Alan Timberlake, University of California, Berkeley
The Povest' vremennyx let or the Primary Chronicle -- or Nestor's Chronicle, according to a late (Xlebnikov) copy -- was not written in a day. It may or may not have been written by Nestor. This discussion offers three comments on the composition of the chronicle.
I. Shaxmatov's Redactions: Textual evidence supports Shaxmatov's hypothesis that a "nachal'nyj svod" from the middle of the 1090s was subsequently revised in the 1110s to become what we know as the Povest' vremennyx let, though some points are questionable: the date of the first redaction (after rather before Svjatopolk's death in 1113); whether the "second" redaction -- Silvester's 1116 text, eventually the northeastern, Lavrentian, tradition-was more than a copy (unlikely); whether the southwestern, Hypatian tradition reflects a "third" redaction (unlikely) or merely the first redaction of 1113-1115 extended by yearly entries (likely).
II. The nachal'nyj svod, the Povest' vremennyx let, First Novgorod Chronicle: The "older" redaction of the First Novgorod Chronicle is an extremely laconic synopsis of the first redaction of the Povest' vremennyx let with annalistic extensions through 1117. When the "younger" Novgorod chronicle was initiated (in 1167, according to A. A. Gippius), this older tradition was overlaid by two discontinuous segments. The mystery of the Novgorod chronicle is why the overlaid segments in the younger chronicle are older than the chronicle they replaced, and why these overlaid segments are discontinuous ("defective"). Quite likely, the two segments are literal pieces of the nachal'nyj svod liberated when it was revised in 1113-1115 to become the Povest' vremennyx let. The first segment (origin myth of Kiev up to Boris and Gleb) was obviously reworked from the nachal'nyj svod. The second segment (1045-1074) had to be recopied when the scribe of 1113-1115 added two inserts that bracket this segment, "chto radi prozvasa Pecherskij" (1051) and the story of nekoliko muzh' chjudnyx of the Pecherskij Monastery (1074).
III. Nestor and the Povest' vremennyx let: In ideology and style the two inserts (1051, 1074) that bracket the second overlay segment match Nestor's Chenie (o svjatyx muchenikax Borise i Glebe) and his Life of Theodosius. Changes in the Boris and Gleb cycle from the nachal'nyj svod to the Povest' vremennyx let prove that the anonymous Skazanie (o svjatyx muchenikax Borise i Glebe) derives from the nachal'nyj svod, though it was prepared in its final form only after the beginning of the reign of Monomax. Nestor's Chtenie derives from the Skazanie. Thus Nestor flourished in the 1110s, not the 1080s.
Quite likely, then, there was indeed a redaction of the Povest' vremennyx let in 1113-1115 distinct from the prior chronicle (Shaxmatov's nachal'nyj svod), and Nestor was indeed its editor. His contribution, however, was limited to certain inserts (1015, 1051, 1074, 1091 (?), 1097, 1103). It is not at all certain that Nestor was the chronicler before 1113, or that the nachal'nyj svod marks a change in scribes. Rather, a single anonymous scribe was active continuously from the death of Igumen Nikon (1088) through the transfer of Igumen Theoktist (1112). It was this scribe who, among other things, gave shape to the Boris and Gleb myth and introduced the theme of divine retribution for man's multitudinous sins (1068, 1092, 1093, 1096). The first redaction of the Povest' vremennyx let in 1113 may have been written by Nestor, but it owes at least as much to the scribe of the nachal'nyj svod.