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The Cyrillo-Methodian Studies at the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century: Problems and Prospects

The terms "Cyrillo-Methodian mission" and "Cyrillo-Methodian traditions usually refer, in narrow sense, to the ninth-century activities of the brothers Cyril and Methodius among the Slavs, that is, the creation of a new Slavic alphabet and the translation of the main liturgical books and their transmission first to Great Moravia and, after the death of the two apostles and the collapse of their mission there in 886, to the medieval Bulgarian empire by their disciples. In a broader sense, those terms are often applied to a series of aspects of Slavic social and cultural life throughout the Middle Ages: the script, language, history, literature, archaeology, fine and applied arts, architecture, music, and cultural traditions of Slavdom since the ninth century down to the present day. Finally, the so-called Cyrillo-Methodian idea is a system of values that unquestionably constitute an important part of the European cultural heritage, and that are acquiring a new role and meaning in the contemporary world. This paper offers an overview of the current state of research on the Cyrillo-Methodian mission, on some of its results, and on future prospects.

A new generation of experts in Slavic, Byzantine and Comparative European Medieval Studies, who are embarking on their career at the beginning of the twenty-first century, have the fortunate opportunity to devote themselves to Cyrillo-Methodian Studies in much more favorable conditions than were available a decade earlier. The corpus of medieval manuscripts has been enriched significantly and the tools of theoretical inquiry have been extended, enabling much more precise analysis of a growing body of primary data. Even though it is common to speak of a "crisis" in Slavic and Byzantine Studies, we should also recognize that a considerable part of the problems that were hotly debated by our predecessors have recently found new and, in many cases, acceptable solutions. This raises the question of why the past decade has been such a fruitful period for Cyrillo-Methodian studies.

It is well-known that after World War II, in the second half of the twentieth century, philology in the Slavic countries of Eastern and Southeastern Europe continued to develop as distinctly national sciences, i.e., in the form in which they had emerged as early as the seventeenth century, due to the fact that they were regarded primarily as sciences of the respective national languages. Thus, the main debates on the work of Cyril and Methodius — its origins, scope, character and traditions — were determined by a largely schematized concept and interpretation of historical facts. The methods of "national philology", which had done so much for elucidating the cultural heritage of particular language groups, ultimately led to neglect of general principles and common models, especially of the Orthodox Christian tradition, which had played an important role in both the social and literary history of Europe for centuries.

The 1990s proved a watershed that heralded a new age as philology found itself enrich by a variety of new perspectives and approaches, frames of reference were diversified, and prior stringent limitations were removed. This development facilitated the gradual harmonization of what had previously been conflicting — and even incompatible — positions. If in the past the priorities of medieval Slavic specialists were often dictated by local political models and assumptions, today, in the context of EU enlargement, many earlier prejudices have paled or have even disappeared entirely as what used to be called "national causes" have been incorporated into the processes of integration under way in Europe and the world. In the spirit of the European principle of "unity in diversity", separate facts and phenomena are increasingly regarded as an integral part of the bilateral and multilateral relations and contacts that constitute the Balkan and European cultural heritage.

Which are the most salient new tendencies in medieval Slavic and Cyrillo-Methodian Studies? It is noteworthy that the Cyrillo-Methodian mission is increasingly placed in the broader context of East-West interaction, involving both ideas and concrete acts. Crucial analyses in this respect were offered by scholars from fifteen countries at the conference on Medieval Christian Europe: East and West. Traditions, Values, Communications held in Sofia in 2000 (Proceedings 2002). Thus, for example, the Slavonic translation of the Bible was examined as an ecumenical link between the Eastern and Western traditions (Thomson 2002), and monastic culture in all its forms as an essential part of medieval Slavdom (Schreiner 2002). The written records and translations in the "triangle" formed by Greater Moravia, Kievan Rus', and Preslav were subjected to a new thorough analysis (Ševčenko 1991, Thomson 1999, Veder 1994a , Veder 1994b, Veder 1999, Буланин 1991, Буланин 1995) . This tendency was visible even earlier, at the international conference on Thessaloniki-Magna Moravia, held in October 1997 (Proceedings 1999). Many new facts were revealed, shedding light on the key questions underlying these conferences: to what extent and in what form did the Slavs know and embrace Byzantine culture and literature, and in what forms was the latter transmitted in Slavic manuscripts. It was established that the corpus of translated Slavonic texts used in the first decades after the propagation of the Slavonic alphabet is much richer than we thought ten years ago, and this offers great opportunities for new observations and conclusions.

