In Russia of 1917, two-thirds of the male and female peasants age 10 and older had not had systematic schooling and were illiterate; the rest were able to read and do basic arithmetic. Only 0.1% of peasants studied in secondary or higher educational institutions. As a result, 99.9% of all peasants had a particular mode of thinking - concrete, situational, and directly related to sensations and actions. Mastery of the world in practical terms, through the window of the senses, left a deep imprint on the nature and content of peasants’ knowledge, on how they conceptualized the social and physical world, and on how they behaved.
Charles J. Halperin
On the basis of 734 dated colophons in sixteenth-century Russian manuscript books, Sergei Usachev examines where the books were written, who copied them, and who ordered them. He concludes that the books were produced in all regions of Russia and that members of all social classes ordered them and copied them, although in different proportions: the former had a higher social profile than the latter. His publication of the full texts of the colophons makes it possible for historians to explore additional themes of sixteenth-century Russian social and cultural history.
This survey of intellectual endeavor in medieval Slavia orthodoxa proposes a different way to think through the problem of the “intellectual silence of Old Rus′,” first set forth by Georges Florovsky and explored by George Fedotov, Francis Thomson, Simon Franklin, and now Donald Ostrowski. It examines the resources and opportunities for secondary schooling and their apparent outcomes in Kyivan Rus′ from the eleventh through the thirteenth century, among South Slavs on Mount Athos in the later fourteenth century, and at the Kirillo-Belozerskii (Kirillov) Monastery in northern Russia in the later fifteenth century. It concludes that intellectual endeavor is not necessarily bound to an international language of scholarship (e.g., Greek), one the one hand, or to a particular religious mentalité (e.g., that of the Western Church), on the other. Rather, it is cultivated by “schematizing” (educational) institutions oriented upon academic (heuristic) interpretive strategies and—most importantly—supported by textbooks and teachers.
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.
This article is a response to four responses to my book Europe, Byzantium, and the “Intellectual Silence” of Rus’. That book in turn responded to the question posed by Francis Thompson, “Where was the Russian Peter Abelard?” It began with two premises − that theology was “the crown jewel of disciplined thought” in both the Eastern and Western Churches during the medieval period and that medieval Christian theology represented an amalgamation of prior Christian thought with Neoplatonism. The literature of early Rus’ was little more than what would have been contained in a large Byzantine monastic library, because those in charge of educating the newly baptized pagan Rus’ on the basic principles of Christianity felt compelled to provide them only necessary information to save their souls. But why did the package not include the seven liberal arts (including dialectic), which were the basis of the Western Church curriculum?
Sergey A. Ivanov
The critique of Francis Thomson constitutes only part of Ostrowski’s book. The other part, completely unrelated to the first one, is dedicated to a comparison of the intellectual development of the two halves of the Christian world in the Middle Ages. Ostrowski’s assertion that the Byzantines did not include logic in their school curriculum is untrue. What seems to him to be the main difference between East and West does not take root until the end of the 12th century. The West was drifting away from the common patterns of ancient Mediterranean civilization. The East largely remained the same. The Byzantines did not feel any special inclination toward the practical application of theoretical ideas. The people of Old Rus’, on the contrary, were quick at learning and innovating. Respect for tradition inevitably played a smaller role in a nascent culture than in a culture that had been born old.
The invasion of Napoleon’s troops all the way to Moscow in 1812 has been seen as a turning point that accelerated the development of nationalistic thinking in Russia, already burgeoning at the turn of the century. Depictions of the invasion, produced from 1812–1814 indicate that perceptions of the collective past were in a state of both fermentation and formation, together with questions of Russia’s geopolitical position. The authors were leaning simultaneously on the eighteenth-century image of enlightened, imperial and European Russia, and the medieval ideas of religion as the dividing line between “us” and “them.”
The central question in the comparative history Rus has been its differential development vis-à-vis its western neighbours and the meaning and reasons for this difference. The recent publication by Donald Ostrowski, Europe, Byzantium, and the “Intellectual Silence” of Rus’ Culture, is a further contribution to this debate that revisits the reasons for a differential development between Rus and medieval Europe, focussing on the intellectual contributions of the Eastern Christian Church and Latin Church to their respective spheres of influence. Ostrowski’s book, along with other analogous studies, produces a regime of knowledge that shapes information about the intellectual history of Rus as diametrically opposed to that of medieval Europe. A postcolonial critique of the treatment of information about the emergence of Rus questions some of the ideas (or yardsticks) (re)produced here and suggests new critical ways to approach the study of early Rus.
Europeanization, Politicization and Small Country Diplomacy
The adoption of the EU sanctions on Russia provides a good case study to assess Bulgarian foreign policy under the conditions imposed by EU membership. This paper emphasizes the limits of both the foreign policy and Europeanization approaches when looking at national foreign policy and EU membership. It underlines the need to develop alternative approaches. These alternative approaches relate, in the first area, to the use of the concept of politicization of EU foreign policy; and in the second, to the conduct of a small country’s foreign policy within the EU framework. Although each of these approaches taken separately accounts poorly for the understanding of how EU membership affects the conduct of national foreign policy, each of them offers potentially interesting insights, without however being entirely conclusive.