The publication of the first three editions of the chronicle

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1578

The first copy of Russow's chronicle, written down in witty and imaginative language, was published in Rostock, in 1578. The first edition was sold out almost instantly and on the same year, second edition was published. Third edition, which the author had edited and improved, was published in Barth, in 1584. Russow had written in Low-German, thus directing it mainly to the Low-German readers. His first edition, by the way, was dedicated not to the members Tallinn, but Rostock's Town Council. This has seen as a row with Tallinn Town Council, but it is possible that due to the Livonian War (in 1577, the Russians had attacked Tallinn), the city had no money, and the publishing was financed by Rostock. However, in the preface of the third edition, Russow has not held back in the praise of Tallinn Town Council.

Russow's chronicle became extremely popular already during his lifetime, as he wrote about a real event: the Livonian War. The first and second editions covered it until 1577, the third up to 1583, when the Treaty of Plussa was signed, a treaty that is considered to have ended the war. Russow begins his chronicle with the "discovering" of Livonia in the middle of the XII century; and gives an overview of its history up to his time. The main emphasis is, however, on the war years. Also, he did not hold back when describing the squander and immorality of the Livonians, which according to him, brought about the war and God's punishment. Russow is considered to have seen the pre-war era in Livonia in too dark colors. His way of reflecting the events is clearly Swedish minded; which is understandable, as Sweden was governing Tallinn and standing as a strong protestant power in the area. Russow has mainly written about the closer proximity of his hometown. For example, he has not mentioned the feud against a coadjutor in Latvia, an event that preceded the Livonian War. He takes a clear peasantry-supportive attitude in his chronicle, which is often seen as another evidence of his Estonian lineage. Yet, chroniclers like Johann Renner and Christian Kelch have also been peasantry-minded, and their German background is indubitable.

Not all his contemporaries found the chronicle that splendid. Russow was opposed by the nobility of Livonia, lead by Heinrich von Tiesenhausen and Tönnes (Tõnis) Maydell, who claimed the chronicle to be a slander, aimed against the nobility. Tiesenhausen even published his own chronicle, which did no become that well known. Maydell wrote several letters of complaint, in one of those he called Russow a "a daft country ox".

Several latter chroniclers used Russow's chronicle. The last great Livonian chronicler, Christian Kelch, based his description of the Livonian War on Russow's writings. In the XIX century, the scientific study of the chronicle begun. Several editions have been published in contemporary German, in 1920-1921 the chronicle was published in Estonian for the very first time, being translated by Karl Leetberg. In 1967, it was translated again by Dagmar and Hermann Stock, in Stockholm, and the new edition of this translation was published in 1993. Unfortunately, there is no contemporary academic Estonian translation; such as published in Finnish, in 2004.

 


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