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Four perspectives on "Old Russia" (Rus').

Aleksei Karpov, Vladimir Sviatoi [Saint Vladimir]. 2nd ed., corr. and exp. 454 pp., illus. Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 2004. ISBN 5235027426.

A. F. Litvina and F. B. Uspenskii, Vybor imeni u russkikh kniazei v X-XVI vv.: Dinasticheskaia istoriia skvoz" prizmu antroponimiki [Name Choice among Princes of Rus' from the 10th through the 16th Centuries: Dynastic History through the Prism of Anthroponymics]. 740 pp., genealogical charts. Moscow: Indrik, 2006. ISBN 5857593395.

Andrzej Poppe, Christian Russia in the Making. xiv + 362 pp. Birmingham, VT: Ashgate Variorum, 2007. ISBN-13 978-0754659112. $144.95.

Jonathan Shepard, ed., The Expansion of Orthodox Europe. 532 pp. Birmingham, VT: Ashgate Variorum, 2007. ISBN-13 978-0754659204. $175.00.

Contemporary English lacks satisfactory terms to denote the regions that have since become Belarus', Russia, and Ukraine and to denote the peoples that inhabited these regions before the development of the Russian empire. The standard "Russia" or even "Old Russia" may (however wrongly) bring to a nonspecialist's mind a region ruled from Moscow or St. Petersburg, whereas the earliest major political center in these territories was Kiev, now the capital of Ukraine. Many scholars now prefer to make the distinction between "Russia" and "Rus'" that exists in contemporary standard Russian, though this distinction may baffle the uninitiated. (1) For this reason I have used the inaccurate "Old Russia" (albeit in quotation marks) in the title of this review and supplied the more accurate "Rus'" in parentheses. The first term is directed towards the uninitiated (and a few of the initiated who refuse to adopt "Rus'"); the second is intended to inform the initiated that I am aware of the terminological difficulty. (In a similar fashion, Andrzej Poppe has entitled his book Christian Russia in the Making but has tended to prefer "Rus'" in the articles that the book contains.) Adjectives present a further problem: if "Rus'" is not "Old Russia," then how con its language be "Old Russian" or its territory be "Russian"? Here scholars divide, with some preferring "Rusian" or "Rus'ian" (forms that have no equivalent in modern Russian) and some preferring "East Slavic," a term that may (among other things) gloss over the significance of Scandinavian culture in Rus'. In spite of such problems, I shall here take the latter option.

Publication on the history of Rus' is off to a good start as the first decade of the 21st century ends. The four books reviewed here reflect two trends within that broader pattern. Two of them, collections of mostly previously published articles in English, are both linked to a strong tradition of scholarship that has existed outside the Soviet Union and Russia in the latter half of the 20th century; the appearance of the other two reflects scholarly and cultural developments within post-Soviet Russia. (2)

The Expansion of Orthodox Europe, edited by Jonathan Shepard, is a collection of articles, almost all reprinted, dealing with what Dimitri Obolensky has called "the Byzantine Commonwealth." (3) Yet Shepard has deliberately and wisely forgone re-covering the ground covered by Obolensky; instead he has chosen some studies of phenomena in the Orthodox lands that have largely been ignored and some that approach frequently studied phenomena from unusual perspectives. (4) Although some of the articles date to several decades ago (one as far back as 1949), more than half were first published between 1990 and 2004. Because of the breadth of the collection, this review will focus on 9 (out of 22) articles that relate largely or exclusively to East Slavic territory. Two of these articles deal with trade between Byzantium and the East Slavs; one provides a wonderful synthetic discussion of the nature and boundaries of Rus'; three discuss relations between the East Slavs and the Mongols; two focus on intellectual developments in Byzantium and among the Slavs (South and East) in the 14th and 15th centuries; and one attempts to fit East Slavic hagiography into a broader early Christian context.

Two closely related studies by the late Thomas S. Noonan and his energetic protege Roman K. Kovalev point to what were probably only some aspects of the almost unexamined commercial relations between Byzantium and pre-Mongol Rus'. The two scholars evaluate archaeological evidence for extensive Byzantine exports of wine and olive oil to both southern and northern Rus' through an elaborate system of trade routes between the conversion to Christianity and the Mongol invasions. Wine and, it seems, oil, were distributed throughout Rus' because they fulfilled necessary functions in the Christian liturgy, but wine also appears to have been a popular beverage, especially but not exclusively among the elite. Most important, the two articles paint a picture of Byzantium and Rus' as linked by trade as well as by religion.