The greater possibilities for synthesis and conceptualization of accumulated facts are evidenced by a number of recent monographic studies by prominent medieval Slavic specialists. For example, among American contributions one might mention the well-known generalized works of such senior scholars as Henrik Birnbaum and Ihor Ševčenko, as well as the exciting work of such young colleagues as Robert Romanchuk, who applies a modern literary critical point of view on florilegia and other excerpts from Scripture in the context of the acquisition and transmission of Byzantine heritage among the Slavs.

Contemporary studies that are distinguished by an interdisciplinary approach are part of a trend in scholarship to concentrate on "the Byzantine Commonwealth", a term coined by Dimitry Obolensky, and the work of Cyril and Methodius can be examined within the context of the history of Byzantium's political, diplomatic, ecclesiastical, and cultural relations with the peoples of Eastern Europe. In this context, it is noteworthy that contemporary scholarly literature tends increasingly to incorporate an ever broadening range of facts and phenomena from cultures that were previously considered peripheral, such as Byzantium's eastern provinces in Asia Minor, the Mediterranean islands, or Georgia and Armenia. This tendency can be illustrated by the collection Bizancio (Velmans, Korac, Šuput 1999), which compares Byzantine works of art from the Balkans, the Middle East, and Asia.

Along with cultural anthropological research combining facts from both history and the literary heritage, there have also been innovative studies of the language of translations in the context of the Byzantine-Slavic commonwealth. For example, in his book on the oldest Slavonic texts E. M. Vereščagin (Верещагин 1997) offers a new perspective on one of the most difficult fields in this area, the translation technique of Cyril and Methodius and their disciples at the lexical, morphological and semantic levels, tracing the formation of terms and expressive devices in poetic texts. The methodology applied in this book will undoubtedly find followers among young scholars.

The past few years have also seen the publication of original texts in editions based on entirely new principles, such as the new critical edition of the Cyrillo-Methodian translation of the Bible (implemented by the Cyrillo-Methodian Research Centre at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences). After almost sixty years, there is renewed interest in the medieval Slavic translation of the Old Testament, starting with the remarkable edition of Professor Roumyana Zlatanova (Heidelberg) of the the twelve minor prophets with commentary by Theodoret of Cyrrhus (1998). This monograph, which is based on the complete Slavic translation, as well as on the version of the Parimejnik and Croatian breviaries, is of great importance for the general principles of critical editions of biblical texts, and the accompanying dictionaries lay the beginnings of a future biblical Old Church Slavonic-Greek and Greek-Old Church Slavonic dictionary.

Discussion of the edition of the Church Slavonic translation of the New Testament and the need for a contemporary integrated approach to the solution of controversial issues has been continued in an invaluable edition of The Gospel According to St. John (1998) published by a team of Russian researchers headed by A. Alekseev. This book generalizes the results of research on the liturgical text of the Byzantine and Church Slavonic Gospel based on more than one thousand manuscripts, and raises crucial textological and liturgical problems, in response to which the authors propose a new hypothesis: Cyril and Methodius initially translated a liturgical Tetraevangelium, whereas the short and full Aprakos were formed only after the 893 council in Bulgaria. One should note also their conclusions about the possible Greek prototype of the first translation, as well as the thesis that the Byzantine gospels that served as a model of Slavic liturgical books between the nineth and fourteenth centuries were not only numerous, but also quite varied by type. These observations provide new possibilities for studying the constant and active Byzantine-Slavic literary contacts in the age of both the First and the Second Bulgarian Empire. A valuable contribution to the publication of Slavic sources is also made by the edition of the Grigorovičev Parimejnik by Zdenka Ribarova (1998), Ephrem of Syria's Paraenesis by Christian Voss (1997), the Pandects of Nikon Černogorec by Kiril Maksimovič (1998, postulating a Russian text) and by Rumyana Pavlova and Sabka Bogdanova (2000, postulating a middle Bulgarian texts). Last but not least, the academic community's attention was recently attracted by the text-critical edition of the Vatican Palimpsest, a newly discovered tenth-century Cyrillic Aprakos (Кръстанов и др.1996), which was also the object of a facsimile edition the examines the ornamentation of the manuscript in the context of the medieval Slavonic graphic tradition (Džurova 2002).

