The Earliest States of Eastern Europe
DG-2016, 253-265

The “Chronicon terrae Prussiae” by Peter of Dusburg on Prussians

V. I. Matuzova

The Chronicon Terrae Prussiae by Peter of Dusburg gives the general
description of the Prussians, which is at the same time the revelation of
the author’s impressions of the world, wrong from the point of view of the
priest of the Teutonic Order. He describes the events which are concerned
with the Prussian tribes or their confederations. But very often the writer pays
attention to concrete Prussians, whose names and characters he knew, who had
taken part in the military events he described. This information has generally to
do with the oral tradition, but, though the events took place in the far past, they
are considered authentic by modern research fellows, as they are confirmed with
such documentary sources like letters patent for some Prussians. The Prussians
are not homogeneous. Peter of Dusburg distinguished two main groups of them:
the Prussians, who are baptized and take side with the Order (they are to be
encouraged), and those who remain pagans (they must be forced to baptism
with all means possible). By the time of the aggression of the Teutonic Order
the Prussian tribes had been stratified. The writer of the chronicle perceived
the process and distinguished the local nobiles (nobles), which are not
homogeneous, either. Some of them submitted to the Order with their families
and were baptized, others led the fight with the Teutonic knights. The chronicle
contains the detailed description of the second Prussian rebellion (1260 – 1274)
and of its leaders; especially often it says about Henry Monte, Diwan and
Skumand. On the other hand, one can see the role of nobiles, who were the
first to be baptized together with their kinsmen and subjects. The culmination
of the baptism for the author of the chronicle is what he sees as a miraculous
conversion: in it former pagans became zealous Christians. On the whole, the
chronicle by Peter of Dusburg is a very bright picture of the Teutonic crusade in
Prussia, which can give an abundant database for modern historians. It shows the
destructive processes in the primitive-communal system of the Prussians, which
were accelerated with the Teutonic aggression. It was not only the war between
the Order and the Prussians, but also the struggle between different groups of
the Prussians, as well. Perhaps, the struggle between the close relatives appears
the most dramatic one. The article shows both the fates of some Prussians as
reflected in the chronicle and in the letters patent and the fate of the Prussians in
the whole; they either perished in the wars or were assimilated. As the irony of
history, the memory of the Prussians only has been left in literary texts, written
by the Teutonic conquerors.

Prussia, Prussians, nobles, the Teutonic Order, crusaders, rebellions, Peter of Dusburg, Henry Monte, Skumand

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