Broader than Noonan and Kovalev's work is David B. Miller's thoughtful and enlightening attempt to define and characterize the development and borders of "Rus'" between c. 1000 cE and the Mongol invasions of 1238-40. This scholarly gem is governed by the metaphor of "transparencies" placed on an overhead projector over a map of Rus'. (One worries that the metaphor may become harder for younger scholars to grasp as PowerPoint slowly renders the overhead projector obsolete.) Miller supplies five sets of "imaginary transparencies": one of "agricultural tillage and towns," one of "manufactures and commerce," one of "the areal of a common written culture as defined by evidence of Christian worship and literacy," one of"ethno-linguistic frontiers," and one of "political units and the frontiers of self-identity." Each of these sets is presented in three layers: one from c. 1000, one from c. 1100, and one from c. 1200 to 1238. Miller synthesizes the work of earlier scholars to produce an excellent and (at about 40 pages) succinct overview of the early development of Rus' from multiple and intertwined perspectives, suitable for all from undergraduates to specialists. (5)

The complex, ambivalent relationship between the East Slavs and their Mongol overlords is the subject of Michael Cherniavsky's "Khan or Basileus: An Aspect of Russian Medieval Political Theory," first published in 1959, Charles Halperin's "'Know Thy Enemy': Medieval Russian Familiarity with the Mongols of the Golden Horde," first published in 1982, and Sergei Hackel's "Under Pressure from the Pagans?--The Mongols and the Russian Church," first published in 1990. Cherniavsky's article is a classic that deserves rereading, Halperin's is excellent, and Hackel's is worth reading (though Hackel's failure to mention Cherniavsky or Halperin is puzzling). Anyone interested in detailed coverage of this topic should turn to Halperin's three books on the subject, to Donald Ostrowski's Muscovy and the Mongols, and to the discussion among Halperin, Ostrowski, and David Goldfrank in the first volume of Kritika. (6)

John Meyendorff's "Cultural Ties: Byzantium, the Southern Slavs, and Russia," on the transfer of Palaeologian Byzantine culture through South Slavic to East Slavic lands in the 14th and 15th centuries, is actually a chapter from Meyendorff's Byzantium and the Rise of Russia. (7) The chapter--which deals with literary ries, monastic practices, and artistic developments--could be of interest to some readers desiring a broader view than most specialized studies provide. Yet the decision to publish a chapter torn from its context in a monograph presents problems. Readers unfamiliar with the subject matter may be bewildered by the text's seeming lack of a proper introduction; one has a sense that one is reading a fragment, as indeed one is. For that matter, many of the notes contain only shortened citations of earlier articles that are likely to leave readers baffled. Some of these citations are decodable with the aid of a short set of supplementary abbreviations that appears in the front matter of the volume without explicit mention of its relevance to Meyendorff's text (xiii-xvi), but one wonders how many readers will realize that this is so, and even those who do will not find the full forms of all the relevant citations there. Anyone who really cares enough about Meyendorff's text to read it carefully should obtain a full copy of the monograph from which it is taken.

Dimitri Obolensky's "Late Byzantine Culture and the Slavs: A Study in Acculturation," first published in 1976, provides a second perspective on some of the ground covered by Meyendorff, though it deals broadly with the Byzantine Commonwealth, whereas Meyendorff attempts to focus on Byzantium and the East Slavs, treating the South Slavs mainly as incidental intermediaries in cultural change. Obolensky's work is easier to follow than Meyendorff's, at least partly because it is more self-contained, and perhaps also because it has a clear four-point thesis:
   (1) the motive force which gave Hesychasm its spiritual content
   came from the principal monasteries of the Balkans and above all
   from Mount Athos. (2) The ecclesiastical policy which sustained
   Hesychasm as an international movement originated in
   Constantinople. (3) The impact of Hesychasm upon late medieval
   literature ... was particularly powerful in the Slavic Orthodox
   countries and in Rumania. (4) The cosmopolitan nature of the
   Hesychast movement was enhanced by the action of a group of men ...
   who had close personal links with each other, and, frequently
   crossing national boundaries, freely moved from one part of the
   Byzantine Commonwealth to another. (478)


An article by Richard M. Price examines Epifanii Premudryi's late 14th- or early 15th-century Life of St. Stephen of Perm, notable as perhaps the most rhetorically ornate saint's life ever produced on East Slavic soil. St. Stephen was an East Slavic missionary active among Finns in what is now the Russian North, and Price compares Epifanii's work to Lives of a wide variety of early Christian missionary saints from many lands. He concludes that "the similarities between Epifanii's view of mission and that of earlier Greek and Latin hagiography [are] considerable [and] are evidence of a degree of stability in Christian ideology in general and hagiography in particular" (235). This statement is reasonable, but it is so broad as to be nearly meaningless. Price goes on to assert that "narrative parallels" between Sulpicius Severus's fourth-century Life of Martin of Tours, Muirchu's seventh-century Life of Saint Patrick, and the Life of Stephen are so great that they "must be explained by a common source in the Greek tradition, since no Latin hagiography was known in Russia" (235). The assertion that Latin hagiography was unknown in Rus' may be correct, but it is not easily demonstrable. The parallels that Price adduces, especially those between the Lives of St. Patrick and St. Stephen, are tantalizingly interesting, and Price deserves credit for identifying them, though some readers may not regard them as adequate evidence of a common source.

In short, The Expansion of Orthodox Europe contains several excellent articles. Its primary virtue is its scope rather than its depth, and it will probably be of most interest to scholars who know something about one or two aspects of the Byzantine Commonwealth but want to expand their knowledge in new directions, whether geographic, chronological, or disciplinary. While its price will probably preclude its adoption as a scholarly anthology for undergraduate courses, it may be useful to students if placed on library reserve.

