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Zadonshchina (roughly, The Battle Beyond the Don) is the conventional title for a medieval literary work about the historically important Battle of Kulikovo Field (1380). Written some years after the historical event, in the late fourteenth or possibly the beginning of the fifteenth century, it is attributed in one of the surviving copies to a Sofonia of Ryazan about whom nothing is known. The text is preserved in a longer and a shorter redaction, giving rise to the usual arguments in these cases over which was the "original." Primacy is important to the crucial question of Zadonshchina 's relationship to the Lay of Igor's Campaign. The short redaction appears to be an incomplete extract and not the author's text.

There can be no doubt of a close association with the Lay in view of extensive similarities that go beyond any mutual dependence on some third source or tradition. Zadonshchina was almost certainly written as an imitation of the Lay and a response to it, treating the victory at Kulikovo as revenge for the defeat of Igor at the hands of a different steppe enemy. The writer sought to reverse circumstances of 1185 as described in the Lay, turning Igor's unsuccessful campaign upside down, so to speak. In the process he distorted history: For example, by exaggerating the unity of the princes in 1380 in order to counterbalance the disunity of 1185. Most of his figures of speech are borrowed from the Lay and often ineptly combined and overused. For these reasons, Zadonshchina is considered derivative and inferior.

See also: folklore; lay of igor's campaign


Jakobson, Roman, and Worth, Dean S., eds. (1963). Sofonija's Tale of the Russian-Tatar Battle on the Kulikovo Field. The Hague: Mouton.

Zenkovsky, Serge A., tr. and ed. (1974). Medieval Russia's Epics, Chronicles, and Tales, 2d ed. rev. New York: Dutton.

Norman W. Ingham