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War on the Eve of Nations. On names and notions. A reading guide



There are a lot of personal and geographical names in this book, as well as notions related to the military of the studied epoch. Some of the notions are well known internationally and others are less known, restricted to one nation or circumstance. I use English terms for the former and, where it is possible, for the latter. However, they are sometimes misguiding. For example, Polish szlachta, Lithuanian boyars and Moscow deti boyarskiye could be called “gentry” or “low nobility” on the whole, but when their national specificity is important, they could not. In that case I use the original term. The personal and geographical names and notions that are originally in Cyrillic are Romanised, while those originally in Latin script are written in the original version, despite the difference in pronunciation compared to English. The pronunciation symbols (they are numerous in the multiple languages of the region) are omitted because so many of them make the text unreadable and they are not clear for a reader.

My approach to personal names is similar. The English version of Christian given names and usual transliteration of the Muslim given names are used if they exist; if they do not, the original versions are Romanised. The surnames originally in Latin script are preferred in their version of sources, those in Cyrillic are Romanised; the modernistic changes found in recent national historiographies are avoided. This means that for example a Lithuanian person is introduced with either the Polish version of his/her name or the Russian one. The original historical sources for Lithuanian names are mainly in Russian and Polish. I use the Russian version of the famous Lithuanian grand prince’s name Vitovt and not the Polish one Witold or the nowaday Lithuanian one Vytautas; the choice between the Polish and Russian versions is my subjective one. I believe that the spelling of a person’s name could express their historical place and the Lithuanian Grand Prince Vitovt was much associated with the identity and aspirations of his Russian subjects.

My approach to geographical names is also historically charged. I use the German version Königsberg and not the Polish Królewiec or the contemporary Russian Kaliningrad. I use the historical name Kiev and not Kyiv because the second version is the recent national spelling of the historical name and although it is now favoured by Google Maps, it is anyway far from the usual Ukrainian pronunciation. The alternative versions of the topographical names are shown in the Geographical Index. The geographical and personal names are the agents of the epoch under study, they have to be utilised as that. They are also the connection between the present study and the historical sources and long historiographical traditions which shouldn’t be sacrificed for political suitability.

This book provides a set of tools to facilitate a reading. It includes Indices of Names and Notions, a Geographical Index and the Action Schedule of Eastern Europe, c. 1450–1500. In the Indices a first reference page of each entry contains its definition. The Action Schedule is a table where all military events and processes mentioned in the book are collected. Each of them has a brief comment and a reference to its page in the study; it is simple to come back to any of them if an item studied before is involved in a case currently negotiated. In the Bibliography, the titles in East-European languages are translated into English to support a choice for further reading.

The book doesn’t have reprinted illustrations, and nonetheless, it is generously illustrated. There are a couple of dozen references to the Russian Illustrated Anthological Chronicle of the sixteenth century, integrated into the text. The Anthological Chronicle is the visual source collected from its pieces in different Russian libraries and museums and digitalised five to ten years ago. The quality of the miniatures of the Anthological Chronicle affords study of various matters of the military closely, from the armament of troops to their composition and tactics. Each mention of the Anthological Chronicle’s miniature in the text has the link to the entry of the Bibliography with a reference to the digital copy of the miniature. It is worth having a look at them because they are contemporary and sometimes eyewitness evidence of the topics under discussion.


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© 2013 Владимир Широгоров | разработка: Чеканов Сергей | иллюстрации: Ксения Львова