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Attributions to Andrei Kurbskii and Inferential (Bayesian) Probability

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image of Canadian-American Slavic Studies

Attributions of original works, letters, and translations to Prince Andrei Mikhailovich Kurbskii (d. 1583) have been contested for almost 45 years. This article proposes that Bayesian or inferential probability be applied to a number of the main points of contention. Of central importance to the attribution question are the so-called Kurbskii miscellanies (sborniki Kurbskogo), which date no earlier than the mid-1670s. Among the works in the Kurbskii miscellanies are the History of the Grand Prince of Moscow, letters addressed to Tsar Ivan IV, the “Lithuanian” letters, and the History of the Eighth Council. Proponents of attributing these works to Kurbskii tend to weight the evidence differently from the way the skeptics of those attributions do, and both camps find explanations favorable to their respective positions for unexpected oddities in the evidence. No one issue has been defined conclusively in the favor of one side or the other, but placing the differences in the context of inferential probability may allow us to continue to discuss the contentious issues of the attributions in a productive manner.

Affiliations: 1: Harvard University, USA


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