The Study Of Ancient Chronicles Within The Professional Philologist Educator’s Training System


The article deals with the problems, connected with teacher training within the system of humanitarian education. In the modern world, education is focused not only on obtaining professional skills in a certain area of scientific knowledge, but on acquisition of universal knowledge, which allows to form a complete understanding of the world and a man’s place in it, which in their turn, foster personal development and personal progress. Knowledge and skills are implemented through the process of subject mastery, aimed at in-depth study of Russian language’s history formation and development. Subject matter retention places high premium on Old Russian texts, which constitute historical source, giving objective overview of the language system of past centuries. The research is targeted at analyzing the importance and the role of Old Russian literary works, ancient chronicles, in particular, within the professional philologist educator training system. Reading and analysis of Old Russian works plays a significant role in the study of philological subjects of historical cycle. Ancient chronicles occupy a special place here, because reference to them makes the study process illustrative and gives the opportunity of observing through specific examples, the language rule’s results and historic transformations in various language subsystems.

Keywords: Professional competencephilological educationancient chronicles


Today, the educational process is aimed at shaping a new type of educational specialist: a modern pedagogue must have varied skills and creative personality, possessing knowledge of universal nature. Comprehensive development of a future philologist educator requires subjects mastering, targeted at in-depth study of the Russian language’s historical formation and growth. Contemporary linguists (Kolesov, 2005; Kudryavtseva, &Speranskaya, 2008; Shtreker, 2013; Zaytseva, 2008, and others.) underline the importance of cultural and historical bases of linguistic education and diachronic approach to language processes.

The general vocational competences, which a graduate, having studied a bachelor programme in the area of Philology, must obtain, include the ability to demonstrate knowledge of basic principles and concepts of General Linguistics, the theory and history of the primary learning language, the theory of communication. Formation of that skill implies that the students should assimilate the main provisions and concepts of historical linguistics, obtain knowledge concerning history, current condition and opportunities for language and philological science’s development, competence of treating language factors in terms of history and etymology.

Problem Statement

The number of compulsory disciplines, a philologist-student should learn during the educational process, include the subjects of historical cycle and “The Historical Grammar of the Russian Language” subject, particularly. This course is designed to provide knowledge in the Russian language system from a diachronic aspect. Study of the Russian language’s historical grammar allows the students to comprehend and reflect the key alterations, which have been taking place in the Russian language for over more than ten centuries. This subject is connected with many different humanitarian disciplines, such as Archaeology, Ethnography, History of Culture, Sociology and others.

Research Questions

3.1. One of the central issues of the research is the role of ancient chronicles in the study of Old Russian. All the well-known textbooks and educational tools on historical grammar of the Russian language, necessarily involve excerpts from chronicles. The Russian annals date back to the 6th century, accordingly, the ancient chronicles’ language displays the Old Russian language condition during the period of East Slavic tribes. Reading and commenting on the Old Russian text teaches a student to explain the diachronic changes in the language and prepare him for an independent work with ancient written monuments. The researchers claim, that “work over a text plays an essential part in the course” (Kudryavtsev, & Speranskaya, 2008). Moreover, this work is very important for understanding a foreign culture (Yusupova, 2016). Similar approach fosters the shaping of students’ cognitive activity (Nurullina, Usmanova, & Rakhimova, 2016).

3.2. The second key issue is the annals’ place in the cultural and historical medieval context. Written records appeared during the Middle Ages, when nations and states were emerging and the languages forming. It was the period of laying groundworks for cultural values, which further became a foundation for modern civilization. The Medieval culture was characterized by contradictory nature and underwent, on one hand, a religious impact, connected with theology and ecclesiasticism, and, on the other hand, influence of reality. That inconsistency of the Russian culture was clearly manifested through chronicles, integrating the works of diverse content: lives of saints, religious tales, folk stories and legends, historical and military works of fiction, texts of contracts, weather records of documentary form.

3.3. The problem of composition and contents of the Old Russian chronicles is also substantial. The chronicles played a considerable role in the public life of the Old Russian state. They reflect momentous events, taking place in diverse cultural and historical centres of Russia. Therefore, the chronicles cannot be considered only as literary works, but also historical and political documents. One of the major ideas of early annals was the intention of uniting the Russian principalities and appeal against feudal disintegration, which undermined the Russian state.

3.4. Examining the question of the ways of interpreting actual language phenomena, makes it possible to detect the uniqueness of the language system of chronicle works. Reading weather entries from chronicles provide the students with understanding of words, phrases and sentences’ meaning, considering historical realia, socio-political situation in ancient Russia. All that help to reflect on language facts bearing in mind extra-linguistic factors, and interpret them accurately.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to analyse the importance and the role of teaching ancient Russian literary sources, especially chronicles within the professional philologist educator training process.

