Nestor, or Letopis Nesterova

Nestor, or Letopis Nesterova the Russian Venerable Bede, the most revered name in the whole compass of his country's literature, was born in 1056. At the age of seventeen he entered the convent of Peczerich, at Kiew, where he remained until his death, about 1116. But little is known of his personal history. In the Palericon of his convent there is this beautiful testimony to his life: "Nestor labored industriously on his annals, thought of eternity, served and pleased his Creator, and died at a good old age peacefully." His Chronicle of Russia, which is his life-work, comes down to 1115; it has been continued by Sylvester, a monk of Kiew, afterwards bishop of Perejaslaw, and others, to 1206. There are several manuscript copies of it, and they differ somewhat from each other, so that they have become the subject of many interesting investigations both to Russian and foreign historians. They were published by Radziwill or Konigsberg at St. Petersburg (1767, 4to), from a manuscript found at Konigsberg, and considered by the critics as the most trustworthy extant. The first critical edition, however, was published in Germany, with a German translation by Schlozer (Gott. 1802-1809, 5 volumes, 8vo), carrying the work up to the year 980; a German translation of the whole work was brought out at Leipsic in 1774, but it is faulty. The latest and best edition, entitled Chronicon Nestoris textus, versio Latina et glossarrum (ed. Miklosisch); was brought out at Vienna (1860 sq.). This Chronicle is highly prized by the Russians as the oldest annals of their history. Nestor wrote also a Patericum Peczericum, which is a sort of biography of some of the abbots and saints of the convent of Kiew, and very valuable as the oldest document treating of Russian ecclesiastical history. Though interspersed with many absurdities and superstitions, it was first published in 1661, and has been reproduced since in divers forms. Nestor was a very learned man in his time. He understood perfectly the Greek language, and read the Byzantine historians, from whom he translated many passages, and inserted them in his Chronice. His information he obtained from contemporaneous traditions (probably also from still more ancient Latopisses), and he derived great advantage from the recollections of his brother in the cloister, the monk Jan, who died in 1106, at the age of ninety-one years, and who was born consequently in 1015, i.e., one year previous to the death of grand-prince Waldimir. Much, however, of Nestor's work consists of what he was enabled to record as a contemporary and an eye-witness. Truth shines evidently in all his writings. His style is equal, and resembles the Biblical books. The persons whom he mentions are made to speak in the language of the historical books of the Old Testament. He frequently interweaves sentences taken from Holy Writ, and subjoins pious moral reflections. His illustrious editor, Schlozer, says of him: "Without this brother of the cloister, what should we ever have known about the entire history of the Upper North down to the 11th century? But this Chronicle is still more important in relation to the people for which it was written; who, by following the example of its author, acquired a taste for reading and writing, and never lost those arts again through all the melancholy times and centuries of actual barbarism that followed." See Karamsin, Gesch. des russichen Reiches, volume 8; Strahl, Gesch. des russichen Staates, 1:458 sq.; id. Beitrage z. russ. Kirchengeschichte (Halle, 1827), 1:90 sq.; Gottinger gel. Anzeigen, 1807, p. 263 sq.; Schlozer, Proben russicher Annalen, page 27 sq.; and the biography in his edition of Nestor, 1:9 sq.; Piper, Einleitung in die Monumentale Theologie, § 95; Stanley, Lect. Hist. East. Church, page 388; Otto, Hist. of Russian Literature, page 300 sq. (J.H.W.)

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