Novgorodian Travelers to the Mediterranean World in the Middle Ages
Studies in the Mediterranean World Past and Present (1988)
“Novgorod the Great,” a unique republic city state in the 12th-15th centuries, was situated at the Northwest corner of the Russian plain, not far from the Baltic Sea. It was on the northern fringe of the East European regions that shared a common Byzantine cultural heritage. In other words, Novgorod occupied a place on the furthermost end of “the Byzantine Com- monwealth” in Obolensky’s term. In spite of this long distance, Novgorod during that period played an important role in Russia’s cultural contacts with its parent civilization. A series of Novgorodian travel accounts about Constantinople are one of the most noteworthy results ofNovgorod’s contribution in this respect. At least four travel accounts to Constantinople can be at- tributed to Novgorodians taken from roughly ten pilgrim tales left by Russians from many areas until the year of 1453. They are: (1) the Pilgrim Book of Dobrynia Iadreikovich, later Archbishop Antonii of Novgorod (1200-1204), (2) the anonymous description of Constantinople which is attributed to Vas山i Kaleka, (3) the journey of Stefan of Novgorod (1348 or 1349), and (4) Alexander the Clerk’s description of Constantinople. Besides these, we might just as well add as the tale of the occupation of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204, a description of which is based on a report by a Novgorodian eyewitness.