Research Methods

During examination of chronicles’ role in preparing philologist-student, the following methods were used: 1) historical method, which outlines language phenomena of distant epochs; 2) cognitive method, which allows to analyse peculiarities of a man’s mental activity reflection in language; 3) descriptive method, which provides evidence for analysis. During the research, general scientific methods, such as analysis, description, generalization and comparison, were also used.


The most famous work of annalistic genre is “The Tale of Bygone Years” (further TBY), in which the most ancient list was preserved in Laurentian Codex of 1377. The excerpts from this monument are widely used in practices of teaching and learning linguistic subjects of historical cycle, these being particularly “The Historical Grammar of the Russian language” and “The History of the Russian Literary Language”. The significance of studying these texts by any educated person, is emphasized by a prominent Russian philologist and cultural expert Lihachev, in his statement: “Primary Chronicle is the work, innate for every Russian” (Likhachev, 1999).

The study of the actual language characteristics of this monument must be preceded by historical commentary, explaining the time and conditions of creating the monument. This approach allows the students to imagine the historical circumstances of the chronicle’s advent and actualize their knowledge on Russian history. According to Lihachev’s hypothesis, the chronicle dates back to 6th century, when Yaroslav the Wise reigned, and when interest to the historical past and desire to fix the most significant events of the time, stemmed in society (Likhachev, 1947). Yaroslav’s activity was aimed at strengthening international status of Kievan Rus and establishment of the Russians’ Church independence. That is why, the contents of many chronicle weather entries demonstrate patriotic pathos.

A characteristic feature of the Old Russian chronicles was some bias in interpretation of events. Chroniclers supported the ideas of this or that sovereign, condemning the princes, who caused internecine conflicts and strife between the principalities, for example, Izyaslav, Svyatoslav, Svyatopolk dukes and others. Chronicles contain the authors’ lengthy commentaries on the described events, in which they express their opinions about occurring events, call for peace preserving and principalities uniting for the sake of the Russian state strengthening. Chronicles study ensures a voice for our ancestors, who were worried about wars and discord and calls for peace and harmony. Such appeals remain valid and relevant today. The chronicler clarifies misfortune and harm of Russian people by wrath of God, whose commandments were disobeyed. Corresponding author’s commentaries follow the model, including conventional formula, like: “ Navodit bo Bog po gnevu svoemu inoplemenniky na zemlju ” (“ God in anger sends invaders to the Russian lands ”) (TBY, 1068 year). Creation of the “The Tale of Bygone Years” is related to Kiev-Pechersk Monastery, where ideological traits of Russian chronicles were shaped: “their publicistic trends, their instructiveness towards the Prince’s authoritative tone, their judiciousness and principality” (Likhachev, 1947). Informative characteristics of Russian chronicles were developed in Kiev-Pechersk Monastery, too: “links with folklore, business speech (like ambassadorial, military, juridical, etc.), chronological way of structure” (Likhachev, 1947). We must notice, that the “The Tale of Bygone Years” became further basis for most Russian annals.

The “Primary Chronicles” include the works of various genre and style. Therefore, study of chronicles provides understanding of genres and styles of the Russian literature in an initial period of its formation. Observation of peculiar features of weather entries enable the students to create image of the work’s special structure-semantic body, its genre distinctiveness, stylistic marks. In chronicles, representation or image of reality can be both of real and conventional nature, depending on weather entries’ contest. In the excerpts of actual historical content, realistic elements prevail, whereas religious works are abundant in conventional forms of event representation, in accordance with norms of etiquette. The scientists note a medieval man’s duality in perceiving the world: “together with the earth creatures, objects and phenomena, he involved another world, as well, which was produced by religious consciousness and superstitions” (Gurevich, 1984). Understanding of the world is primarily reflected in words, in which historical experience is kept and inherited. “It is impossible to understand a medieval text without considering its language, the information-rich formula, which create symbolically visual variety of forms” (Kolesov, 2004).

