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The Word about Igor

The Word about IgorThe literary hero in the modern sense of the term - that is the character who has plotline part - is absent in the literature of Ancient Russia. A significant part of works created in Х-XVI centuries, in general, is connected with rhetoric - solemn speeches, sermons, homilies, parables; if there is a plot - for instance in biographies, stories about travels, annalistic stories about important historical events - there is no fiction, at least deliberate. And the literary hero, as a rule, acts in circumstances specially made up by the author, these circumstances allow the character to reveal and show himself better. Calling some characters of old Russian literature (for example, semi-fabulous Peter and Fevronia Muromskie from the Biography written by Ermolai-Erazm) "literary heroes", we should remember that it is not the right word. It would be more correct to speak about "literary images" created by writers of Ancient Russia. These images have become the part and soul of national cultural memory.

Two of these eternal images - prince Igor and his faithful wife Yaroslavna - are recorded in the unique work of the old Russian literature which is obligatory studied at school - "The Word about Igor's Regiment".

"The Word about Igor's Regiment" (Presumably the end of the XII century; published in the XVI century -1800).
The author of "The Word about Igor's Regiment" wrote the work when the Great Russia and Kiev were in difficult position. The huge state created by grand duke Oleg, prospering during the rule of Vladimir Svyatoslavich and Yaroslav the Wise, began to disintegrate into many principalities and fell into decay after his death. Kiev preserved ancient traditions of its military valour; it was famous for historical legends, tombs of celebrated princes beginning from Oleg. The Kiev prince had the rank of "Grand Duke".

Division of the country into small principalities was accompanied by bloody internecine dissensions of the princes who desired to seize the richest lands. At that time enemies came close to southern borders of Russia. In the 80s of the ХII century prince Svyatoslav Vsevolodovich, mustering Russian princes and their armies, fought with Polovtsy. They were thrown back to steppe. But in 1185 prince Igor Novgorod-Seversky, collecting a small army, waged a campaign against Polovtsy. The prince's retinue was defeated, and the prince was taken prisoner. Due to this event Polovtsy, feeling dissociation of Russian princes, often made plundering raids on Russia. By his campaign Igor opened a way for Polovtsy to the native land.

"The Word about Igor's Regiment" is a historical monument of old Russian literature. This is the greatest work of its time. "The Word about Igor's Regiment" tells us with high accuracy about the ancient Russia. It includes characters of Russian people, descriptions of nature, peaceful work. The main feeling, which guided the author of "The Word about Igor's Regiment', was the love for the native land, Russian land and people. The author grieves for the separation of Great Russia. He - the great Russian thinker - draws different strata of people of the XII century. He contrasts theThe Word about Igorir courage, valour and diligence with aspiration of princes to isolation. Younger followers of princes, kuryane, are described as "brave", Chernigov soldiers as "fight demons, successors to their fathers' glory". In "The Word about Igor's Regiment" the sufferings of simple people because of Polovtsy attacks are described.

In the first part of the work the departure of prince Igor Novgorod-Seversky on a campaign against Polovtsy is described. It happened in 1185. Igor wants to free Russia from its old foes. On the day of departure there is a solar eclipse. Despite of this sinister omen and all dangers of steppe, prince Igor does not change his decision. He remains firm in his wish. Chernigov prince Bui-Tur Vsevolod joins prince Igor in Putivl. In "The Word about Igor's Regiment" he is described as a great soldier: "Where you, Tur, gallop shining with the golden helmet, there lay nasty enemies' heads". Having united forces with the army of Bui-Tur Vsevolod, prince Igor marched into the land of enemy. Everything there is hostile to him: both steppe, and birds and animals. But Igor is resolute, so are his people. They, "well-prepared for fight, to obtain by sharp swords glory for prince, honour for themselves", go further to fight.

At first, "at dawn, on Friday, in fogs", the Russian army defeats enemies, seizing a lot of gold, silk, jewels. Igor thinks that enemies are completely defeated and decides to go further. But the Polovtsy are only weakened. They went to steppe and collected a new army, a more numerous one. The huge horde approached Igor's camp where he had stopped for night's lodging. Igor and Bui-Tur Vsevolod foreboded bloody battle. Anyone in their place would retreat, but they decided to fight with enemies, whose forces many times exceeded theirs. Two huge armies faced each other in a terrible battle. Russian armies showed huge courage and fortitude. During the battle Bui-Tur Vsevolod fought with military valour. His army stood in defensive position. Only on the third day of the fight Igor's army lost. Enemies won the Russian army by number of soldiers. Many Russian soldiers were killed in that fight. Prince Igor Novgorod-Seversky was taken as prisoner. After the description of the unsuccessful campaign in "The Word about Igor's Regiment" the grief, woe of all Russian people and Russian land is shown. The defeat of Russian army encouraged enemies. They carried out numerous attacks on Russia. Stopped once by Svyatoslav, the father of Igor and Vsevolod, they again attacked Russia. The grief spread over Russia: "... Kiev groans, Chernigov is heavily levied". Cities rendered tribute to enemies on the basis "one squirrel from a homestead".The second part of the work is devoted to Svyatoslav the Great. He is described as clever, wise governor and commander. He does not approve Igor's and Vsevolod's deeds. Svyatoslav understands that they are to blame for intensive enemies` attacks on Russia.

Svyatoslav has a dream. He takes it for omen. Great Kiev prince collects boyars, so they will interpret his dream. Boyars The Word about Igoranswer him that the main meaning of the dream is that two sons of Svyatoslav, who had small armies on battle field, were defeated. Due to this interpretation Svyatoslav comes to the conclusion that enemies could only be won by united forces. He expresses this idea in "the golden word". The idea is to unite the forces of all Russian princes: Yaroslav Osmomysl, Vsevolod Suzdalsky, Mstislav, Bui Roman, Ingvar. Svyatoslav calls to stop all internal conflicts, otherwise enemies could not be defeated, he calls to protect Russia against enemies and to revenge for Igor and Vsevolod.

The main idea of "The Word about Igor's Regiment" is that Russia should be united, there shouldn't be small divided principalities. Such dissociation inevitably brings even the strong state into inevitable destruction. The example of prince Igor Novgorod-Seversky shows that separated armies could not defeat a strong enemy. Only united forces can accomplish this. "The Word about Igor's Regiment" turned out to be a prophetical work. It predicted the further historical development of Russia in the subsequent epoch.

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