"Zadonshchina" is a monument of ancient Russian literature of the end of the ХIV century. The authorship belongs to Sofony Ryazanets. The narrative is opposed to "The Word about Igor's Regiment", which described a defeat of the Russian army in the battle with Polovtsy and a brilliant victory of the Russian armed forces led by Moscow prince Dmitry.
"Zadonshchina" is a part of stories which appeared in connection with Kulikovo battle. The story developed on the basis of annalistic legend, folklore legends, and national poetic creativity.
On September 8, 1380 on Kulikovo field (a district within the limits of the Tulskaya oblast located in the upper Don river, at the confluence with the river NepNep, in 1380 - "wild field" - unsettled steppe) a battle between a coalition of the Russian princes headed by the Moscow grand duke Dmitry Ivanovich and the Mongolian-Tatar army, strengthened by mercenary troops, under the leadership of Mamai, the Horde khan, took place. It was the first big battle between the Russians and the enslavers after the imposition of Mongolian-Tatar yoke (1237). This battle ended in utter defeat of the Mongolian-Tatars. Kulikovo battle (frequently referred to as Mamai battle) did not terminate foreign yoke in Russia (it would be only in 100 years - in 1480), but the character of relations between Russian principalities and the Horde drastically changed, the dominant and unifying role of the Moscow principality and the Moscow prince became evident.
Kulikovo battle showed that being united Russian principalities could successfully withstand the Mongolian-Tatars. The victory on Kulikovo field had huge moral value for national consciousness. It is not accidental that the name of Saint Sergey was connected with this event: the founder and superior of Troitsky monastery, according to the legend blessed Dmitry the Moscow to the campaign (Dmitry was nicknamed 'Donskoy' after the battle on Kulikovo field) against Mamai and, notwithstanding monastery rules, Sergey sent with Dmitry`s soldiers two monks of the monastery to the field of battle: their names were Oslyabya and Peresvet. Russian people have been interested in the events of Kulikovo battle since that time. In Ancient Russia a number of works devoted to the battle of 1380 were written, these works in Russian literature are collected under the name of "Kulikovo cycle": annalistic stories about Kulikovo battle, "Zadonshchina", "The Legend of Mamai Battle".
"Zadonshchina" is an emotional, lyrical response to the events of Kulikovo battle. "Zadonshchina" is known in 6 rolls, the earliest of which, Kirillo-Belozersky (K-B), composed by Efrosin, the monk of Kirillo-Belozersky monastery, in the 70-80s of the XV century, represents the processing of only the first half of the original text. The remaining 5 rolls are of later time (the earliest of them - a fragment of the end of the XV - beginning of the XVI centuries, the others - XVI-XVII centuries). Only two rolls contain the full text, in all lists there are a lot of mistakes and distortions. Therefore, only on the basis of all rolls taken together, it is possible to reconstruct the whole text.
Many researchers date the time of "Zadonshchina" creation as 80-s of XIV century.
It is traditionally considered, that the author of "Zadonshchina" was some Sofony Ryazanets: in two rolls of "Zadonshchina" he was named the author of the work. In Tver annals there is a small fragment of the text, which is close to some passages of "Zadonshchina" and "The Legend of Mamai Battle", beginning with such phrase: "And this writing of Sofony Ryazanetrs, Bryansk boyar, to praise grand duke Dmitry Ivanovich and his brother prince Volodimer Andreyevich" (before this record there is the date of Kulikovo battle - 1380).
A.D. Sedelnikov paid attention to the similarity of this name to the name of Ryazan boyar from the environment of Oleg, the Ryazan prince - Sofony Altykulachevich (Oleg Ryazansky was going to fight in 1380 on Mamai's side). Thus, Sofony Ryazanets, undoubtedly, is somehow connected with the works of Kulikovo cycle. In the text of "Zadonshchina" he is referred as a person alien to the author of the work: "Nevertheless I mention Sofony Ryazanets..." On the basis of this citation the researcher of Kuikovo cycle I.Nazarov in 1858 asserted, that the above-mentioned makes Sofony the predecessor of "Zadonshchina" author.
Recently the hypothesis about the Sofony's authorship has been examined by R.P. Dmitrieva, and her conclusion is, that Sofony was not the author of "Zadonshchina": "... the latter refers to Sofony as to the poet or the singer of his time, whose creativity he was inclined to imitate." Apparently, Sofony was the author of a poetic work (which unfortunately had not been preserved to our time) about Kulikovo battle; poetic images of this work influenced the authors of "Zadonshchina" and "The Legend of Mamai Battle". This assumption is in concord with the hypothesis of academician A.A. Shakhmatov about the existence of lost "The Word of Mamai Battle".
The basic idea of "Zadonshchina" is to stress the significance of Kulikovo battle. The author of the work exclaims, that the glory of the victory on Kulikovo field reached different parts of the world. Real events of Kulikovo battle lie in the basis of the work. The story takes us from one place to another: from Moscow to Kulikovo field, again to Moscow, to Novgorod, then again to Kulikovo field. The present intertwines with reminiscences of the past. The author himself characterized the work as "compassion and praise to grand duke Dmitry Ivanovich and his brother prince Vladimir Ondreyevich".
Already from the character of the work, from combination of mourning and praise "Zadonshchina" is close to "The word about Igor's Regiment". This similarity is not only of general character, but also of direct one and this is another remarkable feature of this work of ancient Russian literature.
A number of scientists proceed from the point of view that "The Word" was written in imitation to "Zadonshchina" (French scientists L.Lezhe, A.Mazon, Russian historian A.A. Zimin). Comparative analysis of texts of "The Word" and "Zadonshchina", study of writing style of Efrosin, who is the author of "K-B", examination of phraseology and lexicon of "The Word" and "Zadonshchina" - all testifies to the fact that "Zadonshchina" is secondary compared to "The Word about Igor's regiment".
"Zadonshchina" was repeatedly translated into the modern Russian language; poetic expositions of the work (by V.M. Sayanov, I.A. Novikov, A.Skripov, A.Zhovtis) were carried out as well. "Zadonshchina" was translated into a number of foreign languages. Many scientific researches are devoted to this work.