Like The Expansion of Orthodox Europe, Andrzej Poppe's Christian Russia in the Making contains a great deal of material on Byzantine-Rus' relations. Yet Poppe is also acutely aware of Rus'-Ottonian (and, more broadly, Rus'-Western) relations, and his emphasis on these relations in addition to Byzantine ones brings to mind A. V. Nazarenko's excellent Drevniaia Rus' ha mezhdunarodnykh putiakh (Ancient Rus' on International Paths), which approaches some of the same questions that Poppe does. (8) Christian Russia in the Making, a collection of reprinted articles in the Variorum Reprints series, is a sequel of sorts to Poppe's The Rise of Christian Russia, published in the same series in 1982. (9) Both collections reflect Poppe's brilliantly multifaceted approach to historical questions, with arguments that take into account not only East Slavic, Byzantine, Latin, and other written texts but also art-historical, archaeological, numismatic, and anthroponymic evidence. There is, however, some difference in feel between the books. The earlier one, with densely annotated articles in German, French, and English, sometimes reads somewhat roughly but is uniformly packed with original, stimulating work. The present book is somewhat thicker, and the articles in it are all in English. Several of them are at once brilliantly original and meticulously supported with dense but necessary annotation. Yet others, while solid, thoughtful, and well annotated, contain a good measure of restatement (typically in the form of summary rather than elaboration) of ideas set forth in Poppe's earlier work.

Although Poppe's new collection focuses primarily on early Kievan Rus', a subject on which Poppe is one of the greatest living scholars, it opens with a brief and surprisingly unimpressive history of the Riurikid dynasty from its semi-legendary origins to the accession of the Romanovs and beyond. This weak beginning is followed by one of the best recent discussions of the date of Saint Ol'ga's baptism, augmented by a new, brief (less than two pages) but important addendum. (10) Oddly, almost the entire substance of this discussion (excluding the addendum) is repeated, in somewhat different phrasing and with different notes, later in the collection. (11)

Poppe then turns to foreign and native contemporary perspectives on the conversion of Rus'. The placement of the conversion into a foreign context highlights one of Poppe's scholarly strengths: his refusal to limit himself to a narrow perspective (in this case, to a narrowly Slavic or Slavic-Byzantine one). As it turns out, the Byzantines, in spite of their role in the conversion, seem to have had less to say about the event than have Christian Arabic, Muslim Arabic, Armenian, and Ottonian sources! In a close examination of the two most important native East Slavic texts that deal with the conversion, the Slovo o zakone i blagodati (Sermon on Law and Grace) of the Metropolitan Ilarion and the Povest' vremennykh let (Primary Chronicle), (12) Poppe correctly contrasts the unified structure of the Sermon with the eclectic perspective of the Povest' and Ilarion's vision of a universal church (undivided by any schism) with the anti-Latin polemics in the Povest'. (13)

Poppe goes on to give a lengthy summary of his views on the Christianization, the social role of Christianity, and the development of the ecclesiastical structure in Rus'. This account begins with mention of ninth-century Byzantine missions and runs up to the transfer of the metropolitanate from Kiev to Vladimir in 1299 and the institution of a new metropolitanate of Galich (Halych) in 1303. It thus provides a broad yet thorough overview of the views of this major scholar on a broad range of topics, well supplemented with references both to Poppe's own more detailed articles and to the responses of other scholars to his arguments. (One oddity, noted above, is the inclusion, without reference, of nearly the full substance of an article on Ol'ga's baptism that appears earlier in Christian Russia in the Making; this peculiarity is presumably an artifact of the circumstances under which the two articles were originally published.) Poppe's summary is also valuable for insights and ideas that the author appears never to have developed in independent studies (though he may have touched on them briefly previously). For example, in one paragraph Poppe suggests that many of the earliest South Slavic texts preserved in East Slavic manuscripts originated with protographs brought to Rus' (together with captive Bulgarian clerics) as booty by Christian East Slavs who had joined the Byzantines in plundering Bulgarian territory; he points to Western analogues to this pattern and suggests that "[i]ronically, the stripping of Bulgaria of Slavic books and clerics to meet the needs of the newly converted East Slavs had to facilitate the Hellenization of the church and religious life in Bulgaria itself after conquest by the empire." (14)

In a learned and well-documented study on an important aspect of Byzantine-Rus' ecclesiastical relations, Poppe examines the biography of Leontios of Patmos, a Byzantine cleric who was offered the opportunity to become metropolitan of Rus' but rejected it. Here, Poppe draws conclusions about the sort of considerations that went into the choice of such metropolitans. Leontios, we learn, was a man of strong religious principles and a respected theologian with a probable command of the Slavic language. Poppe posits, without pushing his point too far, that Byzantine patriarchs and emperors generally (though not invariably) attempted to place highly qualified men in the metropolitanate, so that the metropolitans themselves were frequently quite well prepared to take the helm of the fledgling church.

