A Comparative Approach to Kievan Rus’

in Russian History
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Christian Raffensperger’s excellent monograph Reimagining Europe: Kievan Rus’ and the Medieval World raises stimulating questions about the place of Kievan Rus’ in comparative history, questions that are more important than whether one agrees with his answers. Although Raffensperger defines his study chronologically, thematically and regionally, he draws a holistic conclusion that Kievan Rus’ was “part and parcel” of Europe. Such a conclusion runs the risk of reifying “Europe,” which is not and cannot be defined, and “Kievan Rus’,” which was heterogenous and evolved in ways which affect the elements of comparison Raffensperger explored. In additional other aspects of comparison between parts of Kievan Rus’ and different countries in “Europe” such as early medieval political structures could profitably be compared in greater depth.

A Comparative Approach to Kievan Rus’

in Russian History



Christian RaffenspergerReimagining Europe: Kievan Rus’ and the Medieval World (Cambridge: Harvard University Press2012).


George VernadskyKievan Russia (New Haven: Yale University Press1948).


Boris GrekovKiev Rus (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House1959).


Charles H. HalperinRussia and the Golden Horde: The Mongol Impact on Medieval Russian History (Bloomington: Indiana University Press1985). Raffensperger’s observation on Third Rome (22 n. 840 155) is quite out-of-date although of course the issue remains debatable. See Donald Ostrowskii: Muscovy and the Mongols. Cross-cultural influences on the steppe frontier (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998) 219–43 and ““Moscow the Third Rome” as Historical Ghost” in Sarah Brooks ed. Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261–1557): Perspectives on Later Byzantine Art and Culture (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art New Haven: Yale University Press 2006) 170–79.


Peter J. HeatherEmpires and Barbarians: the Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe (New York: Oxford University Press2010) this book received the 2014 Early Slavic Studies Association Book Prize (for books by non-Slavic specialists). Heather ends his study at the year 1000 so technically it does not cover the same period as Reimagining Europe but because of its inclusion of the East Slavs in “European” history it deserved inclusion in Raffensperger’s bibliography.


Monica WhiteMilitary Saints in Byzantium and Rus 900–1200 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press2013); Walter Hanak The Nature and Image of Grand Princely Power in Kievan Rus’ 980–1054: A Study of Sources (Leiden: Brill 2014).


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