The major discoveries and most fruitful investigations of the sources concerning Cyril and Methodius have been made in the sphere of Slavic hymnography. In the past liturgical poetry was defined, on the one hand, as literature with purely religious purposes, which (according to the dogmatic concept of "literature" that predominated from the 1950s to the 1980s) had no aesthetic value; on the other, liturgical poetry was a largely uncharted area, since its study required very specialized knowledge. Two Bulgarian scholars have made fundamental contribution in this area: Stefan Kožuxarov and Georgi Popov. Thanks to them, our knowledge of the volume and content of Old Bulgarian hymnography have acquired considerably greater clarity. Kožuxarov was responsible for discovering a number of previously unknown texts from the hymnography of St. Methodius, Naum of Ohrid and Constantine of Preslav. The Canon in honor of St. Demetrios of Thessalonike, patron of the Slavic apostles, which is attributed to St. Methodius, is now known in copies dating from the twelfth century. Georgi Popov thoroughly studied the hymnography of Clement of Ohrid and discovered new works by Constantine of Preslav and anonymous authors. Popov's recent investigation on the Office of St. Methodius reveals a new brilliant example of joint work between Constantine of Preslav and St. Clement of Ohrid (Popov 2001; Popov 2002). The Canon for St. Clement of Rome, associated with Constantine-Cyril, was published by Vereščagin on the basis of the earliest twelfth-century copy from the so-called Iljina kniga (Book of Ilija) (Верещагин 1994). We now know for sure that the Slavic liturgical books oktoechos, triodion, pentekostarion, sticherarion, and others, which were formerly presumed to be literal translations from the Greek, are distinctly original in character. The Slavic writers demonstrate high skills, having not only mastered the genre forms of Byzantine hymnography, but also inserting their own poetic texts. A number of scholars have enriched this area with new discoveries: Maria Jovčeva (on the Oktoechos and Menaion), Konstantinos Nichoritis (Offices for St. Cyril and for St. Demetrios of Thessalonike), Bojka Mirčeva (Offices for St. Cyril), Radoslava Stankova (Office for St. Demetrios of Thessalonike), etc. We should also note a late Office for St. Cyril, discovered by Klimentina Ivanova and known from a single seventeenth-century Bulgarian copy, in which there is a discernible influence of the legendary monument Solunska Legenda (Ivanova 1992). Ivanova also discovered a new hagiographic text devoted to St. Methodius, which she called Uspenie Metodievo (Dormition of Methodius, Иванова 1999). A contribution to the question of the fate of the Cyrillo-Methodian cause in Bulgaria has also been made by Anatolij A. Turilov, who drew the academic community's attention to an unknown menologion that provides evidence about the conversion to Christianity and the history of the First Bulgarian Empire (Turilov 1999).

The second direction in which the study of original sources has developed in recent years is the tracing of unknown Latin monuments containing evidence about Cyril and Methodius. The Bulgarian researcher Slavija Barlieva has discovered hitherto unknown texts associated with the so-called Legenda aurea, as well as certain late West European hymnographical eulogies to the Thessaloniki brothers (Barlieva 1998). The Greek written tradition, both hagiographic and hymnographic, devoted to Cyril and Methodius, also deserves attention. Tracing the continuity of the Cyrillo-Methodian traditions at Mt. Athos since the eleventh century, the Greek scholar K. Nichoritis has published detailed evidence about the commemoration of Cyril, Methodius, Clement, and Naum in Greek and Slavic manuscripts of Athonite origins (Нихоритис 1990; Νιχωρίτις 2000). He has justified the thesis that while in the ninth and tenth centuries the cult of the Thessaloniki brothers tended to be local, confined mainly to the Slavs, this cult eventually acquired a pan-Balkan character through the Ohrid Archiepiscopate, which had close contacts with the monasteries of Mt. Athos.