A relatively recent study on a topic that has occupied Poppe for decades examines the circumstances surrounding the murders of Boris and Gleb and the early development of the cult of the two saints. While erudite, well written, and informative, this study largely recapitulates material from earlier ones by Poppe in French, Russian, and German. (15) Probably the most controversial argument that it contains is that the two martyred princes were the children of Anna of Byzantium, the sister of the emperors Basil and Constantine and Vladimir's only Christian wife. (16) The greatest weakness of this argument is the assertion in the Pavest' vremennykh let that the mother of the two princes was a Bulgar (Bulgarka). While Poppe's suggestion that Anna could have been known as "the Bulgar" is not entirely convincing, one must give him credit for defending a dubious hypothesis with great alacrity.

If Poppe's latest discussion of Boris and Gleb, good as it is, contains little that is new, a discussion of Vladimir Sviatoslavich that follows constitutes a scholarly landmark. Poppe deals, first, with the probable true nature (as opposed to early East Slavic literary representations) of King Vladimir. (Poppe's use of English "king" to translate Slavic kniaz', echoed in recent unpublished work by Christian Raffensperger that is presumably unknown to Poppe, is intended to suggest the equivalence of the rulers of Rus' to West European rulers who bore that title.) Here, Poppe does a fine job of milking information from some very sparse sources. He goes on to provide a thorough discussion of the controversial date of Vladimir's "canonization" (Poppe himself wisely introduces the quotation marks) and a survey of the development of the king's cult through the 15th century; he then moves back in time to examine in detail the earlier, "pre-canonization" (my quotation marks) commemoration of the prince. Poppe's discussion of Vladimir, apparently published for the first time in this volume, will be useful to any scholar interested in the prince. (17)

Poppe then provides two studies of the title "grand prince" (velikii kniaz') in Kievan Rus'. (18) In the first, he overturns a scholarly commonplace derived from Kliuchevskii by building on a view earlier advanced by L. K. Goetz: Although the title appears sporadically in texts of the early Kievan period, it was not used in that period to suggest a single ruler who ruled over lesser rulers. Rather, this usage was introduced by Vsevolod Big-Nest (Bol'shoe gnezdo), ruler of the Vladimir-Suzdal' region, in the late 12th century. In the second study, Poppe points out that the use of the term in the Slovo o polku Igoreve (Tale of the Host of Igor') corresponds to 12th-century norms.

The book concludes with two studies on various antiquities, most of them associated with the city of Novgorod. The first, largely art-historical in scope, deals with the history of the bronze doors of the Church of St. Sophia in Novgorod, cast in Magdeburg in 1153 or 1154. The second is broader, dealing with antiquities that acquired the epithet "Chersonian," suggesting an origin in the city where Vladimir Sviatoslavich was baptized. Poppe suggests that this appellation began to appear in the 15th century in conjunction with a Novgorodian anti-Muscovite ideological effort to emphasize the city's links with Vladimir Sviatoslavich and the origins of East Slavic Christianity.

Anyone who reads Christian Russia in the Making will come away with a greatly enhanced understanding of many aspects of early Rus'.

If the title of A. F. Litvina and F. B. Uspenskii's Vybor imeni u russkikh kniazei v X-XVI vv. looks dry and the 700-odd pages seem forbidding, the subtitle, Dinasticheskaia istoriia skvoz' prizmu antroponimiki, tells why this book should be on the shelf (or at the very least in the institutional library) of anyone interested in Rus" or Muscovy from the 10th through the 16th centuries. Among other things, the book indeed amounts to a major contribution to Riurikid history from the perspective of princely anthroponymics, a topic frequently ignored by scholars (though used with considerable sophistication by Poppe in the work just reviewed). Traditionally relegated to the status of "ancillary discipline," anthroponymics is a topic both of intrinsic interest and of major if unrealized significance for scholars interested in early East Slavic culture. The medieval East Slavs, like peoples in many traditional cultures, did not assign names lightly. Names reflected both a child's place in a kinship and social system and the aspirations of the child's elders for the child's future place in that system; in other words, they indicated who a child was and whom he or she was expected to become. Litvina and Uspenskii examine many of the ramifications of this situation as they pertain to the ruling family and, hence, the political history of Rus'.

The book consists of a brief introduction, seven chapters that present a broad (and often detailed) view of Riurikid onomastic history through the 16th century, a summary, 11 excursuses on a wide variety of Riurikid princely onomastic topics, a summary in English, an annotated list of Christian Riurikid names (including their bearers, their presumed bearers, and their conceivable bearers), a bibliography (very extensive even though limited to works cited), and an index of names (both pagan and Christian). The book is also packed with numerous genealogical tables that are extremely useful even though, as the authors themselves warn us clearly (8), they are far from complete, sometimes contradictory, and primarily intended to illustrate views (including some highly speculative hypotheses) presented in the book.

