Representations of military exploits are commonly used as “building material” in the post-Soviet reconstruction of collective identities. In the case of medieval battles, the scarcity of sources as well as temporal distance has allowed the production of relatively liberal representations, making them adjustable material for supporting contemporary ideas and power structures. The Battle of Kulikovo provides an illustrative case study. It took place in 1380 between troops commanded by Muscovite Grand Prince Dmitrii Ivanovich and Mongolian Emir Mamai. In Russian national historiography the battle has been considered as a major turning point. One of the most central sources used by national historians has been The Tale of the Rout of Mamai , presumably originally produced at the turn of the 16 th century. In this article the text is examined as a reflection of certain contemporary religious-political developments. It can be claimed that the dualistic approach of the text, which emphasizes unified resistance against an external threat, has been applicable in strengthening ideas of internal cohesion in the Grand Duchy of Muscovy, the Russian empire and the Soviet Union, as well as post-Soviet Russia, creating an anachronistically toned basis for the collective imagery concerning the battle.
Russian History – Brill
Published: May 20, 2015
Keywords: battle narrative; Muscovy; Orthodox Church; Kulikovo; historiography
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