Gvozdev, Egor
#Antonov, Dimitrij I.
#Grand Duchy of Moscow
#Cultural History
#Time of Trouble
#Boris Godunov
#Vasilij Shuijskij
#Early Modern
Antonov, Tsars and impostors. The struggle of ideas in Russia in the Time of Troubles
Annotation author: Gvozdev, Egor
Book author: Antonov, Dimitrij I.

Dmitrij I. Antonov, Цари и самозванцы: борьба идей в России Смутного времени. [Tsars and impostors. The struggle of ideas in Russia in the Time of Troubles], Moscow 2019

Dmitrij I. Antonov has been working as a Director at the Center of Visual Studies of the Middle Ages and Modern Times at the Russian State University for the Humanities (RSUH) since 2019. In 2006 he defended PhD thesis at the RSUH on “Self-consciousness of the Old Russian scribe in the Time of Troubles”. He became a Doctor of Science with the topic “Demonology in the visual culture of Muscovites” in 2019. His scientific interests are related to the visual culture of the Tsardom of Russia, semiotics of iconography and cultural history of Russia.

This book is the second revision of the PhD dissertation (2006). The first version was published in 2009 (“Time of Trouble in the Culture of Medieval Russia: The Evolution of Old Russian Mythologems in Early Seventeenth-Century booklore”). The second version of the book does not follow the structure of the thesis but is organised according to the problematic principle.

The book is dedicated to the Time of Trouble (1598–1613) in the Tsardom of Russia. According to the author, the Smuta (Time of Trouble) is a “Lieu de mémoire” (place of memory) of Russian history. The period is usually interpreted as a time of political, dynastic, and military crisis, but the cultural transformation is still neglected in the historiography. Nonetheless, it represented a process in which ideas, mythologemes and institutions of power evolved. Among other things, this is a period of unique events, when the ruling dynasty of Kalitichi was interrupted, the first tsar was elected, and a non-Orthodox intervention was carried out.

Thus, the author’s focus will be on the understanding the epoch through the prism of the contemporaries, mainly in booklore culture. The author’s methodology is hermeneutic analysis of texts and symbols, as well as semiotics and phenomenology. The work mainly focuses on the three treatises: “История в память предыдущим родом” by Avraam Palizyn, “Временник by Ivan Timofeev and “Словеса дней, и царей, и святителей московских, еже естьв России by Ivan Hvorostin.

The first chapter (p. 27–42) is devoted to the first election of the tsar (Boris Godunov) to the throne. The author supposed that such a model proved to be weaker than the traditional idea of the hereditary nature of authority, to which the impostors would then appeal. On the other hand, the model of Godunov’s election would then be repeated in the election of Mikhail Romanov (1613).

Chapter 2 (p. 48–69) dedicated to the criticism of Boris Godunov by his contemporaries. Contemporaries appreciated the rationality of the tsar’s actions, but they chastised him for pride. Antonov supposed that “theory of executions” was in action, whereby after the sinner (Boris Godunov), the country will be punished by the coming of the Antichrist (False Dmitrij I).

Chapter 3 (p. 68–115) deals with the legends about the impostor False Dmitrij I. The author situates the conflict within the framework of mythologemes. The opponents create a demonic image of False Dmitrij I. His image is inscribed in the eschatological context, which reached its apogee in this era, not only in the booklore, but in every segment of society.

Chapter 4 (p. 116–135) focuses on the dichotomy of the oath. On the one hand, the oath is a sin, but the breaking of the oath is also a sin. Antonov assumed, that cross kissing was in a grey area and theories have been developed about “evil” and “good” oaths. The author notes the role of the pastoral function of the Grand Prince or Tsar propagated from the 15th century onwards, which reaches full sacralisation in the 17th century, when any transgression against the faith is not only a sin but also treason.

In the chapter 5 (p. 136–151) the author dwells on the analysis of Ivan Timofeev’s treatise. According to that unique treatise, the Time of Trouble was started by Ivan IV and his repressions. On the other hand, according to Timofeev, any natural born ruler is better than the chosen. Accordingly, in the Time of Trouble there was widowhood of power when an “ex-slave” became a tsar.

Chapter 6 (p. 136–151) dedicated to the demonization of the image of the enemies in the Russian treatises. The author makes a connection between the iconography of the demons and descriptions of the enemies in the treatises. The Time of Trouble ended with the enthronement of Mikhail Romanov. Later the Romanovs dynasty will try to build legitimisation through a combination of inheritance and election.

The value of this monography lies with the fact that it offers a convincing reconstruction of polyphony of the voices about the Time of Trouble. Dr. Antonov tried to understand the perceptions of contemporaries according to their own descriptive method. The generalisation of the opinions of the three authors to the abstract perceptions of contemporaries may, however, be somewhat controversial. The work is characterised by a wide range of sources, which allows the author, to reflect on the topic of which mythologems and motifs pass from one sphere to another, for example, from visual culture to the written sources.

Dr. Antonov’s book is fascinating and sheds new light on the Time of Trouble perception. The monograph is essential for researchers of the history of the Tsardom of Russia in the Early Modern period and all the more for cultural history specialists.