Foreign accounts of Muscovy have long been recognized as fundamental historical sources. Generally speaking, they relate two kinds of evidence for those interested in early modern affairs. First, the accounts provide ample information about Muscovite society itself. Works such as Herberstein's seminal Rerum moscoviticarum (Vienna, 1549) offer modern historians rich data about Muscovite social, cultural, political, and military practices. The importance of foreign Muscovitica is heightened by the fact that similar information is almost completely unavailable in indigenous Old Russian sources. A second sort of evidence available in the foreign accounts concerns not Muscovy per se, but the way the image of Muscovy was constructed in the writing of outlanders. Those describing Russian affairs did not come to the task tabula rasa. A host of factors outside Muscovite reality shaped their views: foreigners were often ignorant of Russian and Russian affairs; they saw only parts of Muscovite society, and in some cases never saw it at all; they were sometimes moved by cultural, religious, or political prejudices; they frequently "borrowed" outdated and inaccurate material from their predecessors, and they wrote in specific genres which defined the topics proper to their purpose, while excluding others. In short, the foreigners' accounts provide us with as much information about the history of European mentalities as about Muscovite history proper. Despite the importance of foreign Muscovitica, the bibliographic tools available to scholars wishing to use the foreign accounts are quite deficient. The fundamental source of bibliographic information about foreign writings on Muscovy is Friedrich von Adelung's century-old KritischLiterarische Ubersicht der Reisenden in Russland bis 1700 (2 vols.; St. Petersburg, 1864). Adelung's chronological list of accounts is found wanting in several ways: it is very incomplete (much new foreign Muscovitica has been uncovered since Adelung wrote); it is frequently inaccurate and misleading (the book contains many incorrect attributions, dates, names, titles, and other miscellaneous errors); it does not distinguish different types of foreign accounts in terms of their generic character (Adelung divided all texts into compendia and self-standing documents); it contains no systematic indication of "borrowing" (thus scholars are unable to distinguish genuine material from those plagiarized); finally, Adelung's book provides no description of modern publications of foreign accounts or the secondary treatments of them. Foreign Descriptions of Muscovy is intended to address all of these difficulties and thereby to advance research using the foreign accounts. The bibliography describes a particular strain in the universe of foreign writings on Muscovy -- "state-descriptive discourse." State-descriptive discourse was a discrete, early modern, cultural arena comprised of several different genres: the state-descriptive monograph (works offering synoptic views of states), the cosmography or compendium (works printing several reduced synoptic views under one cover), the narrative relation ("news" or "historical" works offering narrative information about states), and the theoretical treatise (works generalizing state-descriptive information for "scientific" purposes). State-descriptive information had several distinctive features. Most important, it was putatively non-fiction; authors writing in this vein understood themselves to be describing, not inventing (though in fact they did much of the latter). It was by and large public: state-descriptive information was not generally part of personal correspondence, though there are exceptions, particularly in the earliest period of the discourse. Finally, state-description was "political" in a particular sense: the object of discussion is almost always the structure of states and societies, resources of rule, and the activities of the powerful. The bibliography is divided into two major sections. The first is a bibliography of secondary literature concerning state-description generally and Muscovite state-description in particular. It is divided into three sub-sections: 1) major bibliographic resources for the study of early modern "travel literature" and foreign accounts of Muscovy; 2) a nearly exhaustive bibliography of studies which use foreign accounts of Muscovy as positive evidence for Russian history or as evidence of Western Ruslandbilden; 3) finally, a bibliography of works useful in contextualizing foreign accounts of Muscovy. The second section offers a new, and significantly expanded, chronological list of foreign accounts of Muscovy, 1450-1700. Well over 600 foreign accounts of Muscovy are described, more than half of which are not listed in Adelung's bibliography. Each entry includes: the author's name, vital dates, nationality, and occupation; full title of first edition; the date of writing; the date of first and subsequent early modern printings (if published); information on possible "borrowing"; generic type; modern editions and translations; important studies of the work and its author.

"...an essential tool..." (SEER)

Gary Marker, Joan Neuberger, Marshall Poe, and Susan Rupp, eds.


In a career spanning nearly four decades Daniel Kaiser has produced a wealth of studies illuminating otherwise little understood aspects of society and culture in medieval and early modern Russia. He pioneered the use of anthropology in the study of Russian law, and he has stood at the forefront of applying statistical methods to the study of daily life in Russia, while maintaining a sensitivity to the cultural contexts within which the records were generated. His scholarship has changed the way we understand popular notions of time, the veneration of icons, naming patterns, burial practices, and a host of other topics that collectively unveil the intimate world of family and community among elites and peasants alike. The 23 scholars who have contributed to this volume have come together in tribute to Dan Kaiser and his multiple contributions to Russian history. In keeping with his areas of interests the editors and authors have constructed the volume around the theme of everyday life in Russian history. Gary Marker is Professor of History at SUNY, Stony Brook. Marshall Poe is Associate Professor of History at the University of Iowa. Joan Neuberger is Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. Susan Rupp is Associate Professor of History at Wake Forest College.


