Chronicles. The Ukrainian chronicles are the most remarkable monuments of historical literature produced in ancient Rus’. They were written as annual records or annals. Besides accounts of events they contain a variety of literary materials—stories, legends, biographies, and borrowings from Byzantine chronicles. According to some scholars such as Izmail Sreznevsky and M. Tikhomirov, chronicle writing began in Kyiv in the 10th century. The first compilation was made in 1037, followed by the Kyivan Cave Compilation of 1073 and the Novgorod Compilation of 1079. The so-called Primary Chronicle or Kyivan Cave Compilation of 1097 was based on these collections and became in its turn the source for Povist’ vremennykh lit (Tale of Bygone Years, ca 1111), whose authorship is traditionally attributed to the monk Nestor the Chronicler.
The Primary Chronicle begins with the biblical description of the Flood and the division of the earth among Noah's sons. Then it deals with the migrations of the Slavs, Saint Andrew the apostle, and the question of who first ruled Rus’ (the story of Kyi, Shchek, and Khoryv, the calling of the Varangians, etc). The subsequent chronological account of events is interspersed with such legendary stories as that of Kozhemiaka (993) (see Kyrylo Kozhumiaka) and the siege of Bilhorod by the Pechenegs (997). Nestor not only supplemented this chronicle, which ends with 1093, but extended it to 1110. He added information about the strife among the sons of Yaroslav the Wise, Cuman attacks on Kyiv, assemblies of the princes, and the blinding of Vasylko Rostyslavych. The second edition of the Povist’ (1116) was completed by Hegumen Sylvestr of the Vydubychi Monastery who among other materials added Volodymyr Monomakh's speech to the Dolobske council of princes in 1103. It is probable that Monomakh's Poucheniie ditiam (Instruction for My Children) was added to the Povist’ at the Vydubychi Monastery. The third edition of the Povist’ was completed at the Kyivan Cave Monastery in about 1118.
Povist’ vremennykh lit served as the basis for later chronicles composed in monasteries and princely courts in Kyiv and other cities of Rus’. It was continued by the so-called Kyiv Chronicle of the 12th century. The Chernihiv, Pereiaslav, and Galician chronicles did not survive, but excerpts from them have been preserved in other chronicle collections.
The story of the blinding of Prince Vasylko Rostyslavych of Terebovlia, which was inserted into Povist’ vremennykh lit as a model of the contemporary historical tale, testifies to the high standards of the Galician tradition of chronicling in the 11th-12th century. With the fall of Kyiv and the shift of political power to the Principality of Galicia-Volhynia in the mid-13th century, chronicle writing became concentrated in these territories and produced the Galician-Volhynian Chronicle, which was written at the end of the 1280s and is the main source for the history of this period. The chronicle consists of two main parts: the Galician part, written in Halych from 1201 to about 1262, and the Volhynian part, written probably in Volodymyr-Volynskyi up to 1292. These parts went through at least five editions. The Galician-Volhynian Chronicle continues where the earlier chronicles—the Povist’ and the Kyiv Chronicle—leave off (1200) and presents in a chronological order (this order was introduced only in the later editions and is often a mere convention) the history of the principality from 1201 to 1292. The authors evaluate events from the standpoint of Rus’ unity under the Galician prince and advocate a strong centralized government under the prince in opposition to the boyars. The chronicle extols Danylo Romanovych of Halych, who ‘is without fault.’ From 1264 to the end the chronicle dwells on the history of the Volhynian land and its relations with Lithuania and Poland. It contains highly polished literary stories (eg, Yevshan Zillia) and military accounts imbued with patriotism that are reminiscent of the epic Slovo o polku Ihorevi.
In the 14th century a new period in chronicle writing began in which Rus’-wide collections were compiled. The Laurentian Chronicle (ca 1377), the Hypatian Chronicle (beginning of the 15th century), and many others from this period have come down to us in later redactions and were published in Polnoe sobranie russkikh letopisei (The Complete Collection of Russian Chronicles, 37 vols, 1841–1982).
The Rus’ tradition was carried on by the chroniclers of the Lithuanian-Ruthenian state in the 14th–16th century. Most of the writing was done in Belarus, which suffered least from Tatar invasions. For this reason the chronicles of this period are known as the Lithuanian or West Ruthenian chronicles. Of the 13 redactions that were published in volumes 16–17 of Polnoe sobranie russkikh letopisei, the more important ones for Ukrainian historiography are the Suprasl Chronicle, which was compiled in 1520 from various historical sources, the Bykhovets Chronicle (end of the 16th century), and the Barkulabovo Chronicle, which was composed in the village of Barkulabovo near Mahiliou at the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century and provides information on the activity of church brotherhoods.
A large number of 17th–18th century chronicles have survived. One of the important monuments of this period is the Hustynia Chronicle (Kronika), which according to some scholars, such as Anatolii Yershov, was written by Zakhariia Kopystensky between 1623 and 1627. It has been preserved in the redaction of M. Losytsky, an elder of the Hustynia Trinity Monastery. Besides excerpts from the old chronicles it contains a wealth of historical material on Ukraine's relations with Lithuania, Poland, the Crimean Khanate, and Turkey, on the Union of Lublin, and on the origin of the Cossacks. The account is brought up to 1597. A collection of chronicle stories by an anonymous writer, known as the Chroniclers of Volhynia and Ukraine, belongs to this period and contains besides materials from old chronicles, the notes of B. Balyka on events at the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century. The so-called Ostroh Chronicle, compiled in the late 1630s, describes various wars of the Cossacks and significant cultural and religious events during the period of struggle between the Orthodox and Uniate churches. Local chronicles from this period have a certain importance also: the Khmilnyk Chronicle (found in Khmilnyk, Podilia), containing information on the events of 1636–50, is particularly important for the history of the origins of the Khmelnytsky period; the Lviv Chronicle (named after the place where it was found) describes events from 1498 (in more detail from 1630) to 1649 in the Kyiv region, Podilia, and Galicia; and the Mezhyhiria Chronicle (found in Mezhyhiria Transfiguration Monastery) deals with the events of 1393–1620 in the Kyiv region and Volhynia.
The monastery chronicles belong to a separate group, which includes the Hustynia Chronicle (1600–41), the Mezhyhiria Chronicle (1608–1700), the Dobromyl Chronicle (1648–1700), the Pidhirtsi Chronicle (1659–1715), the Mhar Chronicle (1682–1775), and the Sataniv Chronicle (1770–93). These chronicles provide important materials on local history.
Although they are not chronicles in the strict sense of the word, the historical accounts of the Cossack wars in the 17th–18th century (hence the name Cossack chronicles) are particularly important. These include the Samovydets Chronicle, the chronicles of Hryhorii Hrabianka and Samiilo Velychko, several short works of the 18th century (Lyzohub Chronicle, Chernihiv Chronicle, etc), and several attempts at a pragmatic approach to history (see Historiography). The authors of these works followed the developments in neighboring countries and used a wide range of sources: legal documents, proclamations, documentary material, Polish chronicles, diaries of eye witnesses, and the writings of European scholars.
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[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]