Six of the seven core chapters explain and illustrate the slowly evolving mechanisms that governed the choice of male princely names during the period under discussion. In the process, they tell readers a great deal about specific names and the naming strategies of specific rulers, and they also demonstrate the enormous dynastic significance attached by the Riurikids to names. The story told in these chapters is one of continuity, change, and enormous complexity. The fundamental continuity lies in the use of names to situate newborn princes in the dynasty, first, by linking them symbolically to their ancestors and, second, by projecting their future place among their contemporaries and heirs. In the Kievan period, princes were deliberately given names that suggested those of their ancestors; however, the naming of a child after a living ancestor seems to have been taboo until the early 13th century. As in the early Germanic tradition, princely names were frequently (but not invariably) formed on two roots (e.g., Sviato-slav) with young prince's names echoing at least one foot of an ancestor's name (e.g., Iaro-slav: Izia-slav; Volodimer: Vsevolod). (19) As time passed, specific names became associated with specific Riurikid lines and even, perhaps, with the rule of specific cities. The naming of a prince after a living uncle could suggest either a desire to honor an elder uncle and assure that he would protect the child or a challenge to the potential future authority of an uncle close in age to the newborn child. Over time, Christian baptismal names (present since the conversion of Rus') slowly gained importance in the Riurikid anthroponymic system. Thus Roman and David, the baptismal names of Boris and Gleb, were the first Christian names that came to be used also as worldly, or princely, names. Litvina and Uspenskii chronicle the slow process whereby Christian names supplanted worldly names, the closely related disappearance of the taboo against naming for a living ancestor, and the rise of a system wherein princes were given multiple Christian names.

The seventh cote chapter deals with worldly (non-baptismal) names of royal women in the Kievan era. Although interesting and thought-provoking, it is less detailed than earlier chapters, though anyone who considers the limits of the source material will find it hard to fault the authors.

The first of the 11 excursuses deals case by case with instances of princes who were named (or were thought to have been named) after their fathers prior to the 13th century. This is a topic of great importance, because much of Litvina and Uspenskii's argumentation tests on the postulate that princes could not be named for living ancestors during that period. The other excursuses cover a wide range of topics that will interest a variety of scholars of Kievan Rus' and Muscovy. While anthroponymics plays a role in all of them, the size of this role varies considerably.

For readers who lack the rime and energy to wade through the text, the list of Christian names and index effectively turn the book into the best encyclopedia of early East Slavic anthroponymics yet written. If, for example, one is interested in the name "Igor'" or any of its bearers, the index provides numerous references to discussion of the name itself, as well as references to six princes named "Igor'." One may thus learn about the name's Scandinavian origins, the reasons why various Igors were given the name, and its relation to the variant (but not equivalent) name Ingvarr in Rus'. The annotated list of Christian names provides extensive discussions of the Christian names associated (or perhaps associated) with four "Prince Igors."

The index and annotated list of names reflect one of the book's greatest strengths: its blend of erudition and accessibility. Riurikid princely genealogy, so important to anthroponymic practice, is extremely complex and can easily bewilder readers. Litvina and Uspenskii help make this genealogy manageable and their own arguments accessible by summarizing their points frequently and by providing numerous genealogical tables specific to each chapter and excursus.

Litvina and Uspenskii would already deserve praise if their book had merely provided, as it does, a useful and well-grounded theoretical matrix for anyone interested in Riurikid anthroponymics. Yet, even more important, they have magnificently demonstrated the importance of a form of historical data that has received very short shrift in previous literature. As the book shows, Riurikid anthroponymics were closely bound up with the Riurikid kinship and political system, with the naming of newborn princes reflecting the dynastic goals and strategies of ruling Riurikids. Anthroponymics are also intimately connected to such other topics as the history of East Slavic canonization, as demonstrated by the book's discussion of baptismal names (and, incidentally, by the seventh and eighth articles in Poppe's collection). In providing scholars with new tools to study many aspects of East Slavic history, Vybor imeni u russkikh kniazei may provide the apparatus required to solve significant historical problems that have previously seemed intractable.

It would be tempting to suggest that this monumental work has somehow closed the field with which it deals, yet, if one looks at this field a little more broadly, one may see that Litvina and Uspenskii have treated only one small part of an enormous topic. In fact, early East Slavic anthroponymics stretch beyond the princes of the Riurikid dynasty. Boyars, priests, monks, and male peasants had names, too, as did their wives and daughters, and many of these names are attested in sources ranging from chronicles to liturgical texts to birchbark letters to foreign texts. One may hope that Vybor imeni u russkikh kniazei will someday be seen not as the last word on early East Slavic anthroponymics but, along with N. M. Tupikov's Slovar' drevnerusskikh lichnykh sobstvennykh imen (Dictionary of Early East Slavic Personal Names, first published in 1903), as one of the first words. (20)

Aleksei Karpov's Vladimir Sviatoi stands far apart from all the other books reviewed here. It appears (now in its second, slightly but distinctly improved edition) in the venerable popular series Zhizn' zamechatel'nykh liudei (Lives of Remarkable People), where the author has more recently published a life of Iurii Dolgorukii. (21) From a strictly scholarly perspective the book might be condemned as flawed, but it has some surprising and substantial virtues.

