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The Origins of the Byliny: a Working Hypothesis

Susana Torres Prieto


The oral heroic poems found in the Northern province of Olonets in the late nineteenth century, usually known as byliny, present a unique case of oral preservation of medieval literature within European context. For decades, due to the lack of manuscript copies of those texts, theories about their origin have been highly conjectural and subject to many ideological demands. While any definitive conclusion on their authorship, place and time of composition has to remain necessarily speculative, the present article, analysing the internal evidence of the poems and what can be concluded from studies on orality in other literary traditions, proposes that they were originally composed in written form in a clerical environment in the Northern area of Kyivan Rus’.


DOI: 10.31168/2305-6754.2022.11.2.15


byliny; Kyivan Rus’; heroic poetry; monastic culture; orality

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