Latin sources during the translation of the entire Bible into Slavonic (completed in 1499 but not disseminated in print until 1580-81).30
Medieval Russian culture has been described as 'intellectually silent', producing no great theological or scientific works, impoverished or stunted by limited access to classical education and secular knowledge and an excess of irrational religiosity, but this is to judge it unfairly.31 The arts of book creation, painting, embroidery, the construction of churches and the decoration of palaces celebrated cultural qualities alien to us - originality was not valued, while loyalty to Orthodox tradition and established forms was; and slow, meditative devotion rather than quick flashes of genius created the cultural works that survive from this period. The creative reworking of existing spiritual material was valued above original theological composition, and the manner of book creation in medieval Russia has been compared to the workings of a kaleidoscope - new spiritual insights were gained by reshuffling the limited number of extant devotional texts into new patterns.32
G. P. Fedotov has fruitfully explored the Izmaragd (the Emerald), a devotional reader apparently compiled for both laypeople and clerics, as offering access to the piety of the literate community in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.33 It begins with a glorification of books that belongs equally to the Kievan period of Russian piety and an exposition of the proper manner of reading all spiritual writings, whether scripture or didactic works. Reading, as well as writing, was considered an act of devotion, to be approached with diligence, absorbing and contemplating each word.
The clerical elite (monastic or 'black' clergy, from which bishops were chosen) and the great monastic houses have particular significance as the principal creators, reproducers and repositories of written culture during this period.
30 V A. Romodanovskaia, 'O tseliakh sozdaniia Gennadievskoi Biblii ka pervogo polnogo russkogo Bibleiskogo kodeksa', in Knizhnye tsentry Drevnei Rusi: Severnorusskie monastyri, ed. S. A. Semiachko (St Petersburg: Dmitrii Bulanin, 2001), 278-305; H. R. Cooper, Slavic Scriptures: the formation of the Church Slavonic version of the Holy Bible (London, Ontario: Cranbury, 2003).
31 See Georges Florovsky, 'The problem of Old Russian culture', Slavic Review 21 (1962), 1-15;J. H. Billington, 'Images ofMuscovy', SlavicReview21 (1962), 24-34; D. S. Likhachev, 'Further remarks on the problem of Old Russian culture', Slavic Review 22 (1963), 115-20; F. J. Thomson, 'The corpus of Slavonic translations available in Muscovy: the cause of Old Russia's intellectual silence and a contributory factorin Muscovite cultural autarky', in Christianity and the Eastern Slavs, 1, Slavic cultures in the Middle Ages, ed. B. Gasparov and O. Raevsky-Hughes [California Slavic Studies 16] (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 179-214.
32 W. R. Veder, 'Old Russia's "intellectual silence" reconsidered', inMedievalRussianculture, ed. M. S. Flier and D. Rowland [California Slavic Studies 19] (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 11,18-28.
33 Fedotov, Russian religious mind, 11, 37-112.
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