Notes on The Russian Primary Chronicle
There is no doubt about it, the Russian Primary Chronicle (Povest' vremmennykh let; or Повѣсть временныхъ лѣтъ) is a complicated document; better not to call it "a" document but to understand it as many "documents" all spliced together (not sure if that makes sense).  The Chronicle dates to the early twelfth century and has often been attributed to Nestor, a learned monk in the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev, but it is also the case that the monk Silvestr added much to Nestor's version; and later chroniclers added still more.  In any case, we have no real idea who was the actual author (if there was any one author), and it is probably a pointless question anyway since twenty-first century notions of authorship hardly apply to an early medieval Russian document.  There is no extant original copy; the earliest known version, the Laurentian codex dates to 1377 (by a monk named Laurentius for Prince Dmitrii Donskoi). Other slightly different versions do exist.  The Chronicle, which is in the traditional form of recorded entries of what happened in each specific year, remains probably our most important source for the history of early Russian civilization.
For more complicated introductions to the Primary Chronicle, see or Donald Ostrovskii's introduction  (*.pdf file).

This page is copyright © 2005, C.T. Evans
For information contact