I would like also to mention that some general conclusions in the field have appeared in volumes three and four of the Cyrillo-Methodian Encyclopeadia, which was published recently in Bulgaria under the editorship of Liljana Graševa, Svetlina Nikolova and Klimentina Ivanova. The last volumes of this fundamental edition are undoubtedly one of the most important achievements in humanities scholarship of the early twenty-first century.

One of the main objectives of scholars is to trace, describe, and announce our manuscript heritage, and to publish hitherto unpublished monuments contained in manuscripts. This is an extremely labor-intensive task, and one that has been and continues to be pursued by generations of scholars. It is associated, inter alia, with the provision of access to archives and manuscript collections in monasteries and libraries. The publication of data about unknown manuscripts is of critical importance for both Byzantine and Slavic Studies. A good example of this is the catalogue of newly discovered manuscripts at St. Catherine Monastery on Mount Sinai by Professor Ioannis Tarnanidis, published in 1988, which was followed by several dozen publications based on the materials described and published by Professor Tarnanidis (cf. e.g. Tarnanidis 1992, 2001). Special interest in regard to the lifework of Cyril and Methodius was aroused by the discovery of a parchment manuscript written in the Glagolitic and containing a Slavonic translation of the Liturgy of St. Peter in a version that combines elements of the Eastern and Western liturgy. Professor Tarnanidis justifiably attributes this translation to Cyril and Methodius, citing both the age of the codex (tenth-eleventh century) and the specificity in the application of this hymnographical text in connection with the Cyrilo-Methodian mission to the Western Slavs. He associates the appearance of such a text not with Southern Italy (a thesis supported by other authors), but with Thessaloniki, where such a Byzantine-Latin form of liturgy could have been preserved in that early age. I am providing this example because it eloquently illustrates the importance of publishing new and unknown manuscripts and collections. The subject of Thessaloniki in the Middle Ages is also discussed in a number of publications by Antoan-Emil Tachiaos, Faedon Malingoudis, and in other works.

There have also been impressive achievements in the study and cataloguing of collections of Slavic manuscripts in the past several years. In Bulgaria, an analytical catalogue of Slavic manuscripts at the Ivan Dujčev Centre was published for the first time (Христова и др. 2000). Bulgarian scholars are also working on a catalogue of the manuscripts kept in Samokov (Джурова, Велинова 2002) and on an analytical description of the collection at the Ecclesiastical Historical-Archival Institute in Sofia. The catalogue of Slavic manuscripts at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome (Džurova, A., K. Stančev. 1997), where a number of copies of works by St. Clement of Ohrid were discovered, is very important, too. The past few years have also seen the publication of volume two of the analytical catalogue of the manuscripts from the Rumjancev museum collection of the RGB (Russian State Library) in Moscow by Tat'jana Isačenko (Isačenko 1997) and a catalogue of fifteenth-century Slavic-Russian manuscripts at RGADA (the State Archive of Russia), Moscow, compiled by Anatolij Turilov (Turilov 2000), which include copies of a series of translations from the earliest age of Slavic writing (ninth-tenth century). Certain more specialized inventories have also appeared, e.g., the catalogue of the Bulgarian medieval cultural heritage in the Xludov Collection at the State Historical Museum in Moscow (Николова и др. 1999), which contains copies of the Proglas by Constantine-Cyril, of the Homilies of Clement of Ohrid and John the Exarch, of the Offices for Cyril and Methodius, etc.

