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Michalon Litvin's treatise as a social utopia and historical source

Zharkikh M.I.

Michalon Litvin is the author of the work on customs Tatars, Lithuanians and Russians. The manuscript did not come to us as a whole, a work known only from Latin print, published in Basel in 1615. Grasser (publisher of the work) shortened the original text, noting that omitted rest of the work contain only complaints about spoiled customs (but in the text that printed, these complaints do not lack). Thus formed the "Ten excerpts from the works of M. Lytvyn", which was twice translated into Russian.

Contents (full text in Ukrainian)


Author's identity

The purpose of writing a work



Contents of the work

Structure of the work

Biblical quotations

The image of Tatars

Lithuanian Statute

M. Miechowski and J. Dlugosz

Antiquity in the Litvin's work

Other European sources

Bychowiec's Chronicle

Litvin and Herberstein


Description of Ukraine



1. Researchers of Michalon Litvin's treatise mainly engaged in the question of the identity of the author, instead of its source value was not the subject of research.

2. The author of the treatise is likely Wenclaw Mikolaevich (some new observations agree well with his authorship).

3. Litvin's treatise is not a geographical work or travel diary, but a utopian project of reforming the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

4. Litvin's work better to divide not to the "ten passages", but to eight sections, which form a symmetrical stack structure (Figure 1).

5. The most important source is the Bible, including Tatars description inculcated of the biblical stories of the patriarchs, not by personal observation.

6. The author used the Lithuanian Statut, "Chronicle of Poland" by M. Miechowski. The work of J. Dlugosz he could use only through Miechowski. The depth of historical information of the work does not pass the mid 13 century. (Figure 2).

7. The author is well acquainted with the history and geography of antiquity, but the specific source of this knowledge is unclear.

8. The author did not use "Treatise on the two Sarmatia" by M. Miechowski, Bychowiec's chronicle (and generally no Ruthenian chronicles).

9. The work has many common points with turkophilic works, common in Western Europe in the 1st half 16 century. It should be viewed in the context of islamophilic direction of Catholic social thought.

10. The treatise has many common points with "Notes on Muscovite Affairs" by S. Herberstein. We can assume that Litvin used Herberstein's draft records in the version that preceded the printed book.

11. Description of Ukraine in Lytvyn's treatise and in Herberstein's "Notes" probably comes from the geographical descriptions compiled during Martin Gastold's rule in Kiev province (1471 – 1482's).

12. Author of treatise familiar with projects of defence of Ukraine made in Lithuania and Poland in 1524 – 1533.

13. This work is not a valuable historical sources, instead it is a very valuable source for the history of social thought and the Reformation in Lithuania.

The author expresses appreciation to J. Dashkevich for attention to this work and helpful comments.

The article finished 4 Jun 1998

First published: Zharkikh M. Treatise Myhalona Litvin in 1615 as a social utopia and historical source. – Zapysky Naukovoho tovarystva im.Shevchenka (Lviv), 2000, v. 240, p. 7 – 42.