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Stepan Razin and the Persian Princess: Origins and Fortunes of a Legend Sten'ka Razin und die persische Prinzessin: Urspr√ľnge und Wege einer Legende

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The focal point of the Razin mythology in Russian culture is undoubtedly his killing of a captive Persian princess by drowning her in the Volga River. The legend most likely originated in 1668 in Cossack folklore. In Ludvig Fabritius' version, it was based on rumours about the ritual sacrifice of a young woman ('a high-born Tatar girl') to the river spirit. After Razin's Persian campaign in 1668–69, the Tatar girl was replaced by a Persian princess, according to Jan Janszoon Struys' version. Later, this legend converged with similar folk ballads and with the folk drama Lodka (The Boat). It did not survive in its complete form; by the mid-19th century there were only traces of it left in Russian folklore. Its subsequent popularity was due to Struys' written account from 1676, which inspired countless remouldings in prose and poetry, theatre and cinema, in painting, sculpture and music. Thanks to the popular song Iz-za ostrova na strezhen' (From the Shade of the Island into the Current Stream) based on Dmitri Sadovnikov's 1883 poem the legend returned into oral tradition and began to influence 'original' folk memories of Razin's rebellion.

Two aspects of the story deserve special attention. First, the legend several times crossed and re-crossed the borders of oral and written literature. Second, it presents a striking case of ethno-cultural exchange. In the beginning, a Russian folk legend was first written down in Dutch, then the text saw several translations into French, and these translations, which were often commented and augmented, brought the story back to Russia, where it became part of literary tradition. Later on, some of the poems based on this plot, most of all Sadovnikov's version, were re-absorbed into folk tradition and acquired new details and twists, which again were used by professional writers.
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Keywords: 17TH CENTURY; 18TH CENTURY; 19TH CENTURY; LEGEND; RAZIN; RUSSIA; STEN'KA

Language: German

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2017

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  • The Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas ("East European History") present the discipline in its entire breadth; for thematically focused articles the emphasis lies on the territory of the former Russian Empire and the former Soviet Union. A double-blind review process with international experts ensures adherence to the annals' recognized high quality standards. An extensive section devoted to reviews informs the reader about current trends in German and international research. In addition, the editorial board publishes an electronic review supplement under the title jgo.e-reviews at recensio.net.
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