In his introduction, Karpov compares a historian to a player of solitaire attempting to order a deck of cards of which some are dirty and others are missing. He also states that "any biography is just a hypothesis," and he acknowledges that the Vladimir whom he depicts may have little in common with the real prince, but he expresses the hope that the book will help someone to understand the past (8). In a note to the first chapter, he distances himself from the "purely popular and even belletristic" Vladimir le soleil rouge (Vladimir the Red Sun) of Vladimir Volkov (Volkoff). (22) We see immediately at the beginning of chapter 1 how prepared Karpov is to hypothesize. Almost all that is known about Vladimir's mother, Malusha, is that she was kliuchnitsa to Vladimir's grandmother Ol'ga, and that Rogned', daughter of Rogvolod of Polotsk, regarded Vladimir as "the son of a slave" for this reason. The exact meaning of kliuchnitsa is unclear; certainly it may be translated as "(female) keeper of the keys," but the translation leaves one wondering which keys she was keeper of and how significant they were. Karpov, undeterred by this lack of data, characterizes Malusha thus:
   A kliuchnitsa is responsible for the royal property, all the broad
   holdings of the grand princess. Much in the royal court and beyond
   its walls depended on one word from her; many rushed to please her,
   sought her friendship. She was firm and sober, effective and harsh
   as the need arose--otherwise she would not have been acceptable to
   the forceful and inflexible Ol'ga. Yet she was also young and
   beautiful in face and in figure, proud and unapproachable, and, one
   must think, more than one male heart began to beat more strongly
   when she appeared. (11)


In the course of the book, Karpov treats the reader to seemingly endless speculations about the personalities of Ol'ga, Sviatoslav, Vladimir's brother Iaropolk, his much more obscure brother Oleg, and a host of other historical figures, major and minor. He follows most closely the psychological development of Vladimir, whose childhood relations with Ol'ga, and hence with Christianity, he portrays as rather poor. In the first chapter, Karpov also speculates on the mores of Kievan Rus'. Thus he finds it easy to believe, as the untrustworthy Nikonian Chronicle relates, that Ol'ga banned Malusha from her presence because of the latter's liaison with Sviatoslav. He also asserts, without citing sources, that Vladimir was shorn and taken from his mother's care to his father's family at the age of three and describes in considerable detail, but again without citing evidence, the relationship of the prince and boyars with the elders and the veche (council) in Kievan Rus'.

It would be easy, in light of Karpov's unsupported assertions, to dismiss Vladimir Sviatoi as a worthless book, yet one might ask how a successful popular biography of Vladimir could be written without at least some hypothesizing. Specialists who understand how hard it is to know anything about Kievan Rus' may applaud Poppe's cautious attempt to understand Vladimir's character (mentioned above), if they do not find even it excessively speculative, but the series Zhizn' zamechatel'nykh liudei is not intended for specialists. To any specialists who ask what point there is in Karpov's biography, if it resembles fiction significantly more than history, there are two answers. (23)

The first answer, implicit in Karpov's expressed hope that some readers will learn about the past from his work, is that history in somewhat specularive garb may be more attractive to the uninitiated than the grimly serious work of specialists. The novels of Robert Graves may inspire future classicists, and Harold Lamb's historically irresponsible Genghis Khan, Emperor of All Men helped lead this reviewer, by a roundabout route, to Slavic medieval studies. (24)

The second answer is that in a time when publication of pseudohistorical rubbish is endemic in Russia, Karpov, for all his speculation, has incorporated a great deal of real history into his book. Although he seems to have read little or nothing in any language other than Russian, he has made extensive use of serious scholarship in that language and seems to have tried to read all relevant foreign primary sources that are available in Russian translation. Karpov has also included an appendix with early East Slavic texts of the Memorial and Encomium for Prince Vladimir by Monk Iakov and a Prolog or synaxarion life of Vladimir, based on earlier publications by I. I. Sreznevskii and A. I. Sobolevskii, and two redactions of an apparently unpublished description of the dedication of the Kievan Church of the Tithe by Vladimir. His book is readable and, within the author's linguistic limitations, quite thorough. If some of its statements should carry a warning label, one may consider that Karpov's introduction supplies that label. Popular and speculative as the book is, far worse books with far greater pretensions to scholarship have been published both by Soviet and Russian presses and by Western ones.

Given a choice between Poppe's 52-page article on Vladimir Sviatoslavich and Karpov's 454-page book, a specialist will certainly prefer the article. Yet a scholar writing on almost any aspect of Vladimir's career would still do well to glance at Karpov's work on the chance that he or she could learn some thing. It seems unfair to ask more from a book aimed primarily at a lay audience; and one hopes, as Karpov does, that the work will raise the general level of knowledge about Vladimir in today's Russia. Nor does it seem extravagant to hope that it will push some interested young readers in the direction of serious historical study.

