Kievan Rus’ Theology: Yes, No, and It Depends

In: Russian History

This essay addresses the long-standing and much-discussed question of the intellectual silence of Rus’ culture, which was first formally posed by Georges Florovsky in a 1962 forum published in the Slavic Review. Initially viewing the issue within the context of Donald Ostrowski ‘s recent book, Europe, Byzantium, and the “Intellectual Silence” of Rus’ Culture (2018), the study contends that in contrast to the practice of theology in Byzantium and the West, Rus’ theology, as Gerhard Podskalsky maintained, is not expressed through traditional theological disciplines but assumes a decidedly pragmatic function that is best served by narration, exhortation, and admonition. The analysis leads to the conclusion that questions concerning the absence of intellectual developments of the medieval West are not helpful in the study of Rus’ culture, as they can obstruct a more productive approach that focuses on Rus’ narrative sources. A brief example illustrating the direction such an approach might take is provided.

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