. N. Nasonov, L. V. Cherepnin, D. S. Likhachev, S. V. Bakhrushin, A. I. Andreev, M. N. Tikhomirov, N. K. Nikol’skii, and V. M. Istrin. The study of the history of chronicle writing is one of the most complex fields in the study of primary sources and in philology. The methods applied by Shakhmatov have formed the basis of modern textual study.


Polnoe sobranie russkikh letopisei (PSRL), vols. 1–31. St. Petersburg, Moscow-Leningrad, 1841–1968.
Shakhmatov, A. A. Obozrenie russkikh letopisnykh svodov XIV-XVI vv. Moscow-Leningrad, 1938.
Nasonov, A. N. Istoriia russkogo letopisaniia XI- nach. XVIII vv. Moscow, 1969.Moscow-Leningrad, 1947.
Likhachev, D. S. Russkie letopisi i ikh kul’turno-istoricheskoe znachenie.
Ocherki istorii istoricheskoi nauki v SSSR, vol. 1. Moscow, 1955.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.