The four books reviewed here reflect a maturing yet eminently lively scholarly field of what might, in English, be called "Rus' Studies." Much of The Expansion of Orthodox Europe dates to a scholarly era in which a large portion of the conceptually innovative thinking and writing about Rus' was produced outside the Soviet Union or Russia. Although the chronological balance of Christian Russia in the Making is more recent, Poppe's scholarly career has been very long and his extra-Soviet perspective seems to have helped him to approach Rus' in an innovative way. This is not to say that Soviet scholarship (or the earliest Russian post-Soviet scholarship) dealing with Rus' was bad. Some of it was superb, but it was rarely radically innovative and frequently failed to present Rus' in any sort of international context, ignoring many of the links between Rus' and the cultures and states that surrounded it. It is worth emphasizing that Litvina and Uspenskii, like A. V. Nazarenko, mentioned earlier, take an eminently international perspective, using a Germanic model to elucidate the early formation of East Slavic princely names, discussing in detail the relation of some East Slavic names to Scandinavian names, and making frequent reference to foreign marriages of Riurikid royalty. Even Karpov, though his book falls into a different category from the other three, shows a laudable awareness of the importance of events in Byzantium and the Ottonian empire in the time of Vladimir. (It is also interesting to note a seeming geographic shift in the center of Rus' Studies within Russia. In the second half of the 20th century and the heyday of the tremendously influential D. S. Likhachev, Leningrad with its Otdel Drevnerusskoi literatury (Division of Literature of Ancient Rus') reigned supreme as the scholarly center of Rus' Studies. Yet the works of Litvina and Uspenskii, Nazarenko, and Karpov have all been published in Moscow.) It is heartening to read books by authors, both scholarly and popular, writing from within Russia and presenting Rus' as a part of a larger whole. This trend bodes only well for the future of Rus' Studies within Russia.

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(1) This is not to suggest that the term "Rus'" itself is clear and precise. For a detailed discussion of the concept of Rus" and the development of its successor nations or ethnicities, see Serhii Plokhy, The Origins of the Slavic Nations: Premodern Identities in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). On the pre-Mongol period, see also David Miller, "The Many Frontiers of Pre-Mongol Rus'," in The Expansion of Orthodox Europe, discussed herein; and, for a very succinct presentation, Norman W. Ingham and Christian Raffensperger, "Ryurik and the First Ryurikids," American Genealogist 82, 1 (2007): 1-13, esp. 3-5.

(2) It might be pointed out that Andrzej Poppe's native Poland, while never a part of Russia, was within the Soviet bloc. Yet of the articles collected in Poppe's book, five were originally published in Cambridge, MA, another in Berkeley, one in Uppsala, and two in Warsaw. (The remainder are published for the first rime.) One might also point to Poppe's association with the journal Russia Mediaevalis, published in Munich and edited by Poppe together with John Fennell (until his death), Ludolf Muller, and Edgar Hosch (beginning in 1986) from the journal's inception in 1973 to its demise in 2001.

(3) See Dimitri Obolensky, The Byzantine Commonwealth: Eastern Europe, 500-1453 (New York: Praeger, 1971); for a recent re-evaluation of the term, see Christian Raffensperger, "Revisiting the Idea of the Byzantine Commonwealth," Byzantinische Forschungen 28 (2004): 159-74. On the related but not identical concept of "Slavia Orthodoxa," see Rikkardo Pikkio [Riccardo Picchio], Slavia orthodoxa: Literatura i iazyk, ed. N. N. Zapol 'skaia, V. V. Kalugin, and M. M. Sokol'skaia, intro. V. V. Kalugin (Moscow: Znak, 2003).

(4) See Shepard's introduction to The Expansion of Orthodox Europe, especially xxx-xxxi.

(5) Over time, some of Miller's sources have been superseded. In particular, on the subject of literate culture, see Simon Franklin, Writing, Society, and Culture in Early Rus, c. 950-1300 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

(6) Charles J. Halperin, Russia and the Golden Horde: The Mongol Impact on Medieval Russian History (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985); Halperin, The Tatar Yoke (Columbus, OH: Slavica Publishers, 1986); Halperin, "Muscovite Political Institutions in the 14th Century," Kritika 1, 2 (2000): 237-57; Halperin, Russia and the Mongols: Slavs and the Steppe in Medieval and Early Modern Russia, ed. Victor Spinei and George Bilavschi (Bucharest: Editura Academiae Romane, 2007); Donald Ostrowski, Muscovy and the Mongols: CrossCultural Influences on the Steppe Frontier, 1304-1589 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988); Ostrowski, "Muscovite Adaptation of Steppe Political Institutions: A Reply to Halperin's Objections," Kritika 1, 2 (2000): 267-304; David Goldfrank, "Muscovy and the Mongols: What's What and What's Maybe," Kritika 1, 2 (2000): 259-66; Halperin and Ostrowski, "To the Editors," Kritika 1, 4 (2000): 830-32.

(7) John Meyendorff, Byzantium and the Rise of Russia: A Study of Byzantino-Russian Relations in the Fourteenth Century (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 119-44.

