The Mystery and Divinity Attached To Early Russian Heroes
The epics and tales of early Russia cannot be complete without stories of heroism and the mystery behind their success and achievements. In Serge Zenkovsky’s (1963) Medieval Russia’s Epics, Chronicles, and Tales, this fact can be seen in certain tails, such as the stories of Vladimir, the stories of martyrs Boris and Gleb, Sts. Antonius and Theodosius, and even those of Prince Alexander as well as Olga (in ‘Siege of Kiev and Olga’s Death’). Russian epics, chronicles, and tales in Byzantine texts persistently attach signs of mystery and divinity to heroes and their pursuit.
When talking about Russian heroism during the Middle Ages, there is always the presence of these, such as the excessively large number of slain enemies in the river Izhora during the time of Great Prince Alexander (Zenkovsky, 1963, pp. 229-230). Heroes were always depicted—not as human beings—but almost as gods or angels that carry with them the traits and powers of the supernatural, magic and the unknown. This can be seen in the ‘Literary School of the Kievan Era’ (Zenkovsky, 1963, p.
50), when Emperor Michael of Constantinople was protected by God and the Holy Virgin during the invasion of the godless Russians. This can also be seen in ‘The Martyrdom of Boris and Gleb’ (p. 101), when the two brothers reenacted Christ’s meek acceptance of death and massacre against the hand of their elder brother, Sviatopolk, and then later on appeared in a vision to the Great Prince Alexander in Pelgusius (p. 228). Heroes of early Russia were always perfect and god-like. They were Christ-like and were always assisted by angels and saints.
Why is this so? Perhaps one of the most evident reasons why Russian heroes were projected with mystery was to propel certain awe—or even fear—to the readers of the tale. Perhaps they had certain objectives in depicting their heroes as those that possess certain powers and affection from God. Then again, why? In describing their heroes as more ‘gods’ than men, or more ‘saints’ than leaders, obviously there was a hidden intention set by ancient writers. Main Body Heroes in the tales on ancient Russia were described like saints, angels, or gods.
They attach a form of divinity and mystery to their heroes for the purpose of achieving the following objectives: first is to bring honor to the Russian hero; second is to bring honor to the Russian nation; and third and last is to bring honor to God and the Russian Church. ? Heroism is divinity in order to bring honor to the Russian hero. Russian heroes were described with mystery and divinity, so as to bring honor to the Russian hero. This is most evident on the manner in which the ancient writer of ‘The Martyrdom of Boris and Gleb’ (p. 101) told the tale of the death of Boris and Gleb.
In the story, it was told how Boris dictated the following lines: “Be it not for me to raise my hand against my elder brother. Now that my father has passed away, let him take the place of my father in my heart” (p. 101). When Sviatopolk plotted against the death of his brother, Boris, it was narrated how the latter already knew his elder brother’s intention: “[A]nd when they approached, they heard the sainted Boris singing vespers. For it was already known to him that they intended to take his life” (p. 102). This reflected a capacity far beyond that of a typical human being.
More so, the ancient writer made evident the humility and martyrdom of Boris (and Gleb), instead of giving essence to the inability of the two in defending themselves against the attack of the enemies. By describing the event as martyrdom instead of incapacity, the Russian hero has been given greater honor and glory even after his death. ? Heroism is divinity in order to bring honor to the Russian nation. Russian heroes were described with mystery and divinity, so as to bring honor to the Russian nation. This is most evident on the manner in which ‘The Battle On the River Kalka’ (p. 193) under the Military Tales was told:
And many Kumans were driven away and many others were killed, owing to the wrath of God and his Immaculate Mother. Much evil has befallen the Russian land at the hands of these Kumans, and therefore most merciful God desired that these godless Kumans, sons of Ishmael, should die in order to revenge the Christian blood that was upon them, these lawless ones. (pp. 193-194) From here, the ancient writer takes into account the love that God and the Immaculate Mother has bestowed on ancient Russia, and that the downfall of the Kumans—which killed many Christians in Russia—appears to be a revenge from God for destroying His people.
Here it is evident that the writer wished to acclaim Russia’s faithfulness to God… instead of giving emphasis on its inability to defend the people. By describing the Kumans’ downfall as the revenge of God, Russia’s defeat has been given justice and honor amidst the failure. ? Heroism is divinity in order to bring honor to God and the Russian Church. Russian heroes were described with mystery and divinity, so as to bring honor to God and the Russian Church. This is most evident on the manner in which Vladimir received his sight right after being baptized as a Christian:
By divine agency, Vladimir was suffering at that moment from a disease of the eyes, and could see nothing, being in great distress. The princess declared to him that if he desired to be relieved of this disease, he should be baptized with all speed, otherwise it could not be cured … The Bishop of Kherson, together with the princess’ priests, after announcing the tidings, baptized Vladimir, and as the bishop laid his hand upon him, he straightway received his sight. (p. 69)
From here, the ancient writer of ‘Vladimir Christianizes Russia’ (from the Primary Chronicle) used the mystery and divinity behind the ancient Russian heroes, such as that of Vladimir, as it gave credit to God and the Russian Church. The writer gives credit that Russia was a holy nation of God, and that all its endeavors were all blessed by God, as proven in the tales and chronicles that were written. Being a blessed nation, Russia’s successes and failures had all been attributed by God.
Thus, to fight Russia was to fight God. Conclusion It is evident now why heroes of the ancient Russian texts were depicted—not as human beings—but as saints, gods, and ‘the anointed’ that carry with them powers of the supernatural, magic and the unknown. The very basic reason was to give honor to three basic entities: first is the Russian hero; second is the Russian nation; third are God and the Russian Church. Heroes of early Russia were always perfect, Christ-like, or god-like.
Being described as assisted by God, the Immaculate Mother, or the angels and the saints, writers of Russia during the Middle Ages gave glory to their nation and their identity by projecting a certain mystery or divinity to their heroes. By propelling a certain awe and fear to the readers of their tale, ancient Russian writers carried the intention of bringing glory to their God, their Church, and their land; thus, bringing glory to their character.
Having a character that is more divine, pious, and honorable, they are likely to bring greater power to their people. The mystery and divinity attached to early Russian heroes can never be ignored. Attaching an aura of mystery and divinity to their heroes gave greater credit to their nation and character, which gave them countless benefits and privileges, such as the following: (1) more power and dominion over other nations; (2) more glory and honor for being strong as a nation of God; as well as (3) more wealth, resources, and privileges.
Mystery and divinity had to be attached to early Russian heroes for their nation to survive and prolong. Being more gods than men, and more saints than heroes, it is obvious that ancient writers of Russia used the mystery and divinity of their heroes for the intention of achieving greater fame, glory, and power. This covered the failures and incapabilities of their nation, while defeats were given justice and honor at the same time.
Using mystery and divinity in the projection of heroism is like a covering blanket that conceals all faults, flaws, and failures that are done over the ages. By putting magic and superstition in front of everything else… all else has appeared to be perfect! Reference Zenkovsky, S. (1963). Medieval Russia’s Epics, Chronicles, and Tales. New York, NY: Penguin.Sample Essay of AssignmentExpert.com