UCLA Slavic Studies no. 7 Russia’s first narrative history, The Book of Degrees of the Royal Genealogy (Kniga stepennaia tsarskogo rodosloviia), was produced in the Kremlin scriptorium of the Moscow metropolitans during the reign of Ivan IV (1533–84). A collaborative project to prepare a new critical edition in three volumes, based on the text of the earliest surviving copies with variants and commentary, spurred intensive research into the book’s manuscripts and its sources. In February of 2009, an international group of scholars with expertise in a range of disciplines convened at UCLA to consider the book’s representation of Kievan and Muscovite history, the politics of its creation, its literary status, and its ideological uses in its time as well as larger themes: What are the pre-conditions for a “culture of history”? How do historical narratives legitimize and influence their present? Selected articles presented at this forum, which build on and reference these discussions, have been arranged in thematic groups. Section 1 focuses on the Stepennaia kniga’s genesis, production, and institutional status. Section 2 looks at the book’s narrative and stylistic models. Section 3 traces and contextualizes the book’s construction of historical narratives in successive steps. Section 4 considers religious patronage and observance in the broader Muscovite context. The final section explores church efforts to exert moral influence on Russian rulers. Some of the articles in this volume present sharply differing views and interpretations, while in other cases we find more nuanced readings of the evidence than earlier scholarship had considered. Overall, these essays raise more questions than they answer, and we hope that this reconsideration of the Stepennaia kniga will stimulate continuing discussion and analysis of the role and importance of narrative history in Muscovite Rus’ and in subsequent Russian culture.

Book Reviews

Review by John Ellison in Slavic and East European Journal, 59.2 (Summer 2015)


In the mid-1930s, when the Soviet regime established Birobidzhan as the “Soviet Jewish state” with Yiddish as its official language, the local Yiddish theater assumed new prominence. In Search of Milk and Honey focuses on the theater’s role as the standard bearer and guiding spirit of this controversial exercise in nation building. The reconstruction of the ideological and cultural impulses underlying the theater’s repertoire not only reveals the circumstances of the social experiment conceived in Birobidzhan, but also presents Jewish culture in the USSR from another perspective.

In Search of Milk and Honey presents a comprehensive history and exhaustive analysis of the Birobidzhan State Yiddish Theater (BirGOSET) in its historical context. Kotlerman demonstrates that the history of BirGOSET is intricately related and intertwined with the history of the Birobidzhan state structure as a whole, and so can be viewed as a prism through which to look at the history of Birobidzhan. … The book will find an important place within the growing field of Yiddish theater scholarship.” Jeffrey Veidlinger, Department of History and Associate Director, Jewish Studies Program, Indiana University

This book is Volume 1 of the series New Approaches to Russian and East European Jewish Culture.

Book Reviews

Jahrbucher für Geschichte Osteuropas, Volume 2, no. 3, 2012: 30-31


Ján Kollár, famed poet, romantic nationalist, and Lutheran pastor for the Slovak community in Budapest, took the Slavic world by storm in the early nineteenth century with his idea of Slavic Reciprocity. Kollár conceived of Russians, Poles, Czechs, and South Slavs as tribes of one great Slavic nation, destined for a glorious future if they would but unite. Kollár's ideals inspired poets, patriots, and politicians for over a century. Ironically, the (linguistic) reforms Kollár suggested for bringing about Slavic unity ultimately contributed to the fragmentation of the Slavic world. Kollár's book on Slavic Reciprocity has been published in German, Czech, Serbian, and Russian, but now appears for the first time in English, annotated, and accompanied by an introductory essay on Kollár's life, influences, and posthumous impact on the Czechoslovak and Yugoslav Republics. From the Introduction: Despite Kollár’s importance to Slavic history, his works have seldom attracted attention in the Anglophone world. The most detailed account is an analysis by Peter Black, who in 1975 briefly summarized both Kollár’s Reciprocity and Ľudovít Štúr’s Slavdom and the World of the Future in a single volume. This scholarly neglect probably derives from the national subdivisions inside Slavic studies, both historical and literary. Several Czech thinkers treat “Kollář” as a sort of honorary Czech: Tomáš G. Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia, wrote that “as our first awakener, he is Czech, but he was born in Hungary.” This has affected his presentation in the Anglophone world. Kollár’s birthplace, Mošovce, lies in the center of the Slovak Republic, and Slovak scholars claim Kollár as a Slovak. Lusatian-Sorbian, Serbian, Croatian, and Slovene historians discuss Kollár’s influence on the Sorbs, Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. None of these national approaches, however, do justice to Kollár’s life or thought: to understand Kollár’s impact on the Slavic world, we must transcend contemporary national categories. About the editor/translator: Alexander Maxwell did his master's degree in Budapest at the Central European University and his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has lived and worked in Prague, Bratislava, Budapest, Bucharest, Reno, Swansea, and Erfurt. He has published several articles on Slovak history, historical sociolinguistics, and cultural history. He now teaches history at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. This book is recommended for library collections at four-year colleges and research universities.

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