(8) A. V. Nazarenko, Drevniaia Rus' na mezhdunarodnykh putiakh: Mezhdistsiplinarnye ocherki kul'turnykh, torgovykh, politicheskikh sviazei IX-XII vv. (Moscow: Iazyki russkoi kul'tury, 2001).

(9) Andrzej Poppe, The Rise of Christian Russia (London: Variorum Reprints, 1982).

(10) Other discussions that deserve mention are Jeffrey Featherstone, "Ol'ga's Visit to Constantinople," Harvard Ukrainian Studies 14 (1990): 293-312; and Nazarenko, Drevniaia Rus', 219-310.

(11) Compare Poppe, Christian Russia in the Making, article II, 271-77, with ibid, article V, 314-20.

(12) The translation "Primary Chronicle" is inaccurate but traditional in English; the obscurity of the original title makes literal translation next to impossible. See Horace G. Lunt, "Povest" vremen "nykh" let or Povest" vremen" i let"," Palaeoslavica 5 (1997): 317-26.

(13) For more on the perspectives of the two works, see Francis Butler, Enlightener of Rus': The Image of Vladimir Sviatoslavich across the Centuries (Bloomington, IN: Slavica Publishers, 2002), 3-55.

(14) Poppe, Christian Russia in the Making, article V, 343-44. For a survey of other views on the mysterious but undeniable transfer of literary culture from Bulgaria to Rus', see Francis J. Thomson, "The Bulgarian Contribution to the Reception of Byzantine Culture in Kievan Rus': The Myths and the Enigma," in The Reception of Byzantine Culture in Mediaeval Russia (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Variorum, 1999).

(15) Andrzej Poppe, "La naissance du culte de Boris et Gleb," Cahiers de civilisation medievale 24 (1981): 29-53, repr. in The Rise of Christian Russia (article VI); Poppe, "O zarozhdenii kul'ta svv. Borisa i Gleba," Russia Mediaevalis 8, 1 (1995): 21-68; Poppe, "Der Kampf um die Kiever Thronfolge nach dem 15. Juli 1015," Farschungen zur osteuropaischen Geschichte 50 (1995): 275-96.

(16) Poppe makes this argument in more detail in "Der Kampf."

(17) Recent studies of relevance to Vladimir not cited by Poppe include Jukka Korpela, Prince, Saint, and Apostle: Prince Vladimir Svjatoslavic of Kiev, His Posthumous Life, and the Religious Legitimization of the Russian Great Power (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2001); Butler, Enlightener of Rus'; Charles J. Halperin and Ann M. Kleimola, "Visual Evidence of the Cult of St. Vladimir," Die Welt der Slaven 51, 2 (2006): 253-74; and Aleksei Karpov, Vladimir Sviatoi (reviewed herein). See also Litvina and Uspenskii (reviewed herein), 112-16, for an important anthroponymic discussion that supports and clarifies arguments in B. A. Uspenskii, "Kogda byl kanonizirovan kniaz' Vladimir Sviatoslavich?" Palaeoslavica 10, 2 (2002): 271-81, which is cited and discussed by Poppe.

(18) Though "grand prince" is both the standard English translation and the one used here by Poppe, "high king" would accord better with the usage in Poppe's discussion of Vladimir Sviatoslavich.

(19) The South Slavic (and modern Russian) form Vladimir is not round in chronicles and was presumably hot used in early spoken East Slavic. Its appearance on coins issued by Vladimir Sviatoslavich probably reflects the influence of a South Slavic written tradition at a rime when almost no East Slavs were literate.

(20) N. M. Tupikov, Slovar' drevnerusskikh lichnykh sobstvennykh imen (St. Petersburg, 1903; repr. with an introduction by F. B. Uspenskii and three appendices, Moscow: Iazyki slavianskikh kul'tur, 2005). See also S. B. Veselovskii, Onomastikon: Drevnerusskie imena, prozvishcha i familii (Moscow: Nauka, 1974); Imenoslov: Zametki po istoricheskoi semantike imeni, ed. Uspenskii (Moscow: Indrik, 2002); and Imenoslov: Istoricheskaia semantika imeni 2, ed. Uspenskii (Moscow: Indrik, 2007).

(21) Aleksei Karpov, Iurii Dolgorukii (Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 2006).

(22) Vladimir Volkoff, Vladimir le soleil rouge (Paris: Juillard/L'age d'homme, 1981, cited by Karpov, 364); Volkoff, Vladimir the Russian Viking (Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1985), a fictionalized biography masquerading as an ordinary biography, is presumably an English variant of this work.

(23) See, for instance, the hostile treatment of historical speculation in Thomson, "The Bulgarian Contribution."

(24) Harold Lamb, Genghis Khan, Emperor of All Men (1927; repr. New York: Bantam, 1965).
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Title Annotation:"Vladimir Sviatoi", "Vybor Imeni u Russkikh Kniazei v X-XVI vv.: Dinasticheskaia Istoriia Skvoz Prizmu Antroponimiki", "Christian Russia in the Making" and "The Expansion of Orthodox Europe"
Author:Butler, Francis
Publication:Kritika
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2009
Words:7088
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