  • In order to illustrate the peculiar features of the excerpts of different genres, it is necessary to conduct comparison of weather entries of folk and book origin. Folk works are characterized by dialogues, laconism of description, lack of pompous epithets, colloquial intonation. The lexis is mostly concrete and includes names of household items, animals, natural phenomena. On word-forming level a small amount of derivation is observed. Considering phonetics, forms with tokens of East-Slavic origin, prevail. Syntactical level is characterized by simple or complex sentences with adverbial clauses of condition. Folk works within chronicles include the following tales: “Oleg’s Death Caused by his Horse” (912 year), “Olga’s Revenge to the Drevlyanian Murderers of her Husband” (945 year), “About a Brave Young Man, Who Saved Olga and her Grandchildren” (968 year), “Kissel from Belogorod” (997 year), and others. A typical example of the text, related to folk conversational tradition, is the extract from the “Olga’s Revenge to the Drevlyanian Murderers of her Husband” tale: “ Reche zhe im Ol'ga ljuba mi est' rech' vasha. uzhe mne muzha svoego ne kresiti. no hochju vy pochtiti nautrija pred ljud'mi svoimi” (“Olga told them: "I am pleased with your words, and it's no longer possible for me to revive my husband, but I want to give you my honor tomorrow in front of my people ”) (TBY, 945 year) or from the “Kissel from Belogorod” legend: ” I povele drugyi kolodjaz' iskopati. i vstaviti tamo kad', i povele iskati medu ”(“ And he commanded another well to excavate and insert a vessel there, and commanded to look for honey ”) (TBY, 997 year).

  • Another group is composed by works of book tradition. Here, the description is schematized, sustainable contextual factors are widely used, expressive means are more varied, being presented by metaphors, rhetorical questions, anaphora, paraphrase, epithets, parallel syntactical constructions, etc. On phonetical level, Old Church Slavonic forms dominate. Word-forming level is represented by many derivative forms with stylistically marked suffixes -(e)ni(e), -ost', -stv(o), -tel' etc. Syntax is characterized by complex structures with subordinate and adverbial clauses. Among the book works are: “Legend of the First Russian Martyrs – Christian Varangians” (983 year), “Legend of Christening of Russia” (986 year), “Legend of Boris and Gleb” (1015 year), “The Life of Feodosiy Pecherski” (1074 year) and many others. These works proclaim Christian ideology, the personages follow the religious beliefs. For example, in “The Life of Feodosiy Pecherski”: “ Pache zhe imeti v usteh psaltyr' Davydov podobaet chernorizcem. sim' bo progoniti besov'skoe unyn'e” (“Most of all monks need to know the psalms of Davydov and drive them demonic despondency”) (TBY, 1074 year).

“The Tale of Bygone Years” is distinguished by its rich vocabulary, which is related both to elevated level of conversational Russian of 6th to 7th centuries, and impact of Old Russian Church. The analysis of chronicle language facts gives more visibility to interaction of two linguistic elements and provides characteristics of such language phenomena as, different reflexes of *tort groups, *dj and *tj combinations, palatalization of *gt and *kt consonant combinations and others. In chronicles, we can see a considerable amount of obsolete words – archaisms and historicisms. If an archaism’s inner form is completely lost, the meaning of the word is determined with the help of dictionary only, for instance: paki (that means “again”), usta (“a mouth”), chelo (“a forehead”), chajati(“a hope”) and others. Some of the obsolete lexemes have remained in derived forms as their derivative stems: chelo → chelka (“a forehead” → “a forelock”), cheta → chjotnyj (“a couple ” → “ an even ”). Understanding the correlation between these words’ meanings, enables to solidify orthography skills. Single archaisms, derivational foremost, are related to derivative stems, existing in modern Russian, but for their better comprehension we should consult historical dictionaries. For example, the word kormitel' , motivated by verb kormiti (“to feed”) , has meanings of “breadwinner”, “comforter” and “intercessor”, a word pobed'nik , motivated by pobediti (“ to win ”) verb, denotes “winner”, etc.

A special attention should be paid to analysis of lexemes, subject to semantic change. Chronicles mention many semantic archaisms, understanding of which depends on specific comment in the process of the Old Russian texts reading. The context in which the changes occur, does not always contribute to proper understanding of an old word’s meaning. For instance, a derived noun nachal'nik of the Russian language, has kept in modern Russian both senses of “boss” or “manager” together with its primary meaning of “someone, who was an initiator and a starter”: “ Nachalnik bo bjashe kumirotvoren'ju Seruk ” (“ The first was to make idols Seruh ”) (TBY, 986 year). Lexeme strast' , besides its meaning of “unruly and frenzy feeling”, kept until now, in its ancient version had the meaning of “misfortune, hardship”, stipulated by its historical relation to derivative stem being here a verb stradati (“to suffer”) . For example: “ Bog zhe na dreve strast' prija ” (“ God on the tree accepted suffering ”) (TBY, 986 year). A word smysl , apart from its meanings of “comprehension, understanding, awareness”, also had the meanings of “mind, intelligence, think”: “ Svjatopolk zhe ispolnivsja bezakon'ja. Kainov smysl priim ” (“ Svyatopolk, filled with iniquity, took the thought of Cain ”) (TBY: 1015 year). A lexeme imenie , along with its well-known even to modern Russian sense of “estate” and “landed estates”, used to have broader meanings of “property” and “trophy”: “ Manastyre i sela pozh'gosha. i imen'ja nemalo ot oboju stranu vzjasha ” (“ Monasteries and villages burned and a lot of property from both countries took ”) (TBY, 941 year). The highlighted cases illustrate historical processes of extension and narrowing of words’ meanings are inherent in every language, which is attributable to different linguistic and extra linguistic factors of language (Erofeeva, 2015).

