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Aleksei Kurbatov, Vasilii Tatishchev and the Testament of Ivan the Terrible of 1572

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image of Russian History

The only surviving copy of a Testament of Ivan the Terrible stems from the beginning of the 19th century with a watermark from 1805. In January 1822 the director of the Foreign Office's archive, Aleksei Malinovskii, sent the testament to the historian and novelist Nikolai Karamzin, who was working on his History of the Russian State, and who published it in the commentary to the ninth volume of the History. An analysis of Aleksei Kurbatov's and Vasilii Tatishchev's alledged authorship of the testament's preface and commentary leads to the conclusion that the testament displays the literary devices of a fictional text. The preface presents a story complete with the grammatically ambiguous signature ,,A. Kurbatova“, a host of conflicting dates and several lost copies of a lost original. The argument for Tatishchev's authorship rests solely on some peculiarities concerning the publications of his personal copy of the Sudebnik of 1550. The questions surrounding the testament are resolved easily when one takes into account the literary hints and regards the text as an early 19th-century mystification.


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