The cataloguing of Slavic manuscripts at Mt. Athos is undoubtedly of crucial importance. A catalogue of manuscripts from Zographou Monastery was published in 1994 (Райков и др. 1994), followed by a short catalogue of Slavic manuscripts in Vatopedi in 1996 (Pavlikianov 1996); the inventory of Slavic manuscripts at the Athonite monasteries (Турилов, Мошкова 1999, edited and with an introduction by Antoine-Emil Tachiaos) makes an invaluable contribution to archeography and medieval Slavonic studies. The edition, regardless of some omissions and mistakes (indicated by Francis Thomson in his review) is very useful. The collection of microfilms, documents, and books in the Hilandar Research Center and Library in Columbus, Ohio, is unparalleled not only for preservation and conservation, but also for fast access and effective work with Slavic manuscripts from the monasteries of Mt. Athos and elsewhere. The cataloguing and description of manuscripts there have made many new attributions and identifications in dating and localization and in refining the available descriptions of the paleographic characteristics of manuscripts. These publications have, in turn, served as a basis for new studies.

Finally, I want to emphasize especially that new methods of preparing critical editions based on the computer processing of manuscript texts have been applied in Byzantine-Slavic Studies in the past few years. This is reflected, for example, in books by the Dutch scholars Michael Bakker on the critical edition of the New Testament (Bakker 1996) and Johannes Van der Tak on the edition of the Apostolos (Van der Tak 1999). The founder of this trend in research at the beginning of 1980s was Willam Veder, professor at Nijmegen and Amsterdam and author of many valuable studies in medieval Slavic philology. Veder's recent publications involve substantially new approaches to Černorizec Xrabr's treatise O pismenex and early Slavic miscellanies, including translations of the Patericon and of the Byzantine florilegia. His contribution to the study of these issues was also the first attempt to build description of medieval manuscripts in electronic form. At that time (the beginning of 1980s) this was a particularly difficult task because of the proliferation of incompatible hardware and software platforms, not to mention the non-technology inconsistencies found in the plethora of terminological and other traditional topics of manuscript description used by Slavists from different countries. There still exists no significant coordination between Slavists and specialists in the fields of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew paleography and codicology, and this lack of coordination has led scholars to overlook the necessity of developing systems for Slavic studies that must be compatible with systems that are already in use in these related fields.

The Bulgarian-American project Computer-Supported Processing of Medieval Slavic Manuscripts (sponsored by IREX and begun in 1994), introduced a new approach to the analytical description of Slavic manuscripts in electronic form on the basis of SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language) as implementation by the TEI (Text Encoding Initiative). The goal of that project was to create a sophisticated system for describing and processing medieval Slavic manuscripts in a general format suitable for multiple uses. The proposed "template" for encoding medieval Slavic manuscripts (TSM) was discussed at two international conferences-in Blagoevgrad (1995) and in Pomorie (2002), with the results published in the anthologies Medieval Slavic Manuscripts and SGML (2000), Computational Approaches to the Study of Early and Modern Slavic Languages and Texts (2003) and in the first issue of the new journal Scripta & e-Scripta (2003).

The Institute of Literature at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences has implemented a special international project named "Repertorium", which continues earlier research within an XML framework, and to date we have encoded analytical descriptions of approximately three hundred manuscripts from the eleventh through the eighteenth centuries. The idea of designing a digital Repertorium of the medieval literature of Orthodox Slavs, which includes Byzantine sources and applies a generalized standard that makes it easily accessible for both scientific and educational purposes, has already been materialized, and some of the results of the computational analysis of this material will be demonstrated in my presentation tomorrow.

The research described above, which reflects the present state of medieval Slavic studies, marks high achievements in two areas in particular: introducing important new facts and phenomena into scientific circulation and reformulating fundamental theoretical questions concerning the Cyrillo-Methodian mission to the Slavs. Examining these problems in the context of the Orthodox Byzantine-Slavic commonwealth and, more generally, of the cultural processes underway in Medieval Europe, is undoubtedly also relevant. It would certainly not be an overstatement to say that collegial dialogue and a spirit of cooperation and objectivity are leading traits of scholars in this special field of the humanities today. That is precisely why-despite the numerous still-unresolved questions-we can look towards the next decades with a considerable amount of optimism.


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