Per Wikipedia, ‘The Tale of Igor’s Campaign‘ is an anonymous epic poem written in the Old East Slavic language. Britannica calls the poem ‘The Song of Igor’s Campaign‘ and tells that “The Song alone of all Old Russian literature has become a national classic, one that is familiar to every educated Russian. An English translation of it by Vladimir Nabokov was published in 1960.” Britannica’s using the strange term “Old Russian” is not just totally wrong but is also very misleading in regards to the national belonging of the literary masterpiece. Speaking in modern terms, the poem is a Ukrainian epic that tells the real story of Ukraine fighting Asiatic forces that included Russians of that time. The battles were taking place in the area of present-day Donbas by the way. (One starts believing in some supernatural forces at play taking into account that the current war between Ukraine and Russia has been going on in the very same area since 2014). So, why is the poem Ukrainian and not Russian? Here is just one of many reasons why:
One of the most famous and dramatic moments in the poem is Igor’s wife’s lamentations known in literature as the Yaroslavna’s Cry. In it, Yaroslavna invokes wind among other natural forces and asks:
“Wind, Great Wind!
Why, lord, blow perversely?
Why carry those Hinish dartlets
On your light winglets
Against my husband’s warriors?”
Scholars established that those Hins who were shooting arrows into Igor’s warriors were the Volga-Finns from the area of present-day Moscow.
To quickly summarize and stress the most important facts:
- Igor and his troops were from the Ukrainian city of Chernigiv and nearby area.
- They went east towards the Donets River to defend the borders of Rus.
- Suzdal principality, future Muscovy was not present in the defensive battles.
- Suzdal principality was on the side of the Asiatic forces that attacked Rus.
- The Tale of Igor’s Campaign was written either in Chernigiv or Novgorod-Siversky near Chrnigiv.
- Both Chernigiv and Novgorod-Siversky had been attacked by Suzdal principality several times before the battles described in The Tale. (Russians even claim that Suzdal principality ruined Kyiv in 1169 but it’s a lie).
More insights into The Tale of Igor’s Campaign and why the manuscript of it spent most likely years on the table of Catherine II of Russia – in the “Gardariki, Ukraine” e-book.