Some of the words, spoken in modern Russian, used to have specialized semantics. For instance, a word knizhnik in its meaning “the Bible reader, a commentator of dogma and sacred laws” correlated with a word kniga (“a book”) in its terminological sense of “the books of the Old and New Testament and the Holy Scriptures”: “ Ouchashhju zhe emu v cerkvi. arhierei i knizhnici ispolnishasja zavisti. iskahu ubiti i ” (« When he was in church, the church archbishops and the Bible readers were full of envy and wanted to kill him ») (TBY, 986 year), etc.

When analyzing old Russian chronicles, particular attention should be paid to historicisms, designating realia, which is not currently existent. Their understanding is important for perceiving historical and social situation of ancient Russia, and these words are usually terminological and single. There are among them the names of people, according to their social status, military service, membership of a certain military alliance, like vel'mozha, holop, socskyi, desjac'skyi and others. Apart from lexical historicisms, in chronicles semantical historicisms also function, such as, starec , meaning “an elder”, and druzhina , denoting “princely council” and “princely army” and others.

Some annalistic examples study can demonstrate the process of re-etymology in the modern Russian language. In this way, a word svedetel' (“a witness”) had svedeti verb as a motivating stem, denoting “to know”, so it could present meaning of “knowing”. This semantics is actualized as part of a religious formula “ Bog svedetel' ” (“ God is witness ”) (TBY, 1097 year). In military and historical contexts, the word svedetel' was stylistically neutral, and meant “a witness”, which is still topical in the modern Russian language.

While reading and analyzing linguistic characteristics of chronicle, the students must take notice of derived forms. Modern scientists consider it important to learn word-formation within the study of lexis, morphology, stylistics and orthography (Shchuklina, Mardieva, &Alyokhina, 2016). In the chronicle, derived names are represented by two main groups: the first group consists of nouns, denoting actions, conditions, and qualities, the second one – denoting a person. Each group had its own derivative system, which in Old Russian were divided into stylistically marked and neutral means. Derived nouns with stylistically marked suffixes -(e)ni(e), -ost', -stv(o), -'stvi(e), -ot(a), -tel' prove to be striking feature of the works of a book and Slavonic style, widely used in the lives of saints, legends, moralizing and instructive commentaries on religious and ethical subjects. The nouns with these suffixes often underwent terminalization of their semantics within the Church sphere, and indicated religious rite, ceremonies and rituals: penie – “worship, divine service, church service”, stojan'e – “praying, praying vigil, praying service”, pokajanie – “acknowledgement of sins, confession, sinners repentment”, prichashhenie – “communion with religious faith”, postavlenie – “clerical rank initiation”, postrizhenie – “taking of monastic vows, monkhood initiation”, etc. Due to strengthening of the Church credibility and its enhanced role in the Russian people’s lives, comprehension of these terms is essential for every modern, educated person.

A special attention should be paid to the analysis of the derived nouns, with extensive network of denotations. For example, the form denoting a person starec with stylistically neutral suffix -ec' , could name a bearer of qualitative attribute, with sense of “old man”. At the same time, for a medieval man, an adjective staryi comprised some additional attributes, not only of age, like “reaching old age”, but also of social attribute, like “reasonable, experienced, noble”. These attributes shaped basis for another meaning of the word starec , and it is “an elder”. In religious contexts, a word starec denoted “a coenobite, a monk”. Towards contemporaneity, we can observe narrowing of semantics of the derived starec , where only the meaning of “an old man” is preserved.


So, chronicles are the original monuments of ancient Russian literature, contributing to development of the learners’ universal knowledge, which in its turn, under current Global Environment Facility standards, is prerequisite for high quality of education achievement. Ancient records are the most significant sources for studying not only the Russian language, but also history, culture, ethnography and other humanitarian disciplines, as well. Chronicles are important constituents of the Russian people’s Cultural Fund, because they reflect our ancestors’ spiritual values, the mastering of which significantly enriches future philologist teacher, develops not only his intellectual skills, but makes him or her more humane in spiritual and moral sense.


The work is performed according to the Russian Government Program of Competitive Growth of Kazan Federal University.


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31 August 2017

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Erofeeva, I. V., & Nurullina, G. M. (2017). The Study Of Ancient Chronicles Within The Professional Philologist Educator’s Training System. In R. Valeeva (Ed.), Teacher Education - IFTE 2017, vol 29. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 953-960). Future Academy.