Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Contribution of Russia and England to world literature in 16th century

(Ivan IV Vasilyevich, "the Terrible", moments before going under chuppa)

For those who think that Mongol invasion had no effect on Russia, ponder these facts:

In in the 11th century, in the times of Yaroslav the Wise, Russia was one of the most civilized countries in Europe, drawing on the rich traditions of Roman and Byzantine Empires. The West was in the middle of Middle Ages. When the daughter of Yaroslav married the son of the French king, she was the only one in the court who used cutlery while eating, knew how to read and write, and did not pass gas in public. She also bathed at least once a week, which put her ahead of the vast majority of French people up until modern times.

Now, let's fast-forward to the 16th century. Russia has recovered from Mongol invasion. It is a centralized state, the largest in Europe, extending from boundaries with Poland to Siberia. It has defeated its worst enemy, Mongol-Tatars, decisively and took their last stronghold, Kazan. It trades with Italy (at around this time, vodka, known as "wheat wine", brought by Genoese sailors to Russia, becomes popular; before then, Russians drank mead), England (around this time, Russians start playing soccer and drinking tea) and other European states. It competes with such super-states of the time as Poland and Turkey, establishing Russian sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, Black sea and Caspian regions lasting until the 20th century.

England is also a centralized state competing with its enemies, France and Spain, for exploration and colonization of the Western hemisphere. It has just defeated Spanish Armada using the island of Ireland as the main weapon. Around this time, England is experimenting with potato as the new future staple food of Europe.

So, let's take examples from English and Russian 16th-century literature.

England (Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare):
O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear;
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear! 
So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows,
As yonder lady o'er her fellows shows. [...]
Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight!
For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.
Russia (Domostroy, ed. by monk Silvester):
But if your wife does not live according to this teaching and instruction, does not do all that is recommended here, if she does not teach her servants, then the husband should punish his wife. Beat her when you are alone together; then forgive her and remonstrate with her. But when you beat her, do not do it in hatred, do not lose control. A husband must never get angry with his wife; a wife must live with her husband in love and purity. 
You should discipline servants and children the same way. Punish them according to the extent of their guilt and the severity of their deed. Lay stripes upon them but, when you have punished them, forgive them. 

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