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'Let it be known': Interrogating Historical Writing in Church Slavonic Paratexts of Southeastern Europe (1371-1711)

Nikolovska, Kristina (2015) 'Let it be known': Interrogating Historical Writing in Church Slavonic Paratexts of Southeastern Europe (1371-1711). Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent, Freie Universität Berlin. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.53887) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:53887)

Language: English

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The period of Ottoman rule, pejoratively termed the ‘Turkish yoke’, is often regarded in the Balkans – a region divided by quests for self-definition – as a period of darkness and suffering. Given the paucity of South Slavic historical records, scholars have sought to corroborate evidence of the ‘yoke’ in ‘historical paratexts’, fragmentary records of historical events to be found in the margins of Church Slavonic manuscripts and early printed books. With the Ottoman Empire on the verge of collapse in the first decades of the twentieth century, scholars and folklorists from the several splintered nations that form the Balkans became very interested in archiving and compiling these paratextual materials into published compendia, a trend which continues up to the present day. They believed that conserving these presumed eyewitness testimonials would preserve the core of the nation, an idea that has been transmitted largely unchallenged. These paratexts are seen as ‘writing from below’ which records facts about the suffering brought about by Ottoman rule. Present scholarship in the Balkans has interpreted ‘znatise’ (‘let it be known’), the formulaic expression that announces some of these annotations, as indicative of a self-conscious tendency to create historically truthful records of the South Slavs under Ottoman rule. However, one only needs to sift through these various records to be struck by the repetitions and the limited scope of the patterns that pervade a majority of these inscriptions as opposed to the range of observations that could be expected to result from an autobiographical impulse. This thesis accounts for these patterns and challenges the dominant interpretation of these paratexts by locating them within the larger writing traditions to which they belonged. By interrogating the relationship between paratextual writing and Church Slavonic historiography, this study provides an alternative framework which explains and brings together sources that have otherwise been left disparate and scattered. The formula ‘let it be known’ is to be understood not as testimony but rather as apocalyptic prophecy. The thesis demonstrates that historical paratexts mainly recorded those events -- such as natural disaster, famine, the outbreak of disease and celestial phenomena -- that were understood as portents and figured in apocalyptic literature. In this light, the clergy’s tone towards the military successes and the Ottoman reign is shown to be determined by an apocalyptic understanding of history. We also see how South Slavic attitudes towards the Ottomans were diverse with references to the Sultan ranging from ‘son of perdition’ (Antichrist) to ‘Tsar’ depending on the political relations between a diocese and the Ottoman administration. The thesis also provides new readings of three important paratextual accounts: (i) Monk Isaija’s colophon of 1371 (ii) Deacon Dimitar’s colophon of 1466 and (iii) the self-narratives of Mihail of Kratovo written between 1649 and 1660. The labels of ‘truthfulness’, ‘factuality’, and ‘sincerity’ that have been attributed to these first person accounts are questioned by demonstrating the socially strategic and ambiguous nature of these paratexts.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Landry, Donna
Thesis advisor: Jarzebowski, Claudia
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.53887
Additional information: The author of this thesis has requested that it be held under closed access. We are sorry but we will not be able to give you access or pass on any requests for access. 18/03/2022
Uncontrolled keywords: Church Slavonic, marginalia, paratexts, nationalism, Ottoman Empire, South Slavs, Southeastern Europe, apocalypse, historiography.
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > C Auxiliary sciences of history (General)
D History General and Old World
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2016 14:00 UTC
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2022 14:26 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Nikolovska, Kristina.

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