HISB93H3 Professor Dowler Fall 2009 Lecture Note
- common interest in trade and the common need in keeping the trade route safe kept the
Federation in tact
- the tribes also had a common language and they had many cultural features in common
o cultural unity
o each Slavic tribes worshipped their own gods
east slavs had a few gods and some religion practices in common (ancestor
worship, worship of nature (animistic- woods, rivers have spirits), belief in
house sprites (elves)
God of Fertility was Rod, The Sky Gods Svarog, Dazhbog God of Sun,
God of Thuder Perun
x Had no centralizing force that brought cohesion
Kievan princes were aware of religious separation
Before the rise of nationalism, the most potent unifying force was a
x The first kievan prince to grasp a common religion was prince
Vladimir (ruled in second half of 10th Centuries)
x His first attempt was to bring together the images of all important
slav gods (images of them)
x He soon began to look for alternatives for a common religion: he
knew about Islam (from Bulgars) but he rejected it because it
prohibited alcohol and because at the time, Baghdad, was in a
period of decline. He thought Islam was going to diminish. He also
knew about Judaism (from Khazaria, also a state of decline). He
rejected it because he thought Judaism would diminish plus it was
for dispersed people. He knew about the western Roman branch
Christianity (lots of tension between eastern and western churches
at this time) because german missionaries were sent to kiev to
convert. He decided not to convert to Roman Catholic because
they insisted that they speak latin rather than Slavic. He was
familiar with Byzantine Orthodox from the eastern church. The
slavs had trade relations with Byzantium plus even before
Vladimir, many kievan elites converted to this religion (princess
when they went to constantnople, they were so overwhelmed by its
beauty, they knew not if they were in heaven or earth. (a response
to beauty²an aesthetic religion, being absorbed in the beauty of
the church). He also chose this religion because the orthodox
church had already converted the Bulgarians to Christianity. They
had an administration established for the slavs. Moreover, the
gospels, bible and the liturgy had been translated for the bulgars.
The allowed the Kievans to use Slavic language. The conversion
was easier because the language. It was also one of the largest
empires (Byzantine Empire) so Vladimir liked that. He declared it
to be the state religion. The orthodoz faith spread rapidly among
the elites but much more slowly for the large mass of population.
Much resistance for the state rule and religion (paganism). Many
pagan practices were taken over by the Church and revamped (ie.
x Not all Russian were converts.
dominant force. It also placed Russia firmly within Europe, it
joined the Christian nations. It oriented it toward western culture.
Eventually, more and more people identified with the orthodoxy. It
united people²as Vladimir wanted.
x States need political rule and rule of succession. In the early years
of the new dynasty set up by oleg, the senior prince always ruled in
Kiev (the jewel). He ruled there and he sent out his brothers or
sons to rule in the other city states that made up the federation.
They ruled as his governors (he was the boss). Whenever the
prince in kiev died, the others would fight for power. This was a
problem. It is believed that prince iaroslav devised a system of
orderly succession. His system involved a generation of rulers. The
oldest brother in each generation ruled in kiev. Next in importance
was chernigov, then piereslavo, according to the hierarchy of
importance. The oldest made final decision. If the senior prince in
kiev dies, the brother in Chernigov movers to kiev, however, he
keeps the throne of Chernigov. If he dies, the next oldest brother
rules kiev, Chernigov and pieslavo. If the last brother dies, the
oldest of the next generation begins to rule kiev.
x In this process, the eldest son of prince of kiev, becomes the prince
of Novgorod (he would live there to receive political experience).
There is evidence that this system existed in paper and practice.
This is a complicated system: depends on the size of generations.
Some believe that this system was ideal but never achieved. In
practice, it is more likely that deals were made. However, it was
noted that civil wars decreased (conflicts reduced).
x The princes who descended from Rurik, made up the top layer of
power. They had clerks, secretaries to carry out their will. Below
this princely rule, were the institutions of people called the Lan.
Most east slav cities had these institutions. First, the Veche. all the
heads of households could gather and they could debate and vote
about the city policies. Sometimes, there were women who had a
voice if they were the HOH. The executive council was the
gospodo. It was elected by the Veche. At the head of the Gospodo
was Posadnik (like the mayor of the city). There were also several
tysiatskie (leader of a thousand men). They were military and had
1000 men. The city was divided into wards (Kontsy) and each
ward elected a delegate to the gospodo. The relative power of the
institutions of the Lan vs. the princely institution varied from state
to state. In some, the Veche was more powerful than the prince in
policy making. In other cities, the veche was extremely week even
The point is, Russia did not evolve singularly as an autocratic state.
It had alternatives: Republican and autocracy.
x Law had to be established. In the early years of Rus, tribal
customary law predominated, each tribe had their own laws. The
kievan princes began to work on a single law code for the whole
x A law code, the Russkaia Pravda, had several editions. It tried to
bring unity but many could not adapt to it due to tribal laws.
x Historians argue about the nature of economy of kievan rus. Trade
was important to the wellbeing of the elites and to the generation
of wealth for the elites. Wealth derived from trade not land
ownership. The elites began as traders. When the defenses began to
break down, land ownership began to become a source of wealth.
Majority of the population made its living in agriculture: trapping,
fishing, hunting etc. Many farmed to produce trade goods: honey,
wax (have bee hives in farms).
x The origins of slaves came from prisoners of war. Traded for
profit. Many worked in manufacturing by hand (pottery).
x Most transactions in kievan rus were moneyed transactions.
Importance of commerce was evident.
x Punishments were also fines (money or goods). Coin was evident
in the economy.
x Apart from its trade to the Byzantine Empire, they had contacts to
the northern and western Europe: Paris, Anglo-Saxon England.
x Kievan Rus was thriving, had a few enemies because of its trade
potential. We know that Russia fell behind.